Immigration and “impact”

by Chris Bertram on November 26, 2009

The British government recently changed its immigration policy. Well, I say it changed it, but perhaps what it did or, worse, “signalled”, was to intensify its existing policy. Immigration to the UK from outside the EU is, henceforth, to be driven by the needs of the labour market. People will only be allowed in if they compensate for some skills shortage. Indeed, the committee which advises the British goverment on immigration policy is now composed exclusively of economists whose role is to tell politicians and bureaucrats when “UK plc” needs computer programmers or nurses. Of course these won’t be the only immigrants, since the UK remains a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees, and the British government will not be able to evade its obligations in all cases of people fleeing persecution. And there will be some illegals who get through and, for one reason or another, will be able to avoid deportation.

British policy is therefore, like the policy of many other countries, based on the idea that sovereign states have the right to exclude whoever they like and that they can therefore limit inward migration to people who can benefit “us”. There’s no thought given to the rights human beings have to freedom of movement, to the benefits of allowing people to escape poverty and build new lives. No, this is our place, and we’ll let in those whom we choose to. The poor, the huddled masses, can get stuffed.

I’ve been thinking about these issues from within political philosophy for a while now. I’m not an “open borders” advocate in a completely unqualified sense, but, compared to current policy, I am as near as makes no difference. Compare me then to some other, hypothetical academic, who argues in favour of the current policy, or that Britain is “too crowded”, or that the right of freedom of association that citizens have implies the right to exclude would-be immigrant foreigners. Now there may be some intellectually respectable arguments that can be put on such lines (though I doubt it). It isn’t hard to see whose research is more likely to be picked up by politicians and cited as a rationale for what they want to do. Which brings me to the issue of “impact” and to another decision of the British government. Henceforth, research in the UK will be funded not just for its intrinsic quality but also for the benefits it is expected to bring to the wider society. Ministers and higher-education funding bureaucrats have been keen to point out that they don’t simply mean economic benefits and commercial spinoffs. No, they also want to reward research which makes a difference to public policy. Of course, I’d love it to be the case that senior politicians and civil servants read work in political philosophy and theory and, convinced by good arguments, adjust their ideas accordingly. But the cynic in me says that this isn’t what happens. Rather, the attitude that politicians have to research is to latch onto it when it supports the view they already hold and to ignore (or punish) it when it tells them something uncomfortable. Research that supports tighter border controls (or harsher drug laws) will have “impact” and research that favours more immigration or legalizing weed won’t. And the money will follow.

{ 104 comments }

1

ajay 11.26.09 at 10:13 am

Problem with open borders: people are sticky. They have linguistic, cultural and family ties to their homes that hold them there even if there is an apparent advantage to moving.
eg: 19th century Scandinavia – very poor. Lots of Swedes left for the US to build better lives in the upper Midwest, and succeeded in doing so. Why didn’t they all go?

Problem with your hypothesis that research pointing in a politically favourable direction will get funded: you get given the money before you do the research. So, in fact, what you’d have would be a situation where people who had produced popular results in the past would get funding for their next project, and people who hadn’t wouldn’t.

2

dsquared 11.26.09 at 10:16 am

It’s called “picking winners” and for the most part I preferred the days when they indulged the urge through industrial policy.

3

gyges 11.26.09 at 10:37 am

I find a comparison of current immigration laws and policies with the Poor Laws to be extremely informative.

A study of the old settlement cases with those of today’s immigration cases is also interesting.

4

James Conran 11.26.09 at 11:00 am

“Problem with open borders: people are sticky. “

Why is this a problem with open borders? I would have thought it undermines the more dramatic scenarios of chaotic mass immigration invoked by opponents of open borders.

5

John Quiggin 11.26.09 at 11:06 am

“Impact” is a term that means different things in different places, even as regards research evaluation. In some circles, it means citation impact, derived from an iterative evaluation of which journals are cited by which other journals.

In recent Australian development, it means something like what Chris described but not quite. Effectively, it came in to avoid the outcome (likely otherwise) where second-tier universities were evaluated as doing essentially no high-quality research. “Impact” was brought in as a way of rewarding not-very-original applied research that could be claimed to be useful for local communities etc (I’m not bagging this kind of thing, I do a fair bit of it myself). My impression is that claims are not going to be evaluated too closely, since the aim is to ensure that every player wins a prize. In particular, I doubt that the government will want to get into rewarding research that yields the right conclusions. OTOH, there will almost certainly be picking of winners in terms of research fields. For example, I suspect, ethical philosophers would be well advised to look at the ethics of organ banks, and not those of aggressive war.

Overall, then I don’t know that it’s a good idea, but I don’t think it’s as scary as the picture drawn by Chris for the UK.

6

John Meredith 11.26.09 at 11:07 am

Yes, it is just winner picking and it happens today just as much, especially in the sciences. I don’t really see why the new bit of rhetoric will make much difference.

7

ajay 11.26.09 at 11:11 am

4: it’s a ‘problem’ in the sense that it means open-border policies are unlikely to have all the benefits that their advocates claim.

8

steven 11.26.09 at 11:16 am

Suppose a political philosopher devoted himself to providing philosophical justifications for war, at a time when his government was agitating for a war, and the war then took place. We can take it, I assume, that the philosopher would have had an admirable amount of “impact” compared to colleagues who had been more circumspect about war or had just been footling around in non-war areas of philosophy?

9

JoB 11.26.09 at 11:18 am

“Henceforth, research in the UK will be funded not just for its intrinsic quality (..)”

Tha would be indeed very bad if there were a non-controversial way to determine what has intrinsic quality (& what not) determinable without recourse to the public domain.

I’m certain individual politicians will tend to abuse their power also here but I’m not so certain that the alternative of non-involvement of politicians is any better.

It should be at least thinkable for researchers to convince the population that what they do has intrinsic quality; or that the process for determining intrinsic quality of research is a fair one (& not one that e.g. will favour pro-cannabis & pro-immigration research).

10

Thom Brooks 11.26.09 at 1:03 pm

I think this is genuinely terrible news. It all strikes me as a government down in the polls and facing an election doing what it can to generate support whatever the cost. Fees for visas appear to have rised substantially. I had a citizenship test (even though I was not applying to become a citizen) that was rather tricky: I have been quizzing colleagues and students on the sample questions — with most getting the overwhelming majority wrong. The more difficult it is to simply work here, the more likely that potential immigrants will go elsewhere…and to the detriment of the country.

11

gyges 11.26.09 at 2:24 pm

I had a citizenship test … that was rather tricky

Interesting how knowledge is used as a “legitimate” reason for discriminating against people.

Rather than what it perhaps should be used for … discriminating between people.

12

ajay 11.26.09 at 2:27 pm

The difficulty or otherwise of the citizenship test, of course, has nothing to do with how difficult immigration is.

13

Zamfir 11.26.09 at 2:33 pm

British policy is therefore, like the policy of many other countries, based on the idea that sovereign states have the right to exclude whoever they like and that they can therefore limit inward migration to people who can benefit “us”. There’s no thought given to the rights human beings have to freedom of movement, to the benefits of allowing people to escape poverty and build new lives. No, this is our place, and we’ll let in those whom we choose to. The poor, the huddled masses, can get stuffed.
But that’s the largely the same logic people (presumably including you) use to exclude others from their homes, freedom of movement and huddled masses be stuffed too. It’s not so obvious to me why this has to work different on a state level.

14

Mitchell Rowe 11.26.09 at 2:35 pm

What you have to remember Chris is that politicians are elected to represent/protect the interests of citizens, not potential citizens. Now if a political party chooses to run a campaign based on a platform that it will pursue an open border policy once elected that is one thing. In the meantime I feel it is perfectly legitimate for a government to choose to regulate immigration in such a way as to provide the maximum economic benefit for the nation.

15

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 2:53 pm

14: “What you have to remember Chris is that politicians are elected to represent/protect the interests of citizens, not potential citizens.”

That suggests that a democracy will be inherently unjust. Is someone such as an asylum seeker less deserving of protection in the UK purely because they can’t vote?

16

Matt 11.26.09 at 3:03 pm

Like most articles in the press on immigration this one is a bit hard to understand. (I’m sure it’s made harder for me to understand than for some others since, while I know the US system very well and some others fairly well I’m far from an expert on the British system. But, I don’t think the lack of clarity in the article was solely due to my not being British.) The article seemed to suggest that in the past 750,000 jobs were ones that could potentially qualify one to immigrate to the UK (from outside the EU), and that this was changed to 500,000 and would be further cut. What these numbers mean wasn’t clear to me, though- it seems that only 30,000 or so non-EU immigrants took such jobs in the past 9 months. How many visas were available in this time is a total mystery from the article. (I’m sure it was much less than 500,000.) Without knowing this sort of thing it’s very hard to know whether this is a big change or an essentially cosmetic one.

That said, it sounds from the article like the UK system is a bad mixture of American and Canadian systems, with some sort of point system and also some sort of labor certification, focusing on specific “needs” areas. Much better would be a pure points system, though extra points can easily enough be added for skills in certain areas. (There’s nothing much at all to recommend from the US system of labor migration, a horrible conglomerate of bad and poorly administered programs.)

Having legitimate requirements for student visas seems perfectly reasonable to me. I don’t know that much about how they work in the UK but there is lots of abuse in the US by people applying to shady “English language” programs that exist mostly to get people student visas that they can then skip out on. It also seems right that if a country is going to have an immigration system at all it will have to have some system of removal for those who come but don’t fit the system and won’t leave. These can be better or worse, but there will have to be some such system. The article was vague on this but the impression that protections against wrongful removal would be lessened is, of course, bad.

Finally, on a more theoretical point, I want to insist that freedom of association and freedom of movement are conceptually quite distinct from a right to immigrate to a country, as the latter entails a right to remain in perpetuity that’s neither entailed by or required to make substantial the other to rights. Yet, those writing on immigration often move from the former to the latter without sufficient argument, or any real argument at all. I don’t think Chris is clearly doing this hear, but it would be easy to draw these conclusions from the brief remarks above. (Association and movement are also, of course, highly contextual rights, and this too makes many of the arguments based on them for a supposed right to immigration unsound, even if one doesn’t go as far as Brian Barry once did and argue that states may legitimately regulate large-scale migration within countries for essentially utilitarian reasons.)

17

ajay 11.26.09 at 3:06 pm

15: an asylum seeker in the UK gets the same protection under law that a citizen would; it’s just as illegal to rob an asylum seeker, sell him unsafe goods, hit her on the head with a shovel, etc as it is a citizen, even though one of them can vote and the other can’t.

18

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 3:23 pm

17:” an asylum seeker in the UK gets the same protection under law that a citizen would; it’s just as illegal to rob an asylum seeker, sell him unsafe goods, hit her on the head with a shovel, etc as it is a citizen, even though one of them can vote and the other can’t.”

But there’s not so much protection from injustices arising from the nature of the asylum system itself, which in most other cases would be somewhat counteracted (at least in principle) by the notion that the politicians responsible could be turfed out of office by the victims of those injustices. Add that to the fact that asylum seekers are a ‘soft target’ for right-wing populists and politicians looking to please the tabloids (a case in point being IIRC Phil Woolas’ daft comment on removing the appeals process shortly after becoming immigration minister — thankfully I don’t think he acted on it) due to their general vulnerability, and things can and have gotten quite unpleasant.

19

Netbrian 11.26.09 at 3:33 pm

What is the economic logic behind identifying skill shortages that would be used to select immigrants? Isn’t this just another example of picking winners?

20

Mitchell Rowe 11.26.09 at 3:33 pm

“But there’s not so much protection from injustices arising from the nature of the asylum system itself, which in most other cases would be somewhat counteracted (at least in principle) by the notion that the politicians responsible could be turfed out of office by the victims of those injustices.”

This strikes me as an odd comment. Are you suggesting that democracies should extend the franchise to the global population?

21

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 3:46 pm

20: No, as it would be unworkable — but there’s a systematic problem there that seems in part to derive from the fact that they have little recourse to any method of influencing the system. And that itself may be partly due to the notion that a democracy should represent only the interests of its citizens, and that any largess extended to others is an optional extra.

22

Thom Brooks 11.26.09 at 3:52 pm

Yes, the citizenship test — or ‘Life in the UK’ test — was a test of knowledge that must be passed by anyone seeking Unlimited Leave to Remain or citizenship. The only problem is I doubt the knowledge it tests is known by most of the people who are UK citizens.

23

Mitchell Rowe 11.26.09 at 3:59 pm

“No, as it would be unworkable—but there’s a systematic problem there that seems in part to derive from the fact that they have little recourse to any method of influencing the system. And that itself may be partly due to the notion that a democracy should represent only the interests of its citizens, and that any largess extended to others is an optional extra”

The great thing about democracy is that if you feel the system should be different you are fully entilted to either voting for candidates that share your views or run for office yourself.

24

Mitchell Rowe 11.26.09 at 4:01 pm

22
Thom do you feel there should be no test at all? Maybe the fact that the averge citizen cannot pass the citizen tests means that the way history is taught should be changed, not that the test should be easier.

25

Matt 11.26.09 at 4:10 pm

On citizenship tests, this is one area where my intuitions are very much in line with Joseph Carens’, that such tests are largely pointless. They might also be harmless, if, like the one for the US, they have very little substance. (Carens’ article “why naturalization should be easy” is very good on this topic.) (The US test has a list of 100 questions, available with answers beforehand, 10 of which are asked at the examination, and you must get 6 right. It’s not plausibly a test of anything serious or much of a test at all. As with the English test [also not much of a test], waivers are available in many cases.) Still, all of that sounds much better than the proposed “integration contracts” in Germany. See:

http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2009/11/integration-through-contract.html

26

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 4:24 pm

23: “The great thing about democracy is that if you feel the system should be different you are fully entilted to either voting for candidates that share your views or run for office yourself.”

That’s true in principle, but the practise is a bit wanting.

27

Uram Bashir 11.26.09 at 4:35 pm

When you use the phrase “labor shortage” or “skills shortage” you’re speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: “There is a labor shortage at the salary level I’m willing to pay.” That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence and the intellectually honest statement.

Some people speak about shortages as though they represent some absolute, readily identifiable lack of desirable services. Price is rarely accorded its proper importance in their discussion.

If you start raising wages and improving working conditions, and continue doing so, you’ll solve your shortage and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

Re: Shortage caused by employees retiring out of the workforce: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, most people entering retirement age are working well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

Okay, fine. Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, the solution is higher wages and improved benefits. People will self-fund their re-education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to self-fund their own career re-education.

There is never enough of any good or service to satisfy all wants or desires. A buyer, or employer, must give up something to get something. They must pay the market price and forego whatever else he could have for the same price. The forces of supply and demand determine these prices — and the price of a skilled workman is no exception. The buyer can take it or leave it. However, those who choose to leave it (because of lack of funds or personal preference) must not cry shortage. The good is available at the market price. All goods and services are scarce, but scarcity and shortages are by no means synonymous. Scarcity is a regrettable and unavoidable fact.

Shortages are purely a function of price. The only way in which a shortage has existed, or ever will exist, is in cases where the “going price” has been held below the market-clearing price.

28

Mitchell Rowe 11.26.09 at 4:36 pm

26.
Point taken, but I don’t see an alternative. I am curious if you do?

29

ajay 11.26.09 at 4:36 pm

“But there’s not so much protection from injustices arising from the nature of the asylum system itself, which in most other cases would be somewhat counteracted (at least in principle) by the notion that the politicians responsible could be turfed out of office by the victims of those injustices.”

No, there aren’t really enough refugees in Britain to make much of a political difference. According to this survey, there’s only about 21,000 of them. There are, I would imagine, a lot more former refugees who have become naturalised – not to mention children of former refugees, far less other immigrants! – but obviously they can already vote, and they haven’t been taking poor refugee treatment as a critical factor in their political decisions. Neither has the rest of the population, really.

30

ajay 11.26.09 at 4:38 pm

Note that the alternative which Iorwerth is suggesting is that the only criterion for the franchise should be physical presence. If you are in the UK, legally or illegally, resident, asylum seeker, migrant worker (tourist? prisoner of war?), then you have the right to vote.

The potential for abuse on this one is too obvious to detail.

31

engels 11.26.09 at 4:49 pm

I’ve have often heard the rationale for citizenship tests, and for similar hoops for immigrants to jump through, is that it promotes ‘social inclusion’ by making sure that no-one find themselves outside of the mainstream of British life just for the lack of the sort of everyday knowledge which we hard-working, ordinary Brits have. If this is true, perhaps we ought to have similar tests for other marginalised groups, such as, I dunno, out-of-touch corporate CEOs and investment bankers? There could be questions about everything from the price of Tesco ‘Value’ sausages to the current level of the UK minimum wage to the procedure for claiming a low-earning exemption for National Insurance in Tower Hamlets. To be re-tested at regular intervals. Fail to score at least 70% and it’s off to the off-shore detention for you, Mr Hester…

32

Thom Brooks 11.26.09 at 4:54 pm

I agree, Matt!

Actually, there are no questions on British history on the UK citizenship test…

33

ajay 11.26.09 at 5:23 pm

31: there should be. Every aspiring Briton should know whether King Edward I was a) a Good Thing b) a Good King, not to mention whether the Spanish Armadillo was or was not a stronger swimmer than the Great Seal.

34

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 5:25 pm

29: Well, not really, because as you note, the problem for abuse is great. But I’m not sure that it’s the only alternative, even if I can’t think of another right now.

35

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 5:26 pm

30: Could it be extended to MPs as well? That might have amusing consequences…

36

Iorwerth Thomas 11.26.09 at 5:31 pm

Addendum to 29 [1]: Also because, as you note, the refugee population isn’t big enough to have any influence anyway. Which would probably reinforce what I was trying to get at about the systematic problem. I think. Never post to blogs while programming in Fortran…

[1] Curse the lack of an edit function…

37

Phil 11.26.09 at 8:04 pm

in fact, what you’d have would be a situation where people who had produced popular results in the past would get funding for their next project, and people who hadn’t wouldn’t

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

38

Phil 11.26.09 at 8:07 pm

Actually, there are no questions on British history on the UK citizenship test…

There are quite a few questions on one specialised branch of history, How Long Have Things Been This Good? All would-be citizens need to know the date when men got the vote, the date when women got the vote, the date of the Married Women’s Property Act, usw.

39

Phil 11.26.09 at 8:08 pm

Actually, there are no questions on British history on the UK citizenship test…

There are quite a few questions on one spec1alised branch of history, How Long Have Things Been This Good? All would-be citizens need to know the date when men got the vote, the date when women got the vote, the date of the Married Women’s Property Act, usw.

40

Laleh 11.26.09 at 11:21 pm

Re: the citizenship test for the UK. I took it about a year ago. It is not about whether King Edward was good or not, but rather about not smacking your children, giving them pocket money, signing up for the “new deal” after 6 months of unemployment (this is the one question I got wrong), and which holidays are celebrated where (they have stuff about Hogamanay in it). They also include some statistics on which you get tested (i.e. what is the larger immigrant community in the UK, what percentage of the country is urban etc.) and some significant dates (I think women’s suffrage is one of those significant dates)…

They say very explicitly at the beginning of the book (produced by the Home office which one buys to prepare for the test) that the primary intent of the test is to evaluate people’s English language skills.

41

mc 11.26.09 at 11:47 pm

This strikes me as a rather simplistic posting. Freedom of movement good, decisions to exclude bad. Academic freedom good, incentives to do ‘useful’ research bad. Slippery slope arguments without much effort to demonstrate that the slope is in fact slippery. Lazy accusations that those who are on the other side of the argument are not even ‘intellectually respectable’.
On the last point, try some of Scheffler’s stuff (a collection called Boundaries and Allegiances, from memory), or if you want something more easily digestible, David Goodhart in Prospect magazine. You may not agree with them (indeed Scheffler doesn’t agree with a lot of the arguments he explores), but to dismiss them as not even intellectually respectable is wrong.
One of the things which academics could usefully bring to debates over policy and political choices – because the media by and large won’t – is a bit of subtlety, a bit of light and shade. And I’d say that when they do, there are enough people inside government who will read them and learn from them. Sure, there will be some who read them with too much of an eye to finding things they already agree with – but that is true of other academics, too.
More widely you might want to consider what role the media play in this dynamic. Here is just one example, in the area of immigration. The government commissioned an academic estimate of the numbers of migrants who would come to the UK from the accession countries in 2004. The estimate was implausibly low. The government published the estimate (freedom of information rules made it hard not to), but explicitly distanced itself from it. 5 years later, the estimate is still cited as ‘the government’s estimate’, in attacks on the Government’s (too lax) immigration policy.
This is an example of the kinds of reasons why governments might be reluctant to commission research they can’t influence, if not control. I agree that that isn’t ideal, but I hope this example shows the various factors that help make it so (other than the venality of the political class). The impossibility of keeping research or advice private is one factor; excitable, sometimes irresponsible media coverage is another.
Both these factors also apply to the recent case you cite, of the drug adviser. I don’t think it is right to describe his sacking as a ‘punishment’; it was based on a judgment that, as an academic who was also an adviser, he had strayed over the line (hard to define, but surely not hard to understand in general terms) that obliges him to keep his advice, and the manner of its presentation, calm, cooperative and sometimes, private.

42

Chris Bertram 11.27.09 at 5:56 am

mc: I didn’t write that anyone who opposed open borders was not intellectually respectable, I wrote that I doubted that there were intellectually respectable versions of the “too crowded” and “freedom of association” arguments. I’ve been using the Scheffler book in my teaching this week, so I am aware of it.

43

Zamfir 11.27.09 at 9:20 am

But CB, do those arguments have to be of a high intellectual standard? The question is whether people have a right to exclude other people from the country if they chose so. If they have that right, the reasons they might have to want to exclude others are in their personal space, and less open to universal arguments. On that level you can try to convince people to allow foreigners on charitable grounds, or for non-economic welfare enhancing reasons, but at that personal level “Crowded” and “I don’t particularly like foreigners” are OK arguments to bring forward.

44

ajay 11.27.09 at 9:51 am

40: They say very explicitly at the beginning of the book (produced by the Home office which one buys to prepare for the test) that the primary intent of the test is to evaluate people’s English language skills.

I didn’t know that. That is very interesting, and undermines most of the arguments against the citizenship test. Thanks.

45

Chris Bertram 11.27.09 at 9:54 am

Well the “freedom of association” argument, as put by, say Kit Wellman, is supposed to support a right to exclude. You are quite right to say that if people already had a discretion to exclude on other grounds then matters would be different. Your own view, above, seems to be that the right that Americans, say, have to stop Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande is no more problematic than the right I have to stop strangers from entering my living room and has a similar basis. Limitations of time and space prevent me from listing all the objections to such a view, but I’d just mention (a) the very idea that territory is a form of property is controversial (which doesn’t make it wrong) , (b) the interests that each of those purported rights would plausibly serve look quite different (c) the system of coercive law that underpins my right to exclude from my living room is one that, at least ideally, works to the mutual benefit of all those subject to it, but the system of territorial exclusion coerces some to the benefit of others without such reciprocity.

46

Mikhail 11.27.09 at 10:13 am

In my personal opinion, the restrictive border control policy comes from the inherent hypocrisy of the masses (not just in the UK, but world-wide) – people like to pretend they have “just” laws, but they don’t want outsiders coming in to enjoy them… If the law stated that migrants are NOT entitled to free health service, to various social benefits, to nothing basically, until they obtain citizenship, the problem would not exist – whoever wanted to come would be free to do so at no expense to the local population and as such with much less resentment from the locals. But of course we cannot have laws such as that, so we have “good” laws, but do not allow others to come in… And, please, no sentiments as to the supposed “unfairness” of such a system – first of all, “fair” to whom? and secondly – those coming in from outside the EU on work visas are basically in that exact category right now.

As far as the political system and their perspective, I’d say everything you say is very logical – it’s the politicians’ purpose (not their “job”, but rather “purpose”) to do what the masses want to hold on to their places. It’s not the purpose of any political system “to do the right thing” – that would be absurd. :-)

47

Matt McGrattan 11.27.09 at 10:48 am

re: 44

It’d undermine it if it was true. We have the book in the house at the moment, and it’s clearly not primarily a test of English comprehension/vocabulary.

48

ajay 11.27.09 at 11:10 am

the system of coercive law that underpins my right to exclude from my living room is one that, at least ideally, works to the mutual benefit of all those subject to it, but the system of territorial exclusion coerces some to the benefit of others without such reciprocity.

I disagree: a general norm that international boundaries are sacrosanct, and national governments have jurisdiction over who can cross them, benefits rich and poor countries alike. If you don’t see why, find a Lakota Sioux Indian and ask him for his thoughts…

49

ajay 11.27.09 at 11:11 am

47: but does it say at the beginning that “the primary intent of the test is to evaluate people’s English language skills”, as Laleh says it does?

50

Matt McGrattan 11.27.09 at 11:36 am

re: 49

I can’t check from here. I’m sure if Laleh says it does, it does. I was just quibbling with the statement itself, not with the accuracy of the report of the statement, iyswim.

51

Praisegod Barebones 11.27.09 at 11:59 am

Of course, if the claim is that the test is supposed to evaluate grasp of English, and it clearly isn’t, then that would be problematic in another way….

52

Zamfir 11.27.09 at 12:41 pm

From a very quick look at Wellman, I get the impression that Wellman, more than you perhaps, sees being on a state’s territory as more than just a geographical move. So that, because states are so interwoven with their territory, just being in their territory is already an entry into their community, a weak form of citizenship almost.

Your view, if I get this correct, is more along the lines that even if a state (or community) has a “freedom of association” and a right to exclude people from its community, it doesn’t follow that it has a right to exclude people from its territory.

So I was wondering how inclusive you see a “freedom of movement”? Does it entail a right to protection, freeedom to have a job at every location (if you can get it), to hold property, to have a local driver’s license, to vote in local elections? A lot in this debate seems to hinge on what exactly is entailed in being on a territory, and how much it is related to being part of the local, pre-existing community.

53

ajay 11.27.09 at 1:55 pm

50: OK, I see what you mean…

54

Witt 11.27.09 at 2:17 pm

I want to insist that freedom of association and freedom of movement are conceptually quite distinct from a right to immigrate to a country, as the latter entails a right to remain in perpetuity that’s neither entailed by or required to make substantial the other to rights. Yet, those writing on immigration often move from the former to the latter without sufficient argument, or any real argument at all.

Exactly. (Not a comment on this post in particular, as Matt notes.)

On the particular issue of skills-based immigration: a common critique is that these policies disproportionately favor men, as women are more likely to be coming from places that did not allow or could not afford for them to obtain as much formal education. We (meaning the country setting this policy) may be OK with that, as many past groups of immigrants have been disproportionately male, but it is important not to gloss over.

55

Mitchell Rowe 11.27.09 at 2:51 pm

“but the system of territorial exclusion coerces some to the benefit of others without such reciprocity.”
Is this really the case? Mexico has the same right to prevent Americans from entering their territory as the US has to prevent Mexicans from entering theirs.

56

Phil 11.27.09 at 2:51 pm

What it says on the “Life in the UK” test Web site is “If you are applying for naturalisation as a British citizen or for indefinite leave to remain, you will need to show that you know about life in the UK.” I’d be interested to see the exact wording from the front of the book, whoever gets to a copy first. The test can also be taken in Welsh or Scots Gaelic, by the way, the latter of which would be of very limited use in preparing the immigrant for everyday linguistic interaction.

57

Mitchell Rowe 11.27.09 at 3:53 pm

56:
This is actually not that unusual. In Canada an applicant for citizenship can take the test in either French or English, despite the fact the French is useless in pretty much the entire country outside of Quebec and sections of Nova Scotia. It is more of a symbolic gesture than anything.

58

Myles SG 11.27.09 at 10:08 pm

I think Matt has had a fairly unassailable point. Immigration is not movement, nor is it simply membership. Immigration is settlement. And the authority to allow or disallow lies exclusively with the prince who is sovereign within the local territorial continuity, wherein the potential immigrant wishes to settle. In this case, the prince is (symbolically) the U.K. Crown.

While a natural right might be assumed, and the prince expected to defer to that right, of freedom of movement, that right has, in most case, been realized unless counterbalanced by the need to enforce the authority on settlement. (i.e. visa-free entry from all countries visitors from which do not pose likely immigration-control problems). Where people are not free to enter the United Kingdom, or most other states really, it is largely because they have been deemed a risk of unauthorized settlement.

In fact, on a personal level, I would much appreciate open borders. As a North American Commonwealth citizen, I thought it makes decent sense to open up immigration at least between the United Kingdom and the E.U. in general, and North America. There is no genuine risk of anyone being “swamped”, and there is a general upside of, people being allowed to relocate anywhere they like, the aggregate happiness being increased by the exchange.

59

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan 11.27.09 at 10:13 pm

Even if it was a way to test English language ability, I question its fairness. Is really the ability to speak English a reliable or fair measure of the right to become a citizen? Is really “you must be educated enough” a good way to discriminate between those that can and cannot become citizen?

I speak as somebody who can, with studious application, probably pass the test, mainly because I am in the privileged position to be allowed to live here. I know damn well that there are many, more virtuous, hard-working, and desirable than me, that do not have the ability to pass the test.

BTW, wasn’t there something in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about freedom of movement?

60

Myles SG 11.27.09 at 10:14 pm

And I might add that nearly all immigration between North America and Europe isn’t at the present time, really, permanent settlement in the sense which the immigration system was designed to address. I want to be able to live in southern Germany and Austria whenever I like, and pay taxes accordingly, but there is no real sense that I wish to become a permanent member of the local population, to become a German or Austrian. I am not intending to give up my right to set up my life and live in Canada while intending to live in Europe. And most people who move between Europe and North America share the same circumstance.

61

Matt 11.27.09 at 11:09 pm

BTW, wasn’t there something in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about freedom of movement?

As such? No. There’s a right to free movement within the borders of each state., which has largely been taken to apply to citizens and mean that they can’t be forced to live in certain areas only, and there’s a right to leave any country and to return to one’s own country. These rights were put in place primarily to poke the communist countries, as they regularly violated all of them with propiska systems, exit restrictions, and exile. There’s also a right to seek asylum, but it, also, isn’t a right to free movement.

I should add as well that I’d not buy, at least fully, the account of sovereignty that Myles SG points to above. While I think that states have legitimate authority to place many restrictions on immigration I don’t think this authority is unlimited.

62

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 12:47 am

The authority to place restrictions on immigration is not unlimited, but it is doubtless within the dictates of maintaining peace and order within one’s territory. It is also within the need for sustainable long-term population management. The right to free movement as well as settlement, taken together, are satisfiable and valid only within the constraints imposed by these two imperatives. Beyond those constraints we are operating in the domain of chaos, not politics. In many European countries, for example, it is clear as the night sky that large-scale immigration is not a realistic possibility without significantly eroding the peace, order, and long-term viability of those territories. How many people could Germany sustain without significant erosion in social indicators? 100 million? 120 million? It is already at 80 million. How many can be accommodated without visceral crowding on the Jutland Peninsula?

It can be fairly argued, however, the authority to restrict settlement does not extend to basing immigration restrictions on discrete assessments of “impact” and so on. That is quite independent of, and separate from the prince’s authority to place reasonable, wise restrictions on settlement with his territory. That is turning settlement into an auction.

Nonetheless, a reasonable case can still be made as to the practical grounds for restrictions on settlement. If England’s population were to double or triple (and let’s just, for this thought experiment, the Muslim factor so as to make this not a race, but simply population hypothesis), would it still be the same country of “long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers?” I should think no. The intensity of habitation would likely have sanded away the peculiarities of the English character.

63

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 12:48 am

let’s just, for this thought experiment, leave out the Muslim factor!

64

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 12:49 am

let’s just, for this thought experiment, leave out the Muslim factor*

65

agape 11.28.09 at 8:41 am

I would say this is a no-brainer. A legitimate sovereign state and its citizens have the rights to determine who is permitted entry to their space and who is not. In comparison, the non-citizen has no rights whatsoever to entry, let alone living there. As it should be.

66

Chris Bertram 11.28.09 at 10:14 am

* I have no idea what “visceral crowding” might be, at least in English.

* A number of commenters above seem, to my mind, to have a very strange idea of where the burden of proof lies here. To my way of thinking, state authorities need a pretty good justification to use coercion against individuals, including individuals who may have travelled from some distant country in search of a better life. The point about reciprocity is key here, because domestic coercion is often justified on the grounds that it is mutually beneficial, or it assures equal freedom, etc. But you can’t use that argument to justify coercing foreigners for the benefit of the domestic population (preserving their way of life, preventing overcrowding etc), because there’s no quid pro quo. The best you can do, then, is to offer an argument that the would-be incomers may justly be denied entry because they have satisfactory alternatives that they can pursue without endangering those interests in “way of life” etc. But since large numbers of such would-be immigrants do not, in fact, have satisfactory alternatives (because they come from states that are poor, or dangerous, or both) such an argument is often unavailable (at least in good faith).

* As a qualification to my main point there, I’d be willing to say that the obligations of individual wealthy countries to operate (what I see as) a fully just regime are limited by the willingness of other similar countries to do likewise. I don’t expect the UK, say, to operate much more open policy if all other wealthy states have firmly closed borders. But I do expect it to (a) do its share, irrespective of what other countries do and (b) to act in concert with other countries to bring some just international conventions on migration into being. Neither (a) nor (b) are in evidence at the present time.

67

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.28.09 at 11:23 am

It seems to me that international migration has to be considered within the concept of federalism; the matter to be addressed at levels above the national. People attempting to migrate to escape poverty or danger should be (as they are already) assisted by various international entities; they certainly should be fed and protected, but their predicament doesn’t give them the right to enter any state they choose.

Same as a homeless person: he has to be able to obtain food and shelter from the city government, but not to enter and stay at any private residence he likes.

68

JoB 11.28.09 at 11:48 am

But, Chris (66) – if you’re going to allow qualifications then you should only allow them at the root cause. The root issue clearly is the income, security and wealth differentials between developed and developing countries. If so your (a) and (b) suitably rephrased, are part of the acquis of Western developed nations; there is the 0,7% pledge as well as more than just international conventions on e.g. education (there’s UNICEF).

Clearly that is not enough. Good cases can be made for more like the Tobin-tax. But to be as ‘out there’ as you assume the minimum position needs to be is not supported by a misinterpretation of what states (maybe deplorably but still) are.

Once people migrate for the right reasons (because they love the English rain, food – or the benevolent AngloSaxon style of academic discourse more than anything else) – one could probably go with your flow. Doing it earlier however is counter-productive – as it will only weaken resistance to ‘power & money’ at the developing home, whilst eroding it as well at the developed destination (by increases in violence, & downward pressures on wages and so on and so forth).

In fact: the best thing to do now is to deny the right for people to live where they want to live. It seems the only reasonable stick with which we will be ablt to hit the rich and the powerful; pay your dues or you can emigrate to a country of your choosing! There is little risk that developing countries would not be willing to accept the immigration of that much consumption power.

(on second thought: I’m not joking on the latter; don’t imprison Madoff’s, expel them)

69

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 7:20 pm

“(on second thought: I’m not joking on the latter; don’t imprison Madoff’s, expel them)”

That is fully ludicrous. His citizenship is his right of birth; no crime should be great enough for him to be stripped of this most sacrosanct of rights. I should note that, indeed, in Great Britain only high treason has justified the forfeiture of even peerages and titles of nobility, and the rights of citizenship logically operates upon even stricter and more immutable principles.

70

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 7:20 pm

“(on second thought: I’m not joking on the latter; don’t imprison Madoff’s, expel them)”

That is fully ludicrous. His citizenship is his right of birth; no crime should be great enough for him to be stripped of this most sacrosanct of rights. I should note that, indeed, in Great Britain only high treason has justified the forfeiture of even peerages and titles of nobility, and the rights of citizenship logically operates upon even stricter and more immutable principles.

71

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 8:24 pm

“But you can’t use that argument to justify coercing foreigners for the benefit of the domestic population (preserving their way of life, preventing overcrowding etc), because there’s no quid pro quo.”

I am sorry Chris, but that is a completely unsupportable assertion. The relationship is the exact inverse of what you have described. When a person travels from a foreign land, and wishes to settle, in Britain for example, the burden of proof is on him that his settlement ought be allowed on whatever grounds. Now there are some grounds which are irrefutable, and can only be restricted on grounds of practicality and physical constraints. But it is he who must petition the prince under whom he wishes to live, that he has a right to disturb, and to change, by his arrival, the condition and pattern of settlement in this new land. The burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that he has a right, over and above the discrete feelings of the population that could justifiably override those discrete feelings, i.e. prove that he ought be allowed to settle even if the majority of the British oppose his settlement. Now, that’s a completely legitimate process, but that is certainly coercion. He is, in effect, coercing the British population to let his natural right override the full, unlimited application of their own rights to sustain their present condition. And that, indeed, is a form of coercion without reciprocity, indeed even less reciprocity than the state’s coercion of the would-be settler. But my argument seems incredible, because it is difficult to imagine the settlement-seeker, in some tangible way, actually coercing his visa authority.

That is because your argument is, in effect, not based on individual rights of freedom, but rather communitarian notions of aggregate good, which has no relationship whatsoever with most pro-immigration arguments. You aren’t arguing that the settlement-seeker has an unlimited natural right; rather, you are arguing that the lack of reciprocity when the state, say, Great Britain, exercises exclusion, is bad because it is to the detriment of aggregate good. That while domestic coercion justified on the provision of greater common good, international coercion is unjustified on the basis of lack of the same provision.

How is that even an argument? First of all, we are completely blurring the lines between actual, state-sponsored coercion, which is a concept arising from the fact that the state exercises force superior and above the individual being coerced, with what is being called coercion but actually an equal relationship. As there is no world government, the capacity of Home Office to act, in this area, does not amount to anything more than exclusion from its purview.

But more importantly, you are subtly suggesting the superiority of communitarian, overall good (on a global basis) overrides the sovereignties and rights of the individual parties; that is the basis of your argument, really, not coercion or whatever. But that isn’t a valid argument at all. The only meaningful limitation, since Westphalia, is that sovereignties of a of people forming a party on the international theatre cannot override the human rights of individuals within that specific party. (War between Iraq and Kuwait is between sovereign parties) But there has been no suggestion, whatever, that the good of the entire community can somehow justify overriding the sovereignties of both the groups of parties forming parties, and that of the people thereby being represented. Unless you are willing to argue that the global order runs on that basis, your argument cannot stand.

That’s why speaking of reciprocity on anything beyond a national level when talking about sovereign actions, is, frankly, a bit bizarre. There is no obligation of reciprocity, because there is no obligation of the states, which are individual actors, to somehow sacrifice their own rights and the rights of their people in the pursuit of the common good. Because that is exactly what you are asking them to do when asking them to allow unrestrained immigration. People fought Thirty Years’ War to conclude upon that very principle, which is the whole basis of modern Western nation-state civilization.

72

Chris Bertram 11.28.09 at 10:51 pm

_your argument is, in effect, not based on individual rights of freedom, but rather communitarian notions of aggregate good_

Er no. Not even”in effect”.

73

Myles SG 11.28.09 at 11:27 pm

I quote:

“The point about reciprocity is key here, because domestic coercion is often justified on the grounds that it is mutually beneficial, or it assures equal freedom, etc. But you can’t use that argument to justify coercing foreigners for the benefit of the domestic population (preserving their way of life, preventing overcrowding etc), because there’s no quid pro quo.”

You mention mutual benefit. I will note that in many respects, a quid pro quo is not possible, so it degenerates into a question about balance of globular benefits and harms (i.e. aggregate good), rather than “is that a quid pro quo/mutual benefit?” Past a certain point, immigration is problematic for the existing population. We haven’t reached that point, on a policy level, yet in North America (although arguments vary as to the effects of illegal aliens in the U.S.); accounting for cultural inertia and resistance (and sometimes xenophobia, let’s not fool ourselves), Europe is probably nearing that point.

But your point isn’t “let’s allow immigration until it reaches that point past which British people don’t like (they already don’t, for god’s sakes); it is “let’s allow immigration because excessively restricting immigration is not mutually beneficial.”

That’s where Impact comes in. Where are we on that curve? Are we at the point where immigration is mutually beneficial, or at the point where immigration benefits the immigrant at (partial; it’s not an zero-sum game) expense of the existing population? Because whatever the Home Office does, if we are at the latter point (probably not there yet) then the argument about reciprocity and quid pro quo and mutual benefit is completely moot, because whatever it does will benefit one at the expense of the other, whether it’s restriction or not.

74

Jack Strocchi 11.29.09 at 9:13 am

Chris Bertram said:

I’ve been thinking about these issues from within political philosophy for a while now. I’m not an “open borders” advocate in a completely unqualified sense, but, compared to current policy, I am as near as makes no difference.

Betram’s open borders neatly dovetails to the Wall Street Journal’s open borders, nicely closing the circle of post-modern liberal ideology.

This is the ideology of elites who do not have to account for their actions to the general populus. Combined with a very typical dose of middle class condescension.

Open borders mass immigration combined with a post-modern welfare state rapidly heads to epic fail. (Actually, even Scandanavians have discovered that a closed border and post-modern welfare state is not all that sustainable.) As Friedmanremarked:

You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.

Open borders combined with British welfare benefits would immediately drawn in millions of people signing up for free income support, health care and housing, causing overload. It would also crush the wages of working class citizens, resulting in sweat-shops. It would also drive up metro rates to astronomic levels, resulting in slum-lordism.

Overload, sweat-shops and slum-lords.

Good luck with selling that to the electorate who actually pay for all this, plus the salaries of academics and politicians.

75

Jack Strocchi 11.29.09 at 9:56 am

Chris Bertram said:

British policy is therefore, like the policy of many other countries, based on the idea that sovereign states have the right to exclude whoever they like and that they can therefore limit inward migration to people who can benefit “us”. There’s no thought given to the rights human beings have to freedom of movement, to the benefits of allowing people to escape poverty and build new lives. No, this is our place, and we’ll let in those whom we choose to. The poor, the huddled masses, can get stuffed.

Sovereignty is to the state as property is to the household. The Crown has the lawful power and duty to regulate the passage of people through the land.

As Bentham remarked, talk of abstract rights is nonsense, and natural rights is “nonsense on stilts”. Rights exist , of course, but they are constructed and assigned after due (utilitarian) consideration of the public interest. And they are always complemented by duties which is part and parcel of the evolving social contract.

There is no such social contract with any and everyone beyond the borders.

Its false to claim that foreigners have terrible constraints on ” freedom of movement” to the UK. HM government is signatory to international refugee conventions which oblige it to take in some legitimate asylum seekers.

There is plenty of freedom of movement for foreigners to the UK. They can cross borders to work, study and play on various visas.

More to the point, a democratic government is morally obliged to account for its actions to its principals (in this case the voting citizens). Immigration policy, like all other policies, should be framed to promote the national interest. So in general the UK government, like most others, reserves itself the power to “decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

If you dont like the results of democratic elections you can, like Brecht or Neather, recommend that the government “elect a new people”. That appears to be the agenda of the multicultural/sweated labour Open Border brigade.

This experiment has been tried in diluted form and on the whole the results have been unsatisfactory to the principals ie citizens of the state. Its bizarre to suggest that all we need to do is try it in a pure concentrated form. You would quickly end up having civil war which would not exactly favour “free movement of peoples”.

Once upon a time middle class intellectuals at least pretended to care about the interests of their working class fellow citizens. I guess its more important to have a caste of foreigners to do the jobs that working class citizens want decent wages to do. Plus the usual muti-culti formula of gaudy threads, spicy nosh and funky vibes to keep the festival industry on its feet.

76

Chris Bertram 11.29.09 at 10:23 am

Hard not to marvel at the weird combinations of unsupported assertions

_Immigration policy, like all other policies, should be framed to promote the national interest._

and ad hominem slurs

_ideology of elites_

_Once upon a time middle class intellectuals at least pretended to care about the interests of their working class fellow citizens._

on view here.

77

Jack Strocchi 11.29.09 at 10:45 am

Chris Bertram@#76 11.29.09 at 10:23 am passim:

Have to marvel at the facts you present and logic you deploy to deal with the substance of my argument, which is that Open Borders is an ideological fantasy which is both morally unjustifiable, economically unsustainable and politically unpopular.

My modest proposal that the national interest should be taken the major consideration when framing national policy in a democracy is “an unsupported assertion” alright. One of those things that “should go without saying” to most people who make it to majority (in both senses of the word).

My statement that post-modern liberalism, both Left-liberal and Right-liberal versions, is an “ideology of elites” is not an “ad hominum slur“. It is a trivial statement of social psychology abundantly substantiated by empirical research and anecdotal tale. This cap fits all-too snugly.

Granted the crack about “middle intellectuals” was below the belt. Note to self: stop channelling Orwell.

78

Chris Bertram 11.29.09 at 11:08 am

Nothing remotely “post-modern” about me Jack, liberal, in a certain sense, I’ll grant you.

It seems obvious, to me at least, that whatever the obligations of the citizens of rich nations to poorer ones are, the right answer can’t be “whatever the citizens of rich countries want them to be.” Yet that’s the answer that your prioritization of sovereignty and democracy generates.

Also, you might give some thought to the impression you generate by remarks like

“the usual muti-culti formula of gaudy threads, spicy nosh and funky vibes”

79

JoB 11.29.09 at 11:56 am

Hey Chris, you’re most unfair. 78 is a strawman if ever there will be. You imply that we only account for poorer nation’s wishes if we open our borders to their citizens. Which is genuinely laughable and you won’t escape that by trying to make your interlmocutor the laughing stock on your thread.

PS: yes, the more I read of you – the more I understand where the left gets the popular opinion against it; as if you live iu another world (which certainly is NOT the world for the people you so magnanimously have chosen to ‘defend’)

80

Chris Bertram 11.29.09 at 12:22 pm

_. You imply that we only account for poorer nation’s wishes if we open our borders to their citizens. _

No, I said that the question of _what the obligations are_ can’t be settled by the electorates of wealthy nations. Do try to read more carefully.

_PS: yes, the more I read of you – the more I understand …_

You are perfectly welcome to confine you reading and commenting to other people’s threads (and indeed to other blogs) if that’s how you feel.

81

Salient 11.29.09 at 12:27 pm

I have been trying to reconcile my desire to support a radical open borders policy, and my severe distaste for policies like the one Chris protests here, with what I understand the Israeli settlements in Palestine to be. While that’s an ambiguous case currently, one can thought-experiment — if there did exist a stable two-state solution enacted and upheld, it would be hard for me to formulate an argument in favor of Palestinian open borders.

If it wasn’t for the existence of examples like Palestine-Israel, I would dismiss the potential for — what I understand to be — mass immigration of a hostile population, with the intent to collectively undermine the sovereignty of an established state over the settlements — as ludicrously implausible scenario. But given even that one example, it’s at first tempting, to naive me, to suggest some kind of clause in open borders policy which requires, somehow, perhaps indirectly, for potential immigrants to be immigrating ‘in good faith’ (whatever that means). But what does that mean? A desire to participate in the economy? That criteria is clearly problematic. A respect for the legitimacy and sovereignty of the state? A little better in the sense of being more ethically defensible, I think, but how does one measure such ‘respect’ meaningfully?

I think a state has a legitimate interest in confirming that immigrants are immigrating in good faith, that is, their intent is not to disturb the stability of the state or undermine its legitimacy. (This obliquely acknowledges and accommodates ajay’s point at #48, I think.) But the potential for abuse in determining what constitutes good faith is on display in the policy mentioned in this post, and that’s deeply unfortunate.

82

JoB 11.29.09 at 12:50 pm

Chris,

And as I mentioned, they are settled in discussion with non-wealthy nations. Imperfect as that settling still is, it is disingeneous (and disrespectful) to do as if those developing countries have no say on such policies. That non-wealthy nations don’t advocate what you advocate (but rather: concentrate on developing their own nation) is one problem you are not facing.

And, no, you’re under no obligation to read and comment on my comments.

83

JoB 11.29.09 at 12:52 pm

81- a one state solution with normal democracy (including saveguarding minority right for traditional minorities) would solve your issue.

84

Chris Bertram 11.29.09 at 12:59 pm

Commenter X : “P”

CB, to X : “not-P, for reasons r1, r2, r3 ….”

JoB (for it is he): “But that’s an outrageous and unfair response to my proposition Q”

CB …. retires to watch the football instead.

85

JoB 11.29.09 at 1:16 pm

Have fun, enjoy never sinking to ad hominem ;-)

86

Tim Wilkinson 11.29.09 at 1:28 pm

Salient @81: Perhaps the relevant criterion, underlying the Fourth Geneva Convention ban on settlement of occupied territories, is that immigrants do not take on allegiance to the target entity (nor submit to the authority of its government), which gives the migrants the character of invaders. On such a view they are engaged in colonisation presumptively intended to, or at least tending to, cement the forcible acquisition of territory by their own state.

The Plantation of Ulster might be another historical (if more complicated) example. Not quite sure how this conception relates to, say, the colonisation of North America, though. And personally I’m sceptical about many of the concepts or conceptions involved, so even more unsure of how to frame the issues from a moral perspective.

87

Salient 11.29.09 at 1:29 pm

81- a one state solution with normal democracy (including saveguarding minority right for traditional minorities) would solve your issue.

I remain unconvinced, and suspect “minority right for traditional minorities” would be construed so as to accommodate expansion of the settlements and prohibit any of their dissolution. But I didn’t mean to focus on the current situation in Israel, which isn’t pertinent, so much as to explore the legitimate possibility of hostile mass immigration and how this complicates advocacy for open borders.

88

Salient 11.29.09 at 1:44 pm

Perhaps the relevant criterion, underlying the Fourth Geneva Convention ban on settlement of occupied territories, is that immigrants do not take on allegiance to the target entity (nor submit to the authority of its government), which gives the migrants the character of invaders.

That’s precisely what’s hard for me, as we generalize away from the obvious case of Israel-Palestine: how can a state determine, fairly and reasonably, whether immigrants are taking on the appropriate allegiance, and submitting to the legitimacy of the government untentatively? One can imagine a population claiming to acknowledge the legitimacy of a state, with the express intent of recolonizing it and overthrowing the government over the course of a few generations. The very possibility would strike me as absolutely insane to entertain as remotely plausible or worthy of consideration, if it wasn’t for real world examples which threaten to override my incredulity. That that is, is, and my philosophical stand regarding open borders should be sufficiently robust to accommodate the hypothetical existence of hostile immigrant populations and how that situation may be handled without opening up potential for severe abuse of state authority.

So I’m still stuck wondering what procedures could be enacted for states to verify the good-faith intent of immigrant populations, without so much potential for abuse that we’re back to where we started.

And yes, I know that discriminating according to skill may seem like a far cry from establishing good faith, but let me construct a kind of argument to justify it.

One could define ‘good faith’ so as to include, necessarily, an intent to contribute productively to the economy of the host country (the country into which one intends to immigrate). Thus an immigrant cannot possibly be immigrating in good faith unless there is sufficient need for the services they can provide in the host country to ensure their employment fills a need that would otherwise go unmet. Ergo, the policy Chris identifies above as wrongheaded is in fact right and good and etc.

I don’t believe such an argument is right or good or etc, but in order for me to argue against it, I have to be able to put forth an alternative definition of ‘good faith’ which has an explicitly verifiable manifestation (talk of immigrants’ “intent” won’t do because people can lie about it, and would do so in the hypothetical special cases under consideration).

89

JoB 11.29.09 at 1:58 pm

87- yes, but it could also be construed as a right to return; and it is pertinent because it demonstrates exactly why open borders are an issue, as seen from the people living on either side of it.

90

Myles SG 11.29.09 at 2:13 pm

Good lord, the debate here quite ambled down the bizarro lane. Well.

And I thought I was trying to make a decent argument that (reasonable) immigration restrictions are justifiable within moral and ethical reasoning. Well. A loss it shall be.

91

Myles SG 11.29.09 at 2:20 pm

Although I will note that Chris, your comment struck me as having almost Mirror-esque tone-deafness for someone who lives in Great Britain. You don’t exactly have the excuse of being some North American detached from the whole fervid and charged debate in Europe and making an offhanded comment about the merits of more open immigration. I mean, you could have been a bit more considerate, and a lot less dismissive, of the exceedingly unfavourable feelings current in Britain…

92

Myles SG 11.29.09 at 2:25 pm

Dismissing freedom of association and overcrowding largely unserious arguments is, especially, high-handed as as at this point probably what, 90%, 95% of the British public find them thoroughly persuasive?

93

Chris Bertram 11.29.09 at 3:46 pm

_Dismissing freedom of association and overcrowding largely unserious arguments is, especially, high-handed as as at this point probably what, 90%, 95% of the British public find them thoroughly persuasive?_

Since the question I’m interested in as a researcher concerns the _rights_, if any, that states (generally) have to restrict migration, it isn’t obvious why British public opinion at a particular moment should have any more significance than, say, Somali public opinion at some other time. Public opinion, and the exigencies of political competitition, simply have no role to play in deciding what political philosophers should believe about a question like that.

As for what the British public believe, well they are more hostile to immigration at the moment than most populations of wealthy countries, but 90% + is, to put it mildly, somewhat on the high side. See, e.g.

http://www.gmfus.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=410

Incidentally, my original post did not aim to argue for a position on migration rights, but rather suggested that researchers with one view would be more likely to benefit from the British government’s “impact” criterion for funding than researchers with another view. But since you’re all so interested, I’ll prepare a post defending the view in my comment #66, above, in due course, together with another one arguing against the claim that the sovereign rights of states have conventionally and historically been understood as including an absolute right of refusal.

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Tim Wilkinson 11.29.09 at 5:04 pm

Salient @88 – I was more thinking of the relatively uncontroversial fact that they have allegiance to the occupying power, rather than some lack of enthusiasm for being bossed around by the occupied one. But I didn’t actually say so.

Anyway, on the impact stuff (do I get a ‘type 10’ citation?):

they also want to reward research which makes a difference to public policy. Of course, I’d love it to be the case that senior politicians and civil servants read work in political philosophy and theory and, convinced by good arguments, adjust their ideas accordingly. But the cynic in me says that this isn’t what happens. Rather, the attitude that politicians have to research is to latch onto it when it supports the view they already hold and to ignore (or punish) it when it tells them something uncomfortable.

But presumably politicians will not be making the assessments, so their influence is going to be indirect, and as a result less likely to contain such direct bias – first because it tends to be less than fully conscious or reflective, so is less likely to be transcribed into the guidelines, and second because it’s pretty difficult to build rules which will systematically favour one’s own views at a low (should that be high? I mean detailed) level of granularity without it being far too obvious that one is doing so.

Still the assessment regime is likely to reflect the interests of politicians in a general way – for example the standing interest in favouring fast returns (preferably within a single electoral cycle) will mean short-term impact gets rewarded. And along the same lines, more ‘applied’ or concrete research is preferred partly because of an aversion to uncertainty, but also because of sheer lack of interest in anything else.

The intellectual development of subsequent generations is beyond the horizon of politicians’ concerns; an implicit assumption in any case perhaps being that it need not be different from the politicians’ own. Underlying philosophical positions are likely to be fixed during adolescence and young adulthood, and subsequently regarded increasingly as self-evident or common sense. So the idea that there is an important and valuable process of gradual development of such positions, taking place over generational timescales, is likely to be largely invisible.

Philosophy is by its nature highly abstract – the more philosophically interesting and potentially influential, the more abstract and difficult to assess in terms other than an appreciation of philosophical importance, depth, originality. The timescale and intractable compexity of the processes whereby big philosophical ideas filter through to action on the ground makes a direct assessment or prediction of impact a pretty ludicrous idea, which means a positive assessment of such impact is unlikely to be made.

So the result is likely to be that political philosophy, for example, is going to be judged by its direct relevance in the context of current closely-circumscribed concerns and assumptions. Political philosophers end up either picking those topics and stances which will subserve or support currently prevalent thinking, so as to stand a chance of being appreciated, or moving into applied fields. It needn’t really be anything they consciously or even unconciously intend when they set up the assessment system, but the result is congenial to politicians, and derives in a logical enough way from their concerns. (Why would anyone want to spend money on updating the PPE curriculum? The old one was good enough for them.)

It’s hard to imagine that pure maths and theoretical, even speculative, physics would be subjected to the same kind of demands for instant and measurable impact. Ironically, if the above is right, part of the reason for that may be that they are actually less influential on politicians, or rather on their younger selves before they put away childish things like philosophy and got down to the serious business of navigating career paths, manipulating voters and raising funds.

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bianca steele 11.29.09 at 5:37 pm

Salient@88: One can imagine a population claiming to acknowledge the legitimacy of a state, with the express intent of recolonizing it and overthrowing the government over the course of a few generations.

One can also imagine a population claiming in good faith to acknowledge the legitimacy of a state, while not having been adequately educated concerning what that acknowledgment properly entails. So what? And in what specific way does your understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian situation impact on this topic (I’m asking not because I think it’s an interesting direction to pursue, but to mildly point out that you haven’t made your meaning clear)?

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Tim Wilkinson 11.29.09 at 8:30 pm

apologies, #94 was unrealistically anti-conspiratorial. Those responsible are presumably going to be appointed Quango staff (the Q being capitalised for good reason).

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Jack Strocchi 11.29.09 at 9:53 pm

Chris Bertram@#78 11.29.09 at 11:08 am said:

Nothing remotely “post-modern” about me Jack, liberal, in a certain sense, I’ll grant you.

I accept your good faith on that. The problem is that so many modern liberals, especially academics such as yourself, are unwittingly exposed to near lethal doses of the post-modern radiation in the course of every day life. Very often they are asymptomatic sufferers.

A telling sign of the dread disease is obsessive talk about rights to the exclusion of duties (“liberal, in a certain sense”?). Modernist liberalism is not a philosophy of individual (still less corporal) rights. Rights are the ideological superstructure, not anthropological foundation, of civil society.

Modernist iberalism is not even always about the freedom of the individual, who, as Rousseau plaintively observed, is “born free but always in chains”.

Modernist liberalism is an intellectual attempt to reconcile responsible individual autonomies to accountable institutional authorities. Whether the autonomies/authorities be children/households, shareholders/companies or citizen/states. This philosophy was emerged from the medieval marriage of principal/agent law and double entry accounting. Philosophy had little to do with it.

I dont see much talk of responsibility/accountability or rights/duties (which emerge by evolution of tradition rather than dictated by abstract reason) in your argument. Therefore j’accuse post-modernist liberalism.

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Jack Strocchi 11.29.09 at 10:12 pm

Jack Strocchi@#97 11.29.09 at 9:53 pm said:

Rights are the ideological superstructure, not anthropological foundation, of civil society.

Substitute “ontological” for “anthropological” in the above sentence and it makes more sense.

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Jack Strocchi 11.30.09 at 1:15 am

Chris Bertram@#78 11.29.09 at 11:08 am said:

It seems obvious, to me at least, that whatever the obligations of the citizens of rich nations to poorer ones are, the right answer can’t be “whatever the citizens of rich countries want them to be.” Yet that’s the answer that your prioritization of sovereignty and democracy generates.

Be wary of what “seems obvious to” yourself before you try to sell it the rest of the world. Any “right answer” that does not prioritize foundational practices such as “sovereignty and democracy” is suspect.

Rich citizens (or indeed any citizens) have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate who cannot help themselves wherever they are, within or without the border. But prospective immigrants are not the most likely candidates to fall into that category.

Your “global humanitarianism => open borders” argument rests on a gigantic non sequitur. Citizens of nation states may be an obligation to help foreign people in distress. But it does not follow that obligation extends to providing them a place to live in our midst. We have a foreign aid and refugee budget for such humanitarian purposes.

If the individual citizen of a nation state chooses to provide assistance or sanctuary to foreigners then this in the nature of an ex gratia payment. If the individual chooses to delegate that duty to his institutional agents then he must be a party to that decision through due process. In either case he is not bound to do it by apriori axiom, but does it out of the goodness of his heart.

More generally, inviolable rights and binding duties (or the more extravagant entitlements and less onerous obligations that we Baby Boomers have created for ourselves) typically evolve through civil evolution, sometimes facetiously known as the “social contract”. Aliens are not a material party to the national version of that contract, the case of externalities excepted. The long line of ancestors are, which is why constitutions should be made hard to change. And it seems reasonable to consider the interests of descendants in the bargain.

To put it bluntly, nation statists remind us that nation states have a history, a tradition built and bequeathed to us by our forefathers and which we bestow to our children. (Your philosophy is ahistorical, another warning sign of post-modernism.) Aliens do not share in that history and therefore have no presumptive rights to claim on the state, still less any abstract rights dreamt up ex nihilo by speculative philosophers.

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Jack Strocchi 11.30.09 at 2:08 am

Chris Bertram@#78 11.29.09 at 11:08 am said:

Also, you might give some thought to the impression you generate by remarks like

“the usual muti-culti formula of gaudy threads, spicy nosh and funky vibes”

On the contrary, I gave careful “thought to the impression” I might “generate by remarks” like that. Any philosophical defence of the nation state (and indeed any subsidiary institutional authority) rests on a settled preference for its established modal-culture, rather than a hankering for greener multi-cultures than might be cultivated over yonder. And I can never resist an opportunity to poke a politically correct shibboleth in the eye with a sharpened stick.

The routine celebration of exotic practices through Livingstonian “bread and circus” festivals is a transparent and tiresome attempt to propagate an agenda for interested parties at tax-payers expense. If some citizens want to live that way then good luck to them. But the rest of us are under no obligation to pay for these frivolities, still less invite the rest of the world in to our land, just to humour a few. There are overseas holidays, or even the internet, available to satisfy curiosities.

Being a conservative kill-joy I am more interested in the down-side of diversity, particularly of the Non-European Background type. This list of UK race riots repays study. For sure many of these troubles can be put down to the benighted ignorance and willful malice of assorted xenophobes.

But a sufficiently large residual remains that can be put down to aliens unwilling or unable to fit in. Intellectuals who are so infatuated with diversity should be encouraged to spend a season in the “dark and beastly provinces” to the North, which provide a real life exciting contrast to London’s subsidized spectacles.

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Chris Bertram 11.30.09 at 7:55 am

_This list of UK race riots repays study._

Yes it did, thanks, since I’m aware that many of the riots listed were not, in fact, “race riots”.

_But the rest of us are under no obligation to pay for these frivolities, still less invite the rest of the world in to our land, just to humour a few._

Since your reference is to British tax payers who voted Livingstone in to several periods in office in London, and since your earlier remarks suggested strong support for the sovereignty of the electorate, maybe consistency isn’t your strong suit. The “rest of us” presumably wouldn’t include you anyway, since you are posting your comments from Australia.

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Jack Strocchi 11.30.09 at 8:05 pm

Chris Bertram @#101 11.30.09 at 7:55 am

Since your reference is to British tax payers who voted Livingstone in to several periods in office in London, and since your earlier remarks suggested strong support for the sovereignty of the electorate, maybe consistency isn’t your strong suit.

The “sovereignty of the electorate” is preferable to that of another party. But that does not mean that democracy works perfectly, particularly in local government. Bush got re-elected too, you know.

I would have thought such a professed humanitarian would be eager to curb spending on frivolities and dedicate it to necessities, cancer research and the like, no?

Chris Bertram said:

The “rest of us” presumably wouldn’t include you anyway, since you are posting your comments from Australia.

“No man is an island…”

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Jack Strocchi 12.03.09 at 12:01 am

Chris Bertram said:

Rather, the attitude that politicians have to research is to latch onto it when it supports the view they already hold and to ignore (or punish) it when it tells them something uncomfortable. Research that supports tighter border controls (or harsher drug laws) will have “impact” and research that favours more immigration or legalizing weed won’t. And the money will follow.

It’s true, and perhaps lamentable, that “politicians… latch onto research..when it supports the view they already hold”. Unfortunately this is a character flaw not exclusive to that “crafty animal”. No names, no pack drill.

Your working assumption is that political elites are eager to embrace xenophobic populism. Far from being frothing-at-the-mouth reactionaries, most of the Euro political establishment are bought-and-paid-for cultural liberals. (eg the Swiss) Its the general public which is wary of these policies, or at least the free-for-all that they unleash.

Chris Bertram said:

researchers with one view would be more likely to benefit from the British government’s “impact” criterion

The political class already sponsor much research and advocacy for “more immigration” and “legalizing weed” (interesting that you link the two!).

Look at the case of Andrew Neather, speech writer for the Blair government . He more or less admitted that in 2000 the Blair government had commissioned research suggesting that it would be good politics for the BLP to open the floodgates of immigration. Its worth examining his admissions, which constitute a smoking gun for the existence of an academia-media-apparatchik complex dedicated to “electing a new people”, in greater detail. They are a testimony to “impact” selected research, of a certain kind:

I wrote the landmark speech given by then immigration minister Barbara Roche in September 2000, calling for a loosening of controls. It marked a major shift from the policy of previous governments: from 1971 onwards, only foreigners joining relatives already in the UK had been permitted to settle here.

That speech was based largely on a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit,Tony Blair’s Cabinet Office think-tank. The PIU’s reports were legendarily tedious within Whitehall but their big immigration report was surrounded by an unusual air of both anticipation and secrecy. Drafts were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was a paranoia about it reaching the media.

Eventually published in January 2001, the innocuously labelled “RDS Occasional Paper no. 67”, “Migration: an economic and social analysis” focused heavily on the labour market case. But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.

I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.

Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing. For despite Roche’s keenness to make her big speech and to be upfront, there was a reluctance elsewhere in government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour’s core white working-class vote.

This shone through even in the published report: the “social outcomes” it talks about are solely those for immigrants.

There is a reason that “populism” is feared by “elites”. The latter do not want their well-laid plans for making over the country and feathering their own nest to be upset by anything as smelly as “working class voters”, wallowing in the past out in the “provinces” or “sticks”.

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Jack Strocchi 12.03.09 at 12:03 am

Webmaster

Would you mind closing html tags for the quoted text, ending in the penultimate par. Thanks.

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