Talking Turkey over welfare

by Henry on May 31, 2005

Reading some of the responses to Chris’s and my posts on Turkey and the future evolution of the European Union, reminds me of Tyler Cowen’s aside a couple of weeks ago, that:

The modern liberal vice is to think that everyone can be taken care of, and/or to rule out foreigners from the relevant moral universe.

The latter bit is the relevant one here, of course, and it’s a tough question for European leftwingers. Is some dilution of the traditional European welfare state acceptable, if it substantially increases the wellbeing of current outsiders (i.e. for example, by bringing Turkey into the club). My answer is yes, if European leftwingers are to stick to their core principles on justice, fairness, egalitarianism etc. Of course, this is a somewhat broader variant of the more general theoretical questions surrounding the relationship between nationality and cosmopolitanism. So far, I haven’t seen any very convincing counter-arguments that suggest that lefties should privilege fellow-Europeans or fellow nationals over those from elsewhere. Below the fold, I set out some of the arguments that I’ve seen or can think of, but that don’t seem to me to be convincing. Others may disagree – or have other, better arguments that I haven’t thought of.


(1) The ‘special duties to fellow nationals’ argument -that on the level of abstract principle, we owe very strong duties to those who share our ‘culture,’ or ‘nationality’ that we don’t owe to others. Hard to defend: while we may in practice feel much stronger sentiments to fellow nationals, it’s very hard to get from the ‘is’ to the ‘ought,’ especially in a construct such as the European Union, where shared identity is at best weak.

(2) The David Miller argument – that because nationality is the strongest set of allegiances that we have in practice, we should recognize reality, and build some form of social democracy/market socialism at the level of the nation state. Again, involves some theoretical hand-waving – and is especially hard to defend in a context such as the EU, which is an artificial political construct (that might in principle support social democracy, but in so doing would disprove David Miller’s claims because of the above-mentioned lack of a common national identity).

(3) The Michael Lind argument – that the only reason some ‘liberals’ support market integration, increased flows of peoples across borders etc, is because they’re middle-class hypocrites who want cheap baby sitters and house cleaners. A self-evidently ad hominem argument which ducks the main issue. It does have a grain of truth to the extent that it’s far easier for middle class professionals (who are less exposed to the risk of losing their job) to support integration of this sort than, say, textile workers – but it assumes what it should argue (that we should owe more allegiance to our fellow-national textile workers than to the much poorer and less privileged textile workers of another country).

(4) The “move along, no problem here” argument – that by preserving strong welfare state structures for ourselves, but not for outsiders, we are in some sense helping those outsiders in the longer term, by preserving an alternative model, not giving in to the forces of globalization etc. This, if you look at it carefully, is really a version of the market-jihadist argument that the relentless pursuit of self-interest will ineluctably lead us to the best of all possible worlds, and is just about as unconvincing. The only difference is that the form of selfishness being defended is a little different.

{ 76 comments }

1

Matt 05.31.05 at 10:37 am

Henry,
How would you fit Rawls’s argument from _The Law of Peoples_ into your framework? It doesn’t seem to fit any of those, but also argues (compellingly, to my mind) that there are different standards for domestic and international justice. Rawls’s arguments in LP are somewhat teloscopic, but (as forthcomming papers by people like Samuel Freeman and Joseph Heath show quit clearly, I think) they also follow pretty straighforwardly from some of his other core commitments. Of course the LP position doesn’t say that we can let outsiders go hang- we have serious obligations to them- but the are not the same as those we have to our fellows. And, this doesn’t depend on nationalism in any of the forms you give above.

Also, I should say that I tend to favor bringing Turkey into the EU, but to my mind the only real issue is if that will be making it get dangerously close to being too large to govern well. I worry that if Turkey joins the EU will be bumping dangerously close to the sort of problems that Kant (in Perpetual Peace) saw for world governments. I hope that’s wrong and that Turkey will be able to join and the EU to be an effective governing body, but I think these concerns should be given more weight than they often are.

2

Darren 05.31.05 at 10:48 am

So far, I haven’t seen any very convincing counter-arguments that suggest that lefties should privilege fellow-Europeans or fellow nationals over those from elsewhere.”

There aren’t any. Nationalism is just some abstraction that is used to rob others by excluding them from markets etc … The fiction is made real (or a least the disbelieve is suspended) by state violence. No benefits, no borders!!!

3

Henry 05.31.05 at 10:49 am

Matt

There are huge chunks of Rawls that I haven’t read, including _The Law of Peoples_. That said, my first-approximation-answer-substitute is that it’s almost certainly going to be very hard to make the same arguments for justice at the EU level as you would for justice at the domestic level. There was also a very interesting argument that touched on these questions btw David Miller and Thomas Pogge a couple of years ago in _Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy_. But when I say that I haven’t seen any convincing arguments, that is at least in part b/c I’m only a dabbler in political theory, at best. I’ve written this post in the hope of finding out more (and as stated, I suspect that there will be better arguments at the level of the nation state, than of the EU).

The manageability argument is an interesting one.

4

Matt 05.31.05 at 11:02 am

Thanks, Henry. My remark wasn’t very well formulated- I guess I should have also said that it seems clear to me that if the EU is going to remain a legitimate body it will have to become more like a state of some sort and less like a trans-national body. This seems to me have have happend in a pretty straigh-forward way over the years, especially with more and more legislation having direct effect, but if this process bogs down or goes backwards, I don’t think it will prove to be stable. So, I think the EU will become even more state-like or else prove unstable and ineffective. Given that, that was why I’d want to apply some of the arguments from LP to the EU directly. (I’m a big fan of the subsidiarity (SP?) principle, though, so do think there’s room for internal variation.)

5

Andrew C. 05.31.05 at 11:12 am

(5) The EU is in part an experiment. Adding Turkey adds an additional set of variables that complicate interpretation of the results. If the EU turns out to be a disaster in the long run, getting it right the next time (or making the appropriate reforms) will be much harder if there are major cultural conflicts which can be blamed for the failure (whether or not they are the real cause).

6

Robin Green 05.31.05 at 11:18 am

Is some dilution of the traditional European welfare state acceptable, if it substantially increases the wellbeing of current outsiders (i.e. for example, by bringing Turkey into the club).

Perhaps I’ve missed something blindingly obvious here, but I’m not sure what the connection is supposed to be between letting Turkey (notorious for its internal human rights problems) into the EU, and dilution of the traditional European welfare state.

Perhaps this is based on the claim that the proposed European Constitution paves the way for both changes. Well, not necessarily. Certainly, it seems to pave the way for greater neoliberalism. But on the British TV programme Question Time last Thursday, which was a special edition held in Paris, the French representative of the Yes campaign on the panel claimed that a separate referendum in France regarding Turkey’s accession was guaranteed – so people who were against Turkey’s accession need not worry that voting for the constitution would “let them in”. Perhaps he was being misleading – but if so, I think we should be told.

Even if it were true, that still doesn’t answer the question of what is the logical connection between admitting Turkey, and denting our European welfare state models, beyond them purely being (purportedly!) two consequences of the same treaty. Why do we have to take both as a parcel? Why can’t we both accept Turkey (after it has reformed sufficiently to eradicate state-sanctioned torture etc.) and keep our welfare states?

7

lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:19 am

You’re missing the political argument.

Welfare states get built & preserved not becuase they are good things int he abstract, or because folks like us argue for them on blogs, but because there are mass constituencies organized to support them. A policy that undermines the coherence of the forces that actually sustain social democracy will undermine it everywhere.

I suppose this is a subset of your argument 4, but without your frankly tendentious “market jihadist” gloss. To suggest that some concern for collective self-interest is both morally legitimate and politically important, is certainly not the same thing as saying that “relentless pursuit of self-interest will ineluctably lead us to the best of all possible worlds.”

By the same logic, would you say that it is morally illegitimate for unions to give any priority to their own members versus humanity in general? That logic would lead to the prompt non-existence of unions.

8

Charlie B. 05.31.05 at 11:19 am

I don’t think this thread really relates to me because I don’t share your political outlook. But one word does occur to me that could be relevant – tax (personal or national levies). I’m sure I don’t need to say any more. But I am quite genuinely mystified why non-Prime Ministers or US foreign policy planners should actively want Turkey to join the EU. I really see no reason, on that basis, why Israel should not join too.

9

abb1 05.31.05 at 11:21 am

You just can’t create a welfare state for the outsiders, it’s the same sort of fallacy as occupying Iraq in order to democratize it.

The outsiders have to create welfare states for themselves first, and then they will be able to join the union of already existing welfare states.

Otherwise you’ll only destroy your own welfare state and breed resentment all over the place.

Really, it’s a fallacy very similar to liberal ‘democracy promotion’, or Mao’s great leap forward, or Soviet Mongolia jumping directly from feudalism to communism; in other words – dangerous and futile utopia.

10

lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:23 am

(I mean labor unions, of course. And accepting for the sake of argument that admitting Turkey would in fact undermine the welfare state.)

11

lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:27 am

abb1, as usual, makes my point both more pithily and more confrontationally.

I do wonder what Henry would say to a working-class European whose income was lower and working hours longer as a result of EU expansion. From the tone of this post, it’d be something like, “what are you complaining about, when there are children starving in Africa?” So I’m not sure the “market jihadist” shoe is on the right foot.

12

Russell Arben Fox 05.31.05 at 11:36 am

Regarding your first argument, Henry (and to some extent the second):

You get an “ought” (to take special care of one’s community) from the “is” (of our actual feelings for our given community) by way of a theory of identity which presents our ability to reason about that which we value as concomitant to our embeddedness in a particular way of life, which thus provides a background which we can reason from. Since our ability to think (in an egalitarian way, if we prefer) about other peoples depends upon our own peoplehood, giving preference to or at least keeping an eye on the cultural and/or civic requirements of our own attachments and peoplehood is necessary in order to deal with others. In short, we will not be able to maintain a sensible grasp on our duties to non-nationals if we dismiss entirely our own nationality.

Miller’s argument for the importance of nationality for social democracy is a variationg on the first argument: he believes that there are cultural underpinnings to social egalitarianism which cannot be sustained by merely procedural agreements. Hence, social democracy in Europe will require some sort of robust attachment to various European communities. What I find most interesting in the debate about the EU is the degree to which Miller’s argument is being worked out, but not in the way those who cite him think–pace Habermas’s comments last year about “February 15,” it is not implausible to talk about a “European nationality” eventually emerging.

13

Barry 05.31.05 at 11:36 am

“The modern liberal vice is to think that everyone can be taken care of, and/or to rule out foreigners from the relevant moral universe.”

Huh? That’s the modern conservative vice. Is Barry’s iron law of right-wing freudian projection truly an iron law?

14

albert 05.31.05 at 11:42 am

I think the problem with this question is all in the framing. It’s supposedly the left that has a problem, because they can’t improve the lives of foreigners while preserving the welfare state.

I doubt though, that a significant part of the push behind EU expansion really has to do as much with improving people’s lot in other countries as it does with creating new markets and opening cheap labour.

Perhaps we could take a bit of wealth off the top, instead of the bottom, if we want to assist those outside of the community. It’s only because. in reality, it’s the bottom that gets squeezed by this expansion – not the middle or upper classes – that an apparent hypocrisy exists. Except it’s not hypocritical at all, it’s political.

15

albert 05.31.05 at 11:44 am

#13 – Actually Barry, I think the conservative rule is ‘I don’t care who gets screwed as long as it’s not me.’ Hence, any tradeoff in wealth between your nation’s and another nation’s poor is egal, as long as it helps you (and your markets.)

16

john c. halasz 05.31.05 at 1:23 pm

Along the lines of what Russell Arben Fox said. One’s responsibility, as a fundamental aspect of the good life, is to participation in deliberations and decision-making processes with respect to the pursuit of the good life in common, whether at the local level of community/workplace, at the national level, or the para-state level such as the EU, or, most abstractly, the international or global “community”. Such deliberation is an active discovery of the good, under shifting circumstances, as well as, a good in itself, and is not reducible to material goods or the pursuit of self-interest, since it is a matter of sustaining public recognitions of goods. Hence it must involve actual interaction partners, which means the constitution and maintenence of communities in an ongoing formative process, with the play of inclusions and exclusions they involve. This is, of course, to speak to an ideal model, far removed from the disillusioned nitty-gritty of empirical politics, but it does indicate why there is a priority to the civic level of the local and national, since, at least formally speaking, that is where means and media for participation in public deliberation are established and common resources can be drawn upon, as the sine qua non of the formative good and the “integrity” of its process, such that one can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, if one wants to draw on such processes to the consideration of more abstract and mediated publics, (“a decent respect for the opinions of mankind”). The obvious objection has already been voiced above as to why the accession of Turkey to the EU should be tied to the defense of the welfare state social compact, as if Turkey’s membership would necessarily mean its dissolution, in that distant offing,- (in which case it would be reasonable to suspect that the interests pushing such a prospect might actually be more interested in the latter prospect),- whereas the good of Turkey’s future accession is rather a speculative matter right now and would consist precisely in the development of Turkey as a civic polity along European lines in its own right. But the more basic objection is to the abstract separation of the “ought” from the “is”, from any actual process and the conditions in which it can be fulfilled. Such an abstract moralism, while priding itself on its “correctness” in insisting on moral trade-offs, actually makes for a rather tepid leftism, prone to being entrapped in ideological snares and forced compromises with strategic interests inimical to its intentions. Just for the sake of argument though, being an American yokel.

17

Chris 05.31.05 at 1:40 pm

Turkish accession question only raises in stark form issues that are already posed by the recent enlargement. AFAIK, the only states not imposing restrictions on Poles, Hungarians etc are the UK and Ireland (so lets not hear any more carping about who the true Europeans are any more….). The rest have supposedly got to open their markets within 7 years, but watch and wait for French and German attempts to prolong that.

So, ignoring the Turkey question we can repose the issues for a supposedly internationalist European left. What’s the justification for shutting out worse-off Polish or Latvian workers from West European labour markets?

Lemuel Pitkin’s casual reference to children starving in Africa is, of course, both disingenous and disgraceful. Children starving in Africa aren’t a moral side-issue unrelated to EU agriculture policy! Rather, many of them are starving because of EU protectionism (led by France) and the heavy subsidy of French (and other ) farmers. “Communitiarian” leftists aren’t just failing to admit “outsiders” to the banquet, they’re complicit in taking the food from their mouths.

18

Javier 05.31.05 at 1:41 pm

Along with Robin Green, I need to ask: what exactly is the connection between admitting Turkey into the EU and reducing the size of European welfare states?

I suppose the logic goes: admitting Turkey would prompt mass migration from Turkey to Europe’s rich welfare states. The only way to cope with and pay for this migration would be a reduction in public services.

I don’t know much about the issue, but I’m not sure I find this thesis plausible. Why would the presence of a large welfare state lead to barriers to entry for immigrants?

Compare the United States and Canada. The United States has a significantly smaller level of government spending than does Canada. And the United States admits about 1.3 million immigrants a year, making about 11.3 percent of the U.S. population foreign born. Canada has a large welfare state. Yet a full 18 percent of all Canadian citizens are foreign born and their rate of immigration, as a percentage of population, is higher than the United States’. We should also recall that, in the U.S. at least, immigrants often pay more in taxes than they receive from public assistance, so they aren’t necessarily a net drag on the welfare state.

So if Western Europeans are hostile to immigrants, then it may not be the welfare state per se that is to blame. I suggest it has more to do with unemployment in Europe, which (I believe) is primarily caused by labor market rigidities.

19

abb1 05.31.05 at 1:46 pm

To avoid being overwhelmed by all these cultural/religious issues (red herring, IMO), it would interesting to try to analyze the Turkey thing based on the 1990 Germany re-unification experiment.

I understand that after 15 years they are still pretty much two different countries, two different economies; Western Germany is definitely worse off and the Eastern part is hardly better than it was before the reunification – from the socio-economic POV.

Doesn’t it tell you something about the ‘just bring foreigners in’ theory?

20

albert 05.31.05 at 2:05 pm

#17: “Rather, many of them are starving because of EU protectionism (led by France) and the heavy subsidy of French (and other ) farmers. “Communitiarian” leftists aren’t just failing to admit “outsiders” to the banquet, they’re complicit in taking the food from their mouths.”

Yes, except protectionism and agricultural subsidies in the US have the same effect on Africa, except there they’re supported by the right much more than the left. Besides, do you really think the solution to hunger is better markets? Really really?

21

Doug Muir 05.31.05 at 2:11 pm

AFAIK, the only states not imposing restrictions on Poles, Hungarians etc are the UK and Ireland (so lets not hear any more carping about who the true Europeans are any more….).

UK, Ireland and Sweden.

The rest have supposedly got to open their markets within 7 years, but watch and wait for French and German attempts to prolong that.

It’s a bit trickier than that. They get to keep their labor markets closed for 2 years, at will. Then for another 2 years if they give specific justifications, and they have to tailor the restrictions to the justifications (i.e., they have to say who they’re barring and why, and there must be a why for every who). Then another 3 years only if there’s “clear” and “serious” problems that would result from the opening.

It’s been a year already, so the first wave of justifications should be showing up next January.

It’s actually a rather clever attempt to shame the laggards into cooperating. If you want to keep the Polish plumbers out, you have to go to Brussels and say with a straight face “our good French plumbers are in desperate straits and need to be protected”.

Whether it will work… well, the shame bar has been shifting gradually higher. (See: Monetary Union deficit restrictions. See also: French referendum.)

But it isn’t a simple seven-year restriction, and it’s going to be at least moderately difficult for countries to keep the doors closed even that long. Extensions beyond seven years… well, who knows what the politics of 2011 will look like. But at this point, I’d bet against it. Informal restriction-by-hassle, that I could see.

Doug M.

22

Chris 05.31.05 at 2:30 pm

Besides, do you really think the solution to hunger is better markets? Really really?

Um, I really really do think that _part of_ the solution to third world poverty is to give their farmers (and other producers) access to first world markets, yes. And I don’t care whether the “arguments” and rhetoric defending unjust trade practices come from people who have a right-wing or a left-wing label, or whether those people are in the US or the EU, the result is the same.

23

Andrew Brown 05.31.05 at 2:33 pm

I do think #12 is about the right answer. Social democracy requires, if it is to work, that people believe in it and consider it justified. This seems to imply egalitarianism within particular communities where everyone feels more or less in the same boat, and an ecceptance of the legitimacy of the social democratic state. It also implies that almost everyone believes they benefit from high taxes etc. The presence of recognisably different people who appear to be subsidised, or even doing better than we are from this kind of deal will lead to resentment which eventually corrodes the whole bargain.

24

Javier 05.31.05 at 2:35 pm

Yes, except protectionism and agricultural subsidies in the US have the same effect on Africa, except there they’re supported by the right much more than the left. Besides, do you really think the solution to hunger is better markets? Really really?

Yes, really–in that the developed world’s trade protection on manufactures and agriculture makes farmers in the developing world poorer than they would be if trade were liberalized. Obviously, poorer people are less able to afford food and other basic necessities.

The World Bank estimates that world income in 2015 would be 355 billion a year more with trade liberalization. The developing countries would gain 184 billion annually. When you factor in dynamic benefits, the Bank concludes that developing countries’ incomes would rise by more than 500 billion a year as a result of trade liberalization. If you don’t trust the World Bank, an independent study by the economist William Cline found that trade liberalization by the developed countries would cut the world poverty rate by as much as 25 percent. So trade protection is in fact starving the world’s poor, or at least keeping them poorer than they might be if policies were changed.

As a nice side note, total assistance to the developed world’s farmers was $311 billion in 2001, six times the amount of development assistance to low-income countries. The EU spent $913 for each cow and $8 for each sub-Saharan African.

25

Richard Bellamy 05.31.05 at 2:41 pm

I think the overarching “moral” issue that is not being grappled with in a holistic manner is what constitutes “the group.”

The Kurds of Turkey (and Iraq) want to be their own “Kurdistan”. Kosovo doesn’t like being part of Serbia. Maybe it would be happier as part of Albania. Some people in Northern Ireland may want to be more a part of England — others more a part of Ireland. The rich of the San Fernando Valley want to secede from the relatively poorer Los Angeles. And godforbid anyone starts talking about what the appropriate path should be of a permanent border or wall between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In other word, democracy works well enough, I guess, if you know who the “demos” is. It doesn’t work very well at all, though, is deciding where the line should be drawn between insider and outsider. Should Kosovo be allowed a referendum to secede? Should the Serbian neighborhoods of Kosovo be given the opportunity to vote to secede back? Should the Albanian enclave in the Serbian neighborhood get its own vote?

Joining is essentially identical to seceding. It just doesn’t always (or, maybe, hardly ever) have a morally right answer.

Maybe the right answer is that if the existing EU does or doesn’t want to let Turkey in, then that’s no more morally significant than choosing the stiped shirt instead of the solid one.

26

Milton Keynes 05.31.05 at 2:50 pm

“Communitiarian” leftists aren’t just failing to admit “outsiders” to the banquet, they’re complicit in taking the food from their mouths.

Was this meant as a substantial argument or was it just rhetoric? If it was meant seriously, I don’t see how you can say refusing to trade with someone is more like the second than the first. How is it on a par with robbery?

27

Henry 05.31.05 at 2:56 pm

Robin – the issue, which I could have spelled out more clearly, is (a) directly and immediately, whether Turkish people would be able to take advantage of the welfare state, (b) dealing with the tax externalities that would result from Turkish membership, (c) deciding whether or not to grant regional development aid etc to Turkey (and consequences for domestic spending thereof).

Other than that, there have been a few remarkably unimpressive contributions to the debate (and a few interesting ones too). “The outsiders have to create welfare states for themselves first, and then they will be able to join the union of already existing welfare states.” is the sort of sentence that Pecksniff would have been proud of, had the welfare state existed in the Victorian era. Lemuel if you want to make tendentious comparisons, start telling the starving African children that they need to starve in order to preserve the European welfare state, why don’t you?

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albert 05.31.05 at 3:12 pm

#22: Chris – but you said “Communitiarian” leftists aren’t just failing to admit “outsiders” to the banquet, they’re complicit in taking the food from their mouths.” So obviously you do care whether arguments and rhetoric come from one side or the other. Again, I presume that if left to make policy, the left would create trade & aid policy in a manner significantly more fair than what liberals & conservatives have come up with.

#24: Setting aside the larger question of whether trade liberalization would reduce poverty in the developing world… I don’t see any indication that it would necessarily improve hunger and agricultural conditions in the developing world considering how such economic improvement is likely to be distributed. I obviously haven’t read Cline, but I’m assuming that projection, like most macroeconomic projections, is based on a whole set of presumptions and assumptions that are unlikely to hold in actual conditions.

Metaquestion: how might we escape seemingly futile debate about economics & neoliberalism? (aside from hunkering down in our ideological/disciplinary positions)

29

nikolai 05.31.05 at 3:17 pm

Henry’s post only looks at the economic side of things. But the EU isn’t just a free-trade area, it’s also a political union.

So the issue isn’t just about whether we want to make Turkey richer, it’s also about whether we want to be in a political union with Turkey. And if we want to let Turkey have a say in making laws that apply across the whole of the EU. Turkey has all sorts of notorious internal problems and is politically on a very different page to the rest of the EU – the most recent example being the attempted ban on adultery. It will also be a very powerful state it if joins. I don’t think this can just be ignored when it comes to deciding on Turkish entry to the EU.

I think it’s possible to oppose Turkey joining the EU from this political perspective in a way that isn’t vulnerable to the arguments Henry raises.

30

abb1 05.31.05 at 3:27 pm

…start telling the starving African children that they need to starve in order to preserve the European welfare state…

Well, this is obviously a strawman and, frankly, a bad case of demagoguery. There is a whole large spectrum of possibilities between purposely starving African children and destroying you welfare state by taking whole Africa into it.

Do you send your paycheck to the starving children? Do they need to starve in order to preserve your middle-class lifestyle?

31

Antoni Jaume 05.31.05 at 3:35 pm

Nikolai, your objections to Turkey entry are addressed in the condition for admitance. Until they have proved de facto –by practice– that their state is de jure homologable to most EU member states they will not enter. That has been a strong incentive to them until now, as it was for us in Spain.

DSW

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abb1 05.31.05 at 3:41 pm

“The outsiders have to create welfare states for themselves first, and then they will be able to join the union of already existing welfare states.” is the sort of sentence that Pecksniff would have been proud of, had the welfare state existed in the Victorian era.

There is a set of requirements for every country that wants to join the EU, a set of requirements in political, economic and social areas. Do you have a problem with that? Would you accept, say, Belarus to the EU with their current socio-polical-economic situation? Why, of course not. They’d have undertake certain significant reforms in order to even be considered. So, it’s just a dergee of adequacy we’re talking about here, not the principle. So, how is this Pecksniff? C’mon.

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engels 05.31.05 at 3:44 pm

it assumes what it should argue (that we should owe more allegiance to their fellow-national textile workers than to the much poorer and less privileged textile workers of another country)

‘We’, of course, being middle class liberals. You forget that national politics is not supposed to be a debate between different factions of the middle classes about what we owe the rest of society. Working class people have a right to advocate their own interests in this national debate and they sometimes exercise this right, over the interests of others in different countries. Not to say this is the best thing for them to do but liberal democracies accord every individual a limited right to pursue her own interests. If you think they should waive it in this case, you should speak to them, not to ‘us’.

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john c. halasz 05.31.05 at 4:56 pm

As supposedly a resident of Mars, (though some of us girly men are envious of you Venusians and wish we had some of your problems), I’m not familiar with all the ins and outs of EU issues. However, on reflection, were I voting in the EU, I think, within current horizons, I would be opposed to Turkish membership. The reasons are the following: 1) the current extension of EU membership to Eastern European countries still leaves enormous problems and issues to be digested and worked through, not least letting the new countries become accustomed and acculturated to the politics of the EU and finding legs and voices within it, as well as, allowing economic development to take hold in the new countries to attenuate the still enormous economic disparities between the old and the new countries, with the fiscal problems involved, while allowing the new countries, who underwent the ravages of “shock therapy” amidst the collapse of communism to organize their own regimes of social welfare provision. 2) The EU project was born of the shattering experience of Europe after WW2, and the recognition, not only that the internecine conflict between nations needed to be attenuated and overcome, but the sharp class conflicts that had fed into the genesis of the disaster, as well. On the one hand, there are still plenty of prejudices, misunderstandings and bitterness to be worked through in forming a common political culture. On the other hand, Turkey was not part of that experience and does not share that frame of reference. Whatever the element of atavistic xenophobia underlying European “Christian” rejectionism toward Turkey, there are plenty of other rifts still in need of mending, and adding to their strains would not be helpful. 3) Turkey is not just larger and much poorer than most European nations, but has its own endemic problems, with conflicts between secularized coastal elites and backward, reactionary inner Anatolia, a long history of military intervention in political affairs, with related abuses, and a massive Kurdish problem, which threatens its territorial integrity. It’s not clear that such patterns could be readily amended through a formal political/administrative agreement. 4) Turkish membership would take “Europe” into S.W. Asia, bordering on the Mid-East, the hinterlands of its former empire, which are violently unstable right now, to say the least. It’s not clear that it would be in Europe’s interests to expose itself to the potential dangers and entanglements that might emerge there, since Turkey must always address its interests as a Mid-East nation, as well. The benefits of encouraging Turkey’s political/economic development/reform through some form of associational agreements might be considerable, but it might be yet a long time before both Turkey and Europe are ready for its full membership in the EU. Rather than rushing the process and risking its backfiring, further aggravating EU conflicts and splits and Turkish resentments, a more gradual and realistic process might be preferable, as the EU still has much to do to figure its own damn self out.

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charlie b. 05.31.05 at 5:44 pm

Henry – may I show my ignorance and ask what “tax externalities” are?

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lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 7:58 pm

Lemuel, if you want to make tendentious comparisons, start telling the starving African children that they need to starve in order to preserve the European welfare state, why don’t you?

So you don’t like my suggestion for what to say to a European worker whose standard of living will decline as a reult of EU enlargement; but I don’t see you offering an alternative answer. The whole tone of your post is that working-class Europeans are just going to have get poorer and less secure for the sake of improving the standard of living elsewhere.

And why do you accept them (a French them, in this case) to support this? Of course they won’t, and neither will the leaders of unions and social-democratic parties, who not unreasonably think part of their job is to represent the people who elect them.

So what do you say to them, besides, “That’s jsut the way things are”?

And to forestall one response — of course there’s no reason in principle why we should choose between the interests of French and Turkish workers. If current policies face us with that choice — and that was your premise — then it’s the responsibility of intellectuals like us to come with other policies, not to lecture people poorer and less secure than ourselves on the need to make sacrifices.

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lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 8:03 pm

oops — it’s also the responsibility of us intellectuals to close tags.

Gives me a chance to get one more dig in: if there’s a whiff of Pecksniff on my side, there’s a whiff of Jellyby on yours.

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Henry 05.31.05 at 11:36 pm

bq. Well, this is obviously a strawman and, frankly, a bad case of demagoguery.

That’s precisely the point. If Lemuel wants to bring the debate to the level of my justifications to textile workers, he can damn well start himself by telling the starving African children why their starvation is justified in the grand scheme of things. Or he can lose the demagoguery and misleading cheap shots from the get-go. And the argument that we have a “responsibility as intellectuals” to come up with different policies that don’t counterpose the interests of French and Turkish workers has exactly the same degree of intellectual merit as the suggestion that we should sprinkle fairy dust over the fundamental clash of interests involved and then click our heels three times in order to make it magically disappear. The suggestion that foreigners should make their own welfare states first is precisely and exactly a denial of any moral obligation to foreigners, dressed up in high sounding language. I’m deliberately being quite rude here – because I think that there’s something shifty in this entire style of argument. It isn’t really arguing – it’s constructing a “Somebody Else’s Problem Field”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody_else%27s_problem_field around a complex set of issues. There are other people of course in this discussion who have advanced some more serious reasons.

engels – the “we” here is middle class liberals to precisely and only to the extent that Michael Lind’s argument is an ad hominem aimed at characterizing internationalists as middle class liberals. You’re completely missing the point here.

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lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:43 pm

the argument that we have a “responsibility as intellectuals” to come up with different policies that don’t counterpose the interests of French and Turkish workers has exactly the same degree of intellectual merit as the suggestion that we should sprinkle fairy dust over the fundamental clash of interests involved

Now I’m genuinely confused. “How could we change the terms of EU enlargement so that it doesn’t undermine social democracy in current states?” doesn’t strike as me as an a priori unreasonable question.

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lemuel pitkin 05.31.05 at 11:46 pm

Oh and

There are other people of course in this discussion who have advanced some more serious reasons.

So why not respond to them? Snarkiness aside, I’d really like to see what you say to John Halasz. He’s making a broadly similar argument to abb1 and me.

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chris stiles 06.01.05 at 3:26 am

That’s precisely the point. If Lemuel wants to bring the debate to the level of my justifications to textile workers

Why should those textile workers be the turkeys that vote for Christmas ? Or are you suggesting that expansion should be forced over their objections?

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Rob 06.01.05 at 4:01 am

I think Russell may be missing a step in his argument. The claim seems to be that it is only within certain communities that we can articulate certain kinds of moral claims, and that as a consequence that those kinds of moral claims are inappropriate for collectivities which don’t share that kind of community. To formalise it: only in x can moral claim a be made; y and z are not in x; therefore, y and z are be in relations suitable for the making of moral claim a. But the fact that a certain kind of moral claim cannot be made implies nothing automatically about its validity: assuming we have some duties to animals, for example, the fact that no animal can press upon us those duties has no bearing on whether or not we in fact have those duties. This applies, ex hypothesi, to other fact-based limitations of putative moral duties: pointing to empirical difficulties with implementing some scheme does not, of itself, show that the scheme is not morally required/desirable. This is not to say that there cannot be some good arguments from facts to moral claims, just that these aren’t good ones (I’d suggest that you need normativity from the ground up).

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Harry 06.01.05 at 7:19 am

engels,

have you heard of Solidarity? The idea is that there are intra-class obligations. Internationalists think those obligations cross national boundaries. Henry’s use of ‘we’ is pretty standard in working class circles, or used to be when there was a strong internationalist socialist current.

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Russell Arben Fox 06.01.05 at 7:35 am

“But the fact that a certain kind of moral claim cannot be made implies nothing automatically about its validity: assuming we have some duties to animals, for example, the fact that no animal can press upon us those duties has no bearing on whether or not we in fact have those duties.”

Rob, your example doesn’t support your criticism of my claim. Leaving aside various debatable assertions about animal-human communication, the fact is that any duties we may feel towards the care of animals arises from a human consensus about the moral and physiological standing of animals. In other words, if we recognize duties to animals, it is because we have recognized something in animals that we consider to issue in duties that we must respect. The whole argument begins and ends with the possible conditions of recogntion regarding animals within a given human community. This is not a mere “empirical difficulty”; this where the ability to conceive of an argument emerges from in the first place. I do not understand what kind of “ground” normativity can arise from if it is not a ground identical with possible human experience.

In regards to the EU, you of course have a different situation than that which exists between humans and animals–the experienced fact is, the Turks and the French can talk to each other, see things in each other, and thus struggle over the appropriate bounds of their respective communities through which they come to (or fail to) recognize one another. The egalitarian ethic which has powered and inspired much of what the modern European community stands for means there is a powerful set of agreed-upon arguments in favor of preventing national attachments from interfering with the extension of that community to include Turkey, but without a historical background (even if only unconsciously acknowledged) to the discussion about how each is to recognize the other, to talk about the existence of an “ought” element to the debate seems to me so abstract as to be futile.

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lemuel pitkin 06.01.05 at 8:04 am

Why should those textile workers be the turkeys that vote for Christmas ?

Nailed it. Somehow, tho, I doubt that Henry will be giving us an answer.

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Rob 06.01.05 at 9:30 am

Russell,

you’re still missing the same step, the jump from the fact of a community which recognises certain moral qualities to the claim that that recognition is valid/correct/justifiable. Presumably there is a truth of the matter, at least in some sense, about our duties towards animals/the Turkish/whoever, and if there is, that implies that it must be something at least in part independent from what we say about it, which means the simple factual claim about communities and their practices of recognition you seem to be making can’t be the whole story.

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engels 06.01.05 at 11:18 am

Henry,

You say the argument is assuming that ‘we’ (middle class lefties) owe our allegiance first and foremost to European labourers. But I think you are missing the point. The argument is addressed to the European labourers and it is saying: don’t believe a word Henry says – he talks about “justice, fairness, egalitarianism etc” but all he really wants is a cheaper baby-sitter. How does this “assume what it should argue”?

I don’t think it’s easy to shake off this charge, as long as your self interest (or class interest) and that of your universalist morality coincide so neatly.

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Doug 06.01.05 at 11:28 am

Goodness, I thought this was going to be about Erdogan’s party.

I understand that in some sense we are talking about first principles, i.e., why Turkey can never be a member of the EU, but I’m puzzled that no one has addressed the practical time frame involved. With the very optimistic idea that Turkish citizens will elect their MEPs in 2014, we’re still talking about nine years’ time. That’s almost the same length of time from Germany’s capitulation at the end of WWII to West Germany’s re-armament and entry into NATO.

If Turkey’s citizens miss the 2014 election but do make it for the 2019 election, that is a span longer than the time from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the Baltic republics’ admission to the EU. What did the Baltics have to do in that time? Re-establish the entire machinery of an independent state; change from a state socialist planned economy to a market economy; re-orient their trade from internal USSR and Comecon partners to (mostly) Western European partners; oversee the departure of a formerly occupying power’s army, which was reluctant to leave; deal with minorities stemming from the occupation, minorities that made up to a third of the population; implement the EU acquis in national law. Is Turkey’s to-do list anywhere near as daunting?

For the commenters worrying about Turkey’s departures from EU norms, the evidence from Central and Eastern Europe shows that the drive to accession is a powerful force for transforming societies. It may even be more powerful than invasion, because it is consensual. There’s every reason to believe that Turkey will live up to its end of the bargain.

Whether the rest of Europe will or not is a much more difficult question.

But after having conflated the EU (or its predecessors) with ‘Europe’ for decades, Western European people and leaders should not be surprised that people are taking it seriously and working hard for admission.

(Maybe I should add that last thought to Maria’s post.)

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Teemu Pyyluoma 06.01.05 at 11:40 am

Wellfare state is not a charity, even if it has charitable aspects. Most services and benefits are both paid and consumed by the vast majority of citizens.

If the question is do we (the left) have a duty to help the poor (Turks) regardless of whether they are out co-patriots, the wellfare state has little to do with it. WS is a tool for domestic use, for international sphere we need something else.

EU doesn’t have the funds to boost Turkey upward economicly by aid (there is a difference in scale to say Portugal). Fortunately Turkish economy seems to be growing quite nicely and kind of institutional stability that EU brings (for example accountability of government officials) should help it maintain that growth.

I am not quite convinced that increased trade with poorer countries means that workers will be worse off on the whole, IIRC EU has a trade surplus with China, and in the case of Turkey this is even more unlikely. Due to geography and multiple ties which would only be enforced by EU membership, any economic growth in Turkey is bound to benefit EU countries too.

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engels 06.01.05 at 12:15 pm

Harry – Global working class solidarity sounds like a very nice idea to me too.

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Richard Bellamy 06.01.05 at 1:53 pm

Doesn’t “global working class” assume that the working poor of Turkey and, say, Germany, are in the same “class”? It seems to me that the working poor of Turkey dream of one day reaching the lofty economic successes that the working poor of Germany have reached. You’d be hard-pressed to explain to them both how they are really in the same “class.”

It’s kind of like Bill Gates looking “down” at a law partner in a small law firm and a full-time employee of Wal-Mart and assuming they are the same “class of worker” since they both make less than 1% as much as he does.

When the difference of wealth approaches orders of magnitude, there is no class interest.

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mc 06.01.05 at 2:16 pm

Henry – like some others on this thread, I think you dismiss the Lind/hypocrisy argument too quickly. You’re quite right to insist on separating the two questions, (a) whether enlargement is a good idea and (b) whether supporters of enlargement are hypocritical in the way they argue for it. You’re quite right also to insist that (a) is ultimately more important than (b). But you also need to separate your view about how much more important (a) is than (b) from your substantive view on (a). In other words, you should take hypocrisy seriously, regardless of whether you think it is exacerbating an already bad argument or merely slightly muddying an essentially good one. And that’s what I think you’re not doing here. To take a different analogy: consider those who criticised the British government for the way it argued for the war in Iraq; and supporters of the war who tried to dismiss that criticism and move the entire debate onto whether the war was justified all things considered. I don’t remember how you reacted to that move, but I expect you agreed that both kinds of criticism of the war were legitimate.

To get back to the current case, presumably the argument is this. There is something offensive or hypocritical in a group of people, in a given political community, supporting a move whose costs fall disproportionately on some other group in that same political community, without at least being upfront about that. In fact, perhaps they need to go further than mere honesty, and actually combine their support for the move with concrete proposals, rather than passive enthusiasm, for sharing these particular costs more fairly. And if they can’t do that – if there is no possibility of sharing these particular costs more fairly – then however justified the move is, however necessary even, this might just be one of those times where, even though you know something is a good idea, you have to leave it to someone else to argue for it. Now, I’m not sure I fully agree with this in this particular context, but it strikes me as a perfectly coherent argument.

I had a few other thoughts on some of the other arguments, but since I’m coming late to this, I won’t bother unless people are still reading this.

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Jason Orendorff 06.01.05 at 2:46 pm

#41: Why should those textile workers be the turkeys that vote for Christmas? Or are you suggesting that expansion should be forced over their objections?

All right, I’m naive, I’ll bite. It’s the latter.

It seems to me that the unemployed Turk who’s willing to unplug toilets for a very low price ought to be allowed to travel into France and unplug toilets. For me, it’s a matter of fairness. It seems unfair that other, wealthier plumbers are allowed to keep him out. It seems very plucky of the Turkish guy to uproot himself and go to the rich West to seek his fortune. By comparison, the French plumbers look like Standard Oil. If they made a movie out of it, I’d be rooting for the Turk, no question. What about you?

So, rather than allow an unfair status quo to endure, and assuming people with toilets outnumber plumbers, yes, the toilet-owners should vote to lower barriers over the objections of the plumbers. Or so it seems to me.

If plumbers outnumber toilet-owners, something’s askew.

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moni 06.01.05 at 2:49 pm

There is something offensive or hypocritical in a group of people, in a given political community, supporting a move whose costs fall disproportionately on some other group in that same political community, without at least being upfront about that.

Problem with that is, where do you put the limits of ‘community’? If we think nationality is too strict a limit, and even an existing union of countries is, then we have to open up the view to the whole world, and by then, we get to the point where we cannot ignore that the mere consumption of energy resources in the more developed and privileged countries has costs that fall disproportionately on less developed and less privileged countries, on the environment, etc. etc.

Is that not selfish? Do we not have sentiments about it? Do we not owe very strong duties to every human being?
Why should citizens of the European Union alone accept a ‘dilution’ of current benefits for the (supposed) benefit of current outsiders? If that is the principle on which to build social policies, then it should work globally.
It still remains to be explained if that ‘dilution’ makes sense, or even if it is the only possible approach to inequalities.
Talking of selfishness vs. egalitarianism is not in itself an argument.

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moni 06.01.05 at 3:14 pm

If they made a movie out of it, I’d be rooting for the Turk, no question. What about you?

Jason, key phrase in your post is ‘for a very low price’. The nationality difference is entirely secondary here. Why shouldn’t the Turk be welcome to France and compete with French plumbers on French prices, that reflect the French cost of life and goods, not the Turkish one? Assuming fair, not overinflated prices, as a starting point; and assuming the ‘very low price’ would be, well, very low, ie. very much below the actual value of the work for that specific area, with that specific cost of life, and with that specific demand for plumbers.

If I was a French plumber, you can’t say I’m selfish if I want to keep working at a price that does reflect a French context, not a Turkish one.

Plus, the Turk would have to live in France, and face the same costs of living in France that French plumbers do; those won’t go down, no matter how many plumbers from Turkey come in. Rooting for the Turk to offer his services at ‘very low prices’ compared to actual economic context would be rooting for exploitation. We could argue that people should be free to choose to be exploited, too, or define their own individual standards for exploitation, and we can’t stop them. But how fair and egalitarian is it, really? Or even, how practical. That’s not a social or economic policy. That’s complete absence of any policy.

Plumbers work on their own. Take builders. Would you still be rooting for the hypothetical Turk to go work in France on a building site for 1 euro an hour? Who’s benefiting from that, really, him, or the bulding company? What about minimum wages? Why shouldn’t they apply, no matter the nationality of the workers?

There’s no need to put up impenetrable national barriers, but there’s no need to assume that economic migrants have to be ready and willing to be exploited, either. There’s people who migrate precisely to be able to work at better prices.

The calculation of what a fair price is should be based on economic conditions of the country in which a worker operates, not the country of origin.

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abb1 06.01.05 at 3:28 pm

Instead of destroying the French plumbing community while having to plumb for peanuts anyway, only in France — why wouldn’t the Turkish plumber elect a socialist government in Turkey, create unions and other necessary institutions, and become – right there in Turkey – as well-paid as the French plumber, or even better?

I just don’t see what’s the controversy here.

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john c. halasz 06.01.05 at 3:33 pm

“Presumably there is a truth to the matter…that implies that it must be something at least in part independent from what we say about it, which means the simple factual claim about communities and their practices of recognition…can’t be the whole story.”- rob

Independent from saying this or that about it, but surely not from our sayings in general, from what our says can show forth? And ethical claims or judgments can not be “true”, as opposed to valid, since they are not cognitive,- (one shouldn’t confuse the factual conditions for the application of a norm with the “existence” of the norm),- and they are not objective, (their “transcendence” inhering only in their call to enactment). And “communities and their practices of recognition” are not a “simple fact”, but, in fact, the subject-matter of ethics. The recognition of the deontic status of moral claims,- (since I think there is something basically right about that, it is simply assumed for the sake of argument),- is not just about the “nature” of morality or the status of ethical norms, but just as much a recognition of the status of human beings, that behind all the costumes and masks and alongside all the grubby animal neediness and appetites, human beings are who’s, with all the play of identity and otherness, commonality and difference that lies at the heart of every human being. R.A. Fox’ claim that “normativity” is grounded in experience, which seems to imply a rather emphatic concept of experience, reminds me of why Wittgenstein discussed the odd topic of “aspect blindness” toward the end of PI. The bounds of what we recognize is not entirely separable from our understanding of what “kind” of world we inhabit and what “kind” of beings we take ourselves to be. And changes in such bounds, whatever conditions and “determines” them, are in some measure changes in our world and ourselves, no matter how that would be brought about. But I think the basic argument made was a “capacities” one, concerning the relation between the “ought” and the “can”, rather than the opposition between the “is” and the ought, if secondarily contaminated with a “needs” argument, which under some aspects could be considered deontically questionable. The question is whether a moral claim, even if in some sense valid, can do injury to the achieved deliberative capacities and ethical recognitions that sustain and render possible such capacities and recognitions, and hence ethical responsiveness in general. The claim to the universality of moral norms does not of itself specify the bounds of application of specific norms in specific situations. (After all, even Kant ultimately referred the formalism of the categorical imperative to a “kingdom of ends”, which is to say to a project, in his case, a metaphysical, if not historical, one.) But least of all does such a claim of itself underwrite the capacity to derive moral imperatives from a systematically rational basis. Which is to say that conflicts between valid ethical norms might well be possible, perhaps even inevitable. Indeed, the existence of such conflicts might go some way toward explaining how and why the bounds of ethical recognitions are formed and how and why they are altered.

However, the focus on a purely moral claim is rather beside the point in topic, since we are dealing with a political matter,- indeed, both a political and an economic matter and one that focuses on the relation and balance between the two,- and, in my view, political judgments do not reduce to moral claims, but rather are prudential judgments, that is, mixed judgments that involve and relate considerations of ethical norms and their application, the efficacy of available means and ends, and the assessment of the realities of power relations. Juggling apples and oranges and pears together with chairs and tables is unavoidable here. Having read up some more on the issue of the EU constitution vote on the internet, I would say, that were I eligible, I would have voted unapologetically no, as that seems to be a needed revolt of the citizens against the EU of the technocrats, with their skewed neutrality, which mediate economic tendencies and interests at the expense of democratic public deliberation. Clearly, a much more open process of deliberations among and between publics is needed; indeed, the process is needed to form and define just what the EU public is to be. Also I don’t quite see why an EU constitution is needed, or even possible, at this point. Wouldn’t it be better to formulate matters step-wise and piece-meal by means of “basic laws” rather than a once and for all constitution? And at 400+ pages the thing sure wasn’t written by Abraham Lincoln.

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Jake McGuire 06.01.05 at 4:02 pm

It’s pithy but true – the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalists is not being exploited by capitalists.

But surely the constitution doesn’t prohibit local minimum wages – if the French are that concerned about the Polish plumber why not make it illegal to unclog a toilet for less than 40 Euro?

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Jason Orendorff 06.01.05 at 4:03 pm

#20: Yes, except protectionism and agricultural subsidies in the US have the same effect on Africa, except there they’re supported by the right much more than the left.

Actually, I’ve never heard anyone in Congress, from either party, speak out against agricultural subsidies. Bloggers from both the left and the right seem to be against them, maybe because we don’t have large farm constituencies.

Besides, do you really think the solution to hunger is better markets? Really really?

From what little I hear, war and corrupt governments are Africa’s top problems, with AIDS coming up fast. Agricultural subsidies are just piling on. But it seems to me they are still wrong and cruel. Am I wrong?

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lemuel pitkin 06.01.05 at 4:35 pm

From what little I hear, war and corrupt governments are Africa’s top problems, with AIDS coming up fast. Agricultural subsidies are just piling on. But it seems to me they are still wrong and cruel. Am I wrong?

No, you are not. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

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moni 06.01.05 at 5:10 pm

and become – right there in Turkey – as well-paid as the French plumber, or even better?

Exactly, abb1. That, too. It’s all a false dichotomy, and one set up with the starting point that the interests to serve are those of the parties that would benefit from a dilution of social welfare and a race to the bottom in wages – ie. employers.
So the idea that we should *raise* the conditions for everyone to a decent, balanced level where market competition can live side by side with some guarantees and rules, is discarded straight away, as some foolish utopian thing, even if it’s worked for years, and the idea that we should *lower* the level for everybody is presented as an obvious, irrefutable given.

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Henry 06.01.05 at 6:26 pm

bq. The argument is addressed to the European labourers and it is saying: don’t believe a word Henry says – he talks about “justice, fairness, egalitarianism etc” but all he really wants is a cheaper baby-sitter (Engels)

You really don’t have a clue, do you. The post (go back and read it) is about the _European welfare state_. The European welfare state, for your information, is not an institution that primarily caters for the working class. It does by the middle classes very well indeed, which is why it’s been so difficult for politicians to scale back. I’ll say it again – it’s in large part a _middle class programme_. So if you seriously want to engage in some gimcrack version of class position analysis, I’m actually going against my class interests in making the argument that I am making. And indeed, against my own personal interests too – I’ve a few years’ contributions socked away in the German system. If I may make a polite suggestion – you may want to change your online monicker – you’re really not doing your illustrious namesake very much credit.

As for lemuel’s rather pathetic little

bq. Nailed it. Somehow, tho, I doubt that Henry will be giving us an answer.

see above for the answer that you claim I won’t be giving. Anyway, I seem to recall that the European textile worker vs. starving Africans simile is a canard that you introduced. As I hope you will be able to discern, I’m talking about whether or not there should be cutbacks in a _universalist_ program, which affects textile workers and middle class professionals alike. Hence your accusations are entirely bogus. You’ve done a lot of ducking and weaving, introduction of tendentious and disingenuous similes etc, but as far as I can discern whatever solidarity you have to those outside the EU is of that Pecksniffian variety which involves neither cost nor inconvenience.

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jet 06.01.05 at 7:01 pm

Moni, it is only obvious in light of the unsustainable level of spending on entitlement programs that continues to help stall European economies. Or are you of the belief that you can continue raising taxes forever without further harming growth?

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engels 06.01.05 at 11:39 pm

Henry,

Sorry to hear you’ve been having a bad day.

Your post – thanks, but I’d rather not read it again – is about the welfare state but the argument we have been discussing – number 3 on your list – is not: at least not in the form you presented it there. To repeat my original question again: how exactly does this argument “assume what it should argue”?

I was not accusing you of holding views influenced by your class. On the contrary, I’m glad you don’t buy into all that social science bunk and I think it’s quite heroic that you are speaking up for the starving African children even after having paid your social security contributions. I was attempting to clarify an argument, of someone else’s making, which I thought you were dismissing rather hastily and which appears to me to have political, if not moral, force.

This argument is a charge of hypocrisy directed at members of the middle class who advocate increased flows of goods and people across borders on moral grounds. Middle class people, as you noted before you flew off the handle, are much less likely to suffer job insecurity, and also enjoy cheaper goods and services, as a result of these flows. They invite this charge when they sweep these facts aside and frame their case as a moral appeal, citing the benefits to outsiders.

Your little lecture on the regressive nature of European welfare states is therefore beside the point. I do find your claim that European welfare states “do not primarily cater for the working class” bizarre, though. I know universal provision offers generous benefits to the middle class and that has kept these programmes popular. Universal programmes may, in fact, be the most politically viable way of providing these goods to everyone who needs them. Which class do you think is the primary beneficiary, counting costs and benefits, and why were you and your egalitarian buddies not calling for their dismantling before? What’s the progressive dilemma that you’ve been ringing your hands over? It all sounds dead simple to me: smash the welfare state.

Go easy on the caffeine.

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charlie b. 06.02.05 at 2:07 am

I guess it’s impolite of me, but I really would like to find out what “tax externalities” are – I have not come across this phrase, or the application of the concept of externalities to tax, before.

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Henry 06.02.05 at 5:59 am

“engels” – did you actually read the post in the first place? Because exactly that argument is made in there (“grain of truth” and all that). You’re sounding a little confused. You also clearly haven’t bothered to find out where I’m coming from on this broad set of issues and on the power of labour v. capital (I’d recommend you go back to read some of my earlier posts, except that you apparently don’t go in for that reading thing). My argument here is quite straightforward – whether our specific national solidarities should or should not trump our international solidarities.

Charlie b – apologies for neglecting your earlier enquiries. By tax externalities I’m referring to a set of debates in the EU over whether or not the states with strong welfare states and higher levels of taxes (especially on business) will be able to maintain them in a context where business can easily relocate across borders and not have to pay any penalties. Countries like Germany feel that they are suffering from this. Interestingly, some of the traditional ‘social democratic’ states like Sweden have low rates of tax on business and have had them for quite a while – this is something that social scientists have had a hard time explaining.

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Jason 06.02.05 at 9:04 am

#55: Jason, key phrase in your post is ‘for a very low price’. The nationality difference is entirely secondary here. Why shouldn’t the Turk be welcome to France and compete with French plumbers on French prices, that reflect the French cost of life and goods, not the Turkish one?

That would be nice, but I’m not sure what you’re proposing. Are you saying that immigration should be allowed, but the government or a union should set the prices? or prop them up with subsidies?

Would you still be rooting for the hypothetical Turk to go work in France on a building site for 1 euro an hour?

That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? I think you’re greatly exaggerating the wage difference, but let’s just go with it for now.

A lot of Mexicans work illegally in the U.S. as undocumented construction workers. I can’t imagine what would make a person leave home and cross a desert in the middle of the night, risking death from thirst and exposure (100 die every year), to do hard labor illegally for peanuts in a country where everyone despises him and no one speaks his language. Why? Can you explain why someone would endure all that? I have my own guesses.

If you live in a rich country, there are poor, desperate people on the other side of all your borders. What do you do with them? You can (as in comment #56) suggest they go home, elect a socialist government, and build a better country for themselves. That’s a little glib and self-serving for my tastes. See? Voting socialist is the way to prosperity and happiness.* You’re welcome. Now off I must go to my two-hour lunch break, tra la. To me, it seems like you’re literally locking these people out of the prosperity you enjoy only by virtue of the accident of birth. They will suffer all their lives as a result of your choice. Meanwhile you will have high wages and a generous pension.

Alternatively, you can do what the U.S. does: turn a blind eye and let these people sneak past and work illegally; establish no serious policy about them whatsoever. This is very bad indeed, but much better than your suggestion.

*I couldn’t say about happiness, but it seems to me that what produces a wealthy society is long periods of peace, security, political stability, and minimal government corruption–not leftist or rightist policies per se.

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Creative Commonist 06.02.05 at 11:14 am

Re: Henry
“My argument here is quite straightforward – whether our specific national solidarities should or should not trump our international solidarities.”
No. The question is: how far should we go in solidarity – in national and in international matters.

” What’s the justification for shutting out worse-off Polish or Latvian workers from West European labour markets.”
Speaking from Hungary: the best way to help us is to have a strong, egalitarian, economically viable society in your country. So giving strength to our arguments in our debates against the neoliberal agenda.

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Charlie B. 06.02.05 at 11:17 am

Thank you very much. I had imagined a “tax externality” to be the unpleasant conquence (i.e. paying a lot of it) that is a consequence of central state expenditure over which tax payers will have no control. I wonder if it might not be a rather good expression for “unnecessary bureaucracy” – though I don’t know who it could be sold to!

I kind of itch to join in this debate, but I lack the appropriate convictions. But I do wonder if the relevant factor in economic compatibility is growth efficiency (dynamism). I have to say that if this was the case, I think France and Turkey would get on fine – watching Sweden, Finland and the UK disappear out of sight. But that’s only one reading of the facts.

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abb1 06.02.05 at 11:43 am

To me, it seems like you’re literally locking these people out of the prosperity you enjoy only by virtue of the accident of birth. … what produces a wealthy society is long periods of peace, security, political stability, and minimal government corruption—not leftist or rightist policies per se.

Well, Jason, have you heard about the labor movement? This, for example: Strike in Minneapolis

…The truckers, in hard times needing radical leaders with radical solutions, pushed the Dunne brothers and Farrell Dobbs, all Trotskyists, into leadership of the union local (the branch) in the city.

They organised three strikes in 1934. Then local businessmen declared martial law. The National Guard was sent in to attack the strikers. The police killed two pickets and protest rallies of up to 40,000 were held regularly during the strike.

These famous strikes were like none seen before in America. The strikers had patrol cars of their own, stopping trucks entering or leaving the city. A daily newspaper, loud speaker broadcasts, an advice centre, ambulance services for the wounded, canteens to feed the pickets, were all organised and the wives of the men were involved in the strike.

This is why you are still being able to enjoy that two-hour lunch break.

But if you allow your boss to start recruiting scabs in Mexico who can do your job for a fraction of what you’re paid – good luck with your lunch, man.

Now, as far as the Mexicans or Turks go, I am sure they aren’t stupid or lazy or inferior to you in any respect, which means that they can make it too, provided that other more powerful countries (like yours, for example) stop messing with their politics and economics. That’s all there is to it.

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Fifi 06.02.05 at 11:47 am

David Miller is wrong because he is not peremptory enough. “nationality is the strongest set of allegiances that we have in practice”. Nationality is the ONLY set of allegiances within which democracy has been possible in a lasting and effective manner, as far as the historic record goes.

Any attempt to do anything else should be done with the utmost cautious. And there again. most attempts at internationalism have failed : failures ranging from the slightly ridiculous and mostly harmless (EU constitution) to the horrific (Soviet era).

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nikolai 06.02.05 at 3:07 pm

“My argument here is quite straightforward – whether our specific national solidarities should or should not trump our international solidarities.”

One problem with “help the Turkish plumber” brigade is that they’re fine with a market for products and low skilled labour. However, when it comes to opening up the single market for services in order to substantially increases the wellbeing of Polish architects they switch from a position of international solidarity to one of national solidarity – as we’ve seen recently.

They’re not just “middle-class hypocrites who want cheap baby sitters and house cleaners” they’re “middle-class hypocrites” who are fine when it affects other people, but not when it affects them. Henry’s right to debate whether national solidarities should or should not trump our international solidarities, but it’s suspicious when people advocate both positions at the same time.

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moni 06.02.05 at 4:02 pm

Jason, there are already minimum wages set by unions and/or governments.

Voting socialist is the way to prosperity and happiness.

Well, testing that charming proposition would require you first find a real socialist to vote, which has become quite an effort in the year 2005. Plus, we’d have to vote on what a real socialist is. Or even, if pure undiluted socialism at its most charming is the one and only answer to all problems. I’m not sure this was what was being suggested.

Alternatively, you can do what the U.S. does: turn a blind eye and let these people sneak past and work illegally; establish no serious policy about them whatsoever. This is very bad indeed, but much better than your suggestion.

Hmm, I will have to ponder long and hard on that. But, only as a first impression, it does strike me as a very hypocrite and convenient apology for exploiting illegal work, so if I were you I wouldn’t be so sure of having the moral upper hand of the argument.

Also, what abb1 said in #70.

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Jason Orendorff 06.03.05 at 9:21 am

#70 (paraphrasing): Unions = 2-hour lunch

Okay, but allowing immigrants to enter the country does not imply a weakening of the right to organize or to strike (except inasmuch as illegal immigrants have no rights, and my whole point is that they should be legalized and given rights). Your point seems to apply to the exmigration of jobs, not the immigration of workers. Or did I miss something?

#70 (actual quote): But if you allow your boss to start recruiting scabs in Mexico who can do your job for a fraction of what you’re paid – good luck with your lunch, man.

This is a transparent appeal to the natural fear any privileged group has of egalitarian policies. If it weren’t for the word “scabs”, you’d sound just like Jean-Marie Le Pen.

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Jason Orendorff 06.03.05 at 10:36 am

#73: Jason, there are already minimum wages set by unions and/or governments.

Yes, but they’re low enough that they don’t deter immigrants from undercutting natives’ wages. I don’t think they’re relevant.

me, #67 (out of context): Voting socialist is the way to prosperity and happiness.

#73: Well, testing that charming proposition… I’m not sure this was what was being suggested.

No, it was satire. I wrote:

You can (as in comment #56) suggest they go home, elect a socialist government, and build a better country for themselves. That’s a little glib and self-serving for my tastes. “See? Voting socialist is the way to prosperity and happiness. You’re welcome. Now off I must go to my two-hour lunch break, tra la.”

Emphasis and quote marks added for clarity. That part is my characterization of abb1’s argument in #56.

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engels 06.03.05 at 1:18 pm

Henry – in case anyone is still reading this –

Yes, I know you listed that argument in your post. That’s why I referred to it as “number 3 on your list”: you did read my comments didn’t you? If I’m a little confused it’s probably because you keep ducking my questions and because I had the naive hope that it would be possible to understand your post without an extensive knowledge of the collected unpublished writings of Henry Farrell.

My view is that the four arguments which you so derisively dismiss aren’t half as bad as you think they are, for reasons that other commenters, as well as I, have already explained rather extensively. By the way, you refer to them as “counter arguments” but you appear to have accepted the position you defend without any argument at all: just a groundless appeal to your idiosyncratic understanding of the “core principles” of the left.

If the core principle of the left is some kind of direct universal utilitarianism then it’s news to me. (It would also be news to most unions and to Marx, who, as I think you know, did not think highly of ‘bourgeois morality’ and was pretty serious about the ‘class interest’ which gives you so much amusement.)

Justice and egalitarianism on the other hand, though equally tendentious as the “core” of leftwing politics, are fine principles, but they are entirely compatible with a belief that we owe differing moral obligations to different people.

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