Immigration: excluding those on whom we have imposed harms and risks

by Chris Bertram on August 27, 2012

My last post about migration focused on the predictions of economists about the effects of open borders. Commenter Oliver made the point, surely correctly, that, given social, cultural, economic, and political feedback effects, it is simply impossible to know. But there are other ways of thinking about the issues other than looking at the aggregate consequences. For example, we can focus on the rights of individuals to seek new lives, associates and opportunities and on the rights of groups, peoples, states and nations to exclude outsiders. The unilateral right to exclude is well-represented in the literature, especially be the work of Christopher Heath Wellman (see his contribution to the excellent Debating the Ethics of Immigration: Is There a Right to Exclude? (with Phillip Cole arguing the opposite cases)).

Such works, though, typically address the issues at a somewhat idealized level, asking what rights (properly constituted legitimate democratic) polities do or don’t have. That doesn’t necessarily provide adequate guidance in the actual world; nor does it tell voters who think their state has the right to exclude whether or not to support exclusionary policies. Those strike me as very pertinent questions. Proponents of highly liberalized migration policies are often chastised for being insufficiently alive to the political realities. But a fair response to the self-styled realists is to ask, given the way things are, what they are actually prepared to countenance.

So let’s just assume that, at the ideal level, the “democratic exclusionists” (to coin a phrase) have the best of the argument. That covers people like MacMahon, but also people in the earlier thread such as MPAVictoria for whom it is up to first-world electorates to decide whether or not to allow third-world immigrants into their labour markets.

Meanwhile, in our non-ideal world, consider two imaginary families: the Hernandez family who live in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, and the Masud family, who live in a small village in Bangladesh. The Hernandez family live in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with hundreds of murders every year due to violent turf wars between drug cartels. The Masud family, who have worked their family farm for generations, face the loss of everything and a move to a marginal and impoverished existence in Dhaka because of the effects of climate change. Both families would move to other countries, if they could. If the Hernandez family could make it over the border into the United States their children would have much better prospects (including a better chance of not being drawn into crime or murdered); if the Masud family could move to the United Kingdom (the former colonial power) or Australia, their children would also do much better.

Currently, none of those countries will permit these families to immigrate. (They are unskilled, so they don’t fill skills gaps in the economies of the wealthy nations.) If they try to immigrate illegally, the wealthy countries have a formidable apparatus of coercive power to keep them out: border obstacles, guards, fences, detention centres, etc. If caught trying to immigrate (perhaps with the aid of professional traffickers) they will be sent back.

Do our democratic exclusionists want to endorse these uses of state power to keep these poor would-be migrants out? Do they think these uses of shackles, dogs, fences and tripwires against such people legitimate?

What ought to give them pause, I think, is the responsibility of the states and societies claiming the right to exclude for the plight of the excluded. The reason why the situation of the Hernandez family is so desperate is largely because of the domestic demand for illegal drugs in the United States, the violent policies used to suppress that demand and trade (the “war on drugs”) and the supply of weaponry into Mexico from the United States. Isn’t it a bit much for the state that has made these people’s lives hell then to block their means of escape? The same goes for the Masud family. The reason they now face destitution as internal environmental refugees is because of the carbon emissions of wealthy people in industrialized countries. The per capita emissions of Americans, Australians and Europeans far exceed those of the people they are flooding out of their livelihood. Again, given their responsibility for the rising waters, by what right do they now claim the right to exclude their victims? Note that this isn’t merely about the rectification of some historic injustice but about how, in each of these two cases, states wanting to exclude bear direct causal and moral responsibility for the dire situation of those they would detain, shackle and deport.

{ 154 comments }

1

SR819 08.27.12 at 12:12 pm

The argument you make is a fair one, but you’re allocating costs and benefits on a country basis, which makes, for example, developed countries responsible for the flight of poor people in a developing country. However, surely we should look more closely at exactly who is responsible for imposing these costs on people like Masud in Bangladesh? Carbon emissions contributing to Global Warming is primarily the fault of capitalists who, in their insatiable quest to make profit, abuse the environment and give no consideration of the effects of industrial emissions on other nations.

However, the effect of free migration will end up harming the poor in the developed country through it’s effect on wages, even though it’s not the fault of the working class in the UK that Masud has to leave his farm. That’s the crux of the matter IMO. We will not achieve justice in anyway by allowing free migration, because the people that Masud should be angry at are the capitalists whose activities have ruined his livelihood. However, the economic forces that guide free migration wouldn’t hurt these capitalists. Indeed, they would benefit from a larger supply of labour.

I said in the previous thread that if you want Justice for people like Masud, tax the capitalists until the pips squeak, and use that revenue to help poor countries like Bangladesh cope with the effects of climate change, improve agricultural productivity, help their government create a welfare state (that could be funded by the revenues from a global FTT for example), set up schools, hospitals, etc. This policy would certainly be justified, because it targets the people at fault for Masud’s family’s predicament.

2

david 08.27.12 at 12:21 pm

@SR819 at 1

But if you just send money to Bangladesh, you’ll end up benefiting capitalists in Bangladesh. The only way to oblige spending on causes that welfare states like is for welfare states to effectively displace Bangladesh’s own government.

(and the third arm of the the Rodrikian trilemma is… world government!)

3

Watson Ladd 08.27.12 at 12:37 pm

The logic of democratic exclusion was used to justify the post-WWII population movements, as well as the formation of a catholic Polish identity.

SR819, where is the evidence immigration reduces wages? Some people said it did, some said it didn’t, and few of us had any links to offer.

4

SR819 08.27.12 at 1:03 pm

@ Watson Ladd, there is disagreement I admit, but many of the studies that actually focus on the effect of migration on different sections of the wage distribution find that it has a negative effect on the least skilled workers:

US Evidence:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jdinardo/Pubs/comment_on_borjas_freeman_katz97.pdf

From the paper:
Immigration has had a marked adverse impact on the economic status of the least skilled US. Workers (high school dropouts and those in the bottom 20 percent of the wage distribution)

UK Evidence:
http://restud.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/05/09/restud.rds019.full.pdf+html

As for the effects on native wages, we find a pattern of effects whereby immigration depresses wages below the 20th percentile of the wage distribution but leads to slight wage increases in the upper part of the wage distribution.

@ David, you’re right there is a problem if the central government is Conservative and uses the funds to help businesses. However, that aid could be made conditional, while money directed more locally towards NGOs is continued.

5

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 1:10 pm

Watson, SR819: the question you’re addressing was the topic of the previous thread, where comments are still open.

6

Josh G. 08.27.12 at 1:31 pm

I’m willing to grasp the nettle and say that when the well-being of U.S. workers conflicts with the interests of foreigners, so much the worse for the foreigners. We can’t simply pretend that nationalism doesn’t exist, and it is unacceptable for American workers to pay the full price of the bad decisions made by elites.

If elites really wanted to help the Hernandez family, they would end the drug war. If they really wanted to help the Masud family, they would institute cap-and-trade. (Politically impossible, you say? Well, so is removing all restrictions on immigration.) They don’t. The elites want to use the Hernandez family and the Masud family as weapons, both economic and ideological, to drive down wages and working conditions in the First World.

7

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 2:02 pm

I’ve already asked people making general points about the effects of immigration on wages to go to the other thread. People who don’t make an effort to be minimally responsive to the OP but simply want to express their attitudes about immigration will be deleted. (And I’ve already deleted a couple that tell me that it’s people like me who pushed Breivik over the edge, and that Muslims want to “invade Europe”.)

8

bianca steele 08.27.12 at 2:08 pm

If the Hernandez family could make it over the border into the United States their children would have much better prospects (including a better chance of not being drawn into crime or murdered)

Ciudad Juarez is pretty bad, but it might be a toss-up whether Los Angeles is safer.

Isn’t it a bit much for the state that has made these people’s lives hell then to block their means of escape?

It’s actually perfectly clear from the context, but the use of “the state” in this sentence might seem to imply something like “these people’s lives are made worse by the state (full stop),” meaning their own state, which would be a very different question than the one you’re discussing. Arguably the problems of the Mexican state over the past hundred years had something to do with the problems in Mexico now, and putting equal responsibility on the US for its current interference seems to raise the possibility that future interference, of a different kind, would be okay.

9

Mandos 08.27.12 at 2:10 pm

Chris: I followed the other thread, though didn’t contribute, and I would like to say:

In THIS thread, you are trying to have a separate discussion of something that is not separable from the topic of the other thread. It’s not possible to discuss how we harm Masud and Hernandez without discussing the reasons why we may want to do so, and that goes directly to the issue of wage distributions in first world countries.

They are not separable discussions and there is no way to honestly prevent this thread from becoming a continuation of the other thread. Democratic exclusion and wage defence are one thing.

10

David Kaib 08.27.12 at 2:31 pm

I think it’s entirely fair to think about people in the sort of circumstances you describe when deciding questions about exclusion (or the terms of partial inclusion), and also about the role of government policies is the so-called first world in creating those conditions. I tend to link this with trying to challenge those policies (rather than treat it is as an either / or), to which I’d add neoliberal “trade” policies that make it difficult for people to stay afloat where they are. (See The Other Side of Immigration.)

11

James Reffell 08.27.12 at 2:37 pm

Ciudad Juarez is pretty bad, but it might be a toss-up whether Los Angeles is safer.

They’re not really comparable. Homicides in LA are 7.6 per 100K, in 2009 Juarez was at 130 per 100K. Juarez has apparently improved greatly between 2009 and 2012 (according to Wikipedia at least), but I doubt they’ve gone down to LA levels. And that’s ignoring the specifics, like the femicides.

12

leavy 08.27.12 at 2:37 pm

Seems to me that the dynamics between low-wage (it’s a bit unclear what “unskilled” means) US workers and immigrant labour can’t be figured without accounting for race, which has long been a factor in the preference of immigrants over African American workers, whose labour automatically gets labeled as low-skilled. Notice what has happened, for example, to medical support professions as more African-American women have gone into this field. They are now being replaced by nurses and home-care aids from developing countries, because the nature of the work was changed just by virtue of its being done by black women (there’s a gender dynamic to this as well, obviously). Race and gender of the worker affect wages and prestige of certain kinds of work, and I wonder what kind of story wages would tell if we looked at the transformation of specific fields from predominantly white male workers to female or black or Latino and so on.

Also, the assumption operating here is that absent the tight immigration controls, every last Hernandez would be packing up their bags and heading for the United States. Sounds like the fear that all the Greeks/Southern Italians would flock to Berlin the moment the EU was established. As we now know, migratory behaviour changes when immigration laws change. Only certain kinds of people are inclined to move in the first place, and when they do move, they tend to move further and stay longer the more tightly their movement is restricted. “Rational” economic behaviour is deeply affected by other human considerations such as kinship ties, social status, familiarity with one’s environment, etc.

Finally, the whole question of our working class vs. theirs is a bit dated, isn’t it? I’m puzzled by the separation of the economic processes affecting workers in one country from those in another country. Why is historic injustice something that needs to be preceded by the word “mere,” when its effects are cumulative, compound, and therefore much stronger determinants of the life prospects of the Masud family than recent carbon emissions could be? And what about the historical determinants of the life prospects of the black Jones family and the white Jones family and the female-headed Jones family in the US? What makes “historical” injustices historical is that they are ongoing–carbon emissions wars are merely the latest iterations of much deeper structural relationships in the global economy, with differences within national economies being sometimes more interesting than differences between.

13

Rakesh 08.27.12 at 2:37 pm

Yes, not only are the per capita emissions, i.e. the flow of greenhouse gases, of the wealthy countries far greater than the per capita emissions of those in poor countries, the stock of greenhouse gases for which the wealthy countries are responsible is tens of times higher than the stock for which the poor countries are responsible. This is simply the result of heavy industrialization having begun in the wealthy countries about 150 years ago. But I think that I have seen an estimate that China is responsible for about 10% of the stock of greenhouse gases while India has generated maybe 5% of that stock, while W.Europe, Japan and the US have generated well over 60% of the stock of greenhouse gases. That is, the wealthy countries have already taken much more than their share of the global commons.

14

Matt 08.27.12 at 2:51 pm

Just a question first: Who is the “McMahon” you mention in the 3rd paragraph? I’m not sure who you’re referring to.

Here’s something that I worry about with the way the case is set up, Chris. Cuidad Juarez is a pretty bad place, and the US bears some (but not total) responsibility for this. It should changes its policies and help improve the situation in Mexico. But many places in Mexico, while not the best in the world, are a lot better than Cuidad Juarez, and in fact pretty okay, and improving. Why not go to those places? And, can a workable principle be put in place that would, with some acceptable degree of reliability, pick out the group most plausibly wrongfully harmed by US policy as opposed to all the other inhabitants? Maybe, but it’s hard for me to imagine right now. But without such a principle, I don’t think the idea gets off the ground.

The Bangladesh case is even more complicated, in that the harm has been caused by a huge number of countries over a very long time. The UK and Australia are arguably fairly small contributors to the recent problem. Why do they get the burden? In the case of people driven from their homes by climate change, it seems that only a large scale scheme of burden-sharing will be fair. Without that we muddle by, but it’s implausible to say that each country must act as it would if there were such a scheme if there isn’t one, or that each country must take on all the burden. (I guess you might disagree with that claim, but that’s a more basic disagreement.)

15

SR819 08.27.12 at 2:52 pm

Rakesh, if we go by 2010 estimates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions#List_of_countries_by_2010_emissions_estimates) then India are the 3rd highest emitters. Yes, you can point out that their per capita emissions are extremely low, and historically it’s the first world countries who have contributed most to exploitation of the global commons, but developed countries are taking significant steps to reduce their carbon footprint, while nations like India are opposed to regulations, even though their proportion of total emissions is increasing by the year. If the UK should allow migration from Bangladesh because of its contribution to global warming, shouldn’t India take in more Bangladeshi migrants as well?

16

bianca steele 08.27.12 at 2:53 pm

James Refell,
Overall statistics aside, new immigrants who are extremely poor are likely to live in places where their children will be drawn into violence directly, and often with no real alternative, where if they’d stayed home, they would risk being victims, but likely not perpetrators, and with more social support for being non-violent themselves. This depends in part on ethnicity (Laotian immigrants more so than Chinese, for example), and in part on geography (which is why I picked Los Angeles as my example).

17

MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 2:53 pm

I must say I am a little honored by my first mention in a Crooked Timber post so thank you Chris.

“Do our democratic exclusionists want to endorse these uses of state power to keep these poor would-be migrants out? Do they think these uses of shackles, dogs, fences and tripwires against such people legitimate?”

You said yourself in the previous post that you do not support open borders but instead more extensive immigration. Your perfect world would require the same “hackles, dogs, fences and tripwires” to be used as some people are going to be prohibited from immigrating regardless. I also would like to note for the record that I oppose unduly harsh enforcement and support the humane treatment of undocumented migrants.

“The reason why the situation of the Hernandez family is so desperate is largely because of the domestic demand for illegal drugs in the United States, the violent policies used to suppress that demand and trade (the “war on drugs”) and the supply of weaponry into Mexico from the United States.”

I heartily support ending all of the above policies and indeed vote, volunteer for and donate to a political party that is in favour of ending them. Why don’t we try ending those harmful policies before we sacrifice the working poor of the developed world?

“”Again, given their responsibility for the rising waters, by what right do they now claim the right to exclude their victims? “”

How exactly are the working poor in the developed world responsible for things like the drug war and global warming? They are among the VICTIMS of the global economic system neo liberals (such as yourself?) have created, not the perpetrators.

Your solution to these problems places the costs on those in the developed world that are least able to bear them. It also benefits the very people, (the global 1%) who are most responsible for the problems raised in your post!

In short, your solution seems to be punish the weak and reward the strong. Where is the justice in that? Why can’t we instead end the war on drugs, raise taxes on the rich, implement policies to reduce the production of greenhouse gases, introduce responsible firearm regulation and support labour/human/democratic rights in developing countries?

18

Mandos 08.27.12 at 2:58 pm

I dunno what the policy is on “Me tooing”, but my heart beats as one with MPAV’s on this issue. Bravo.

19

Vivek 08.27.12 at 2:59 pm

Playing devil’s advocate- it occurred to me that the emotional valency currently attaching to the word ‘democratic’ can’t really be carried over to any deontic or rights/entitlement discourse that arises under the rubric of what Chris Bertram calls ‘democratic excluisonism’.
Why?
Suppose that discourse can cash out as Contractarian in some sense. In other words, suppose there is a ‘Judge Hercules’ who can always act in a manner consistent with that doctrine such that a Social Contract is enforced. Then, assuming preference diversity across the human species is less than the population, it follows- by the pigeon-hole principle- that there are always at least two states of the world such that ‘democratic exclusionism’ can only judge between them by excluding preference schedules arbitrarily which doesn’t sound ‘democratic’ at all.
On the other hand, suppose, there is a theory of Democratic exceptionalism which can’t cash out as Contractarian for Judge Hercules. Then the same pigeon hole principle says there are at least two states of the world which are undecidable for it- i.e. it is not complete.

20

David Kaib 08.27.12 at 3:02 pm

FWIW, the idea that you can build a sustainable political effort that protects citizens in first world countries while building exclusions against third world workers entering those countries OR address problems like the Drug War or Climate Change while maintaining such exclusions is not terribly convincing to me. There are ways to create policy that benefits all workers, and if those workers see each other as the problem it’s not clear how they can produce those policy changes. That such exclusion need not be racist or nativist in the abstract doesn’t mean it won’t be in practice, and pitting those at the bottom against each other is the central way those at the top prevent efforts to address inequality. And exclusionary (and punitive, rights-violating) policies are both a product and a producer of the preferences of citizens.

There was a time when most observers believed that American labor unions were necessarily supporting of immigration restrictions because it was in the interests of their members. And then an influx of migrant workers in the movement in the growing and vibrant service worker segments led the AFL-CIO to change its approach. It’s hard to see how most American workers would have benefited if union density have dropped even faster than it did (at the same time service worker unions were expanding, they were declining in most other sectors) or if the union movement was robbed of the energy that came from the confluence of the labor and immigrants’ rights movements. There is a political dimension to this – you can’t treat it as solely an economic concern.

21

SR819 08.27.12 at 3:06 pm

Why can’t we instead end the war on drugs, raise taxes on the rich, implement policies to reduce the production of greenhouse gases, introduce responsible firearm regulation and support labour/human/democratic rights in developing countries?

These would benefit the global poor much more than open borders IMO. One principle of punitive taxation should be to ensure that those who have caused harm in some way are directly paying for its consequences. By taxing the rich to help the global poor, you are achieving that. By allowing free migration, it’s almost a tax on the working (First World) poor who are not responsible for the plight of those we are trying to help in Bangladesh and other countries in the South.

22

Mao Cheng Ji 08.27.12 at 3:07 pm

But of course people fleeing war, persecution, or natural disaster must not be turned away. That’s been internationally accepted, since 1951.

23

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 3:10 pm

I’m completely unpersuaded by people like Josh G. and MPAVictoria who want to deny that ordinary people in advanced liberals democracies bear _any_ responsibility for the decisions of elites and are simply passive victims, comparable in status to the poorest people on the planet. Whatever happened to “not in my name?” It isn’t as if ordinary people in the United States are rising up in favour of drug legalization, nor is it the case that ordinary people didn’t consume (and aren’t consuming) all that carbon (tonnes per person 0.28 for Bangladesh in 2008; 19 for the United States).

Moreover, I don’t buy the “why can’t we do X instead” line. People are fleeing drug wars and environmental catastrophes NOW because of policies that the governments of wealthy states have been and are pursuing. You want those fleeing people sent back to the situations which governments you elected helped to create. You want them arrested and deported? Would you call the cops yourself?

24

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 3:21 pm

Mao: sadly, the Refugee Convention is more restrictive than that both in principle and even more so in practice.

MPAV et al.: Note that this post does not argue for open borders. It argues that those who have been placed at serious risk of harm by the actions of wealthy democratic states should not be barred, by those states, from fleeing to them. It does not preclude those states also following policies that relieve these harms in other ways. But so long as the harms are continuing and those policies are not actually in place, exclusion does those would-be escapees an injustice. Your willingness to throw these victims under the bus because you (perhaps erroneously) think this is necessary to protect first-world living standards strikes me as repulsive.

25

SR819 08.27.12 at 3:23 pm

@Chris Bertram, I don’t think there’s anyone who would oppose allowing individuals fleeing extreme violence, or natural disasters to leave their country of origin and gain entry to a developed country. However, it’s quite a leap to go from that position to say anyone should be allowed to work anywhere in the world. For example, let’s take a middle class Indian I.T worker who lives in an affluent part of Bangalore. Where is the progressive argument that justifies this person getting free entry to work in a developed country, that undercuts the wages of domestic workers? I know you said this is not the topic of this discussion, but IMO it is inextricably linked to it, because the reasons why Leftists argue for immigration controls is because of the effect free migration would have on the working class in the First World.

Yes, by all means make the Asylum System more liberal to allow those who are in extreme difficulty (like flood victims from Bangladesh), but let’s understand that not every single person in a developing country is in desperation, and any policies regarding migration should be helping those without power, not those who already have a comfortable life.

26

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 3:28 pm

_ I don’t think there’s anyone who would oppose allowing individuals fleeing extreme violence, or natural disasters to leave their country of origin and gain entry to a developed country._

You are poorly informed then.

_However, it’s quite a leap to go from that position to say anyone should be allowed to work anywhere in the world._

Since I didn’t make that leap, I don’t see the relevance. I said that when the countries that have caused the harms prevent the victims of those harms from fleeing into said countries, they do those victims an injustice.

27

MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 3:36 pm

“Moreover, I don’t buy the “why can’t we do X instead” line.”
So it is your preferred policy or nothing at all? I must say that is very convenient for your argument. How fortunate for you.

“Note that this post does not argue for open borders. It argues that those who have been placed at serious risk of harm by the actions of wealthy democratic states should not be barred, by those states, from fleeing to them.”
Then why mention all the stuff about dogs and prisons? Enforcement mechanisms would still exisit in the world you are advocating for.

“Your willingness to throw these victims under the bus because you (perhaps erroneously) think this is necessary to protect first-world living standards strikes me as repulsive.”

And your willingness to throw the working class of your own country (and mine as well) under the bus in a scheme that will enrich the wealthy and immiserate the poor strikes me as repulsive. So here we both are repulsed.

28

MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 3:37 pm

Chris can I ask you if you consider yourself a neo liberal?

29

SR819 08.27.12 at 3:38 pm

OK apologies you don’t argue for open borders. The issue is, again, that in my opinion “countries that have caused harm” is taking too broad a view, because the harm has been caused specifically by actors within these countries. If we want justice to be served, then it is these actors (capitalists) who should pay the costs of the harm they have imposed on people in developing countries.

Your follow up posts suggest that you’re asking specifically for a more humane and open asylum policy so that those who have directly suffered from the harm caused by capitalists in developed countries are allowed refuge in these countries. Again, I don’t have an opposition to that, and neither does the rest of the Left. With strong unions, labour market protections and robust welfare states, it is possible that a more liberal asylum policy can be put in place without harming the First World Poor. I don’t think we disagree on that. However, I don’t think we should be liberalising work visas at the same time, because that is a different kettle of fish.

30

Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 3:39 pm

Obviously I’m not a neoliberal, and raising that is a red herring.

31

Tom Hurka 08.27.12 at 3:40 pm

Two small questions about the responsibility argument about climate change.

1) Is it enough that the developed world caused the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, or do they have to have been negligent in doing so? They arguably have been negligent for the last couple of decades but weren’t in, say, the 1950s when no one knew about greenhouse gases. So does the compensation argument (which I take it is what the OP is proposing) apply to all the developed world’s emissions or only those that involved negligence?

2) The developed world’s emissions have had bad effects on e.g. Bangladesh, through climate change, but have presumably also had some good effects, e.g. by increasing global GDP, some of which has gone to developing countries. (OK, maybe not much to the Masud family in particular.) In assessing the amount of compensation (or whatever due), do we look only at the bad effects of developed world emissions on their own or do we look at the net effects, i.e. bad effects minus good ones? The latter would presumably call for less compensation, which in this case means less by way of welcoming immigrants.

These questions aren’t meant to challenge the main thrust of the OP, just to raise some issues of detail.

32

JW Mason 08.27.12 at 3:46 pm

I think the moral case for allowing migration — and for granting migrants all the same rights as longer-established residents of the rich countries — is overwhelming, for many of the reasons you’ve given.

What I continue to worry about is a displacement of the politics of national development by the liberal solution of migration. Of voice by exit, in other words.

It is certainly true that the harms and risks imposed by the rich countries on residents of the poor ones are a good reason not to oppose migration. But also, maybe we should, you know, stop imposing those harms and risks? I’m pretty sure that in a more just world far fewer people would choose to leave all their social ties to move halfway around the world, even if they increase the return on their human capital a bit that way.

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Watson Ladd 08.27.12 at 3:51 pm

SR819, what’s the argument that birth should determine income? Immigration has benefits for those receiving it: imagine New York sans pizza, falafel, knishes, Chinatown, Little Italy, and irish pubs. The argument also applies within states: it wasn’t that long ago that whites rioted in northern cities against blacks moving from the south, and India has ethnic tensions induced by migration.

The only solution to this puzzle is to define a community with a wide, national range. But this has had very bad consequences in the past, in which those not part of the national conception were forcibly removed. Ukraine is today divided between Russian-speakers and Ukrainian-speakers, thanks to a nationalism which demands the abolition of Russian from life. The Baltic States define themselves linguistically, leaving ethnic Russians stateless within them.

Yugoslavia’s breakup is a fairly standard story of what happens when new nations form: the drive to form a new national identity leaves people out. Even France, so accepting of black Americans, never accepts a muslim Frenchman as French. But anyone can be an American.

India and South Africa stand out as happy exceptions to this general sorry state of affairs. The US used to, but now with the immigration debate I wonder if perhaps the dream of a cosmopolitan country is gone. Before we get to refugees, we have to ask about why the nation’s exclusion is a good thing.

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Vivek 08.27.12 at 3:51 pm

This post ‘… argues that those who have been placed at serious risk of harm by the actions of wealthy democratic states should not be barred, by those states, from fleeing to them. It does not preclude those states also following policies that relieve these harms in other ways. But so long as the harms are continuing and those policies are not actually in place, exclusion does those would-be escapees an injustice. Your willingness to throw these victims under the bus because you (perhaps erroneously) think this is necessary to protect first-world living standards strikes me as repulsive.’

In other words, the right of immigration is vested in those who have a claim for damages against a nation as a sort of ‘second best’ solution- the optimal one being that they are fully compensated.
How can the feasibility of a ‘second best’ solution become the basis of deontic argument?
The first best solution, on this line of argument, is to maximise the sinking fund for damages- for e.g. by letting healthy billionaires who agree to contribute to that sinking fund through taxes in to the country but keeping poor disabled people out.
That can’t be what Chris wants.

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 3:51 pm

Tom: there’s no argument for compensation here as such, just the weaker argument that those who are fleeing from clear harms should not be prevented from doing so by those responsible for the harms (and I take it that my two example cases are clear instances, even if others may not be). If my house catches fire due to your negligence, we can discuss compensation later, but meanwhile don’t prevent me from seeking shelter on your land.

So I don’t think I have to have good answers to your very good questions about compensation in place in order to support the argument here.

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MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 3:53 pm

“Obviously I’m not a neoliberal, and raising that is a red herring.”

I apologize. It did not seem obvious to me and I am not familiar enough with your academic writing to say one way or the other. Chris do you believe countries have the right to set economic policies? For example create trade barriers or levy tariffs on goods coming from another country? For example I support leveling tariffs or even forbidding the import of good created with what amounts, in my opinion, to slave labour. Do you feel countries have an ethical right to do that?

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.27.12 at 3:58 pm

SR819: “I don’t think there’s anyone who would oppose allowing individuals fleeing extreme violence, or natural disasters to leave their country of origin and gain entry to a developed country.”

Not necessarily a developed country. Any place that can provide safety and basic necessities, until the conditions in their home countries improve.

Economic migration is a whole different ball game: everybody would like to improve their economic conditions. I wouldn’t mind to become a citizen of Monaco. Or to move into Lloyd Blankfein’s Manhattan apartment. Tsk. Not gonna happen.

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SR819 08.27.12 at 4:02 pm

@ Watson Ladd, in an ideal world birth shouldn’t determine income, but that’s a different issue compared to the OP, which seems to be arguing for a more open asylum policy for those fleeing harm directly caused by developed countries (which I support).

Exclusion in itself is not a good thing, but the problem is that we live in a capitalist society and free economic migration (which is what the previous post was about) would negatively affect the people whom the Left should be supporting (the working class). Exclusion is by no means a “good” policy, but in an imperfect world it’s an imperfect solution to ensure the power of capitalists over labour isn’t strengthened further.

When I hear of economic migration I think of the H1B visas that have been abused by companies in the US to increase their share of foreign workers on temporary contracts, who are paid a fraction of what a US worker would be willing to work for and therefore undercutting their rates. Or I think of the free migration within the EU, that has certainly damaged the position of the working class in certain trades (for example construction). However, if you’re arguing for a liberal immigration policy (as opposed to economic migration policy), where immigrants are actually given citizenship and therefore must receive the same rights as other workers, then that’s not something I would necessarily argue against.

If Capitalism was abolished, then I would have no issue whatsoever what anyone migrating to wherever they want. However, in that happy world, migration would be motivated by curiosity, intellectual enrichment etc, not the need to escape the conditions imposed on the working class by international capital.

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 4:04 pm

MPAV: we shouldn’t get into a side issue here. My answer isn’t a blanket yes or no on tarrifs and labour protections – it depends on the cases.

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MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 4:05 pm

I just want to sign on to pretty much everything that SR819 wrote above.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:07 pm

Economic migration is a whole different ball game: everybody would like to improve their economic conditions. I wouldn’t mind to become a citizen of Monaco.

See, I don’t think this is true at all. Not at all. Even most of us — who just by virtue of participation in discussions like this, are part of much more globalized social networks than the vast majority of the world’s population — would be resistant to moving to another country, especially with a different language, etc., even for a significant increase in pay. Look at migration rates in the EU, where legal barriers are pretty much gone and wage differentials remain large. Not much of it. Even in the US a large majority of people live their entire lives in the state where they were born. I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that if people can achieve a minimum acceptable income in the country/region where they live, they will stay there. The problem of course — in large part precisely due to earlier forms of liberal globalization — is that for a large fraction of humanity a minimum acceptable income, that’s not possible.

To take another variation on Chris B.’s argument, it is clearly immoral for the US to tell Mexico it must accept US agricultural imports, and also pressure or encourage Mexican governments to weaken the ejido system of collective landholding, and then to prevent the Mexican farmers displaced as a result from seeking a new livelihood in the US. But it would have been better not to have destroyed Mexican small-scale agriculture in the first place.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:08 pm

(by “most of us” in the first sentence of 39 I of course meant “most of us in this comment thread.” WHich shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially on a topic like this.)

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:11 pm

When I hear of economic migration I think of the H1B visas that have been abused by companies in the US to increase their share of foreign workers on temporary contracts, who are paid a fraction of what a US worker would be willing to work for and therefore undercutting their rates.

I think one position that Chris B. and those of us more skeptical of open migration on the left should be able to agree on, is that immigrants should enjoy an identical legal status to longer-established residents.

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Matt 08.27.12 at 4:18 pm

If my house catches fire due to your negligence, we can discuss compensation later, but meanwhile don’t prevent me from seeking shelter on your land.

Yes, but it’s worth noting that this tells in favor of temporary protection for emergencies, not an indefinite right to remain. I think it’s important to try to think very carefully about what different arguments call for. I don’t think that’s been done very much in the posts or comments.

it is clearly immoral for the US to tell Mexico it must accept US agricultural imports, and also pressure or encourage Mexican governments to weaken the ejido system of collective landholding, and then to prevent the Mexican farmers displaced as a result from seeking a new livelihood in the US. But it would have been better not to have destroyed Mexican small-scale agriculture in the first place.

This is a side issue, but isn’t so clear, I think. (I’d like to hear D^2 address it, too.) These policies have mostly made food much cheaper for most Mexicans, making most Mexicans better off. It’s been bad for traditional farmers who haven’t been able to adapt to niche products (some have- some good stuff from them was sold in the local co-op grocery store where I used to live.) But why is that the US’s problem rather than Mexico’s? This is a bit like saying that Japan should have relocated displaced auto workers from Detroit. But, I think it’s important to keep these issues distinct from the ones Chris wants to discuss here, as they are importantly different, I think.

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.27.12 at 4:28 pm

JW Mason, fair enough. Still, the point remains that most of everybody is unsatisfied with their current economic conditions. There’s always a bigger house, better neighborhood, better school for your children. If you think the difference in wages between Swedish and Indian bus drivers is outrageous, what about the difference between you and Lloyd Blankfein?

SR819: “If Capitalism was abolished, then I would have no issue whatsoever what anyone migrating to wherever they want. “

There is a problem here, unfortunately: ostracism and expulsion from the community is probably the only tool of social control in Anarchist Paradise. I’m afraid you still won’t be able to migrate where the locals don’t want you.

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 4:33 pm

_Yes, but it’s worth noting that this tells in favor of temporary protection for emergencies, not an indefinite right to remain._

That’s true Matt, though given the extreme unlikelihood of the problems being solved sufficiently quickly, it is hard to believed that the displaced wouldn’t acquire a moral right to remain on other grounds.

_I think it’s important to try to think very carefully about what different arguments call for._

Yes, I agree. But the point of this _blog post_ is a limited one. It is to question the legitimacy of the border measures being conducted by wealthy states in circumstances where no good-faith effort is being made at all to tackle these injustices and to try to shake the confidence of the American-firsters here (and their European counterparts). In Europe, for example, the response to the “threat” of climate refugees has been to press for more powers for Frontex.

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Mandos 08.27.12 at 4:34 pm

This is a bit like saying that Japan should have relocated displaced auto workers from Detroit.

Why is this prejudged as necessarily a bad idea?

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:38 pm

why is that the US’s problem rather than Mexico’s? This is a bit like saying that Japan should have relocated displaced auto workers from Detroit. But, I think it’s important to keep these issues distinct from the ones Chris wants to discuss here, as they are importantly different, I think.

These are very good questions! (And seem to be exactly what Chris wants to discuss — the fact that his two examples didn’t happen to involve economic policy in a narrow sense doesn’t mean that he wanted to exclude it, I don’t think.)

One answer is that in fact the Japan case is analogous, and yes, japan should have allowed US autoworkers to immigrate. (Hardly any would have, I’m sure, but set that aside.) the position, which I think has some merits, is that you cannot consistently demand that sellers of goods and capital can seek the highest return without interference from national borders but restrict sellers of labor to their own national markets. On this argument, if you think preserving national borders is important, you must accept a degree of economic dis-integration and (relative) autarchy. (I’m pretty sure this is where e.g. Rodrik ends up.)

A second answer is that US policy has far more policy autonomy vis-a-vis Japan than Mexico does vis-a-vis the US. The decline of manufacturing employment i the US was not an inevitable reaction to the increased cost-competitiveness of Japan — just look at the highly asymmetric responses to the rise of the dollar in the first half of the 80s (massive exit of US firms from many tradables sectors0 and the rise of the yen in the second half (acceptance by Japanese exporters of lower profit margins, financed by inked banks, in order to preserve market share.) So there is a much less direct connection between Japan and the problems of workers in Detroit than between the US and workers in Guanajuato.

A third answer would be that we are really talking about rich countries vs. poor ones, although then the specific compensation argument gets weaker.

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Vivek 08.27.12 at 4:40 pm

The problem with Chris’s argument from damages is that Coase’s theorem applies for finding the first best solution. But that opens the door to a type of analysis which would militate for conclusions Chris would find extremely perverse.
So, the argument from damages is not the way to go especially because, at the beginning of the post, Chris looked liked he was going to rely imperative logic.
Still, Chris has a right to some ‘democratic exclusionism’ by simply ignoring comments like this. Indeed, the best course would be not to publish them. Chris is a Professor after at all and Academic Credentialism is a rent seeking exclusionism indifferent between legitimating ideologies.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:45 pm

the point remains that most of everybody is unsatisfied with their current economic conditions. There’s always a bigger house, better neighborhood, better school for your children. If you think the difference in wages between Swedish and Indian bus drivers is outrageous, what about the difference between you and Lloyd Blankfein?

Again, I don’t think this is right. I think it is generalizing a specific capitalist drive for endless accumulation into a universal human nature. But competitive acquisitiveness is a historically specific and limited motivation. I think for the vast majority of people economic goals are limited to reaching a level of reasonable prosperity defined by one’s immediate social universe.

I hate Lloyd Blankfein and I want all his money taken away. (After that I won’t hate him any more, he can get a job as a bus driver and be a respectable member of the community.) But that’s not because I want to have his money — I don’t — I’m sure it would not make me a bit happier.

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js. 08.27.12 at 4:47 pm

What David Kaib said at 19.

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Salient 08.27.12 at 4:48 pm

I said that when the countries that have caused the harms prevent the victims of those harms from fleeing into said countries, they do those victims an injustice.

Doesn’t this get swept into the definition of the original injustice? It’s like a mass killer barring the doors to a theatre before opening fire. Obviously worse than the alternative, but it would feel weird to say, “at least that other killer was kind enough to let people escape.”

If a country causes hundreds of thousands of people to become victims and then offers them an opportunity to exit the victim zone, it’s not appropriate to evaluate each of those policies separately. Just like if someone held you at gunpoint and said “get in the car or I shoot,” you wouldn’t evaluate “he’s threatening me with death” and “he’s allowing me to get in the car” separately. I think this is part of what MPAVictoria & company are observing. A country that destroy’s a population’s home and then gives them safe passage to its own territory is still doing that population an equally grave injustice–a kind of forced migration. The original act of destruction confirms for us the state has no benign intent for these people; if it doesn’t intend to destroy them, then it intends to exploit them. The only conceivable reason the state would intentionally not prevent immigration with violence, is because in its original act of violence it was trying to trigger the immigration in the first place, so that the affected population is locally available for (mis)use.

So it’s hard to say, “oh it would be better if our state, which is bombing this country into rubble, at least allowed its victims to immigrate.” Allowing that would make our state’s act of violence a different sort of act–it becomes rounding up people at gunpoint, rather than killing them off or neglecting them. By saying the latter is worse than the former, we’re saying that the former is better than the latter. It sounds like the kind of argument you’d think the author of the “Philosophy, drone strikes, and conditional arguments” post would find tasteless and unacceptable.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 4:51 pm

So it’s hard to say, “oh it would be better if our state, which is bombing this country into rubble, at least allowed its victims to immigrate.”

Hard for you or me, maybe. But as I recall, it was Daniel Davies’ main take on the Iraq war.

(Now he can show up and re-ban from his hypothetical threads.)

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UnlearningEcon 08.27.12 at 4:52 pm

On an individual level, you do indeed make it sound like the first world countries are being (brutally) unfair to the poor countries. But really we need to be asking different questions:

(1) What would happen if we allowed all people who wanted to move around the globe to do so? Would we not just destroy infrastructure, cohesion and create even more exaggerated inequalities? Would those left behind in the poor countries – for whatever reason – not be even worse off as people and wealth concentrated in select areas of the globe?

(2) Why do these people have to move in the first place? Surely we need to take a good look at an economic system that puts these people into poverty?

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bjk 08.27.12 at 5:09 pm

If immigration has a branding problem, just call it “reverse colonialism.” That should clear up any misconceptions.

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.27.12 at 5:09 pm

JW Mason, again, fair enough, well played.

But then “defined by one’s immediate social universe” seems to be the key here. Indian bus driver doesn’t get the opportunity to go to Sweden, but he could get a job at one of those customer service call centers. Of course someone would have to drive that bus anyway, but maybe this is how we shift the focus from individuals to their environments: India, Mexico, Bangladesh.

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aepxc 08.27.12 at 5:15 pm

The problem is a complete mismatch between power, costs, and responsibilities. The power to allow or exclude foreigners rests with the (mostly) representative government. The (foreign) responsibility for most of the suffering abroad lies at the feet of a small number of well-to-do and powerful individuals. Of course, for some specific instances of foreign suffering, the responsibility lies mostly at home. Finally, the costs of unchecked ‘developing-to-developed’ immigration – mostly the addition of claims on fixed or slowly growing public and intangible assets – would hit a swathe of some of the most vulnerable in the developed nations.

The argument in the post would make sense if countries were like hive mind and immigration was a case of a few individuals wanting to switch hives. But this is not the case. Many people opposing immigration can object “I have not done anything to you and now you want to show up and shrink my portion of the resources I’m sharing!” and they would, by-and-large be right.

Immigration should NOT be limited, in principle. But it is difficult to imagine how it cannot be limited given other current socio-economic arrangements.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 5:15 pm

I don’t buy the “why can’t we do X instead” line. People are fleeing drug wars and environmental catastrophes NOW because of policies that the governments of wealthy states have been and are pursuing.

While I think the specific arguments of this post are persuasive, in general I am not happy with arguments of the form that we should not talk about the structural roots of some problem because we need to address the immediate crisis. (In other contexts a similar argument is often made in favor of the “humanitarian interventions” you oppose as much as I do.)

Whatever your intentions here, the question of environmental migrants from Bangladesh can’t be cleanly separated from the issue of South-North migration in general. And there is no question that there is a powerful liberal position that does exactly what MPAVictoria and others in this thread say — dismisses the goal of national development in favor of the right of migration, so addressing the problems of the global poor in the way most beneficial to the interests of the global rich. You personally don’t take that view but you can hardly blame the rest of us for engaging on the terms that we see dominating actual policy debate. (Again, the analogy with humanitarian interventionism — pro-war liberals always stipulate exactly the terms on which they are supporting this or that war, but those of us on the other side have every right to oppose the war we think will actually be fought.)

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Tom Hurka 08.27.12 at 5:28 pm

Chris,

My mention of compensation was (I now see) a distraction, but I think the two questions remain.

1) If your house catches on fire because of a fire that started in my house but wasn’t due to my negligence — I was behaving perfectly reasonably — do I have any stronger obligation to give you shelter than anyone else has?

2) If an act of mine has caused you both harms and benefits, is the strength of my duty to shelter you from the harms determined just by the size of the harms on their own (plus whatever other non-consequentialist factors are relevant) or by the size of the harms minus the size of the benefits, i.e. by the net rather than by the gross harms?

In the climate change case the answers to these questions might make a significant difference to what policy re immigration ended up being recommended.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 5:34 pm

On reflection the humanitarian intervention analogy is unfair since migration actually does address the immediate crisis, while wars (pretty much always) don’t even do that. So consider it withdrawn.

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P O'Neill 08.27.12 at 5:34 pm

I think #14 point is worth developing. Statistically, Mexico is a solid upper middle income country. It’s in the OECD. Yes the USA buys the drugs and lowers the cost of guns (though of course in winger land only F&F guns count as contributing to crimes in Mexico). Mexico elected its President who freely chose to have his own War on Drugs and sticks with it despite the mayhem. The Europeans who got to what is now Mexico had the same first-mover advantages (in terms of colonization and marginalizing — a polite word — the aboriginal population) as the USA and Canada.

So don’t Mexican citizens have some share of the responsibility for the current state of their country (accepting the basis on which US citizens are said to have such responsibility)?

Bangladesh clearly has more alibis.

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Sebastian H 08.27.12 at 5:58 pm

“Proponents of highly liberalized migration policies are often chastised for being insufficiently alive to the political realities. But a fair response to the self-styled realists is to ask, given the way things are, what they are actually prepared to countenance.”

In this post, and your most recent three or four other ones, you use the constraints of political realities in an uneven fashion. When talking about objections to your suggestions, these constraints loom large–cap and trade isn’t particularly feasible, rational approaches to the drug war even less likely. You are right, those are hard sells. But when you’re talking about your own proposals, the political objections appear to recede and it isn’t clear why.

In the current political environment (in the US) I would rank in order of difficulty–easier to harder–cap and trade, large steps toward rational drug policy, with dramatically more expansive immigration policies being clearly the least feasible. And that is in the relatively (please not “relatively”) immigrant friendly US. Someplace like Japan is definitely going to have more trouble with more open border policies than with cap and trade or what have you.

The unfortunate answer to “given the way things are, what they are actually prepared to countenance.” is ‘a huge amount so long as the costs fall on people in other countries’. But “given the way things are” is truncating the question. You are suggesting a politically difficult change to the way things are which looks more difficult to change than “the way things are”.

If we have bad policies (and we do) which are hurting people in other countries (which they are) a good rule of thumb would be that it is going to be easier (which still might be VERY VERY hard) to change the bad policies rather than change the immigration policies to try to make up for the damage.

This rule of thumb is relevant for all sorts of discussions–idiot US ethanol policy, farm policy, drug policy, global warming non-policy. Take even sweatshop policies. You might be able to get a majority to make a sweatshop factory product ban. You aren’t going to be able to get a “sweatshop workers get to immigrate to the US” policy.

And I say this as someone who thinks that immigration policies are much too tight in the US.

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Sebastian H 08.27.12 at 6:00 pm

Jesus, bad spelling: should be (please note “relatively”). ‘Not’ inverts the meaning, sigh.

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Hektor Bim 08.27.12 at 6:11 pm

On the specific case of Bangladesh, it seems to me that Pakistan, in particular, has an obligation to help out Bangladesh. Since it was the most recent colonial power and in fact fought a genocidal war to keep control of the country, it bears some obligation for the current state of the economy there. It is also richer and more developed than Bangladesh, so it seems like it should be considered as a place for immigration from Bangladesh.

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MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 7:03 pm

Chris I still feel like you haven’t responded to the points I raised with my first comment in this thread.

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 8:08 pm

Tom:

I don’t have very secure intuitions about those questions. But re

1. I think pure acts of God, as it were, like a lightning strike, leaves you with no greater obligation but that a malfunction in your property may do.

2. I think, again, that’s going to depend a little on the details. Where costs and benefits are made of the same kind of stuff (say money) then balancing can often be right, but in other cases then I think you are wholly responsible for the harm and don’t get to net it against benefits. So if you run me down in your car, but the doctors who amputate discover cancer, treat it and I live rather than die, you are still liable for the loss of my legs. In the climate change case I’ll go with the balancing option, but the case I chose, Bangladesh, looks like massive harm and no benefit.

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 8:12 pm

MPAV: I think I did address your substantive points at 23 above, by saying that I think it reasonable to hold citizens of democratic states somewhat responsible for the actions of their governments. On the other thing, well, dogs and prisons are never nice, but they are specially abhorrent when directed by perpetrators against their victims.

(Signing off for the night now.)

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Mandos 08.27.12 at 8:14 pm

On the specific case of Bangladesh, it seems to me that Pakistan, in particular, has an obligation to help out Bangladesh. Since it was the most recent colonial power and in fact fought a genocidal war to keep control of the country, it bears some obligation for the current state of the economy there. It is also richer and more developed than Bangladesh, so it seems like it should be considered as a place for immigration from Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, it’s also dealing with a huge influx of Afghan refugees, which, if anyone were to be aware of it, would explain many of its actions in relation to Afghanistan…

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Marc 08.27.12 at 8:46 pm

Why is immigration, in particular, the appropriate solution to the problems listed in the original post? We restrict people from moving within nations and we have the concept of private property within communities. Why can’t I apply precisely the same logic in the OP to these cases? e.g. should I be advocating that people in large houses or on suburban estates open their doors (or at least their lawns) to the homeless, and should I be advocating that low-density communities be doing the same for non-immigrants who have faced systemic discrimination?

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piglet 08.27.12 at 8:47 pm

““Moreover, I don’t buy the “why can’t we do X instead” line.””

On that I noted earlier (on the other thread):
“The argument above, better fight the misery that drives mass migration, can obviously serve as an easy fig leaf for those who don’t give a damn about global injustice. On the other hand, advocating open borders can also turn into cheap posturing. One can advocate open orders in the safe knowledge that it’s never going to happen.”

It’s not clear to me what really the topic of this post is. Do you want to debate what immigration policy, in concrete policy terms, the left should advocate? Or do you want to debate what principles should guide that debate Or do you want to debate how the left should position itself in the public debate in order to change immigration policy in the best possible direction?

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Watson Ladd 08.27.12 at 8:51 pm

Marc, we don’t restrict migration within the US. Anyone can move anywhere they damn well like. And why shouldn’t they be allowed to?

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piglet 08.27.12 at 8:53 pm

I should slightly correct the last sentence: “Or do you want to debate how the left should position itself in the public debate in order to change policy in the best possible direction?” Because we have already agreed that this isn’t only and maybe not even primarily about immigration policy. GHG emissions, drug laws, trade liberalization, IMF restructuring, agricultural policy, etc. etc are all implicated. My point is that you are right to insist on First World (including to some extent the working class) co-responsibility for Third World poverty but then, the main question is how to address that directly.

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Nine 08.27.12 at 9:11 pm

SR819@36,

“If Capitalism was abolished, then I would have no issue whatsoever what anyone migrating to wherever they want.”

This is the mirror-image of an argument frequently deployed from the right/libertarian side of the debate to assert that all would be copacetic with open-borders if only the welfare state were smaller/absent – free-lunch blah, blah, blah – but since the welfare state is fait-accompli , why then, they must regretfully decline to support open immigration etc. Weasels ripped my flesh. Niether capitalism nor the welfare state can be conveniently assumed away.

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L2P 08.27.12 at 9:13 pm

“What ought to give them pause, I think, is the responsibility of the states and societies claiming the right to exclude for the plight of the excluded. The reason why the situation of the Hernandez family is so desperate is largely because of the domestic demand for illegal drugs in the United States, the violent policies used to suppress that demand and trade (the “war on drugs”) and the supply of weaponry into Mexico from the United States. Isn’t it a bit much for the state that has made these people’s lives hell then to block their means of escape?”

This isn’t a moral issue. I think you’re trying to make it one by foreclosing other options.

The people of the United States could, without losing any sleep, say that no Bangladeshis or Mexicans are immigrating to our country, but we are going to take other measures needed to mitigate our contributions are to your country’s problems. The US has no moral obligation to take the measures that Chris Bertram or the people of the Third World think are the best way to deal with crime or global warming. The US can consistent with justice decide that it wants to transfer money to Bangladesh, or legalize marijuana and cocaine, or whatever else it wants to do, and keep every single Bangladeshi and Mexican out.

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.27.12 at 9:22 pm

Watson Ladd, you will not be able to camp on a golf course (unless you’re invited), because the place is privately owned. If collective ownership is so heinous, then certainly its subcategory, private ownership, can’t be any better?

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 9:24 pm

Agree with Piglet, there’s something slippery about the OP. Chris wants us to talk about moral responsibility in terms of a whole range of issues – climate change, drug law, eyc. But he wants us to talk about policy choices simply in terms of migration. I don’t think that works.

If we want to discuss climate change, we will agree that the rich countries beat the biggest responsibility, historically and today. But I don’t think any of us will say that encouraging migration out of the worst-hit areas is anywhere near the top of the list of most urgent policies to deal with it. On the other hand, if we are talking about migration then the case for relaxing restrictions on movement from South to North will depend on the moral and practical case for this specifically. Not on whether the South would benefit from some unrelated policy change by the North.

Bargaining requires the actual presence of (representatives of) the two parties at a table. In the absence of actual bargaining, it cannot be the case that X owing A to Y implies a duty of X to give Y some unrelated B or C.

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Matt 08.27.12 at 9:30 pm

It isn’t as if ordinary people in the United States are rising up in favour of drug legalization, nor is it the case that ordinary people didn’t consume (and aren’t consuming) all that carbon (tonnes per person 0.28 for Bangladesh in 2008; 19 for the United States).

Can you reconcile collective responsibility for emissions and emissions per individual? The Masuds are supposed to be able to migrate to the UK or Australia, per the original post. The UK’s emissions per capita are less than half of those of the US or Australia; and even the US and Australia have less than half the emissions per capita of Trinidad and Tobago or Qatar. Maybe Qatar should be required to accept climate refugees in direct proportion to its per-capita emissions.

Of course this is ridiculous; despite astounding per-capita emissions Qatar doesn’t contribute much to global CO2 burden in an absolute sense. The US, UK, and Australia are much more important to the global carbon balance than Qatar because they collectively emit much more. If there’s a nation-to-nation matrix of climate debits and credits then all 3 surely owe Bangladesh.

Or do they? Australia has high per-capita emissions but very low population density. If all nations were populated at Australian density and emitting at Australian levels per capita, global CO2 emissions would be about 70% lower. If all nations were populated at Bangladeshi density and emitting at Bangladeshi levels per capita, global CO2 emissions would be about 70% higher.

The climate doesn’t care about emissions per capita, only if (and how fast) carbon sources are out-racing carbon sinks. If national boundaries are the right place to draw perimeters of ownership/responsibility, then Bangladesh is more responsible for climate change than dozens of nations with higher median incomes. If they’re not the right place to put that perimeter, is there any place between the nation state and the individual to aggregate units of collective responsibility? Maybe Alaskans owe Oregonians for their more-than-5-times-higher emissions per capita? Or maybe it is all down to individuals, and real justice means that nobody on Earth can be expected to give up their car as long as somebody else still has a private aeroplane.

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James 08.27.12 at 9:37 pm

The OP has not proven that the indirect harms committed by the first world toward the Hernandez family and the Masud family have outweighed the indirect benefits. The posts suggests a moral right to immigrate be granted to these families based on indirect, unintended, and unproven harms (not making any implications on global warming) by the suggested first world nation.
For the Hernandez family, the violence they live in is committed by individuals who have chosen to violate a morally neutral series of laws against drug smuggling. Is any just law, made by any first world nation, automatically unjust because of violence is used to side step the law? One does not suggest that due to violence over oil in Nigeria, Denmark has a moral obligation to towards Nigerian immigration.
The Masud family is suffering from climate change. Most of CO2 production is used for builds (heating, cooling, and construction). Much of this is necessary to keep people alive outside of the tropical regions. Does this become a moral obligation for those living in the harsher regions – maybe. A portion of the CO2 production is used for food production. This level of production is necessary to maintain the current world population level. Does this food good cancel out the moral obligation to the Masud family? What about the other moral goods created in the process (penicillin for example)? Can you show that the goods produced in the process have been outweighed by the harms?

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Chris Bertram 08.27.12 at 10:23 pm

_Chris wants us to talk about moral responsibility in terms of a whole range of issues – climate change, drug law, eyc. But he wants us to talk about policy choices simply in terms of migration. I don’t think that works._

No I don’t. The OP does not say that there are no policy choices other than migration policy that _could_ address the harms. The actual fact is that those other policy choices are not being pursued. _Given_ that they are not, the states perpetrating the harms do not now have the moral right to exclude the Hernandezes and Masuds, that’s the claim.

(That’s the claim and it stands quite independently of whether a policy to admit the Hernadezes and Masuds is politically feasible in the countries in question. )

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purple 08.27.12 at 10:46 pm

Who is ‘we’ . It’s not like steel workers wanted their jobs shipped off to China.

The notion we are a nation that acts in democratic consensus is touching.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 11:26 pm

The OP does not say that there are no policy choices other than migration policy that could address the harms. The actual fact is that those other policy choices are not being pursued. Given that they are not, the states perpetrating the harms do not now have the moral right to exclude the Hernandezes and Masuds, that’s the claim.

(That’s the claim and it stands quite independently of whether a policy to admit the Hernadezes and Masuds is politically feasible in the countries in question. )

Bolding added to make a point. Feasibility for me but not for thee, eh? Obviously if you argue for policy X on the basis that the alternatives are not feasible, and then say that objections to the feasibility of X itself are out of bounds, you can make the case for just about anything you want.

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JW Mason 08.27.12 at 11:28 pm

Total tag fail. “The actual fact is that those other policy choices are not being pursued” was supposed to be bold, and the second paragraph was supposed to be italics.

I’m going to take that as a sign it’s time to end my participation in this thread.

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John Quiggin 08.27.12 at 11:53 pm

I don’t have an answer to the big question. But I’m pretty sure current restrictions are too tight in that there are lots of cases where
(a) people have good reasons for wanting to move to a specific country (as well as perhaps expected general economic benefits)
(b) there would be little if any net cost to the existing residents of the country,
but still they can’t get admitted.

I suspect a majority of people would reach the right conclusion if they were personally required to do the assessment on a case-by-case basis, but of course, they cast votes in terms of abstract numbers.

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MPAVictoria 08.27.12 at 11:56 pm

I think JW Mason gets right to the heart of one of the problems with your argument. If anything your policies are much less politically feasible than the ones I suggest, yet you only want to talk about “feasibility” when it comes to my policies. Very easy to win this sort of argument but it doesn’t really prove much.

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Marc 08.28.12 at 12:08 am

@71: Let me sharpen the point. There are homeless people in the city where I live, and there are poor people crowded into substandard housing. There are also suburbs with large (acre+) minimum lot sizes for new homes and numerous palatial (400 square meter) houses on these lots. I could construct an argument, precisely parallel to the original post, that there is no moral justification for preventing people from moving to that suburb. I could also construct a parallel argument that there is no moral justification for preventing the homeless family from pitching a tent on the lawn of the mansions, or from moving into the mansion itself. What is the difference between the case of unlimited immigration into a country, a town, or a suburban housing lot? Why would there be a difference between a mansion and an apartment, as long as the benefit to the less advantaged exceeds the cost to the current dweller?

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LFC 08.28.12 at 12:28 am

Marc @85
Individuals don’t have personal property rights to the entire soil of the country of which they happen to be citizens. The pitching-a-tent-on-the-mansion-lawn analogy is inapt.

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Cranky Observer 08.28.12 at 12:28 am

= = = purple @10:46 ” Who is ‘we’ . It’s not like steel workers wanted their jobs shipped off to China. The notion we are a nation that acts in democratic consensus is touching. = = =

I’m generally with you, but I have to note for the record that the steelworkers (or the majority of them) did vote for Ronald Reagan twice. Just as a majority of US voters voted for GWB twice; they had to know what they were getting the second time but did it anyway. Agency counts for something.

Cranky

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heteroskedastic 08.28.12 at 12:34 am

Chris,

So in practical terms where does this leave us? Are you saying that, in general, no one should be prevented from migrating to the first world country of their choice, or are you saying that there are particular harms committed by countries that give rise to particular migrant claims (e.g., as many Mexicans as want to should be allowed to settle in the US, but they have no right to settle in Australia, Norway or Argentina)?

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L2P 08.28.12 at 12:50 am

“The OP does not say that there are no policy choices other than migration policy that could address the harms. The actual fact is that those other policy choices are not being pursued. Given that they are not, the states perpetrating the harms do not now have the moral right to exclude the Hernandezes and Masuds, that’s the claim.

(That’s the claim and it stands quite independently of whether a policy to admit the Hernadezes and Masuds is politically feasible in the countries in question. )”

Oh come on. None of these policy choices are being pursued? Immigration of a 200 million disadvantaged Bengladeshis to Australia and Great Britain is so far below the radar that you’d have to invent some new electromagnetic spectrum to find it.

But as a matter of actual policy discussion addressing global warming and illegal drugs are being considered in America. As we speak. As in, by politicians and elected officials and vast numbers of citizens, not bloggers. In California a ballot measure to legalize marijuana almost passed. Medical marijuana is legal and expanding. A change of a few votes in the Senate and clean fuel would be on the way. Not saying these things are slam dunks or happening any time soon, but these are policies with substantial support.

On the other hand, there is very close to ZERO INTEREST in letting 400 million new immigrants into the US. There’s support for minor tweaking of the policies, but even the most fervent supports of reform are thinking about stuff like slight increases in yearly quotas and less restrictive family definitions and stuff like that. I think there’s more people pushing for a Mars colony.

What’s this debate actually about then? This seems an awful lot like a way to weasel out of having to actually defend immigration as the best way to solve the world’s problems.

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bianca steele 08.28.12 at 12:53 am

I don’t know much about Bangladesh or its current relations with the UK and Australia (which I know is not to my credit), but Mexico is much closer to the US than Bangladesh is to Sydney. Another reason, not mentioned in the OP, why the US can be said to have created Mexico’s problems, is that it has long alternated between welcoming workers from Mexico and deporting them. Under normal circumstances, a better case for mitigating harm might be that the US (in cooperation with the Mexican government) has long held out migration north as a normal thing people might do and not be thought unusual. The issue isn’t whether to let people in, in many of these cases, but to let them stay when they have lived here for decades, though without the paperwork recognized by the government.

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Matt 08.28.12 at 1:37 am

The issue isn’t whether to let people in, in many of these cases, but to let them stay when they have lived here for decades, though without the paperwork recognized by the government.

It’s a bit (or more) off topic, but it’s worth noting that, in the case of Mexican labor migration to the US, “living for decades” was a very unusual (though not unheard of, of course) option for a very long time. It has only become a fairly common (though not universal) path since the 1990′s. What happened then? Increased border enforcement at easy crossing points. This had the result of making frequent short-term crossings by mostly young, unmarried (or very recently married) men, the most common sort before that time, too expensive or difficult and dangerous. So instead, people came and spent longer and longer periods, further and further away from traditional areas, and brought their families. This has greatly changed the form of migration from Mexico. You have to understand this to intelligently discuss the issue. (Massey, et. al, _Beyond Smoke and Mirrors_ is the essential starting place.) What to do now is, I think, unclear. What to do in ’96 or ’86 is, in hindsight, completely clear. (A humane and reasonable temporary labor program, which is what people on both sides really wanted.) It’s not clear if that would work n0w- migration is heavily influenced by social paths, path dependence, networks, etc. If someone tells you that they know what would work to fix the US/Mexican migration system so that both sides are happy, they are probably showing that they haven’t thought enough about the problem.

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Eric H 08.28.12 at 3:32 am

@MPAVictoria
“I am curious what you feel would be an appropriate response to the destruction of their lively hood? Should they just shrug their shoulders and tell little Billy that he isn’t going to get to go to college when he grows up and little Suzzy that it is too bad she can’t have braces?”

Hyperbole much? There is no destruction by the Hernandez of the IBT livelihood, and nobody is starving because of it. Mexican trucking poses little real downward pressure on over-the-road truck costs. What there is is the use of one set of bogus rules (safety enforcement by ethnicity) being used in place of the real agenda. If you are going to argue that these people have a right to freedom from competition, are you also going to stand up to the Locavores, farmers’ market enthusiasts, and railroads in defense of these CO2 emitters and the Wal-mart model? There are few simple paths here.

Chris, I have long been interested in this quandary. Ideally, we would repeal the policies that led to the situation to begin with, but I think your point is to determine what to do assuming these policies will not change. Those policies include not only the drug war but also the Washington Consensus policies that encourage developing nations to switch over from sustainable practices to export-oriented policies in search of the almighty GDP per capita growth. Once you’ve enclosed the land and required tax payments in cash, what choice have you left for the people than to seek wage labor? And once they have embarked on that path, why shouldn’t they seek higher wages? Some of them happen to live in a place where they can crank out must-have products for Foxconn, which the voting masses love to have at the prices Apple can sell them (thanks to the low wages paid at Foxconn) and will probably not willingly vote against. Some of those wage laborers, however, happen to live in a place where (a) they’re undercut by Foxconn and can’t find similar work and (b) the border with a much wealthier nation is within a short enough distance to allow them to simply move to better paying jobs. Given the policies and the opportunity, I think it is fair to allow them to work here. And then there’s the 1848 War of Northern Aggression.

An interesting side issue here is that part of the electorate is completely fine with importing goods from foreigners but not terribly fond of visits from those foreigners (usually on the rightish end of the spectrum), while another part of the electorate is fine with immigrants but against importation (usually on the leftish end). On rare occasions, you run into someone who is against both imports and guest workers; these tend to be populists on either the extreme right or left who tend to be useful mainly as Baptists for some manufacturing Bootlegger who wants to control his foreign competition as well as his domestic, non-unionized competition. What to do?

Yet another issue is the fact that the existing immigration policies prevent the immigrants from complaining, organizing, and bargaining wages up to the local standards, so they paradoxically reinforce the very price competition that is the source of the complaint against them.

As to which policies are feasible for pursuit, I would note that it is rapidly becoming possible for Mexican workers to vote, practically if not legally. And given that some of them are long term inhabitants, why shouldn’t they be able to influence policy that way?

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Chris Bertram 08.28.12 at 5:29 am

JWM (and others) you are missing the point.

As I’ve said, the question I’m posing is about the moral status of the the state’s intention to prevent the Hernandezes and Masuds from immigrating, not about the political feasibility of a policy that would allow them to do so. The fact that no combination of just policies is in the “Overton Window” isn’t a reason not to think about what justice requires.

I’ve argued that, given (a) the harms that are being imposed and (b) the absence of other policies to address those harms, the state has no moral right to prevent their immigration. I leave open the possibility that _in the future_ the state might acquire the moral right to prevent their immigration by pursuing other policies to address the harms (ending the war on drugs, sponsoring some massive anti-flooding/poverty reduction scheme in Bangladesh, whatever).

Meanwhile, there’s the question of that attitude that you and I have as (normally) law-abiding citizens (and voters) to the exclusionary policies of the state and to the specific intention of the state to thwart the plans of the Hs and Ms to escape their circumstances.

Personally, I say good luck to the families. I’ll help them if I can and I won’t help the immigration authorities to pursue them, because I believe the state’s desire to thwart them is wrong. I’ll also support any proposals for liberalization of migration rules, amnesties, and other things that make their lives (and those of others like them) easier.

As I asked MPAV at 23 above ” You want them arrested and deported? Would you call the cops yourself?”

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prasad 08.28.12 at 6:50 am

“Two small questions about the responsibility argument about climate change.

1) Is it enough that the developed world caused the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, or do they have to have been negligent in doing so? “

Tom Hurka – I don’t think we need to smuggle in notions of culpability to motivate the thought that the cumulative CO2 emission matters, not just the year-by-year total going forward. I remember doing a rough calculation to persuade myself that just building a first world type road network (extent and quality) in India would cost the world something like 5 ppm of CO2. And the corresponding emissions for the first world are in the air. Unless climate change fighters expect to prevent poor nations from having roads, either you exclude road construction from climate carbon calculus, or you take into account the historical emission. It comes to the same thing…

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vivek 08.28.12 at 8:28 am

I think Chris argument goes as follows
1) Liberalism needs to justify (as opposed to merely rationalize) any coercive measure by the state and Rawls’s ‘difference principle’ is relevant to that justification.
2) States which have imposed a huge cost on people outside its borders should let them in to their country so that they are compensated by State provision of goods and services allocated according to the difference principle.

Chris is not claiming that compensatory migration is a ‘first best solution’. Moreover, he has framed the OP in such a way that the onus of proof is on the democratic exclusionist that their position is indeed compatible with ‘difference principle’ Liberalism. Judging by the comments on this thread, no JUSTIFICATION as opposed to Rationalization is available to the Exclusionist within the framework of Rawlsian Liberal political philosophy.
Furthermore, Chris is not merely making some arcane intellectual point. Migrants themselves use this argument to legitimate their action. Mr. Masud may be a pious Muslim. As such, he has a negative duty to avoid settlement in a ‘Dar ul Harb’ like U.K or U.S, and a positive duty to remain within Bangladesh to build it up as Dar ul Salam in line with Islam’s own ‘difference principle’. However, Mr. Masud can and does (I happen to know an actual Mr. Masud from Bangladesh who is well settled in the U.K) use Chris’s argument. Essentially, this comes down to the past sins of the East India Company which destroyed an Islamic State in Bengal with catastrophic results for the ordinary people. Britain used the wealth it extorted from Bengal to finance the industrial revolution. The Industrial Revolution caused Global warming. Only advanced countries can
1) shield their populations, in line with the difference principle, from Climate Change
2) devote resources, derived from tax payers, to combat Climate Change.
Hence, if Mr. Masud moves from Bangladesh to the U.K, he is both shielded from the consequences of, as well as contributing to the solution of, Global Warming.
Furthermore, Chris Bertram, who is not some armchair intellectual or bloviating blogger, would be aware that, prior to 1960, Masud would have had automatic right of entry and settlement in the U.K. Indeed, even now, as a Commonwealth citizen, should he acquire British residence, he would be entitled to vote in the U.K. Thus, the onus is on the exclusionist to show that between 1960 and today something changed such that a right which previously existed ceased to do so and that this can be JUSTIFIED (not rationalized) in line with the difference principle.
Another country, India, faces a similar dilemma but in a far more pressing and urgent manner- especially in view of the recent violence in Assam and its terrible repercussions for people from the North East domiciled in other parts of India (many fled fearing Muslim violence in retaliation for a clash between indigenous tribals and Bengali Muslim migrants).
The situation in India is especially piquant because if the forested areas in the hills and mountains are cut then flooding in Bangladesh will be worse- i.e. people escaping the consequences of deforestation on the plains make that particular problem worse by migrating to the hills. In other words, protection of indigenous tribes- but also wild life- from encroachment or ‘infiltration’ (ghastly word) by the demographically dominant cultivating class is essential to secure the livelihood of that very class in their own natal habitat.
It may be India, whose present masters are certainly Liberals, will resettle Bangladeshis away from tribal areas and, clearly, that would be the right thing to do given that no political party objects to Bengali migration- clearly Bengali speakers are ‘Indian’- and the only issue is ‘Islamophobia’.
Speaking personally, I feel that States are more unstable, subject to worse Agent Principal, Preference Falsification and Moral Hazard type problems than voluntary coalitions- if Mr. Masud is the same age as my father he would have been the subject of three different States within his life-time- thus the onus is on Chris to show that
1) State action in this regard is justifiable on the basis of the difference principle
2) the State can survive after taking the action he suggests without violating the difference principle.

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Sebastian H 08.28.12 at 8:29 am

“As I’ve said, the question I’m posing is about the moral status of the the state’s intention to prevent the Hernandezes and Masuds from immigrating, not about the political feasibility of a policy that would allow them to do so. The fact that no combination of just policies is in the “Overton Window” isn’t a reason not to think about what justice requires.”

You sound like a libertarian in this post with all of your talk about justice requiring the state to cease meddling. What in the world do you mean by “what justice requires”? Do you mean “we must change our currently existing immigration laws to allow their immigration” or do you mean something else? If you mean “justice requires that we change our currently existing immigration laws” why couldn’t you even more powerfully say “justice requires that we change the laws and policies that are harming them”?

The status quo is that we have nasty policies and strict immigration rules. It makes no logical sense to say “given the nasty policies” when changing the nasty policies in question is more politically feasible than changing the strict immigration rules. You could more rationally say “given strict immigration rules” the state has a moral responsibility to quit implementing policies that are harming people enough to spur large scale immigration.

The problem is that you have one set of analytic tools you use for looking at non-immigration policies and another for looking at immigration policies. You’ve given no reason whatsoever for doing that, and it makes you appear to be shifting the goalposts whenever people don’t march in lock step with your thinking.

As it happens I can think of a potentially good reason to favor immigration reform without unfairly stacking the analytic tools the way you have been doing–there are so many externality dumping policies that changing enough of them in aggregate to make a positive impact on less fortunate countries would be harder than just changing the immigration laws.

I’m not sure I buy that argument, but it seems to be a better starting place for analysis than the ‘your arguments are politically difficult, and mine don’t have to worry about that objection’ tact that you have taken in the original post and follow up comments.

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Chris Bertram 08.28.12 at 8:39 am

Vivek – nothing I’ve said rests on anything in Rawls, let alone the difference principle.
Sebastian – the simple point, and it really is very simple, is that the states that exclude the Hs and the Ms currently act unjustly in doing so. Hence “what justice requires”. Whether such exclusion would not be unjust if some other policies were changed is a further and different question. But since they are in place, the exclusion is an unjust act towards those people.

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vivek 08.28.12 at 9:51 am

@ Chris- two questions-
1) Is that ‘what natural justice requires’ or what the rule of Law (Rechtsstaat) requires (i.e. a State that doesn’t compensate foreigners who have suffered damages by its actions by permitting them to settle within its borders is somehow on a slippery slope to the ‘State of Exception’).
If the argument is from natural justice it fails because the restitution offered is of a vastly different type than the damage inflicted. Indeed, under plausible assumptions (viz. that those who want to immigrate from Country X have similar preferences- including the desire to contribute more to Global Warming- to those inflicting the damage on Country X) it is adversely selective in a perverse way. It is like saying Vampires are required by natural justice to compensate the humans they prey upon by admitting any human who wants to become a Vampire to their fold.
If the argument is Agambian in some sense it fails because Agamben is clearly some sort of unclean Continental type who probably eats horse flesh and is nasty to donkeys and wears too much cologne and sports a gold medallion on his hairy chest and is currently sleeping with my wife.
2) Is Rawls’s difference principle relevant to similar arguments you have made elsewhere and if so are you sure it isn’t implicit in the reasoning behind your OP?

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vivek 08.28.12 at 10:55 am

@Chris- Sorry, just looked again at the paper on your web-site on this topic and it differs from what I remembered it as saying. I read the difference principle into it so as to avoid the problem your argument faces when it comes to showing that M and H have an option at least as good by being denied entry. This follows because no M or H would be caught dead denying the proposition that – ‘Being ‘coloured’ and living in a mainly ‘coloured’ dominated country is just as good as being WASP and living in a WASP dominated country.’ The corollary is that it is perverse for people to want to immigrate and perhaps they are only doing so because of preference falsification or adverse selection or irrationality or ‘false consciousness’ (the ‘self-hating nigger’ or Niradh Chaudhri type East Bengali who decides to move to England because one can’t write proper English unless one lives in Oxford and eats with a fork and knife and wears tweeds rather than a Dacca muslin)
Rawl’s original position behind the veil of ignorance- such that no one knows if they are going to be Bengali rather than British, Mexican rather than from Massachusetts- can give rise to agreement re. what constitute primary goods and also what ‘fair’ usage of resources (such as those involving Carbon emission) might be. Add in Rawls’s (empirically false and non Evolutionarily Stable Strategy of) maximin assumption and you get a global difference principle which can make claims about primary goods such that your argument is not shot down immediately by playing the race card in its Politically Correct form.

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chris 08.28.12 at 11:34 am

ISTM idle to discuss moral obligations to do the impossible. People who might be reached by this thread can change neither drug, nor energy, nor immigration policies; but speaking only for myself, if I could, I’d rather change the first two first. Is that really wrong?

If the impossibility of solution A is taken as a given, and therefore justice requires us to do B, how can we just ignore the fact that B is equally impossible?

If impossibility matters then we can only be required to do things we actually *can* do (like personally not call the cops, which won’t change the policy but it might delay its workings a bit for some individuals); if it doesn’t then we might as well tackle one infeasibility as another, and the non-immigration policies are obviously the bigger prize.

P.S. I take it it would be considered out of order to ask whether you can prove justice exists in a sufficiently objective sense to talk about what it requires, let alone how anyone is supposed to come by knowledge of the specific requirements? (Lots of people have intuitions about what justice requires but they point in all sorts of conflicting directions…) The fact that these problems have been unsolved for millennia would certainly give some people pause before slinging around phrases like “what justice requires”, but you seem afflicted with no such doubt.

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.28.12 at 12:17 pm

It’s actually not that uncommon to sympathize with individuals while disapproving the phenomenon they manifest. Tension between individualism and communalism. Hate the sin, love the sinner.

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Chris Bertram 08.28.12 at 12:55 pm

vivek: sorry, your comments require too much work to extract a clear meaning.

chris: 1. Impossibility: I think that’s just a mistake. First, political infeasibility doesn’t entail impossibility; second, even it if is politically infeasible to have a just law, the injustice of the actual law can inform my attitude as a citizen and a human being to its enforcement.

chris: 2. Some aspects of justice are controversial. Imposing serious harms on innocent parties for my private benefit is an example of non-controversial injustice. If we don’t agree about that, then there is no basis for conversation.

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MPAVictoria 08.28.12 at 1:42 pm

Chris you have failed to show the the primary blame for the policies that are discussed in the original post rest with the working poor of the developed world. You have also failed to respond to the point that the policies you support would greatly benefit those whose actually are responsible for the harmful policies discussed, namely the 1%.

So let me repeat myself, your solution seems to be punish the weak and reward the strong. Where is the justice in that?

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MPAVictoria 08.28.12 at 1:51 pm

Chris and others:
Do you support the right of countries to in act tariff barriers to nurture domestic industries?

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Vivek 08.28.12 at 1:52 pm

@Chris- :-) That took me back to my days at the LSE!
Let me break it down for you-
1) You say it is unjust to stop people we’ve harmed coming to our country so as to escape that harm. I say this ‘is like saying Vampires are required by natural justice to compensate the humans they prey upon by admitting any blood thirsty human who wants to become a Vampire to their fold.’
2) You say your argument does not depend on Rawlisan reasoning- in particular that by which the application of the minimax principle under the Original Position makes it plausible that people can agree on what constitute Primary Goods. I say you have left yourself no way to maintain that the option ‘remain in Bangladesh and struggle to improve things there, if necessary attaining martyrdom in that true Jihad for the greater glory of God and the honour of the Bangladeshi nation’ is not at least equally good as ‘settle in the U.K and consume ten or twenty times as much non renewable resources as you could otherwise do’.
It may be you have a non-Rawlsian way of establishing consensus regarding Primary Goods.
What is it?
Unlike you, I have done the work to try to extract a clear meaning from your writing on this topic. IMHO no such meaning exists.

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Katherine 08.28.12 at 2:00 pm

This is all sounding a bit People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front.

Which is not to belittle the arguments, but just to point out that most people taking part in this discussion are actually coming from very similar basic positions – treating poor people badly is bad, First World countries are, to a greater or lesser extent, responsible now or in the past for much poverty and unhappiness in developing countries, things should be done to alleviate the general unfairness of it all.

And just to foster a bit of we’re-all-in-it-togetherness, I want to say that I am supremely glad that the arguments here seems to be about the best way to make life better for poor people, whilst there are many many (oh, too many!) places on Teh Internetz where the argument would be about whether to make life better for poor people at all.

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Katherine 08.28.12 at 2:00 pm

Sorry, I know that was trite and sentimental.

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MPAVictoria 08.28.12 at 2:03 pm

“Sorry, I know that was trite and sentimental.”
Don’t be sorry at all Katherine. You raise a good point that is important to remember.
/And now I am going to take a break from posting as three of the last 7 posts have been mine.

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Chris Bertram 08.28.12 at 2:23 pm

MPAV. I suspect that there’s nothing I can say to you that will count in your eyes as an adequate answer, but let me repeat, the working poor in the United States and the EU have the vote. Those democracies are massively imperfect, I know, but if there were massive public demand in those countries for an end to the war on drugs or for effective action on climate change, those things would happen. As to tarrifs, I support the right of some countries to impose them in some circumstances, but for the US to (for example) protect its cotton farmers at the expense of poor Malians is wrong.

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Vivek 08.28.12 at 2:33 pm

@Katherine- ‘This is all sounding a bit People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front.’ LOL!
The problem is that righteous indignation jus’ feels so damn good that the market will support products that actually address the root cause of the underlying injustice and others that have no interest in addressing that cause and concentrate instead on maximising the feeling of outrage and moral superiority that dwelling on the topic induces. This ‘second order’ Public Good (i.e. not the provision of a Public Good but the demand for it) can crowd out the Public Good whose deficiency gave rise to it.

The Psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas, has written of the psychic violence done to the insulted and injured when their pain and suffering are, as it were, confiscated by someone in a superior position- a parent, a politician- for their own self-dramatization leaving the victim inwardly empty and no better off.
Worse than this ‘extractive introjection’ is Munchausen’s Syndrome where the supposed care-giver causes or aggravates harm to the person they claim to care for so as to attract attention to themselves.
Bad Political Philosophy has great appeal to those whom, were they in loco parentis, we would accuse of extractive introjection or, worse, Munchausen’s Syndrome. For this reason, it is worth making the attempt to communicate with people who produce bad Political Philosophy though, of course, anything sensible one might write would be far too much work for them to extract a clear meaning from.

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Watson Ladd 08.28.12 at 2:44 pm

Chris, how far does that logic go? In the case of a democracy declaring war, not every voter is a legitimate target, even though the political leadership of the country is.

Vivek, I disagree. Migration doesn’t mean that the persons in the country continue the harms they are seeking relief from, unlike the vampire example. Rather it’s about mitigating a situation we have played some hand in forming. Secondly, not every Bangladeshi is an Islamist. Plenty of them would love to live in a liberal democracy with functioning institutions. Believe it or not Karachi is a red city, with the biggest strikes in history.

It’s worth noting state borders are quite new inventions. Ancient empires did not have frontiers as such, and Europeans of the 18th century moved frequently. Voltaire fled and reentered France who knows how many times.

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Salient 08.28.12 at 2:55 pm

CB: Personally, I say good luck to the families. I’ll help them if I can and I won’t help the immigration authorities to pursue them, because I believe the state’s desire to thwart them is wrong.

Well, okay, this clears some stuff up. I think we should talk about state policy and personal policy separately, accepting the conclusion that it’s okay and sometimes morally imperative to undermine a legitimate state’s legitimate authority. So I’m with you on personal policy. But would you only neglect immigration law for citizens of countries you feel have been wronged by your country? I wouldn’t turn in an illegal immigrant from Afghanistan, but I wouldn’t turn in an illegal immigrant from Brazil or China, either. If asked why, I wouldn’t come up with anything more specific or intelligent than “because shit is fucked up and bullshit.” That’s a perfectly coherent personal policy.

If state policy was to bomb the crap out of a country while allowing its citizens to immigrate, I think my concern upthread still obtains; the motive for the latter policy is necessarily suspect because it’s tied to the former policy. So we ought to adopt the wary skepticism that MPAVictoria has been championing (advocating? exemplifying?).

It still feels like you’re coming at this topic from an approach asymptotic to “we should condemn states that draft their own citizens to send into war as troops, because they could be sending in drones. So, we should undermine the draft whenever possible, we should refuse to assist draft enforcers, and we should exercise whatever influence we have to end the draft.” I’d readily accept your conclusions on their own terms, but there’s something problematic in the logic you used to get there.

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OCS 08.28.12 at 2:57 pm

I’d just like to point out the irony that once the Hernandezes and Masuds come to the US they by necessity begin consuming and polluting at first-world levels, and I suppose become complicit in the injustices being propagated by their new government. Not an argument for or against, but it strikes me as less than an ideal solution.

114

Vivek 08.28.12 at 3:10 pm

@Watson Ladd- I agree with you. Also I have the highest respect for both Bangladesh and Islam and certainly did not mean any sort of slight. Great Bangladeshi Muslim thinkers have shown how true Islam enables rather than denies all the virtues of liberal democracy with functioning institutions. Plenty of British people including Bangladeshi origin British ers visiting ‘Sonar Bangla’ for the first time, fall in love with it and scheme to make their home there.
This is not to say that Bangladeshis are stupid or perverse if they want to leave. On the contrary, It makes sense for people with the same preferences or endowments to move to a Schelling focal point where the provision of Public Goods and infrastructural Social Capital is optimal for that preference set. However, such movement does not need Chris’s brand of polemics to come into existence. On the contrary, the history of Bangladeshi immigration to the U.K (which increased under the voucher scheme after the earlier clampdown on free migration) shows that immigration in line with preferences/endowments is best left to those who actually have an interest in the matter. They can strike bargains with Govts. Britishers like Bangladeshi food. Bangladeshi restaurants needed more Sylheti cooks. They spoke, the Govt. listened. Everybody was better off.
Chris is using an argument for lifting migration controls which has no merit and poses significant dangers to precisely the cause he has himself shown genuine dedication.
Since he is a Professor of Political Psilosophy (or whatever) and (I’m guessing) he is using this forum as a sounding board, it is worth our telling him that Bad Political Philosophy is not the solution to this or any other problem arising from grievous injustice. My own principled refusal to have any truck with the number 6 or 9 led to my failing my Accountancy exams while at the LSE even though I explained that the terrible sufferings of the Palestinians made it incumbent on Accountants everywhere to, like, stop counting stuff and just sign the Audit report already the way Arthur Anderson would later gain acclaim for doing.
Alas, I was ahead of my time.

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MPAVictoria 08.28.12 at 3:11 pm

What about boycotting a place that is using scab labour to break a union? Is that permissible under Bertramian ethics? Scabs need jobs to and they may be unemployed due to some government policy and those union workers whose jobs they are taking are partially responsible right?

116

JW Mason 08.28.12 at 3:19 pm

I said I wouldn’t comment more but I feel I have to respond to 93.

I understand the logic of the post fine, I just don’t agree with it. As far as that goes, there’s no point in debating further. What I do want to reply to is this:

I say good luck to the families. I’ll help them if I can and I won’t help the immigration authorities to pursue them, because I believe the state’s desire to thwart them is wrong. I’ll also support any proposals for liberalization of migration rules, amnesties, and other things that make their lives (and those of others like them) easier. As I asked MPAV at 23 above ” You want them arrested and deported? Would you call the cops yourself?”

I’m sorry, but this is really insulting thing to say.

I would never hep the immigration authorities pursue anyone, never. If I could help someone facing deportation avoid them, I would. I will put my commitment to that on the line against yours any day. The fact that I don’t agree with the particular argument you are making here for higher immigration does not in any way, shape or form mean that I condone the coercive police tactics used to limit migration. Anyone who knows me knows I find that stuff appalling and in fact when I was with the Working Families Party I worked hard to see that we supported measures to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to remain in the US (like local policies to accept Mexican-issued IDs.) And yes, I believe the US should adopt much less restrictive policies toward immigration from Latin America and elsewhere.

I do not want anyone arrested and deported. I would never, ever do anything to bring someone’s immigration status to the attention of the police. That is a disgusting thing to accuse someone of. It’s a bullying, dishonest style of argument that you should be ashamed of.

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JW Mason 08.28.12 at 3:20 pm

Salient @112 said what I was trying to, better and more calmly.

118

MPAVictoria 08.28.12 at 3:38 pm

“As I asked MPAV at 23 above ” You want them arrested and deported? Would you call the cops yourself?””
No I would not. See Mao Cheng Ji’s post above.
And since we are posing hypotheticals let me ask one of you:
Would you report a business owner who fired all of his unionized staff who were making 15 dollars an hour and replaced them with undocumented workers making 8?

119

Chris Bertram 08.28.12 at 3:53 pm

JWM: apologies if you felt bullied or insulted. My intention was just to use the rhetorical question to make some of the issues vivid and sharp, not to accuse anyone of anything. It isn’t always easy to convey the spirit with which a question is intended on the internet.

120

LFC 08.28.12 at 5:01 pm

Vivek’s invocation of Schelling, Rawls etc constitutes, in this context, nothing more than obfuscation.

Not all Bangladeshis are poor, but a poor Bangladeshi is likely (perhaps not certain, but likely) to be better off materially in the UK than if he stayed in Bangladesh. You don’t need focal points, preference orderings or primary goods to reach this conclusion. Now, if a poor Bangladeshi doesn’t want to emigrate, nothing CB has said would force him to do so. And on the point that the poor Bangladeshi would produce more CO2 in the UK than if he stayed in Bangladesh, this seems to me sort of a side issue partly b/c, as a practical matter, a lot of poor people in poor countries I think probably don’t want to emigrate, for a variety of reasons.

One would need some sense of the numbers involved, which I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but clearly many poor inhabitants of poor country X would not want to uproot themselves. Some would, but many would not. So the implicit premise in much of this discussion that the entire population of the global South below income level X would move to the North if given the opportunity is, I would suggest, incorrect.

P.s. I have some personal acquaintance with, and a longstanding interest, in Bangladesh. I lived in the country for several years as a child, when the country was still E. Pakistan, and returned for a visit as an adult, albeit some years ago. No doubt Vivek’s ties to Bangladesh are much deeper than mine, but I wanted to mention this anyway. (Btw a v. interesting piece in the NYT the other day about labor struggles in the Bangladesh garment industry. Sorry no time to link it right now.)

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vivek 08.28.12 at 6:13 pm

‘Vvk’s nvctn f Schllng, Rwls tc cnsttts, n ths cntxt, nthng mr thn bfsctn.’ Bt wht s th cntxt hr? s t tht thr s ny dsgrmnt tht sm ppl wll b bttr ff f thy mv frm n cntry t nthr? f s, mntn f ntns frm cnmcs nd Scl Chc thry s ndd bfsctn.
Hwvr, wht w hv hr- blv- s Prf. f Pltcl Phlsphy rd tstng n rgmnt h thnks spprts mr lbrl mmgrtn plcs.
s hs rgmnt snd? Wll t d mr gd thn hrm f t gns crrncy? thnk nt nd thnk t wrthwhl brfly ndctng why nt sng srt f shrt-hnd sch s s qt cmmn n fr f ths knd.
sspct tht thr s sstnbl rgmnt gnst ‘dmcrtc xclsnsm’ whch cn mtvt wrthwhl Rsrch Prjct nd str Pblc Dscrs lng prdctv lns.
n gnrl, n Pltcs s n cnmcs, t sn’t gd d t rly pn n stn t kll tw brds. Th nmbr f Plcy nstrmnts shld mtch th nmbr f Plcy bjctvs. t s tmptng t clm tht th plcy ptn n s pshng flflls sm ‘sxr’ plcy bjctv. Bt, fr Prfssr wth gd trck rcrd f ctvsm, t s tmpttn whch mst b rsstd.
Th prblm wth vctmlgy s tht t crts rnt skng clss clmng t rprsnt th vctms. Sch ppl cn d lt f hrm.

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Stephen 08.28.12 at 7:05 pm

Chris Bertram@102; you wrote
“Some aspects of justice are controversial. Imposing serious harms on innocent parties for my private benefit is an example of non-controversial injustice. If we don’t agree about that, then there is no basis for conversation.”

Well, you and I agree completely on that point, and I hope you will allow the conversation to continue, rather than saying “please go away”.

If you harm an innocent for your private benefit, no doubt at all, that’s unjust. But what many commentators have been trying to get across to you is that the problem, even in the examples you have given, is not so simple.

Granted that the US Government’s War Against Drugs is foolish, futile and ultimately I hope unsustainable. (Sorry if this conflicts with your erratic telepathic insight that I must support the viewpoint of the Daily Mail.) But there are a couple of things which you seem to think follow, and others do not think follow, from that truth.

First: all US citizens are more or less responsible for their Governments’ follies. You say ” if there were massive public demand in those countries for an end to the war on drugs … those things would happen.” I fear you are neglecting two important things. Very few citizens of the US (or in normal peacetime elsewhere) care anything like as much about politics as you do. Massive public demand for any policy, however intellectually desirable, is likely to be far less than public interest in all sorts of other things. Ain’t democracy a bitch? And more important: the average US voter, having to choose between the Democrats and Republicans, both of whom are publicly in favour of the WoD (whatever their private habits), has no real way of expressing opposition to the WoD, just as neither you nor I in the UK have any such way.

If you agree with me on this – and I would be interested to know if and why you disagree – it seems to me to follow that most US citizens are not, in justice, uniformly responsible for their Governments’ follies.

Second, the indisputably distressing position of the Hernandez family in Ciudad Juarez due to the US government. There are rational grounds for dissent. Given that the US WoD offers irresistible temptations to (a few) Mexicans to engage in smuggling and to murder their competitors: how is blaming the US for that different, logically, from blaming girls in short skirts for offering irresistible temptations to (a few) men to rape them? Are not the problems in CJ due, in a large part, to the Mexican criminals?

And are they not also in part due to the incompetence of the Mexican government, independent since 1810?

So why should the US government alone be made to compensate the virtuous Hernandez family? And can you not see that, by allowing the Hernandez (and an enormous number of others) into the US, the people who will in fact be suffering to compensate them for the US government’s incompetence are other relatively poor US citizens who had no choice in the matter?

You may perhaps wish to reply: greatly increasing the supply of unskilled labour in the US will have no effect at all on the wages of unskilled workers in the US. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.

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novakant 08.28.12 at 7:28 pm

I’m sure the millions of refugees we have created by our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn’t give a damn about a dangerous precedent being created and would prefer to get a compensation of, say, a $250.000 each and full citizenship in the US, UK or wherever. I’m sure Pakistan, Jordan, Syria and Iran, which have been left to deal with the mess we created, would as well. And considering the fact that close to nobody in the US/UK knows about these people, cares or ever will, I think arguments about precedent are a strawman and an excuse for not living up to our obligations.

124

Stephen 08.28.12 at 7:46 pm

Query: in 1945 there were may millions of Japanese and Germans who could reasonably say that they were suffering quite abominably (far, far more than contemporary Mexicans or Bangladeshis) from American or, for Germans, British actions.

Should they then have been allowed to emigrate without restriction to the US or (for Germans) to the UK?

Bearing in mind that most of them had no wish, or in a totalitarian system had no possibility whatever, to dissent from their governments’ policies.

Politically impossible in 1945, of course, but this thread is entirely ignoring political impossibilities where they conflict with the preconceived ideas of Prof Bertram.

I only ask because I want to know.

125

Watson Ladd 08.28.12 at 8:47 pm

novakant: Compensation for what exactly? I’m sure Southerners could complain about the confiscation of their property by the Federal government. There is a major gap between articulating a claim and having it be a legitimate one.

126

Watson Ladd 08.28.12 at 8:47 pm

Sorry, s/novakant/Stephan/g. I got confused.

127

rf 08.28.12 at 8:52 pm

“I’m sure the millions of refugees we have created by our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn’t give a damn about a dangerous precedent being created”

Iraq is an interesting example of who really bears the burden for displaced groups, and a good correction to those claiming wealthy countries are ‘expected to solve the worlds problem’. Estimates vary, but over 4 million are thought to have been displaced by the war, over 2 million internally, with over 1 million Iraqi’s fleeing to Syria, half a million to Jordan, hundreds of thousands to other neighbouring countries, (Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf), a little over 100 hundred thousand to Europe. (Primarily Sweden and Germany)I think, although the figures might be of, that the US has managed to resettle 70,000, Britain much less. (I don’t have an exact number but 69 in 2007, 305 2008, 432 in 2009) I know most people will claim their opposition doesn’t extend to people fleeing from wars, but I don’t think that’s convincing. Would UK/US citizens have accepted open borders with Iraq post 2003, leaving room to keep out security risks, or even responsibility for the 2-4 million displaced?

These problems don’t go away by sealing yourself of from the world, you just shift it to someone else less able to bear it. (The problems in Syria are probably driven in some part by post 2003 Iraqi migration. Look at the trouble post 48 Palestinian displacement has caused in the Middle East.) It strikes me as the worst type of wealthy entitlement , and one against which no real evidence has been offered. (On ‘working class’ wages, the welfare state etc)

128

piglet 08.28.12 at 9:00 pm

I think this debate is too abstract. It would be interesting to hear for example from those actually working in the immigrant/sans papiers solidarity movement. I was involved in that briefly some twenty years ago and I’m sure these same debates have already been had many times. What frustrates me is that this post has been triggered by the writings of neoliberal quacks, not by the writings of those on the left who actually know and care about global injustice and Third World poverty and the plight of migrants and refugees. There should be better inspiration than that for this blog community. And yes you can accuse me of only criticizing without making much of a contribution myself. I can stand by that.

129

piglet 08.28.12 at 9:18 pm

I just want to reinforce rf’s 127 point. It is mostly overlooked that the real burden of global mass migration, and it is a heavy burden, falls mostly on poor countries. Only a small trickle actually make it from the South into the US or EU etc. I stress that in response to the tendency to romanticize migration as a quest for better opportunity and so on. Yes sometimes that is the case but it hardly scratches the surface.

I remember back in the 1990s, a few tens of thousands of asylum seekers were painted as a major migration wave and national crisis in Germany (population 80 million), and most Germans agreed the Boat was Full. (Recently, Germany actually had a negative migration balance). Moral arguments are fully legitimate but their political potency is close to nil. We are right now creating a new refugee crisis due to climate change that might exceed anything humanity has ever experienced, potentially within one or two generations. Again much of the burden will fall on poor countries (although, http://www.monbiot.com/2012/08/27/the-heat-of-the-moment/). The rich won’t be able to seal off themselves as effectively as they are now but they sure will try, justice and morality be damned. So what shall we do?

130

Cosma Shalizi 08.28.12 at 9:37 pm

It’s a tangent, but the refugee situation in Afghanistan is very different from that in Iraq. The huge departures from Afghanistan came during the Soviet war. Since 2001, ~5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2001, per UNHCR, but that’s slowed over the last few years. UNHCR also claims about 100,000 internally-displaced persons from the fighting with the Taliban over the last year (and half-a-million IDPs overall).

131

Salient 08.29.12 at 1:47 am

if there were massive public demand in those countries for an end to the war on drugs or for effective action on climate change, those things would happen.

If I understand correctly, you’re asserting this confers substantial moral culpability to all citizens of that country. Um. Is that a principle you’re willing to commit to in its generalized form?

If we were to allow culpability to filter and diffuse in this way, then agents of democratic states can get away with nearly anything by dumping responsibility on the electorate. “They must support it; they voted for it” would be an absurd and transparently dishonest way for a state agent to shirk blame for their bad policymaking. It’s a galling misinterpretation that confers the illusion of culpability by conferring the illusion of agency. But it’s illusory–citizens of a sufficiently large modern-day democracy have no greater agency than citizens of a sufficiently large modern-day monocracy. What are citizens supposed to do that they couldn’t do in a dictatorship? Run for office? (Please don’t endorse that. As inspiring as Alan Grayson was, saying “if you really don’t support these oikucues then you could be like Alan Grayson and run for office” still assumes we’re starting with Alan Grayson’s wealth and job security. And also Alan Grayson accomplished nothing in terms of concrete policy changes and was buried by misrepresentation and propaganda almost immediately and isn’t inspiring at all despite having done pretty much everything an idealized concerned citizen is ideally supposed to try to do.)

The point at which a populace will take action to undermine their state is not very different in a democracy than in a dictatorship. “If enough citizens had a problem with this, they’d do something about it” obtains equally well regardless of the way the ruling class admits some sliver of citizen participation.

And as soon as you acknowledge that the votes of a population don’t even come close to representing the whole suite of that population’s policy preferences with any accuracy or depth, which I’ll cross my fingers hoping you do accept because otherwise holy shit what the fuck… uh so when you acknowledge that, the fact that you and I “have the vote” becomes entirely meaningless.

On the other hand, if you’re retaining a lot of culpability for the state and its agents independent of the culpability of the voting populace, what exactly is the point of assigning any substantial responsibility to the voting populace? You’re just giving cover to the kind of state agent who wants to diffuse responsibility by fallaciously claiming the populace supports them, and in the process you’re pissing off anybody who agrees with your policy preferences but acutely recognizes their own lack of agency. (I’m sorry for the phrasing of that. The phrase “your policy preferences” is too flip and doesn’t convey the right degree of gravity or something. I tried to fix it, but I’m tired.)

^1^This is partly a mathematical truism: even assuming every policy preference is safely written as a yes-or-no with precisely two coherent positions, you still need 2^n^ candidates to represent all possible perspectives on n many policies. Thirty separate policies? You’ll need one billion candidates to represent all possible preferences comprehensively. You can’t hope to extract policy preferences from voting preferences even under a heavily idealized representative democracy model; you’d get better information from a well-conducted poll.

132

novakant 08.29.12 at 2:47 am

#131

I agree that citizens in our so-called democracies are pretty powerless – the system is largely a scam.

That said, both Bush and Blair were reelected, which means that a plurality of voters were endorsing a bunch of incompetent war criminals, who should have ended up in The Hague rather than get another term office – and that’s pretty pathetic (whatever other policy preferences might have plaid a role).

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chris 08.29.12 at 4:46 am

Imposing serious harms on innocent parties for my private benefit is an example of non-controversial injustice.

Sure, if you’re doing it yourself (although the definition of “innocent” and even “parties” can get quite controversial in some cases, for purposes of this thread it’s probably OK to let them slide without more rigorous definition).

But when it’s neither my decision nor my benefit, but someone else in the same country imposing harms on innocent parties for HIS private benefit, how much if any responsibility do I have for that? It’s a much murkier question, especially when applied to an *opponent* of the policy in question. Or even someone apathetic and uninvolved.

I’m sympathetic to the rhetorical argument that if you don’t get involved, you’re effectively giving permission for everyone else to make that political decision without you, and saying you’re OK with whatever decision is reached in your absence. But I’m not sure it can bear the weight this thread demands of it — an uninvolved person isn’t actively causing harm to anyone, even assuming that they could change the outcome if they got involved (sometimes the reason they dropped out is that they believe that they can’t, and may well be right).

Still worse for the thread thesis when the very people who unsuccessfully opposed harming the innocent are the ones asked to pony up to compensate them — and if you believe in an immigrant wage-depressing effect this is pretty likely to be the case.

134

Mao Cheng Ji 08.29.12 at 2:55 pm

I thought rf’s 127 point about the Iraqi refugees was rather weak. Is there any evidence that a significant number of them actually wanted to get to the US and Europe? I doubt it.

In addition, almost any resettlement of refugees anywhere (Jordan, Syria, etc) is heavily financed by various UN agencies, and those are bankrolled mostly by the US, Europe, and Japan. Granted, their motives probably are overwhelmingly geopolitical, rather than humanitarian (the US, for example, would hate to see its client state of Jordan destabilized), but nevertheless.

135

bianca steele 08.29.12 at 3:20 pm

If everyone in a democratic state is equally responsible for the acts taken by the state, and those acts are morally impermissible, and there’s no feasible way to change those acts to permissible ones, the implications don’t seem very attractive. At the extreme, you could argue that tyrannies are morally preferable because they don’t impose any responsibility on ordinary people. Less extreme, there are various (more or less fake) modes of withdrawal (like monasticism). There’s revolutionary action, even despite the improbability of success. There could be (less than revolutionary, but still nondemocratic) attempts to change the course of the state. (Are there books that address this kind of thing?)

If everyone in a tyranny is equally responsible for the acts taken by the state, the implications of this aren’t very attractive, either.

It’s also not obvious why people would want to emigrate to a country that’s been oppressing them and thus become responsible for their neighbor’s and family members’ oppression.

136

Tim Wilkinson 08.29.12 at 3:42 pm

CB: The OP does not say that there are no policy choices other than migration policy that could address the harms. The actual fact is that those other policy choices are not being pursued. Given that they are not, the states perpetrating the harms do not now have the moral right to exclude the Hernandezes and Masuds, that’s the claim.

Philosophers will typically then say that the argument is merely conditional, and that therefore, if the antecedent is false then the conclusion doesn’t follow. Clearly that’s right. But does it get us off the hook in a world of propaganda, mass media, think tanks and the like?

Of course this kind of problem, involving the escape of the argument from the seminar room into the wider world, isn’t limited to just war theory. So, for example, I’ve heard it argued by philosophers that IF sweatshops improve opportunities for poor people in poor countries THEN they are on-balance justified: so people shouldn’t campaign against sweatshop labour.

137

rf 08.29.12 at 4:21 pm

“Is there any evidence that a significant number of them actually wanted to get to the US and Europe? I doubt it.”

Well I wasn’t making any claims about where Iraqi refugees wanted to go, rather that neighbouring, primarily poorer, countries are most affected by waves of mass migration. Most fleeing Iraq for Europe tended to go through Greece due to the Dublin system, and initially Sweden, the below link should provide you with some insight into that process:

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/greeceturkey1108_webwcover.pdf

Another one giving a rundown on the international response post 2003 to Iraqi refugees (Although it is a little dated as US resettlement policy has become more effective since this article was written)

“The approach of the international community, especially states that have participated in Iraq’s occupation, has been equally troubling. Western nations have been happy to let host countries cope with the refugee challenge, less than generous in their financial support, and outright resistant to the notion of resettlement in their midst. Although it has contributed more than most, the U.S., whose policies unleashed the chaos that spawned the outflow, has clearly failed in its own responsibilities: downplaying the issue, providing far less assistance to host countries than needed and admitting to its own shores merely a trickle of refugees and only after unprecedented security checks to which asylum seekers from other nations are not subjected.”

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-iran-gulf/iraq/077-failed-responsibility-iraqi-refugees-in-syria-jordan-and-lebanon.aspx

To your question “Is there any evidence that a significant number of them actually wanted to get to the US and Europe?”, yes there’s plenty of evidence. (Unless the word significant is doing a lot of work)

Here’s a graph of submissions relevant to arrivals to the US:

http://www.unhcr.org/491958c92.html

Another on post war migration to developed countries:

“During the first half of the 1990s, more than 5,000 Iraqis were being
resettled to industrialized countries each year. However, after 2003, the numbers fell by around half. Between 1 January and 21 September, 2007, with reinforced resettlement operations under way, UNHCR had referred 14,934 of the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees for consideration for resettlement to 14 countries. Of these, 10,844 persons were submitted to the United States and a total 4,090 to Australia, Canada, Denmark, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Brazil, Ireland, Spain, France and Norway. This represents 75 percent of UNHCR’s annual regional target of 20,000. By the end of September some 1,800 Iraqis had departed to various resettlement countries.”

http://www.unhcr.org/470387fc2.html

And that’s before you start on the funding problems faced by the UN. This collection of stories from Iraqi migrant’s post 2003 might also be of interest.

http://www.law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/ihrli/pdf/ihp1.pdf

There has been a lot been written on this topic so this is only scratching the surface. You are of course free to make up your own mind Mao.

138

rf 08.29.12 at 4:47 pm

The last one was actually the wrong link, as its testimonies from Saddams years, Ill try find the right one. Or thats probably enough anyway

139

bianca steele 08.29.12 at 4:50 pm

The title of the OP (though again the actual intention is perfectly clear) suggests another misreading: say, if a state that relied on large numbers of people doing manual labor then turned around and then denied full citizenship to anyone who had done manual labor at any point in their life, in other words “excluding” them in some way or other.

140

Mao Cheng Ji 08.29.12 at 5:44 pm

UNHCR has targets, they are not met, that’s clear. That doesn’t exactly address my doubts, however, about the proportion of the 2 million of them who would prefer the US over, say, Jordan. All I’m saying is that ’1 million ended up in Syria, but only 100K in Europe’ is not necessarily a strong indictment. Let’s not quarrel about it, though.

141

novakant 08.29.12 at 11:33 pm

Well, considering the fact that the potentially detrimental effects of immigration on US society has been a point raised several times in this thread, I think having a look at the actual numbers is quite important.

Refugees per 1000 population:

Jordan – 73
Syria – 49
Iran – 15
Pakistan – 11
UK – 4
US – 1

nuff said

142

Vivek 08.30.12 at 2:54 am

S, t sm p, Prf Brtrm mks bnch f hystrcl, mprclly fls nd mprtvly flwd clms t dvrts hs wn mrl sprrty. H gnrs r sys tht ‘t s t mch wrk’ t xtrct clr mnng frm sttmnts sch s ths. Nt n sngl prsn fnds h hs sd nythng wrthwhl. Bt tht ds nt mttr.
ftr ll, ths Wht Mn, whs bd fth s rvld by th mly mthd mnnr n whch h dls wth vn nt whlly dvrs cmmnts, s n n wy dscmmdd f th cs h prtnds t dvnc s nt ttlly scpprd by th vry mldrt mnnr n whch h xprsss hmslf.
Nnc dmmts th gd nd fthfl Srvnt. D s ll fvr nd jn th Ntnl Frnt.

143

Chris Bertram 08.30.12 at 4:49 am

Vivek: I don’t have to put up with that. A site-wide ban for you.

144

Mao Cheng Ji 08.30.12 at 1:50 pm

novakant says: “nuff said”

It’s not that simple. For example:

Suppose country A accepts a refugee, and in 6 months gives her the status of a permanent resident, at which point she doesn’t count as a refugee any more.

Suppose country B accepts a refugee, and keeps her in a refugee camp subsidized by UN agencies, without a work permit, till the rest of her life. Say, 40 years.

In this hypothetical case, in order to keep up with the statistics produced by just this one country B’s refugee, country A would have to accept 80 refugees in that 40-year period. Plus, by financing those UN agencies, it might be paying most the costs of housing refugees in country B.

I’m not saying that this is exactly what’s happening, but it could be a part of it.

145

rf 08.30.12 at 2:21 pm

Mao you have offered three completely contradictory hypotheticals over two threads about the same phenomenon.

1 That open borders combined with an incentive to emigrate would offer a ‘mechanism’ for the genocide of the native population in a receiving country

2 That this mechanism doesn’t apply to the Iraqi diaspora, who wouldn’t have taken advantage of open borders to the EU/US (Although there was a history of emigration to Western countries; 25% unemployment in Syria during the peak of the migration; the majority of who were initially middle class professionals who were prohibited from working and so became reliant on savings, soup kitchens and working on the black market.)

3 That although you claim in hypothetical 2 refugees are probably more eager to move to neighbouring countries and so western immigration policy isn’t that relevant, you have now decided the difference between the numbers of refugees in the developed and developing world is down to western countries being more willing to assimilate migrants.

Of course all of these quite unsophisticated points have some merit, but they’re all so vague and general to be redundant. Can you offer any evidence, figures, case studies?

146

Mao Cheng Ji 08.30.12 at 3:07 pm

I’m simply offering skepticism towards some of the claims expressed with certainty that I find unwarranted, that’s all. Like I said in the previous thread: I don’t have a strong opinion, one way or the other. Mass immigration could be a bliss or a disaster, depending on the circumstances. One set of consequences short term, another long term. Or, more likely, joy to some, disaster to others. Dealing with refugees is, to a large degree, a political game; the agency is often led by a politician, the current one is a former prime minister of Portugal. And so on. I don’t think there can be a fixed, universal point of view on this.

147

Watson Ladd 08.30.12 at 3:28 pm

In the years before 1920 there would have been a lot more. One eighth of the population of New York City is descended from refugees from the pogroms. Somehow they all found jobs.

148

ajay 08.30.12 at 3:47 pm

144: good point. There’s also the point that a lot of people have, to an extent, the choice of whether to be officially “refugees” or not. An Afghan might want to get out of Afghanistan because he has a well-founded fear of persecution or harm. If he goes to Pakistan, he’s a refugee. But if he goes to Oman – where there are a lot of Afghans working in the service sector – and sorts himself out with a job, he goes down in the figures as a foreign worker, even though he’s still left his country through fear for his life.

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rf 08.30.12 at 5:23 pm

“I’m simply offering skepticism towards some of the claims expressed with certainty that I find unwarranted”

But you’re not. You’re inventing ‘claims’ then arguing against a strawman.

150

Mao Cheng Ji 08.30.12 at 7:30 pm

Here I wasn’t arguing anything, just suggested that there could be alternative explanations.

For example, suppose you said: ‘death certificates in town X for the last 10 years have been examined, and 45% of them list the same place of death: 15 Main Street. There must be a hell of a murderous activity going on at this address’. And I relied: ‘why, it could be a hospital or a nursing home.’ Does it mean I argued something? I don’t think so.

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rf 08.30.12 at 8:02 pm

The point being made was very simple; that poorer countries, with weak institutions, in unstable regions generally bear the burden for mass migrations to a much greater extent than developed rich western countries. Pointing out that we can’t know where those fleeing Iraq would have chosen to go, or that Jordan has a long term refugee problem doesn’t exactly offer an alternative explanation, in fact it reinforces the claim. (Of course Jordans ratio is inflated by long term refugees, that’s because they have had to deal with tens/hundreds of thousands of people turning up on their doorstep. They haven’t had the luxury of developing and enforcing coherent immigration policies.)

That was the point, nothing else. I’m genuinely lost as to what you think you’re offering alternative explanations to.

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piglet 08.30.12 at 8:43 pm

rf 151, totally agree.

WL 147: The US immigration figures are not as high as you might think. They are only proportionally high and that is because the continent in question had recently been depopulated of most of its native population, mostly by infectious diseases. A fact you somehow manage to ignore in the whole discussion.

From wikipedia:

“Historians estimate that fewer than one million immigrants—perhaps as few as 400,000—crossed the Atlantic during the 17th and 18th centuries.[13] The 1790 Act limited naturalization to “free white persons”; it was expanded to include blacks in the 1860s and Asians in the 1950s. In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year, including French refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States. The death rate on these transatlantic voyages was high, during which one in seven travelers died. In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law. The peak year of European immigration was in 1907, when 1,285,349 persons entered the country.”

Compare that to the mass refugee movements experienced in recent decades in Asia, Africa and the Near East.

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Mao Cheng Ji 08.30.12 at 8:46 pm

Alternative explanations to why they end up receiving more refugees than the West. Maybe their governments are too nice and humanitarian. Or maybe they are being pressured by the West and make this painful sacrifice in fear of worse. Or maybe they are bribed; the inflow of aid dollars spent inside their countries makes it worth their while. Or some combination.

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Gar Lipow 09.02.12 at 10:25 am

OK, one problem with this sort of discussion – a lot of empirical stuff gets screwed up, because correcting the errors distract from the abstract case. For example:

>Just as a majority of US voters voted for GWB twice; they had to know what they were getting the second time but did it anyway. Agency counts for something.

No, a majority of US voters did not vote for GWB twice. GWB LOST the popular vote to Gore. But he won the electoral college (assuming Gore did not win Florida, which is by no means certain.)

Also upthread, there was some discussion over how unfortunately cheaper food prices in Mexico have hurt a few farmers but benefited the majority. However if you look at income distribution, and increase in hunger, empirically the majority of Mexicans have actually been hurt by many of these changes.

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