A note on an argument about open borders

by Chris Bertram on February 28, 2014

Open borders advocates often advance an argument in terms of a duty to help the global poor. Poor people who succeed in making the journey to more advanced economies are usually more productive; those who are locked out of such economies by hard border controls are kept in dire poverty, often within sight of great riches. And those who are admitted are often an important source of income to family left behind. Those who defend border controls and the right of states to exclude often make the following move: they concede a duty to help the poor, but say that such a duty can be discharged in ways other than admitting poor would-be migrants to wealthy countries. In particular, they argue that such a duty could be discharged by supporting the economic development of poor countries via development aid (Christopher Heath Wellman is an example).

But the problem with such an argument is that it has two parts. The first (conditional) part, says that it is false that we must open our borders to discharge our duty of assistance IF we can discharge that duty some other way. The second empirical part is the claim there is another way, because development aid is an effective way of helping the global poor that is comparable in its beneficial effects to (much more) open borders. In other words, the claim by philosophers and political theorists that the duty could be discharged by development aid needs to be backed up by sound economic evidence that development aid really is an effective means of helping the global poor. Economists such as William Easterly are skeptical that we know enough about economic development to make effective use of development aid. They may be wrong, but philosophers and political theorists shouldn’t make the easy argumentative move to development aid as an alternative to (more) open borders without being sure that the economics supports them.

{ 144 comments }

1

Straightwood 02.28.14 at 5:33 pm

Books like “The Bottom Billion,” convincingly explain that only massive, costly, and sustained intervention in the poorest nations will relieve their suffering. Advanced nations have been unwilling to make these large commitments and have contented themselves with repeating discredited theories of “development assistance.”

The realpolitik of the situation is that the quality of life in the poorest nations will improve only when such change becomes a prerequisite for tapping the economic resources of those nations. Meanwhile, borders will be locked down further as it becomes politically unsustainable to absorb growing refugee populations.

Very few powerful people care about the desperately poor people of Africa, but they do care about oil, rare earths, gold, and uranium, and that interest will ultimately lead to the stabilization of African conflicts and (modest) improvement in living standards.

2

Javer 02.28.14 at 5:38 pm

I made this same point a few years ago in response to Wellman’s argument. You can find it my (widely unread) paper on this and related issues:

http://paq.press.illinois.edu/24/1/hidalgo.html

3

Peter Lada 02.28.14 at 5:42 pm

There is another much simpler view on this.

It is simply put amoral to limit the freedom of movements. One born on this planet is entitled to all corners of this planet. Limiting others from go where they please is jail, punishment and evil.

Limiting by government authority is the worst as it has gotten worse in the recent years. Limiting by inequality is bad, but great strides are made there recently.

My 2c

4

Chris Bertram 02.28.14 at 5:49 pm

I’d love to read it Javier, but the link goes to “you do not have access to this resource”.

5

djw 02.28.14 at 5:59 pm

I’m pretty suspicious of any argument about open borders/right to exclude that makes the decision about something else entirely. You’re coercively excluding a person. Justify it to that person, remembering they are not just a means to your ends.

6

Ronan(rf) 02.28.14 at 6:04 pm

Sort of carrying on from Straightwood, is the (Heath Wellman et al ) argument that aid *at current levels* absolves the obligation ? Or is there a hypothetical level at which it does ? (Even if ‘aid worked’, at current levels it really isnt a burden to bear. ) And what about things like increased access to Western markets for developing countries ?

7

Chris Brooke 02.28.14 at 6:14 pm

>I’d love to read it Javier, but the link goes to “you do not have access to this resource”.

A closed border, then.

8

Paul Crider (@paulcrider) 02.28.14 at 6:23 pm

It’s fun that you mention Wellman. In his famous essay defending the right of the state to close its borders, he also countenances military intervention as an alternative to permitting refugees:

In my view, [asylum seekers] might also be helped in something like the fashion in which wealthy societies could choose to assist impoverished foreigners: by, as it were, exporting justice. Admittedly, one cannot ship justice in a box, but one can intervene, militarily if necessary, in an unjust political environment to ensure that those currently vulnerable to the state are made safe in their homelands. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that this is always easy or even advisable, nor do I assert that states are necessarily obligated to take this course of action. I claim instead that where asylum seekers are genuinely left vulnerable because their government is either unable or unwilling to protect their basic rights, then their government is illegitimate, it has no claim to political self-determination, and thus it stands in no position to protest if a third party were to intervene on behalf of (some of) its constituents.
[...]
[David] Miller seems to me to get it just right when he suggests: “The lesson for other states, confronted with people whose lives are less than decent, is that they have a choice: they must either ensure that the basic rights of such people are protected in the places where they live–by aid, by intervention, or by some other means–or they must help them to move to other communities where their lives will go better. Simply shutting one’s borders and doing nothing else is not a morally defensible option here.”

9

Matt 02.28.14 at 6:39 pm

they argue that such a duty could be discharged by supporting the economic development of poor countries via development aid

This argument is made in more detail than is given by Wellman by Thomas Pogge in his paper, Migration and Poverty, which can be found in CITIZENSHIP AND EXCLUSION 12 (Veit Bader ed., 1997) and is reprinted in several other places. For people interested in the argument, I’d suggest looking at Pogge’s paper. Something close to the converse position (closer to what Chris supports, I think) has been argued for by Howard Chang. (Several papers related to this topic are available on his home page.) I have some sympathy with Pogge’s position, though there are lots of moving parts in these arguments, and the temptation to over-simplify is very strong.

10

Paul Crider (@paulcrider) 02.28.14 at 6:48 pm

Matt, I actually wanted to read that paper by Pogge a few months back, but I couldn’t access it by quick and dirty googling. Would you be willing to send it my way?

11

zerospinboson 02.28.14 at 6:55 pm

Why couldn’t people who favor border controls simply argue “look, freedom of movement within a country can coexist with massive inequality (see, e.g., USA, UK), and increased freedom of movement will create further downward pressure on local median income in Western countries, so what proof do you have that it will help the global poor”?
Sure, it would be cynical, but I find the debate a bit irritating because it always seems to ignore the rather obvious fact that intranational freedom of movement doesn’t seem to be doing a lot on that scale either.

12

Rob in CT 02.28.14 at 7:04 pm

I figure it this way: a given government has duties to its own people (people who hopefully consent to be governed by said government). It may have duties to the rest of humanity as well, but those are distinctly secondary. One can certainly make an argument about whether one’s self-interest, properly understood (that is, not a narrow, short-term self interest) includes lots of developmental aid or open(ish?) borders, but I’m not really sure I get the idea that a national government is obligated to let anyone and everyone in.

13

Omega Centauri 02.28.14 at 7:08 pm

I tend to view open borders, as giving a free pass to countries that don’t limit population growth. We can continue to have fertility far above a sustainable level, we simply export our overpopulation to the rest of the world. The planet has finite capacity to absorb people, as do the countries within it. We could end up with a race to the bottom.

Obviously this leads to moral dilemmas, how do you handle governments and cultures that don’t want to subscribe to the needed global norms?

14

LFC 02.28.14 at 7:10 pm

If you were Wellman, why would you limit your alternative-to-open-borders argument simply to increasing development aid? There are other measures that cd be taken, e.g., an end to subsidized agriculture in the rich countries; a tax on international financial transactions whose proceeds wd be directed to meeting basic needs; finding better ways to bypass aid around those govts that do not use it effectively, or use it in ways that don’t directly benefit the poor, etc.

Whether or not Easterly is right about the effectiveness of aid in its current form(s), it’s probably not too hard, as an empirical matter, to come up with measures that could reduce poverty or have a good chance of doing so. Then one might want to weigh the political likelihood of those measures being adopted (prob. often low) against the political likelihood of open borders (also prob. low). And then weigh the relative likely benefits of each. But it seems likely that there are a range of ways to reduce global poverty, and open borders isn’t the only one. So, istm, if one wants to make the Wellman-style argument in the strongest form, it would not be “no duty to open borders because increased development aid could have comparable benefits” but rather “no duty to open borders because a range of measures, including structural changes in trade and finance rules etc., could have comparable benefits.” That argument would still be subject, I suppose, to empirical challenge, but it seems a stronger argument than one putting all of its eggs in the development-aid basket.

On a separate pt., re Straightwood @1: I think some improvements over recent decades have taken place on measures like infant mortality, literacy, some basic health issues (e.g. malaria), and (more problematic) — rural development etc. Of course a lot more should be done (and will have to be to even come close to meeting most of the Millennium Dev. Goals, I think).

Btw, on another issue, a USAID official in an interview yesterday recommended this address for those wanting to help re the Syrian refugee crisis:
championthechildrenofsyria.org

15

Trader Joe 02.28.14 at 7:21 pm

The vast majority of dollars deemed “development aid” accomplish neither development nor give aid. If the dollars were designated as “lining the pockets of plutocrats or just enough help for poor people to keep them from wanting to riot” it would be a more accurate desciptor – but then it wouldn’t really satisfy the “discharging our duty in some other way” criteria of the OP.

Open the gate. A person motivated enough to abandon their country is quite likely to be motivated enough to contribute to the socitey which adopts them.

16

notsneaky 02.28.14 at 7:49 pm

17

MPAVictoria 02.28.14 at 7:50 pm

“I figure it this way: a given government has duties to its own people (people who hopefully consent to be governed by said government). It may have duties to the rest of humanity as well, but those are distinctly secondary. ‘

Pretty much this.

18

Jod 02.28.14 at 7:52 pm

Who has the burden of proof? What if migration impoverishes poor countries even more than border controls?

19

hix 02.28.14 at 7:54 pm

If the first part that emigration is awesome for poor countries were true and would remain true for completly open borders, we could argue about the second part.
Productivity is besides the point. Obvious counter example is a doctor, which has a lot more utility when he stays in a poor country. Unlimited immigration is pretty much crazy anyway, since that would abolish either any welfare net or democracy, or both e.g. Singapore, Dubai and all those other horrible places.

20

Ronan(rf) 02.28.14 at 8:03 pm

How did immigration abolish ‘democracy and the welfare state’ in Dubai and Singapore ? Dubai has never been democratic and (afaik) it’s welfare state is based around doling out oil income (so will last as long as oil reserves) Has Singapore ever been democratic? My impression is it has a pretty strong welfare state regardless ?
The evidence does show that emigration is positive for (most) sending countries. Maybe not awesome, but that depends on the definition of awesome, I guess.
I agree with you on open borders, the unknowables are too much for me personally, but I’d imagine we can manage *much more* immigration than we do at the minute.

21

LFC 02.28.14 at 8:09 pm

Following on Matt @8, also relevant is, e.g., Pogge’s “The Human Rights of the Global Poor,” in his Politics as Usual (2010).
A short excerpt:

In just 20 years since the end of the Cold War, some 360 million human beings have died prematurely from poverty-related causes…. There are feasible alternative designs of the global institutional order under which this catastrophe would have been largely avoided…. Given that the present institutional order is foreseeably associated with such massive incidence of avoidable severe poverty, its (uncompensated) imposition manifests an ongoing human-rights violation…. those who commit it…act with willful indifference to the enormous harms they cause….

22

LF 02.28.14 at 8:12 pm

Open borders find less problematic justification through negative argument; extant theories grounding border restrictions are invariably laced with fatal problems. This, of course, is not improbably the consequence of most such theories deriving themselves from state-centric philosophies, which merely don’t have sufficient elasticity to plausibly extend into the international sphere.

23

Niall McAuley 02.28.14 at 8:19 pm

Is this really an important argument against open borders? A much more common argument I hear is:

If we allow open borders, we’ll be overrun by Those People! And stop spending half the budget on foreign aid, you lily livered liberals! You’re just making things worse. Let them pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the way we did. Bah! Also, humbug!

24

Rakesh Bhandari 02.28.14 at 8:23 pm

The OP is a very helpful articulation of the debate (see also the recent debate between Song, Volpp, and Shachar), and the burdens that fall on those who argue for aid as a substitute for open borders. Thank you! Yet even with open borders most probably could not afford to make the move (at present something like only 3% of the human population does not reside in the country in which they were born) and many who could would not desire the cultural disruption of migration. That would seem to bolster the argument for effective aid to correct the possible social injustices in the international birthright lottery.

25

js. 02.28.14 at 8:47 pm

My thoughts on this are ably summed up by LFC @12. I suppose I understand how development aid would come to seem as _the_ alternative to open borders, but it does seem a bit myopic. Relatedly, it seems a little strange to cast this in terms of a ‘duty to aid’ when so many of the policies undertaken by the rich countries, e.g. as part of trade deals, _actively_ contribute to the immiseration of those in the poorer countries. Discourse about a duty to aid would make more sense in a situation where the policies of the rich countries were more neutral. This latter consideration I think also speaks against the sort of point raised by Rob in CT @10, whereas the duty-to-aid business sort of muddles it.

26

Straightwood 02.28.14 at 8:50 pm

The developing backlash against generous asylum/immigration policies in Nordic countries illustrates the likely outcome of widespread liberalization of immigration policies. Rather than a smooth assimilation, the rapid influx of culturally diverse immigrants often results in clumping up of the newcomers in ghetto like concentrations resistant to assimilation and targeted for discrimination.

Unless immigration policies are carefully crafted and the rate of influx properly controlled, the political stability of the host country is threatened. Simply throwing open the borders is an irresponsible policy. Most of the population of Haiti would leave tomorrow if the USA or France would accept them.

27

Bruce Wilder 02.28.14 at 9:38 pm

Recognizing that wealth of nations is the outcome of highly organized social and political systems, controlling the boundaries of such systems would seem like a necessary adjunct to the general business of keeping them highly organized.

In that context, development aid v. open borders could take on this contour: if we knew how to get every one, every society well-enough organized, then we should do that. That’s the nominal aim of development aid: to allow poor societies to develop highly organized systems of political economy that will allow them to emerge from and overcome the poverty of poorly organized systems.

If we don’t know how to get every one highly organized political economies, then the question is whether we should welcome every one — at least every one willing to move — to the more highly organized political economies, which exist.

One critical question is whether uncontrolled migration has the potential to de-stabilize and dis-organize the highly organized political economies. That some migration may, in some cases, enhance the productivity of established, highly-organized systems, doesn’t really settle the question of whether uncontrolled migration would be a mutual benefit to both the society left behind or the society receiving the migrant — would it enhance or degrade the organization of the political economy of either. This is a question typically raised by conservatives, but it remains legitimate, even when parodied (see Niall McAuley @ 8:19)

Another critical question is whether the highly organized political economies, by dint of their organization, are undermining the capacity of less well-organized political economies to improve their own situation. This is the question Marxists answer too quickly, and neoclassical economist try to obscure, but it is critical for the moral analysis. If development aid, ungenerous in quantity and palsied in administration, just meliorates marginally conditions exacerbated by the regular operation of the engines of global capitalism, and metered migration, is a similar kind of safety valve, it suggests that a trade-off between the two is just a distraction from identifying and implementing the kind of structural reforms that might lead to extending well-organized political economy to more of the human population.

A third critical question is the one of global limits to resources. If the productivity of highly organized systems of political economy are subject to global resource limits, then it is quite possible that a collective moral dilemma exists around just how large a population the earth should be made to support, and how that population size is to be controlled, as well as organized. Choosing or controlling the size of the population may be logically prior to how wealthy and how well-organized the political economy can be.

This third question (raised already by Omega Centauri @ 7:08 pm) may have answers that dominate the considerations raised by the first two questions, if the sheer weight of population is more than well-organized, highly-productive political economy can bear, given the carrying capacity of the earth. Congestion of the common wealth of global resources could drive some very ugly developments and choices, and may be driving them already.

28

zerospinboson 02.28.14 at 9:53 pm

Another critical question is whether the highly organized political economies, by dint of their organization, are undermining the capacity of less well-organized political economies to improve their own situation. This is the question Marxists answer too quickly

What does “by dint of their own organization” in- and exclude? exerting influence on foreign politicians to make them organize their country in a way that suits them? Creating/joining something like the EU — which requires all member states, regardless of their level of industrial/societal development, to not protect their own industries, privatize, and bans them from slapping tariffs on imports from highly developed, mercantilist states like Germany/NL (where there is a 30y history of wage suppression + very efficient production overall, helped along by their deliberately setting a too-low exchange rate when entering the euro)? And which ‘Marxists’ are you referring to?

29

Niall McAuley 02.28.14 at 10:05 pm

See? Straightwood makes my point.

30

Straightwood 02.28.14 at 10:34 pm

@25

Perhaps you can point out a developed country that has no restrictions on immigration from poor nations. This would provide an excellent proof of how innocuous such a policy would be.

31

Ronan(rf) 02.28.14 at 10:43 pm

What’s your definition of a poor country ? There’s a wide difference between average incomes in countries in eastern and western europe, with no movement restrictions among many of them and pretty innocuous outcomes. You could probably find similar stories within countries and regions around the world.

32

William Timberman 02.28.14 at 10:45 pm

Recognizing that wealth of nations is the outcome of highly organized social and political systems, controlling the boundaries of such systems would seem like a necessary adjunct to the general business of keeping them highly organized.

Somehow, when I read this eminently sensible sentence, I thought not of the Mexican would-be immigrants stranded in the deserts south of me, but the German 6th Army stranded at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43. I can’t blame Bruce Wilder for my whimsies, but it does seem to me that given human passions, and human ingenuity, the principles of organization, stability, and boundaries he rightly cites can be violated in all sorts of ways, some of them far less savory — and far more dangerous — than opening a country’s borders to the poor, no matter how many of them are believed to be out there clamoring to get in.

The U.S. has indulged in almost all of these violations in Mexico and Central America, except, perhaps the outright conquest that once seemed so attractive to the Nazi regime. To speak of chickens coming home to roost doesn’t solve the problems that Bruce is concerned about, of course, but it does at least provide a context missing in the insufferable pronouncements of our bigots and management experts.

33

LFC 02.28.14 at 10:56 pm

Omega Centauri @11:
I tend to view open borders, as giving a free pass to countries that don’t limit population growth.

Hazardous to generalize about birth rates. In some (actually many, I think) poorer countries fertility rates have gone down. In Mexico, to take one example, they’re way down. From a 2010 article:

In the 1960s Mexican mothers had nearly seven children each (whereas women in India then had fewer than six). The average now is just over two—almost the same as in the United States. The UN reckons that from 2040 the birth rate in Mexico will be the lower of the two. The fall follows a government u-turn nearly 40 years ago, when a contraception campaign replaced the previous nation-building [i.e., through population growth] policy.

http://www.economist.com/node/15959332

34

Bruce Wilder 02.28.14 at 11:33 pm

zerospinboson: What does “by dint of their own organization” in- and exclude?

I can think of lots of things; it may depend on what one’s model is of the economic relationship, between a country, which has developed and a country, which has not.

I wasn’t thinking particularly of manipulation of the weak by the powerful, which is automatically moral suspect. My point, generally, is that I am questioning whether one can do the moral analysis, without confronting the functional details of how the systems develop and operate to produce wealth. For that purpose, the moral analysis of manipulation is too easy, so the examples are too easy.

I was thinking more generally of how the investments and innovations that make some industry in one place vastly more productive can immiserate some people in other places, dependent on the older process, method, industry, leaving the immiserated without the surplus necessary to find alternatives, and benefit from trade.

LFC @ 7:10 pm brought up one possible example — “end to subsidized agriculture in the rich countries”. Some highly developed countries, like the U.S., have highly productive agricultural sectors, and the export of U.S. agricultural commodities can hurt farmers in less-developed countries. Using a term like “subsidized agriculture” makes it seem like the moral analysis is an easy trump, but I’m not sure that it is.

35

Bloix 02.28.14 at 11:34 pm

“Poor people who succeed in making the journey to more advanced economies are usually more productive”

This may be true under current and historical conditions, in which “making the journey” is often dangerous, expensive, and illegal. The people who are able to complete it are likely to be healthier, younger, and more motivated than average.

The same might not be true, or true to the same extent, under conditions of open borders.

36

Bruce Wilder 02.28.14 at 11:39 pm

Ronan(rf) @ 10:43 There’s a wide difference between average incomes in countries in eastern and western europe, with no movement restrictions among many of them and pretty innocuous outcomes.

You think what’s been going in Spain, for example, is pretty innocuous?

37

Ronan(rf) 02.28.14 at 11:40 pm

In what sense?

38

js. 03.01.14 at 12:01 am

Thanks to Matt (@8) for mentioning Chang. I didn’t know of him, and having looked through a couple of his articles, it’s good stuff! (Not that I entirely agree with the view necessarily, but it’s well argued.)

39

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 12:34 am

The same might not be true, or true to the same extent, under conditions of open borders.

Well, you’ve got a bit of natural experiment, with Eastern/Western Europe.

40

roy belmont 03.01.14 at 12:53 am

Maybe the energy of the would-be immigrants could productively utilized.
Channeled in useful specific ways. The way the yearnings of the lower classes have been over the years, like in enlistment in the “all-volunteer” military.
Real estate, IT, financial sector entry-level, all have seen their own versions of desperate immigrants headed for a new life, with foreseeable consequences of eventual labor glut and disappearing promise.
Things bottleneck and get backed-up wherever the current gold mine gleam is, without artificial restriction.
Instead of just throwing open the borders and waiting for everything to even out, we could sign people up at the border, let them choose their area of endeavor ahead of time.
A valve on the pipeline of aspiration. Open, but not all the way.
Survival faddism directed in productive ways that will help the already well-positioned instead of threatening them, as now.
Because we’re surely going to run out of leaf-blowers and dishwashing machines if this open-borders thing takes off.

41

Matt 03.01.14 at 1:24 am

js. at 34- I’m very glad you found it useful. I should note that Chang was on my dissertation committee, but though I have several disagreements with him, his work is always carefully argued, detailed, clearly written, and not polemical. For those reasons it’s really very useful stuff, much better than most things written on immigration. (For people who care about such things, I’ll note that he was Krugman’s Ph.D. student at MIT.) I highly recommend his work.

42

Straightwood 03.01.14 at 1:32 am

Presumably, the opening of all borders will also wave a magic wand over immigrants who view large families as desirable and wish to cling to diverse customs, such as female circumcision, arranged marriage, veiled women, or honor killings. The time scale of cultural adaptation and assimilation is substantially longer than the time required to relocate. The social and political problems resulting from such lumps in the melting pot cannot be wished away by some naive vision of the family of man.

Consider the Roma, an excellent example of culturally diverse immigrants. Their failure to assimilate and troublesome behavior has resulted in the forcible expulsion of many of them from France. When even countries like Belgium are politically stressed by old indigenous cultural differences, what makes us confident that unlimited immigration will not add fuel to the fires of discord?

43

novakant 03.01.14 at 1:34 am

One critical question is whether uncontrolled migration has the potential to de-stabilize and dis-organize the highly organized political economies.

No, it doesn’t. E.g. the average salary in Denmark is ten times higher than in Bulgaria and Romania – and yet, nothing happened to the Danish welfare state at all. The Daily Mail is pretty good at exploiting the primal fears that fuel the largely fact-free “immigration debate” but its disheartening to see so many leftists parrot the same nonsense in more sophisticated form.

44

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 1:57 am

IceNews, today:

The Danish People’s Party (DPP) has developed into Denmark’s most popular political group with 19.5 per cent of people surveyed saying they would be voting for the party in the next elections. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s ruling Social Democrats have been in power since 2011, when they won the election with 24.8 per cent of the votes. The DPP only won 12.3 per cent of the votes back then. Analysts claim the Social Democrats have suffered a drop in popularity because of social benefit cuts they introduced. Many were also angered by the government’s decision to sell utilities company DONG Energy to Goldman Sachs last year. The DPP initially supported the sale of DONG but when it was clear the public was not backing it, changed its stance. For the past decade, the DPP has wanted to government to introduce more stringent immigration policies to, in turn, receive the party’s backing.

Immigrants in the Scandinavian country have faced mounting problems with discrimination and racism, with regulations making it tough for them to follow up such incidents in court.

45

JW Mason 03.01.14 at 2:25 am

Agree with others. Either limits on movement across borders are morally legitimate, or they are not. The effectiveness of foreign aid shouldn’t come in one way or another.

46

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 2:27 am

If nation-states are morally legitimate as organizers of political economy, then some possible regimes of border control are morally legitimate.

47

LFC 03.01.14 at 2:30 am

Bruce W. @30
the export of U.S. agricultural commodities can hurt farmers in less-developed countries.

It can and does, no doubt, in some cases, but I had in mind equally, or more, the fact that protectionism is still a factor in the agricultural/commodity sector (e.g. U.S. sugar quotas, various EU quotas); and I was using “subsidized agriculture” as a shorthand for the various rich-country policies in this area that put farmers in many poorer countries at a relative disadvantage. When Farrell and Finnemore refer to hypocrisy in U.S. trade policy, I assume that this is one of the things they have in mind (plus IP policies, etc.).

In general I like Pogge’s work (to the limited extent I’m familiar with it), but I haven’t read H. Chang and don’t keep up with the lit. on global justice. (For instance M. Risse’s On Global Justice (2012) looks interesting, but I haven’t read it.)

48

JW Mason 03.01.14 at 2:38 am

I wonder, when Chris B. goes to the ATM, if he expects the amount of money he can withdraw to be based not he amount he has deposited and withdrawn. Or, does he expect the bank to make a determination how much human wellbeing would be improved by letting him withdraw money vs. someone else. I’m guessing the former. The right to property is not contingent on any duty to help the poor.

Now, you might very well believe that the rights of property have inherent force but the rights of citizenship do not. That’s certainly a position people hold. But you need to defend it. The question is, which rights do we exercise only contingent on (someone’s judgement of) the outcomes that result, and which rights are we free to exercise how we choose. I’m sympathetic to the idea that deciding who can join our family is the latter kind of right but deciding who can join our state is the former kind. But that’s the argument you have to make.

Before you ask, Who should be allowed to enter the UK, you have to establish that this the current citizens of the UK don’t have the right to make this choice for themselves.

49

JW Mason 03.01.14 at 2:40 am

Chris, a question. May residents of poor countries legitimately seize the property of any resident of a rich country that they can?

50

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 2:45 am

LFC @ 2:30 the fact that protectionism is still a factor

I wonder if the era of Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, Monsanto, and a “free trade” politics of Intellectual Property protection and the subversion of public authority to regulate, if we do ourselves any good to go along with such cliches as “protectionism = bad”.

I’m just not sure that our common ideas or intuitions of 1) what’s fair, 2) what policy actually is, and 3) how either relates to what makes people or countries rich or poor, have any fixed or reliable relation to one another. The desire to arrive at moral principles looks to me like a desire to economize on the need for factual information by truncating any commitment to understanding how things work, to theories of either politics or economics.

51

P O'Neill 03.01.14 at 2:52 am

2 things worth reading:
On aid effectiveness, the final chapter of Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape. And on migration, Paul Collier is increasingly emphasizing the negative effects on sending countries.

52

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 2:56 am

Just to say it’s worth looking at Blattmans take on Deatons argument

http://chrisblattman.com/2013/10/17/is-aid-a-roadblock-to-development-some-thoughts-on-angus-deatons-new-book/

and the general pushback collier has gotten

53

W R Peterson 03.01.14 at 3:09 am

The problem with the current situation is not just that we don’t have open borders but that the desire for migration is so much higher than the amount receiving countries allow.

The Clemens paper linked by notsneaky @ 14 above gives the example of the 2010 U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery which had 13.6 million applications for 50,000 visas.

While suddenly opening the borders to allow in everyone who wants to come would likely lead to some less than desirable results in both the sending and receiving countries, there must be some amount the number of visas could be increased by that would lessen the pressure in the sending countries without overburdening the receiving ones.

The mechanism I imagine moving things toward an equilibrium is remittances.
Many migrants send money back to relatives. Remittances generally go directly to people who need it and largely bypass government corruption. Like aid it is not wholly without flaws but it is effective at moving money from richer places to poorer ones.

Without any need for governments to require it merely increasing the number of immigrants they allow in will increase the amount of money poorer communities receive, ideally reducing the amount of aid they need and eventually lessening the pressure to migrate.

54

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 3:12 am

As a counter argument to Collier see that Clemens paper I linked to above.

Quote:

“The departure of some people—such as the skilled or
talented—from a poor country might reduce the productivity of others in that country.
Such an effect would tend to offset the gains from emigration. Externalities like these
are often assumed to be so pervasive that the literature refers to skilled migration with
a pejorative catchphrase—“brain drain”—embodying the assumption. (To see why
economists should avoid this term, picture reading a journal article on female labor
force participation that calls it the “family abandonment rate.”)

But it is not well-established under what conditions the emigration of skilled workers
results in a net depletion, in equilibrium, of the stock of skilled workers in the origin
country. Mountford (1997) and Stark, Helmenstein, and Prskawetz (1997) and a
subsequent literature theorize that when emigration to high-wage countries becomes
possible, even when it is costly and uncertain, the expected value of human capital rises
for all potential migrants. Because not all of those who were thus encouraged to invest
will leave, the existence of an emigration option for some people can tend to raise the
human capital stock at home. Macro and micro studies suggest that this effect is real,
and large enough to substantially offset the departures

Clemens then goes on to point out that even if “brain drain” effects are real they are peanuts compared to the huge gains. And points out counter evidence to the brain-drain thesis:

“if human capital externalities from health workers were a first-order determinant of basic health conditions, African countries experiencing the largest outflows of doctors and nurses would have systematically worse health conditions than other parts of Africa. In fact, those countries have systematically better health conditions (Clemens, 2007)”

And as far as that NY Times column goes, the only supposed piece of evidence which actually supports the title “Migration Hurts the Homeland” is the statistic on Haiti. The rest is mostly about how … great the gains are for India and China. Not sure why the fact that if the gains for countries which are not India or China are not as large, then they must be negative. Even with regard to Haiti, cause, effect, correlation not causation and all that.

55

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 3:13 am

Second para after “Quote” should also be in italics and is part of the quote.

56

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 3:14 am

Remittances generally go directly to people who need it and largely bypass government corruption.

They don’t necessarily bypass plain ol’ organized crime corruption though.

57

Greg 03.01.14 at 3:26 am

Sorry, I’m a bit puzzled about the argument in the OP. If there are other options to open borders, it says, then we can discharge our duty to the poor some other way. And there very obviously are other options.

Aid is one of them. We don’t know if that one works. But we also don’t know if open borders would work, given that it’s never even been tried, where at least aid has.

So that makes two counts against open borders, right? Or am I missing something?

58

LFC 03.01.14 at 3:33 am

BW @46
such cliches as “protectionism = bad”
Protectionism is not necessarily always bad, but in these particular cases a strong case prob. can be made that it is. But I agree that one needs the facts first, which leads to:

The desire to arrive at moral principles looks to me like a desire to economize on the need for factual information by truncating any commitment to understanding how things work
Philosophers and pol. theorists (not that I am either one) should, as Chris B implies in the OP, not “economize on the need for factual information” but, on the contrary, try to integrate the empirical — an accurate “understanding of how things [currently] work” — with the normative.

For example, as js. notes @21, if you think as a factual matter that the rich countries are, in various ways, actively harming the poor ones — or if you think that the existence of corrupt, ineffective govts in some poor countries can’t be considered in isolation from external forces and incentives that help perpetuate them — you might cast the moral issue less in terms of a “duty to aid” and more in terms, first, of a duty to refrain from doing harm, or a duty to reduce or minimize or compensate for the amt of harm done.

Of course, that economists, economic historians, and others do not agree on “what makes countries rich or poor,” that e.g. Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly can probably have a long, not overly friendly debate about what and whether aid works and how, that people have no doubt spent careers decorously fighting each other about the effects of immigration, suggests that “how things work” is not something that will always be easy to discover. But no one, afaics, is calling for ignoring “the facts.”

59

stevenjohnson 03.01.14 at 3:37 am

Economics says that capital will be invested where profits are higher. As the amount of capital invested increasing, the profits will diminish. Somewhere else, capital shortage will arise, making profits there higher. This will draw away capital.

Economics apparently also says that you can’t substitute “labor” for “capital” and “social wage” for “profits.”

That’s crazy. Which means all this stuff about Easterly and Wellman and Pogge and Blattman and Deaton and Collier and so is double talk and swindle. If capitalism really works as advertised, limiting immigration is government interference in the market, i.e., a sin against freedom. Or if it doesn’t work, then talking about immigration is jingoism in disguise.

60

LFC 03.01.14 at 3:43 am

Greg @53
You’re missing that the OP gives reasons to think that open borders would “work.”

61

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 3:46 am

Aid is one of them. We don’t know if that one works. But we also don’t know if open borders would work, given that it’s never even been tried, where at least aid has.

What we do know is that aid doesn’t work very well, or only works in some special circumstances. We also know that the gains to the poor from migration are huge. So if these gains are there with partly-closed borders, they are probably even larger (since costs of migration would be lower) with open-er borders. And like I said above, open borders have been tried. Europe, Schengen visa.

Not sure how your conclusion follows.

Economics apparently also says that you can’t substitute “labor” for “capital”

Economics doesn’t say that. Well, most of it doesn’t (and the part that does tend to make this kind of assumption is that whole linear production stuff that characterizes Neo-Ricardian or Marxist approaches). Limiting immigration is government interference in the market. That’s, uh, what some of those guys are saying (though they don’t necessarily base their argument on that. I mean, who cares whether it is “interference” or not, what matters, what is the outcome).

62

Jonathan Dresner 03.01.14 at 4:31 am

Goldin/Cameron/Balarajan have a solid survey of the upside/downside to international labor migration that comes down hard on the open border side of the question. I reviewed it here.

63

Collin Street 03.01.14 at 6:10 am

> So that makes two counts against open borders, right? Or am I missing something?

The latter. It’s ultimately a freedom-of-association issue.

> I don’t want to stay with my husband. He keeps all the money we both make.
>> It’s OK. We’ll give you lots of money if you stay with him.
> Guys, that’s not exactly a solution to my actual problem, you know.

64

Neville Morley 03.01.14 at 7:06 am

One of the disturbing/aggravating things about the UK debate – and there are occasional signs of it in this thread – is how quickly and easily it slips from discussion of migration to discussion of social security. All migrants are poor (the rich ones don’t get classified as migrants, and they’re welcome as long as they bring some of their money); therefore they must want to come here to take advantage of the welfare system, we can’t possible afford that, we ought to have the right to control who gains access to benefits so we must stop them coming in the first place. Lots of logical leaps, but plenty of rhetorical power, feeding off general demonisation of the undeserving poor, and that’s why arguments along the lines of “if they’re driven and ingenious enough to make the journey, they will surely be driven and ingenious enough to make a living here” always get trumped by “ah yes, but what about all the spongers?”

65

The Temporary Name 03.01.14 at 7:17 am

therefore they must want to come here to take advantage of the welfare system, we can’t possibly afford that

In America those sorts of arguments are generally made by people who don’t want the poor to have anything in the first place.

66

js. 03.01.14 at 7:51 am

arguments along the lines of “if they’re driven and ingenious enough to make the journey, they will surely be driven and ingenious enough to make a living here” always get trumped by “ah yes, but what about all the spongers?”

Some of this definitely happens in the US as well. But I think the more common thing you see among liberal-left types especially is the argument that immigrants will worsen the condition of disadvantaged natives. I think it’s actually a bit of a complicated thing, because while on principle I do completely favor open border policies, I don’t also want to get in bed with neoliberal/laissez-faire types on this, several of whom do also favor open-ish borders. So I do think you’d have to couple open borders with some sort of controls on capital (i.e. labor policy), robust transfer policies, etc. Otherwise, I don’t see why it’s not possible that poor people get fucked all over again, and equally all around this time.

67

js. 03.01.14 at 8:00 am

Though I am certainly pro much more open borders, relatively speaking, even in current circumstances, than my last post would seem to imply.

68

novakant 03.01.14 at 8:14 am

#40

That doesn’t prove anything beyond the fact that people like to blame their problems on foreigners – and you are playing the same nasty game.

69

Chris Bertram 03.01.14 at 8:50 am

The OP addresses a specific argument in the literature and says that there’s a problem with it. Comments that don’t address that are beside the point.

JW Mason, who I have a lot of respect for but who doesn’t seem to have grasped some basic distinctions in this area (e.g between property and territorial jurisdiction) writes:

Agree with others. Either limits on movement across borders are morally legitimate, or they are not. The effectiveness of foreign aid shouldn’t come in one way or another.

That’s a very silly thing to write. Wellman’s argument justifies the right to exclude as a based on a right to freedom of association by members of legitimate states. So there’s already a legitimacy condition built into the right. Wellman argues against people who say that there ought not be an absolute discretion to exclude in view of the effects of such a discretion on outsiders, by saying that there is always something else that could be done with respect to the interests of those outsiders (he makes the same move wrt refugees btw). The OP tries to rebut his reliance on the “something else that could be done”.

70

Metatone 03.01.14 at 9:33 am

I’m disturbed at how the open borders argument assumes self-stabilising economies.

When we look at the economic upheavals prompted by the border-controlled addition of the workforce of China and other countries to the international trading system, it’s easy for the optimists to say “it’s all working out ok” – but I think the OP would be amongst those that in the context of a domestic political discussion would be more wary.

This post at The Economist shows how that wariness is now even slowly permeating some less fringier parts of economic discourse:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/02/labour-markets-0

(There’s lots of “wrong” in that article, but my point is that we’re edging towards the admission that economies don’t self-stabilise.)

And of course, we should consider the complications of naive utilitarianism – should we have open borders and it not destabilise (for example) the UK, how do we balance that with the likely destabilisation of (for example) Botswana created by the sudden wave of emigration?

71

John Quiggin 03.01.14 at 9:46 am

“given that it’s never even been tried, where at least aid has.”

Not really. Aid to Africa over the past 40 years amounts to around 20 cents per person per year.

Genuine development aid is probably less than remittances from the people who have been allowed to migrate, which in turn is only part of the benefit those people have received.

http://crookedtimber.org/2007/12/21/a-lot-or-a-little/

72

hix 03.01.14 at 10:21 am

The EU is sure not an experiment in just open borders the way suggested in the blog post, as an alternative to development aide. Rather open borders are the last step after development aide and legal integeration. EU regional development policy aims at ensuring a living of at least 70% the EU average everywhere in part because that is the level necessary to avoid large scale emigration. The divergence in lifing standards is also not that big to begin with. In addition, ex communist eastern European a special case, since they have so high education standards compared to their gdp level. Just open borders is a deaply market fundamentalist approach that can never ever work.
Fortunately, in contrast to almost conspiracy theoretical thinking about the EU, the EU is not market fundamentalist, despite some structural pro market bias in institutions (which is strengthend, not weakend by this hyperbolic anti eu rethoric).

73

LFC 03.01.14 at 3:22 pm

Chris Bertram @69:

The OP addresses a specific argument in the literature and says that there’s a problem with it. Comments that don’t address that are beside the point.

The “specific argument in the literature” is apparently Wellman’s essay “Immigration and Freedom of Association,” in his Liberal Rights and Responsibilities: Essays on Citizenship and Sovereignty (2013).

Wellman’s c.v. looks impressive; not sure why he would make the weak argument identified in the OP — i.e., limiting the “something else that could be done” to development aid. (Though people do make weak arguments, I guess.)

From the OP:

Economists such as William Easterly are skeptical that we know enough about economic development to make effective use of development aid. They may be wrong, but philosophers and political theorists shouldn’t make the easy argumentative move to development aid as an alternative to (more) open borders without being sure that the economics supports them.

I agree philosophers should discuss the critical view of aid, but how can philosophers be “sure that the economics supports them” when economists disagree among themselves about this?

74

MPAVictoria 03.01.14 at 3:36 pm

Chris I think I have asked you this before but remind me, do you think that barriers to trade are morally permissible?

75

Chris Bertram 03.01.14 at 3:40 pm

@John #71 yes, I think there’s a response, which someone like Pogge might make, that development aid has never really been tried and might work if it did. That’s a bit different from the claim that it would work which some political theorists rely on in an entirely evidence-free way. Of course in the actual world, the same people (UKIP in the UK for example) are bitterly opposed to both freer migration and to the paltry development spending there actually is.

76

Chris Bertram 03.01.14 at 3:43 pm

@LFC Wellman’s arguments are in a number of places, including the jointly authored Immigration For and Against with Phillip Cole (which I very strongly recommend). He does suggest a variety of “other things” in other contexts. So, for example, he upholds a discretionary right to exclude even in the case of refugees, where a state provides support for victims of persecution in other ways: save havens, humanitarian intervention, paying a third country to take them.

77

Chris Bertram 03.01.14 at 3:44 pm

@MPAV sometimes

78

mud man 03.01.14 at 4:45 pm

All this sounds like alternative ground for people who are bored with Just War Theory. Having destroyed the indigenous social habitat by economic and other intervention, is there an ongoing obligation to allow the human residue to sleep under bridges where they choose? Or do they remain attached to the land that was taken from them?

Truly the global urban-industrial system has not much interest in looking in the rear-view mirror and undoing the damage done, but I’m sure we could think of ways to provide a decent life in central Mexico if we worked at it. Anything else is just rearranging the deck chairs.

So it goes. I dare say a rational people could stop having wars, too.

79

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 5:21 pm

re remittances

Isn’t there a problem that they can reinforce inequality in the sending country, particularly if Western countries follow Noah Smith (and Mark Zuckerbergs !!, I think Dean Bakers) idea of using immigration policy as a means to headhunt the best talent internationally (in Bakers case to lessen inequality in the US) ?
Is the best way for remittances to have a positive impact in the sending country if they flow through poorer migrants ?

80

W R Peterson 03.01.14 at 5:24 pm

@ Chris #75
Given that the UKIP like the far right in the US (by which I mean all Republicans and some Democrats) seem to question the premise that there is any duty to help the global poor in any way that doesn’t help the global rich even more, should migration and aid really be tied together as alternate means to the same end rather than considered separately as different means for sometimes overlapping but not identical ends?

81

W R Peterson 03.01.14 at 6:58 pm

remittances

http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Poverty%20Reduction/Inclusive%20development/Towards%20Human%20Resilience/Towards_SustainingMDGProgress_Ch4.pdf

This paper doesn’t directly address whether remittances reinforce inequality in the sending country but it does find that remittances go disproportionally to developing countries and to the lower income countries out of those.
It says they amount to more than double the official aid received by developing countries and tend to be well targeted to the needs of their recipients.

82

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for the link W R Peterson . (I wasnt trying to argue against or downplay their positive effects btw, just curious on that aspect. This:

http://scholar.harvard.edu/garip/book/remittances-and-inequality

is all Ive ever read on that inequality argument)

83

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 7:05 pm

.. I was looking for a rundown on what the evidence says like that UN report aswell. Thanks

84

Matt 03.01.14 at 8:23 pm

For a project that is taking up my Saturday afternoon I happened to be looking at Michael Dummett’s little book from 2001, _On Immigration and Refugees_ again for the first time in a few years. There is a lot I disagree with in the book, but for people wanting a clear headed (if opinionated) introduction to this material, it’s a nice place to start, and can be read quite quickly. The 4th chapter, “Grounds for Refusal”, in particular has a lot of information relevant to this discussion. One thing that Dummett notes is that, right now, it’s rarely the worst off in any particular country that migrate (this has long been the case), but that one likely effect of increasing foreign aid (or sending remittance) is to make it so that some who could not move before are able to do so. This sort of thing is part of what I had in mind by noting that these discussions have lots and lots of moving parts to them, making them very hard to fit well into most blog comments.

85

Doctor Memory 03.01.14 at 8:34 pm

Unless immigration policies are carefully crafted and the rate of influx properly controlled, the political stability of the host country is threatened. Simply throwing open the borders is an irresponsible policy. Most of the population of Haiti would leave tomorrow if the USA or France would accept them.

A valid point. Remember how destabilized the USA became in the aftermath of most of the poor population of Ireland decamping here in the late 1800s? Why, we’ve only barely started to recover!

86

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 10:43 pm

Actually, U.S. politics was de-stabilized by the flood of Irish and German immigration due to famine and the 1848 revolutions. The nascent Republican Party was founded in large part on co-opting anti-immigrant sentiment, initially manifested among the Know-Nothings and the American Party. The Democratic Party in the north became identified with the urban immigrants.

87

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 10:48 pm

Bruce, come on. The US *was unstable* in 1848. Perhaps immigration made it worse (perhaps not), but 1848 is not 2014.

88

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 10:57 pm

Look, we have a modern example of mass unrestricted immigration,and it’s the EU in the early to mid 00s. Afaicr the only 3 countries to initially open their borders were Ireland, the UK and Sweden. Look at Ireland, it had full employment, the highest (or one of them) minimum wage in Europe and very generous welfare entitlements (which expanded, not decreased, during this time) and who’s foreign born population doubled during the 00s. (I’m going by memory, it must have increased even more so since the late 90s when more people left the country than came.) The demographics of this (afaicr, roughly)break down to – in order of largest foreign born group- something like UK, Poland, US, other eastern europe,Nigeria, other African, latin American (I really dont know but that’s the idea)
Here’s a case study that isn’t the antebellum US in the process of sweeping social changes circa the middle of the 19th century (ie one more relevant to what modern mass immigration would look like.)

89

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 11:01 pm

Ronan(rf) @ 10:48

Tell Doctor Memory @ 8:34.

I was neither making a false claim, nor insisting on relevance.

90

novakant 03.01.14 at 11:10 pm

Bruce, your argument is completely tautological: you claim xenophobia is a sign of destabilization, so immigration is bad – duh.

91

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 11:23 pm

novakant, I didn’t make an argument, nor did I assert “immigration is bad”. I stated some historical facts about how the wave of immigration in the 1840s and 1850s contributed to political re-alignment. (At least two or three of my ancestors were in that wave of immigration.)

If I were to make an argument, I would say that immigration can have costs and benefits, which costs and benefits vary with the rate, so that controlled immigration, in the abstract, can be sensible, legitimate policy. That’s not a tautological argument, but it is so basic a claim that I wouldn’t think it necessary to make it, except on a CT comment thread.

92

Straightwood 03.02.14 at 12:37 am

The open border radicals should address the economic issue of empowering the immigration of distressed refugees. Surely the same moral obligation that would compel a nation to throw open its borders would justify paying for the transportation of poor immigrants to the host country. Otherwise, there would be unfair economic discrimination against those too poor to travel across the open border.

93

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 12:46 am

“That’s not a tautological argument, but it is so basic a claim that I wouldn’t think it necessary to make it, except on a CT comment thread.”

Bruce – but most people are agreeing with you.
However @44 you left a cryptic comment that immigration led .. ? to cuts in the Danish welfare state ? @86 were you’re talking about the instability caused by immigration in a country that was about to go to war with itself.
So you’re not implying ‘open borders migration’ (which I personally dont support and is not going to happen in any plausible future) will lead to instability, but instead that controlled migration will/has. (which you also did @36)

94

Bikenap 03.02.14 at 12:53 am

As the setup in the OP suggests, I take it that the main intention of those who make the right-to-close-borders move (“concede a duty to help the poor, but say that such a duty can be discharged in ways other than admitting poor would-be migrants to wealthy countries”) is to forestall the argument directly from a duty to help the global poor to the conclusion that wealthy nations ought to open their borders (because, presumably, that would help the global poor). But if this is right, then it seems like the burden to establish a controversial empirical premise would fall on those who made the original argument for open borders. Moreover, the empirical premise they need to establish is much stronger than the one Bertram is demanding from their critics.

In particular, it seems that for their argument to succeed, they would need to establish not only that opening borders is part of some set of actions that would sufficiently help the poor (and so discharge the relevant duties), but that it is part of every possible set of actions that would sufficiently help the poor.

If all the critics of the argument want to do is show that the argument doesn’t establish that we need open borders, all they have to do is point out that the open borders advocates haven’t made the case for that very strong empirical claim, and perhaps suggest some sets of actions that might be counterexamples (the most obvious sets would include lots of development aid, but we need not limit ourselves to that, and we certainly need not commit ourselves to thinking that development aid alone would be sufficient). If they wanted to go further and establish the conclusion that we know we don’t need open borders, even if we have a duty to aid the poor, then yes, they would need to rely on the empirical premise Chris has called attention to (viz., there is some set of actions that would help the poor sufficiently to discharge our duty that does not include opening borders). But note that it’s much weaker than the one open border advocates need for their argument to go through.

Of course, the all-or-none arguments are probably not the ones we ought to be spending most of our time on, at least when it comes to policy making. The important question is: does the best (cheapest? most efficient? most politically feasible?) way of discharging our duties to the poor include opening borders?

N.b. I have very little familiarity with the relevant literatures, philosophical or otherwise, so I may have misconstrued the OP or the arguments it concerns.

95

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 1:04 am

Straightwood, your argument has moved from – immigrants don’t assimilate, to they congregate in ghettos, to the backlash will be uncontrollable, to ‘what about honour killings/FGM/the Roma’, to what about inconsistencies in the arguments of ‘open borders advocates’ ..
In all of this you dont offer *one shred of evidence.* Lets say for rates of honour killing or FGM.
What are the possibilites that these will become norms in Western countries ? How prevalant are they in immigrant communities ? What are these communities ? What is the best way to prevent these realities (in Western countries or countries of origin) ? What is your idea to encourage assimilation ? What do the facts show on segregation? Why are the French (in particular) cracking down on the Roma (who are a group indigenous – for any reasonable conventional/accurate definition of indigenous – to Europe) ?
It’s just a lot of rhetoric to restrict immigration with nought of an argument. Which is fine. I personally don’t mind that, it’s your position. But let’s not be mealy mouthed about it.

96

Bruce Wilder 03.02.14 at 1:36 am

Ronan(rf) @ 12:46

There was nothing cryptic about my comment @ 44. It was a straightforward quotation from a news article, located by doing a Google search. And, I offered it in refutation to the claim, in the immediately preceding comment by novakant, that “nothing happened to the Danish welfare state at all”.

Ronan(rf): “So you’re not implying ‘open borders migration’ (which I personally dont support and is not going to happen in any plausible future) will lead to instability, but instead that controlled migration will/has.

You’re really bad at trolling. You just make yourself look like an idiot.

97

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 1:44 am

novakant’s claim (from my reading) was that nothing has happened to the welfare state as a result of immigration. (admittedly in regards Bulgarian and Romanian immigration which (afaik) has only begun in the last month, and s/he did say ‘at all’ (which might be a pedantic point).. but from my reading it was an extension of ‘nothing has happened due to immigration.’ Obviously people can interpret differently)

98

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 1:48 am

“admittedly in regards Bulgarian and Romanian immigration which (afaik) has only begun in the last month “

In terms of unrestricted

99

Straightwood 03.02.14 at 1:49 am

@95

It should not come as a surprise to you that there are multiple reasons for not throwing open a nation’s borders to unrestricted immigration. Is it your view that the almost universal existence of immigration restrictions is the result of ignorant prejudice and irrational xenophobia? Are there any limits to a nation’s moral obligation to accept all comers?

100

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 1:50 am

“Is it your view that the almost universal existence of immigration restrictions is the result of ignorant prejudice and irrational xenophobia?”

No. It’s my view your rhetoric is.

101

Straightwood 03.02.14 at 2:35 am

@100

Please interrupt your brave battle against bad rhetoric to articulate a coherent position on the justification for unlimited immigration into the nations of the world. If you do not believe immigration should be unlimited, please define what you would consider to be valid restrictions.

102

Doctor Memory 03.02.14 at 2:41 am

Bruce Wilder @86: American politics circa the late 1800s were certainly unstable, but I seem to recall that the primary argument was not over the assimilation of German and Irish immigrants. It was over something slightly different; I’m sure someone here can remember what the issue was. Anyone? Bueller?

Anyway, even stipulating that a local re-alignment of political parties is a “destabilization” that we should shape immigration policies to avoid… well, actually, no, we will not stipulate that, because that would be silly. In any case, a few years have now passed since the potato famine, and I think we may at this late date presume to draw some conclusions about how the 19th century Irish and German diasporas worked out for the USA. Surely the sight of the yet-unassimilated Gaelic and German ghettos in every city on the eastern seaboard must give us pause…

103

Bruce Wilder 03.02.14 at 2:52 am

LFC @ 58: no one, afaics, is calling for ignoring “the facts.”

Apparently, you were wrong. I give you Doctor Memory @ 2:41

104

Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 2:53 am

Straightwood- I’m not derailling this any more and have not been making an argument for unrestricted immigration. I’m saying you can argue against unrestricted immigration without scapegoating people (as did your good self)
Hint (1) the veil does not belong in the same category as FGM or honour killings, unless (perhaps) you live in a country where the law makes it mandatory. (2) You should stop using things like FGM and honour killings (of which you appear to know nothing) to argue against personal hobby horses like immigration. Speak to people who campaign on these issues (specifically women from within these communities) and they (some, of course) will complicate your position. (not that these things arent terrible and should be stopped, but that your use of them in a debate on immigration is a terrible, terrible bit of rhetoric) (Other hints) what the hell is the rest of your argument ? You’ve made a series of sweeping claims,that have yet to be expanded on.
Such as:

“Perhaps you can point out a developed country that has no restrictions on immigration from poor nations. “

Yes, I did. Thoughts ?

Or arguments that are undeveloped(see above, also segregation, assimilation so on and so forth.), or that are outright ridiculous (vis a vis the Roma)

105

Straightwood 03.02.14 at 3:30 am

@104

“Perhaps you can point out a developed country that has no restrictions on immigration from poor nations. “

Yes, I did. Thoughts ?

You don’t seem to grasp where on the spectrum of underdevelopment Eastern Europe is. Compared to Haiti (per capita GDP: $1,230) or the Central African Republic (per capita GDP: $850), Romania is a rich country (per capita GDP: $12,700).

It is an unfortunate fact that many nations in the lowest stratum of economic development are sinking into new depths of misery. Would you propose opening the gates of immigration to the millions of poor souls from these countries?

The established convention among developed nations is that immigration is tightly controlled. The burden of argument for altering this policy falls on those advocating change.

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Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 3:51 am

Well, my thoughts are the incentives are more or less the same, no ? Perhaps I’m wrong but does it really matter (that much) if your wages increase by (say) 10 or by (say) 2.5 ? On some level yes, but then again if you’re sitting in Poland (where per capitia gdp in 2002-3 was 9-11k) unemployed or broke, or in Haiti, is there that much of a difference ? It’s much of a muchness, no ?* And these things move through all sorts of different incentives (such as social networks) rather than purely monetary ones.

But I agree with you, and this is a fair argument. The outcome of open borders is too unknowable for me. But what we do know from the accession states is that small European countries can handle the influx (which *was* large and unprecedented) so we can step back a little from the hyperbole.

* does anyone know figures of emigration from each country, which might give an idea on how many left? And on past migrations, similar ones in specific regions (even btw the US mainland an Puerto Rico etc ?) There’s surely some way of predicting this..?

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Vanya 03.02.14 at 7:25 am

I think we may at this late date presume to draw some conclusions about how the 19th century Irish and German diasporas worked out for the USA

Well, if you live in the greater Boston area, at least, you would probably conclude that Irish immigration worked out pretty badly for the USA.

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novakant 03.02.14 at 9:29 am

#96

You were just being willfully obtuse in order to suggest a causal relationship between the changes in Denmark and immigration. You associate immigration with social chaos and economic danger similar to Straightwood who immediately relates it to such things as honour killings and FGM. This is classic xenophobic framing as displayed by rags like the Daily Mail and their crypto-fascist readership.

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hix 03.02.14 at 1:23 pm

Geez, there was no unlimited immigration in the US 1848 and there never was one in the EU. Strictly speaking, no one has unlimited immigration, but those 2 dont come even close.

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Robespierre 03.02.14 at 4:21 pm

Starting from the premise that a state does not have a “preferential” obligation towards the citizens it happens to govern, I see only three morally defensible limits on immigration: A) the maintenance of a functioning economic system; B) preventing the creation of self-segregated communities; and, since, unfortunately, rich country citizens can vote against immigration if they think it harms them, C) the highest rate of immigration that will NOT create a backlash among voters strong enough to roll back open borders. I would argue that we are not about to hit A), that B) may or may not be a problem depending on several other factors, including assimilation policies (but I won’t go into a rant against communitarianism right here), and that, much as I don’t like it, we may well be up against limit C) in several European countries.

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LFC 03.02.14 at 4:39 pm

Bikenap @94

In particular, it seems that for their [open borders advocates'] argument to succeed, they would need to establish not only that opening borders is part of some set of actions that would sufficiently help the poor (and so discharge the relevant duties), but that it is part of every possible set of actions that would sufficiently help the poor.

ISTM this depends on what kind of premises you start from re how strong is the right-to-exclude-based-on-X (freedom of assn or whatever). If you don’t start from a strong right to exclude, you don’t need to cross as high a hurdle as Bikenap says, istm.

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Doctor Memory 03.02.14 at 5:06 pm

Well, if you live in the greater Boston area, at least, you would probably conclude that Irish immigration worked out pretty badly for the USA.

Oh for the love of. Yes, poor Boston: if not for its un-assimilable Irish population, people might be able to enjoy its high property values, booming economy, multiple world-class universities, humming tourist trade, and (yes) ridiculously low crime rate. I’m sure the Boston city fathers regularly think “if only we were more like Toledo, or St. Louis!”

Boston is not all Southie, and Southie is not all Matt Damon movies and Michael MacDonald books. Sheesh. (If you were trolling deliberately: well played.)

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Rakesh Bhandari 03.02.14 at 5:23 pm

If understand him, Ha-Joon Chang has argued that while each state has a right and perhaps moral obligation to restrict immigration towards goals such as the protection of its least well-off citizens and cultural cohesion, we should understand from this that there is no practical or moral commitment to free markets in the advanced capitalist countries and that governments in developing countries should similarly have the space in the name of national goals to regulate free markets perhaps through the regulation of capital movements, the repression of finance, tariffs, subsidies, industrial planning and the like. Of course this leaves open the question of what we should do if the state in a poorer country is unlikely to restrict markets towards any other end than enriching elites at the expense of the mass of citizens; then does not the case for open borders become stronger again?

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Ze Kraggash 03.02.14 at 5:30 pm

Open borders advocates often advance an argument in terms of a duty to help the global poor

It’s surprising that anyone would seriously consider this framing. I see the poor every day, on my way to work. They can save or steal $50 and be in Vienna in 2 hours; there is no border control. But what would they be doing there? Sitting on a different street corner and getting arrested for public urination? Those who do emigrate are not poor, they are young ambitious middle-class (by the local standards) people. Their families, whom they might support, are middle-class families. Immigration does not help the poor. I’m sure there must be arguments for open borders, but helping the poor is not one of them; it just isn’t.

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LFC 03.02.14 at 5:49 pm

Ze Kraggash @114
Immigration does not help the poor.
Maybe not in the context you’re familiar with, but in other contexts the evidence suggests it does. (Note e.g. that poor, or relatively poor, people who try to migrate to Europe from Africa must cross water, of course; they cannot be “in Vienna in 2 hours” but are turned away under the EU policy of border control at the external frontier, or else slip through the controls, or else the boat capsizes and they drown or are rescued and interned on Lampedusa etc. These are fairly well-known facts, it’s not like one has to be an expert on anything to be aware of them.)

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bianca steele 03.02.14 at 6:06 pm

Actually, there were lots of Germans living in the United States at the time of independence.

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Ze Kraggash 03.02.14 at 6:15 pm

I would like to see any kind of evidence indicating that the people who try to migrate to Europe from Africa represent the Africa’s poor. “Relatively poor” (i.e: relative to you) doesn’t work in this context. If they are indeed Africa’s middle class, then their migration to Europe only harms Africa’s poor. I’m not saying that they must be stopped in order to help the poor, but arguing for their freedom to immigrate because it helps the poor would obviously make no sense.

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Bruce Wilder 03.02.14 at 6:28 pm

Rakesh Bhandari: Of course this leaves open the question of what we should do if the state in a poorer country is unlikely to restrict markets towards any other end than enriching elites at the expense of the mass of citizens; then does not the case for open borders become stronger again?

The whole argument seems to have an ambiguous relationship with politics, democratic or otherwise. What if the states of richer countries are only likely to shape policy to serve plutocrats? Then, “open borders” are just another pretty slogan akin to “free trade”, to be used to obscure the nature of actual policy and manipulate the gullible public.

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Paul Crider (@paulcrider) 03.02.14 at 6:40 pm

Ze Kraggash, much of the middle class of the poor world is absolutely poor as we generally understand the term. Even if they’re not the poorest of the poor, they are still poor. You make a leap when you say that the departure of (some of the) middle class from poor countries will hurt those countries. There are a number of avenues by which emigration of skilled workers helps. Remittances sent home exceed foreign aid, and are arguably better targeted. The success of emigrants spurs the education and human capital development that made emigration possible; not all of the newly skilled will leave, for various reasons. Those who leave transmit back home some of the values and institutional knowledge they have gained abroad; this includes democratic values. The presence of diasporas with local knowledge of opportunities in far-flung economies also augments the gains from trade between the economies. But all countries are different, and the balance of skill loss and these secondary effects will be different for each one. These, too, are empirical questions. Probably the best place to start is with the work of Frederic Docquier.

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Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 6:50 pm

Ze Kraggash – Even if it was *solely* the developing worlds middle class emigrating it would still be people who are poor by global standards migrating, so I’m not sure what your qualification is meant to say. The major discrepancies in wealth are now between, rather than within, countries, so this should be one of the ways we conceptualise poverty imo.

Of course there’s reams of evidence (some laid out above) that on purely monetary terms immigration is very good for the person migrating, and generally very good (in terms of remittances etc) on the country sending. This evidence is pretty much irrefutable. So ‘the worlds poor’ do benefit. (There are any number of potential non monetary benefits as well – such as the creation of diasporic networks, offering incentives domestically for people to educate themselves/develop skills (that they cant utilise at home but can if they emigrate), political ideas, new skills and technologies diffusing bask to the sending country, to take the strain off services in the sending country etc)

But even taking your claims that only the middle class emigrates as fact (which is of course too general to be true) your reasoning is circular. Surely the conclusion is that if the working class in Africa are locked out of western labour markets then restrictions should be removed on Africa’s working class from immigrating ?

This is a decent, free online book on the case for less restrictions, if you’re interested.

http://international.cgdev.org/publication/9781933286105-let-their-people-come-breaking-gridlock-global-labor-mobility

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Ronan(rf) 03.02.14 at 6:53 pm

That was cross posted with Paul Crider

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Bikenap 03.02.14 at 7:14 pm

LFC @111:

I agree that it could be that one need not establish the strong empirical premise I mentioned in order to reach the conclusion that borders ought to be (more) open. As you suggest, you might start from a premise that nations do not have any strong rights to exclude immigrants and refugees, and then all you’d need to conclude that we should have open borders is the much weaker premise that on balance, open borders have better consequences than closed borders. For all I know, this argument may be sound. I don’t know enough of the empirical stuff on this issue to have an opinion on what conclusion we should reach.

I only meant to claim in my post @94 that an argument for open borders that’s based only on a duty to aid the poor would need the strong empirical premise; that’s the argument that Wellman et al.’s argument addressed in the OP would have to be directed at. Now, if there are much better arguments for open borders than the one from duty to aid, and Wellman et al. don’t address them, then one can fairly criticize them for this omission. But that’s not the criticism made in the OP that I was responding to.

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Ze Kraggash 03.02.14 at 7:22 pm

Surely the conclusion is that if the working class in Africa are locked out of western labour markets then restrictions should be removed on Africa’s working class from immigrating ?

All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t appeal to my sense of duty to help the poor, when what you actually mean is “some people who are not the poorest, but nevertheless poorer than you“. These are two very different appeals.

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geo 03.02.14 at 7:33 pm

Vanya @107: Well, if you live in the greater Boston area, at least, you would probably conclude that Irish immigration worked out pretty badly for the USA.

Hear, hear! Boston for the Italians!

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Igor Belanov 03.02.14 at 8:15 pm

If it is the ‘young middle class’ of the third world emigrating, then that still might help the poor in third world countries if it makes labour more scarce and improves wages. IIRC though, many of the Pakistani immigrants to the UK were actually from relatively poor peasant backgrounds, and a traditional reason for emigration has been ‘push’ factors such as crop failure or the collapse of certain trades. So, unless things have changed an awful lot, I suspect there are still an awful lot of poor emigrants around the world.

126

roy belmont 03.02.14 at 8:28 pm

Ze Kraggash at 7:22 pm:

In an effort to prevent the siphoning off and misdirection of charitable assistance to some people who are not the poorest but merely the relatively poor, my friends and I have started an online campaign to identify the actual most miserable human being(s) alive on the planet.
It’s difficult of course because the ones at the very bottom keep dying before we can get to them.
Perhaps you’d like to donate some time? Distributed computing!
I like your image of some kind of African “middle-class” stuffing themselves into leaky boats with ruthless captaincies for outrageous sums (where’d they get that money anyway?), while their poorer brethren stay home.
Probably because they’re too damned weak from hunger to move, eh?
Rip the mask off that crap.
Where’s Darwin when we need him most?

127

Igor Belanov 03.02.14 at 8:46 pm

I need a ‘like’ button for #126.

128

MPAVictoria 03.02.14 at 9:22 pm

“Starting from the premise that a state does not have a “preferential” obligation towards the citizens it happens to govern”

I truly believe that the average citizen would be appalled by that premise.

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Bloix 03.02.14 at 9:29 pm

Picking up from #128, it seems to me that the open borders position is similar to Peter Singer’s position on poverty, only more radical.

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JW Mason 03.02.14 at 9:40 pm

Not that anyone should care, but my comments earlier in this thread were intemperate and unhelpful.

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Ze Kraggash 03.02.14 at 9:43 pm

Probably because they’re too damned weak from hunger to move, eh?

Not necessarily; for most people it’s simply not an option: no skills, no language, old age, attachment to their native culture, surroundings. Where’s Darwin? But aren’t you shaming me precisely for my objection to attaching humanitarian label to the mechanism that amounts to “survival of the fittest”? Or is this what you intended? Sorry if I misunderstood; your sarcasm is laid on thick.

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roy belmont 03.02.14 at 10:06 pm

Ze Kraggash at 9:43 pm:

I apologize for making you the single focus of what is a far more generalized vexation. Still, the image of so many poor souls drowning at the watery gates of what they hope will be salvation…and the ones who make it floundering into guarded camps with no easy exit.
Compassion’s a disability, not a liberating grace. It hurts, and in this falling world it hurts more all the time.
Makes me crabby.

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Robespierre 03.03.14 at 12:06 am

@MPAVictoria:

I agree most citizens would be appalled. But really, it only means that people are people, and that we are serious when we speak of the rights of man.

I think much of what I see as the hypocritical and halfhearted nature of the Left’s support for immigration is due to the fact that it has to pretend it won’t hurt working people in rich countries, whereas it is the quickest route to wage convergence between rich and poor countries (not convergence to poor-country wage levels, but not to rich-country levels either). It is as if the left had to “dupe” people into accepting immigration. Which is the right thing to do, but looks bad anyway.

In all frankness, I find the position of unapologetic anti-immigration parties to be much more honest. It is despicable, and it is the sort of honesty of someone who openly supports global apartheid with themselves at the top, but at least they say so*.

*I know, right-wing anti-immigration parties are also full of cultural identity nonsense, plain paranoia and loads of unspoken(?) racist bigotry, as well as much playing on irrational primal fears. Still.

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Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 12:59 am

Robespierre @ 12:06

Whose side are you on? And, who is going to be on your side?

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MPAVictoria 03.03.14 at 1:30 am

Well Robespierre I guess it comes down to whether you think the politicians should work for the people they supposedly represent or not. I guess I am old fashioned but I think that leaders in a democracy should represent, and protect the interests of, the voters.

Bruce Wilder: I do wonder sometimes if academic liberals are on our side.

136

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 3:31 am

“I think much of what I see as the hypocritical and halfhearted nature of the Left’s support for immigration is due to the fact that it has to pretend it won’t hurt working people in rich countries, whereas it is the quickest route to wage convergence between rich and poor countries (not convergence to poor-country wage levels, but not to rich-country levels either). It is as if the left had to “dupe” people into accepting immigration.”

Yeah but this isn’t true. Or at least in any meaningful way that Im personally aware of. The evidence just doesn’t show this, afaik, in terms of how immigration actually occurs in developed countries (which is just another public policy with ambiguous – going on irrelevant – results for the receiving country)
Mind you I’m not pretending the truth matters on this, but it’s worth noting.

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Vanya 03.03.14 at 7:23 am

@112, I am Irish American from Boston. That said, I am only 90% joking. I do suspect that the 19th century “know nothings”, were they to see modern America, would probably claim that they had been proven right on every particular.

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Chris Bertram 03.03.14 at 8:16 am

the hypocritical and halfhearted nature of the Left’s support for immigration

I wasn’t aware that “the Left” had a position on the subject. Has their central committee made a declaration?

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Scott Martens 03.03.14 at 8:57 am

Chris, I would reverse the argument for immigration. If we met our obligations to the global poor, all the valid reasons to oppose open door immigration would disappear. Consider that the current round of stupidity about immigration to the UK is not about hordes of French or German or Dutch immigrants coming to the UK. Economic immigration is generally efficient in a narrow economic sense: The people who move from Amsterdam to London do so in response to ordinary economic motives and both UK and Dutch productivity are increased if they are allowed to come to the UK to find a more productive life for themselves.

The absence of legal barriers to immigration does not mean there are no barriers. Most people do not want to leave countries where they are linguistically at ease and culturally integrated and where their networks of family and friends and social contacts provides them with some measure of personal and economic security. The cost to them of doing so is very high. This is why Dutch people don’t move to the UK in response to the potential for very small personal gains. It’s why the whole of Scotland doesn’t move to London, something they have an unquestioned right to do, every time there is an asymetric economic downturn. If Bangladesh was a place where standards of living were as high as the Netherlands, the only people who would leave Bangladesh for the UK are people who stand a good chance of improving global productivity by doing so, and would likely go home if they failed.

The core moral argument for open door immigration is that it is basically wrong to circumscribe the opportunities of people for no other reason than being born on the wrong side of an imaginary line. The economic argument is that free movement of labour is generally Pareto optimal for national economies. But the political argument is that free movement of labour creates both transfers from the global rich to the global poor and provides a strong incentive for the global rich to try to meet their moral obligations to the global poor where they already live. Yes, it would be better if those burdens could be more effectively placed on the locally rich, rather than the locally poor. A local (within countries) income transfer taxation regime would go a long way in that direction. But our inability to implement justice in one area does not create a compelling reason to fail to implement justice in other areas.

What I think could be done in practice is to have global trade institutions offer countries the same set of terms for freedom of movement of labour that it offers for freedom of movement of capital, goods and services: A nation has the sovereign right to control immigration only in proportion to its willingness to have its imports and exports taxed by everyone else. Anyone good enough to be your customer or supplier is good enough to be your neighbour. If the UK and Switzerland wish to restrict the right of Europeans to settle on their territories, they should accept general taxation on their goods and services by the rest of Europe.

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Chris Bertram 03.03.14 at 9:17 am

Many good points there Scott. Tellingly, the EU invested heavily in Portugal before its citizens got the right to move freely, but with the newer accession countries this hasn’t happened.

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Alex 03.03.14 at 1:10 pm

Tellingly, the EU invested heavily in Portugal before its citizens got the right to move freely, but with the newer accession countries this hasn’t happened.

Is this actually true? Here’s a map of which bits of the EU get what used to be called Objective One funding (about €283bn for the 2007-2013 budget period) because they’re under 75% of average EU GDP per capita. They’re the red ones.

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Chris Bertram 03.03.14 at 1:15 pm

Fair point Alex. Maybe I should have said that it hasn’t happened to a sufficient degree to make a lot of young people in those countries think they should stay (as they did in Portugal in the 80s). However, my claim about Portugal was actually based on a passage in Wellman (the book with Cole) and I haven’t spent any time verifying it.

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Doctor Memory 03.03.14 at 4:36 pm

Vanya@7:23 am — well trolled then. :) And I think I largely agree, but of course for me (and I imagine for you and all sane people) an America unrecognizable and repugnant to the know-nothings is a point of extreme pride.

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Randy McDonald 03.03.14 at 6:11 pm

Chris:

I’d suggest that the difference between Portugal and Poland (say) is that the latter was much poorer than Portugal when its citizens gained access to the EU labour market. Practically speaking, little could be done without massive and probably political impossible transfers of income to east from west.

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