On Turkish “Libertarians” (English Translation)

This essay is an English translation of Faruk Pak’s original Turkish piece, On Turkish “Libertarians”

I will explain my perspective towards individuals who have reached a large audience on platforms such as Twitter in Turkey and yet support statist-nationalist views on immigration despite their self-promotion as liberal/libertarian. It was subsequent to a Turkish person being heard on national television saying, “I can’t afford bananas, but Syrians buy them in many, many kilograms.” Following this interview, some Syrians living within the borders of the illegitimate Turkish state started a protest, sharing videos in which they eat bananas.

Even the Directorate General of Migration Management of Turkey labeled these videos as offensive and claimed that legal action needed to be taken. What I criticize in this paper is that most somehow popular self-proclaimed liberals/libertarians of Turkey kind of supported the state and took an offensive stand against Syrians.

Majed Shamaa, a Syrian Journalist in Turkey, said, “If I am extradited, I will be executed.” A user who calls himself liberal from the above definition, which I came across after the banana-eating event’s debut on news platforms, falls into the fallacy of false analogy and opposes the freedom of expression of the other individual, the right to life, and the right to seek asylum from a statist point of view. His analogy is as follows: “Now there is a miserable, poor man. You opened your home to him. There is no financial benefit for you; on the contrary, the money goes out of your pocket all the time just for them. Then this poor man! He’s making fun of you. What will you do? I’ll fuck him up to knock them down. Thanks” (The person who made this statement is a widely known self-proclaimed libertarian on Turkish Twitter in which he has acquired quite a lot of support from liberals from all over the country, I am not giving a name for security purposes.)

Let’s confront the premises one by one, even if there is no built-in argument. Before I begin, I would like to point out the apparent contradictions. It is a problem in itself that someone who calls himself a libertarian or liberal sees the area that spans from one border to the other of his illegitimate aggressor state as his home. Because when I or someone else wants to take that third person (the refugee in the scenario) into my real estate, which is my property in status quo, you should not oppose it. But from this point of view, he thinks that the refugee must be deported immediately or attacked. It couldn’t be more obvious that this is illiberal. Considering banana-eating videos outside of freedom of expression should have been a source of embarrassment for a libertarian.

I omit the premise the one in which it is claimed that refugees have no economic contribution to the country. Because they even accept jobs in dire conditions that the Turks would not want to arrange themselves. As for the Turkish nation’s claim that money is out of their pocket, the state has never given refugees a monthly salary. It is downright racist to label these people as getting a salary just because they are spending or withdrawing money; they are eating our money, and that Turkish lira is that(!). Expenditures for Syrians include the establishment of camps, food, health, and education. And most of the money for these comes from the European Union. They also receive a monthly aid of 150 Turkish Liras from the ESSN funded by the European Union. They get this money through the Turkish Red Crescent. So the state does not make any contribution.

So what should a proper Turkish libertarian’s view be, and how can open borders (hence more refugees/immigrants) help the economy contrary to what is claimed in this aggressive message? From the Enlightenment to the present, libertarianism has always been a cosmopolitan view. Essentially, borders are barriers to trade. Imagine tomorrow the state has announced that you have to go through a customs station, show lots of boring bureaucratic documents, introduce yourself to travel or transport goods from Osmaniye to Maraş, let’s say, as you would have to do now on your way to Georgia or Syria. (Or like the border with Armenia, where trade is wholly blocked.) Following this, naturally, the amount of business will decrease, and both sides will become poorer. The economic damage done by existing border controls is gigantic. The more potential trading partners you have, the more significant the potential gains from trading. And for the last sentence in the Tweet, there isn’t much to say about it since even beyond liberalism or libertarianism, it couldn’t get more inhumane.

So how should we approach such people who claim to be liberal and yet take prominent illiberal stands? We know that Turkish liberals assign these ideologies to themselves because they only adopt economic liberalism; in other words, they want a minimal state (of course, only on behalf of Turks). Calling them economically liberal, while seemingly consistent at first, is a terrible mistake. What turns any political or economic stance into an ideology? Which view of them will act as an umbrella? Of course, not the economic ones; the economic liberal ones do not offer any moral system or social model proposal. Giving them this attraction only means softening and hiding Turkish supremacy and Kemalism in them, which are their main views.

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