Robert Frost’s memorable line from his poem Mending Wall ‘good fences make good neighbours’ may well be a platitude at this point, but it’s still a relevant idea in a time of extreme social-consciousness of borders and their implications.
To paraphrase Michael Walzer’s viewpoint, national borders exist because it is neither desirable or appropriate for neighbourhoods to reject new arrivals, on the basis that their values do not sufficiently align with the community. This is why it’s the responsibility of the state to examine who does and does not enter; to relieve its citizens of this decision.
In this way, borders are not only necessary but humane. Nations are political entities in which each citizen is a member; only by maintaining a policy of exclusivity and choosing who’s allowed in is the entity (or club, as Walzer alludes) able to deliver its freedoms, or establish its values.
Borders also have a historical precedent, and a historical function: to define one culture from another.
This is still desirable today, even to anti-border advocates: would they argue against the right to feel a sense of belonging? Cultures are not defined on arbitrary geopolitical lines, rather, it is culture than establishes geopolitical lines- for the purpose of keeping its identity and political autonomy. Even within a small island nation such as the UK there is clear fragmentation; whether its Scotland’s contended desire to become a fully independent country, or even Yorkshire county’s push for devolution there is a resistance to cultural homogeneity.
Borders do so much more than keep people out; they provide security, keep population and workforce balance and enrich the culture within. Only in western nations is there even a question of abandoning borders- perhaps this stems from taking their fundamental freedoms for granted.