Expatriation and duties to compatriots

by Chris Bertram on April 19, 2016

I’ve been teaching brain-drain related issues this week. Some of the big questions there are empirical ones, and the facts are contested. But some of the normative issues are interesting, and some of them don’t just apply to poor countries. One of these issues is the apparent clash between our duties to compatriots (if we have any) and our rights of exit and expatriation. If I have a duty as a member of an institutional scheme to contribute to the well-being of the least advantaged members of my society, can I just divest myself of that duty (in one bound, as it were) by leaving the country, or, to go one step further, by renouncing my nationality? It was a puzzle that Henry Sigdwick was defeated by back in 1907 [or somewhat earlier in fact, as he died in 1900!]:

`In 1868 it was affirmed, in an Act passed by the Congress of the United States, that ‘the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people.’ I do not know how far this would be taken to imply that a man has a moral right to leave his country whenever he finds it convenient—provided no claims except those of Patriotism retain him there. But if it was intended to imply this, I think the statement would not be accepted in Europe without important limitations: though I cannot state any generally accepted principle from which such limitations could be clearly deduced.” Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed (1907) The position of the United States in 1868 was merely a codification of the one it had taken in the War of 1812 against the British, who had wished to insist that their nationals could not divest themselves at will of their duties to the Crown and could still be lawfully conscripted by the Royal Navy, even though such persons had decleared themselve American.

The US position in 1812 seems right to us today, and yet it also seems to carry with it some uncomfortable implications. If the super-rich tire of the burden of redistributive taxation in their country of origin, may they divest themselves of their duties to poor fellow Americans (or Brits, or … ) merely by living abroad and perhaps acquiring a different nationality? (Some nationalities, such as St Kitts are readily available for purchase). Common sense says that it shouldn’t be so easy and that our feelings of revulsion towards tax dodgers and tax exiles are well-founded. Yet the tax exile who relocates to some tax haven may well be doing something of great benefit to the least advantaged of his or her new country of citizenship, and may thereby be satisfactorily discharging new duties to newly acquired compatriots. (Though less expensive ones, selected by shopping around among jurisdictions).

It seems hard to hang onto all of our principles in a consistent manner. Rights of exit and expatriation are a solid part of international human rights law (UDHR clauses 13.2 and 15.2) but we want to condemn as unjust the person who opts to abandon poor compatriots. One answer would be to say that the wealth tax expatriate is doing something that ought to attract our disapproval but that it would be wrong to coerce such a person into better behaviour. But I’m not sure I’m happy leaving it there.

{ 115 comments }

1

Scott P. 04.19.16 at 5:24 pm

The answer, as for many problems, is to advocate for world government. Then the issue becomes moot.

2

Chris Bertram 04.19.16 at 5:27 pm

Well @Scott P, indeed. But if there’s a world government, and it’s an oppressive and unjust one, where you gonna run?

3

steven johnson 04.19.16 at 5:34 pm

Distinguishing between the rights of persons to expatriation and the right of money to expatriation seems simple enough to me. Where exactly is the moral problem with rich people moving abroad?

4

Jeff Dickey 04.19.16 at 5:45 pm

@steven johnson, on the one hand, shouldn’t all individuals have the right to not have their assets seized by government fiat simply for availing themselves of their own rights as defined in law and custom? On the other hand, I suspect this is one reason why many countries have “exit visas” that are required for their citizens to legally leave the country. If you want to say “fine, you can leave unmolested, but X% of your wealth above $Y cannot be taken with you or transferred out of the country within N years after you leave — and the clock starts again if you again establish residence here”, you’ve just built yourself a very nasty, very slippery slope. One that many “pragmatists” might argue is “necessary”, but is as clearly “un-American” as any complaints the Colonials had against the British Crown.

If we can’t keep people from leaving, and taking their riches with them, then turn the problem around: how do we make people want to stay? There were not nearly so many tax exiles half a century ago as now, surely, even though the tax rates were much higher. What motivated them to stay that no longer motivates the ultra-rich today? And how can that be addressed?

5

Chris Bertram 04.19.16 at 5:56 pm

@steven johnson I take that point entirely. But it only covers part of the problem. If we’re talking about someone with scarce skills and the capacity to earn a high income, then detaining some of the wealth they acquire prior to expatriation is only going to get us so far. They can still put their future earnings beyond the reach of the taxman (and of their poor compatriots). When they do that, are they doing something we should deplore?

6

Piers Brown 04.19.16 at 5:58 pm

What seems invidious is when a (usually rich) individual voluntarily expatriates and then takes advantage of immigration laws which allow them to spend almost as much time in the country of the original nationality as before. There are obvious ways that this could become unfair, but I think there is at least a case to be made that if someone gives up nationality, they should be penalized for continuing to live as if they hadn’t.

7

Matt 04.19.16 at 6:30 pm

If we’re talking about someone with scarce skills and the capacity to earn a high income, then detaining some of the wealth they acquire prior to expatriation is only going to get us so far. They can still put their future earnings beyond the reach of the taxman (and of their poor compatriots). When they do that, are they doing something we should deplore?

No, I don’t think so. It’s a problem when someone with $100 million exits the country with their assets, but nobody ever produced $100 million in a single lifetime solely by the sweat of their own brow. The difference between the output of an average worker and a high-skill worker just isn’t that great, anywhere. When people accumulate fortunes they’ve almost always gambled and won, collected rents, and/or accumulated surplus from the labor of others.

Wilt Chamberlain was supposed to be the go-to libertarian example of someone who accumulates a fortune without any obvious chicanery or injustice. But in fact countries aren’t losing significant productivity if all their Walt Chamberlains relocate elsewhere. It’s not like we are debating the ethics of Superman abandoning America to retire in Monaco. There are no real-world Supermen of socially necessary labor. The closest we might have for a real-world analogy is a highly productive inventor, but once invented anywhere inventions can be reproduced everywhere that has the necessary infrastructure. Losing the inventor does not actually lose the benefits of the inventor’s inventions. The same goes for authors, musicians, scientists, and artists.

AFAICT the most common brain-drain argument involving poor countries is about skilled workers in the medical field. I’m not going to try to argue one way or another for the ethics of their emigration, but I’ll note that in the developed world the median doctor commands only a few times the median salary across the whole population. If doctors look like economic Supermen in the context of low-HDI nations, it’s more because the average development of productive human potential is so low there compared to what’s possible, not because doctors are actually towering, titanic figures fit for legends and comic books.

8

TM 04.19.16 at 6:44 pm

“When they do that, are they doing something we should deplore?”

It is useless to put this in moralistic terms. People have the right to make decisions based on their personal preferences and interests (within the law) even if the net effect on society at large (which to practically determine is difficult if not impossible) might be negative.

As an analogy, some argue that it’s selfish to remain childless. Even if that were true, it would be horrific to punish people for that “selfish” choice.

9

BruceJ 04.19.16 at 6:58 pm

@9

As an analogy, some argue that it’s selfish to remain childless. Even if that were true, it would be horrific to punish people for that “selfish” choice.

Within the context of this argument, childless people ARE “punished” by having higher taxes levied.

The moral approbation is not that people are “make[ing] decisions based on their personal preferences and interests (within the law)” it’s that they’re freeloading; taking advantage of the public good that comes of us paying our taxes, then removing themselves from that system.

10

PatinIowa 04.19.16 at 7:03 pm

In the late forties and early fifties, my father took advantage of a set of government scholarships to get his MD at the U of Sasketchewan. Once he started publishing in radiology, US academia came knocking.

He described the situation as “I was blowing my own glassware in London Ontario when M.D. Anderson offered me $100,000 in research funding and lab facilities.”

On the one hand, he benefitted from the largesse of the taxpayers in Canada–there was no way he could have even swung undergrad, his family was dirt poor. On the other hand he says he came for the infrastructure for his scholarly work, which, if you met him, you’d believe.

In this case a few complexities emerge–he emigrated less to flee something because he was drawn by something that greatly amplified his ability to do the work he loved. The research he did surely benefitted the Canadians he left behind. But there’s a sense in which he took the education and used it for something different than what the initial deal was about. (This did not go unnoticed by his siblings, especially when they were in their cups.)

Later in his life, he gobsmacked me by saying that a Kenya immigrant physician he knew owed it his country to go back.

I think there’s a difference between people leaving with knowledge and skills and people leaving taxable assets–especially inherited or stolen money–but I have no idea how to operationalize that difference.

11

Phil 04.19.16 at 7:12 pm

TM @9 – yes; the set of things that we rightly deplore is bigger than the set of things most people would want the government to disincentivise in any way, and that’s bigger than the set of things that should be prevented or made illegal.

I think there’s a danger of a kind of philosophical faux-naivety in the way this question is posed. We know what a tax haven is – everyone involved knows, starting with the tax exiles themselves and their advisors. The 1%er who has himself domiciled in St Kitts for tax purposes isn’t doing the same thing as my friend who moved from Canada to Grenada, but doing it for a different reason – he or she is actually doing something different. What’s difficult isn’t defining the thing we deplore but mapping it onto the idiosyncratic facts of individual cases (what difference does it make if… he’s actually going to live there! some of the time! his partner’s a Kittian! he used to go there on holiday! he’s had lousy tax advice and he isn’t actually saving any money! Etc.).

As for whether ‘valuable’ individuals have an obligation to the society where they were born and grew up, I’d say they have exactly as much of an obligation as they feel – and the same goes for less ‘valuable’ souls. What’s not personally or culturally variable is political – I can’t see that there are any broader principles.

12

RNB 04.19.16 at 7:24 pm

Great posing of the problem in OP. Will be thinking about it

13

steven johnson 04.19.16 at 8:41 pm

Jeff Dickey@5 The appeal to law and custom is only as good as the law and custom. It is not at all clear that individuals have a right to cart away all the wealth of a country they can. By your standards, no one is justified in being indignant if corporations, which are assets of people after all, hid as much many in foreign bank accounts without even troubling to relocate themselves. You may call the contrary opinion a slippery slope but I call it common sense. You don’t have to be a socialist to object to your version.

Chris Bertram@6 The last two paragraphs of the OP did seem largely concerned with wealthy expatriates. As to the brain drain of physicians, engineers and other highly skilled personnel crucial to poor countries or poor regions? Unless you believe that the market is the only valid epistemic measure of moral value a la Jason Brennan, it is obviously deplorable when a physician would rather get a higher income in a big city than a lower income in a small town in a rural area. It’s like logging all the timber, then leaving. Eventually it’ll be replaced, but what happens until then? And, what if it just happens again?

As for a cure that still acknowledges the rights of individuals to leave for elsewhere, it seems likely that the provision of training/scholarships should come with the proviso that repayment in service is expected. But the repayment can be monetary, with allowances for a payment schedule, for a fee roughly approximating replacement costs, i.e., training of another similarly skilled person. If you choose to call this an exist visa, or holding someone hostage, so be it.

14

TM 04.19.16 at 9:01 pm

– A gets trained as physician at public expense, then leaves the country and has a successful practice in another country where doctors earn more and/or taxes are lower.
– B gets trained as physician at public expense, then decides to become a poet and never practices medicine, even though there is a shortage of doctors in his/her country.
– C gets trained as physician at public expense, then falls in love with a foreigner and follows him/her abroad, and does or does not enjoy higher earnings and/or lower taxes.

Which of these should we deplore? The end result, from the perspective of the “compatriots”, is the same, and all of these individuals have acted selfishly.

One can have endless fun with this.
– B fails as a poet and lives the rest of his/her life in poverty on meager welfare.
– B becomes world famous and is credited with raising the international prestige of his/her nation.

Another question, how can one justify special moral duties towards “compatriots” based on the accident of birth? And isn’t ethics precisely supposed to be blind towards such accidents? Aren’t ethical responsibilities universal?

I agree that freeloading should be addressed but as a matter of regulation, not morality.

Finally a question to Chris: the practice of certain governments to induce brain drain by inviting highly educated immigrants (and only those) is an obvious form of freeloading. Are there any approaches toward addressing this directly? Any moral condemnations, at least?

15

Nick 04.19.16 at 9:31 pm

When considering this issue, remember that whatever choice you make with regards to the extremely rich will, in practice, be applied to the poor, the skilled, and the middle class. I studied International Health in Europe, and was revolted by the ease with which the professors, European doctors who moved freely through Europe and the world, lectured their largely-immigrant students on the ‘brain drain’ — i.e. their responsibility to stay home and work where they came from. This is particularly repugnant in light of the HR policies of international NGOs, often the best employers for medical workers in the developing world, who pay grant-writing expats and non-patois-speaking transient nurses huge hard currency salaries, and local doctors local salaries.

Brain drain is not a simple moral issue. Many of these brain-drained people would not be employed in raising the local standard of living, and many of them save up funds in their country of employment that get sent back. Send all the Filipino nurses abroad back to the Philippines, and you aren’t going to see the place become a utopia of high-quality, low-cost nursing-led Health.

We all live in the same world, and every one of us decides exactly what our personal balance of responsibility and freedom is — not philosophy professors or health economists.

16

Nick 04.19.16 at 9:46 pm

In fact, I think it would be a fine thing if instead of having a debate about whether educated people from the developing world should be permitted to move freely, we debate whether philosophers and health economists should be permitted to freely question the right of other people to move freely.

17

Mdc 04.19.16 at 9:49 pm

“And isn’t ethics precisely supposed to be blind towards such accidents? Aren’t ethical responsibilities universal?”

There could be universal duties to whoever happen to be your compatriots, since although country of birth is an accident, it is an accident to which we are universally subject.

18

tony lynch 04.19.16 at 9:57 pm

If, Chris, you object to world government with “where you gonnan run to?”, then haven’t you answered your question? If no obligation to stay and fight for justice here, why anywhere?

19

John Quiggin 04.20.16 at 12:22 am

The funding of post-school education by loans schemes repayable through the tax system is a relevant issue here. Australia was the first mover here, and is now moving to recover debts from graduates who move overseas

http://studyassist.gov.au/sites/studyassist/helpfulresources/pages/2015%20budget%20-%20student%20overview

This isn’t a complete answer to the classic version of the “brain drain” argument, since expatriates still benefit from having received free school education and subsidised university from their home country, but it goes a fair way.

But I take Chris to have been talking about (not necessarily advocating) a stronger and more contentious claim that, simply by virtue of being born into some particular polity, you have an obligation to contribute to it.

20

Lupita 04.20.16 at 12:31 am

Rich countries are not only freeloading by poaching doctors, programmers, and other professionals. When a country (the US, for example) suddenly decided that having its citizens do menial labor was not in line with its world status and exceptionalism, all it had to do was sign a free trade agreement with Mexico that destroyed the ejido, the livelihood of campesinos, and ensured that millions of families would be left without their fathers and whole communities destroyed and taken over by narcos.

I see no problem at the individual (human rights) level. The problem is with the lack of social rights for ethnic groups, communities, and nations that permits their immiseration and causes mass migrations through debt, war and trade agreements.

It is also curious that while this is happening, in the US and Europe it is now seen as racist to speak about immigration policies and the rights of society.

21

Omega Centauri 04.20.16 at 3:09 am

I really hate to put extra moral “trips” onto people. One example is a member of a poor minority who by virtue of skill and hard work has an opportunity to make it big outside the community. Should she give up that opportunity, and stay in the community? Most likely if she left and made it big, there is a decent chance she will establish a scholarship or similar charity for her ex community, but if she felt morally pressured to not leave, this might never happen.

The issue of an individual taking their state subsidized education and moving to another state, strikes me as similar to the in-state out-of-state tuition issue at public universities. There are many states which have arranged reciprocity deals with neighboring states, so that citizens of one state can qualify for in-state tuition in the other. In a similar manner, between near socioeconomic equals there can be a near-reciprocity of cross-subsidization. In the case of non-equals, there could be government to government transfers of resources sufficient to balance out any net cost/benefit imbalances. This seems like a much more natural way to attack this problem, without having to make individuals agonize over the fairness of their life decisions.

22

Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 5:56 am

@TM Well yes. In particular I think it is immoral for wealthy countries to systematically underinvest in training and education and then to try to take people to plug the gaps that result. The UK should be training more nurses (and construction workers for that matter) than it does.

@JohnQuiggin Not born into as such, but many people believe that you have obligations to compatriots on other grounds. One such ground might be acceptance of benefits, another could be what you owe as a co-member of an institutional scheme of justice (Anna Stilz argues for this line, as do many Rawlsians/Kantians). And then some people believe in genuinely patriotic duties to the national community (though I don’t).

23

John Quiggin 04.20.16 at 6:24 am

@25 This seems to depend a lot on the age at which you emigrate. My impression (not derived from the latest fuss about refugees) is that migrants are mostly young adults. Can they be said to be co-members of an institutional scheme they have opted out of at the earliest opportunity?

Conversely, this strengthens the case against tax exiles, and the governments and institutions that aid and abet them.

24

J-D 04.20.16 at 6:32 am

Ze K @17

‘Not the accident of birth; integration in the community in the key here. If you’re part of something (a family, for example), that matters…’

My daughter owes me nothing. She didn’t ask to be born; we (her parents) brought her into the world for our own reasons, not because it was something she desired. What I’ve done for her since I’ve done because I wanted to, never on the basis of an agreed quid pro quo. Now that she’s an adult I could make bargains with her on an equal footing if I wanted to (but so far I’ve never wanted to), and if I’d tried anything like that when she was a child it would have been unconscionable.

I see no reason to treat an individual’s relationship with a country any differently from an individual’s relationship with parents. I didn’t ask to be born a citizen/subject/national of my country, and I was never consulted about my willingness to accept any obligations imposed as a consequence.

25

Kevin 04.20.16 at 6:55 am

The vast majority of people who migrate are not extremely rich and moving to a Caribbean island so it’s a mistake to frame the debate around such exceptions. A taxation system based on both residence and former residence/citizenship would become impossibly complex and unjust. Only the USA and Eritrea operate such systems and it would be disastrous if the rest of the world followed. These two countries steal tax revenue from the economies of other countries at great administrative expense.

Clamp down on the tax havens but a large number of people now work in more than one country in their lifetimes. This is a good thing and should not be penalised.

26

Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 7:24 am

Does the same argument logically apply to inside country migration, moving from depressed regions/cities to wealthier ones ? I have some sympathy for the argument, especially as migration becomes more a choice in wealthy countries than a necessity/ obligation. I think we ‘re plausibly going to get to a stage where people self select by education and income level into wealthy global enclaves (mainly major cities ), which will have detrimental developmental consequences for those outside the gilded circles (globally and I country )
(JQ, off topic, but have you ever written about Australia’s education loan schemes ?)

“I see no reason to treat an individual’s relationship with a country any differently from an individual’s relationship with parents”

You don’t think your kids have any obligation to you ?

27

Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 7:45 am

The example here would be white flight. A lot of liberals I’ve spoken to seem to think there was something morally questionable for white people in the US to flee major cities to the suburbs. But if you said to.the same person that it’s morally questionable to flee Appalachia , or that someone born in an area/country has an obligation to that place , it’s almost an insult to them.
Is the problem here intent ? (People fleeing US urban areas were fleeing African American in migration, or so the story goes). Still I can’t see any major moral difference

28

TM 04.20.16 at 7:51 am

I don’t think anybody has come up with a non-arbitrary justification for the accident of birth question. Re Ronan, J-D explicitly answered your question in the negative and I agree. Many people personally feel obligations toward family members (other than children and spouses) but they shouldn’t have to. It would be bad ethics and also bad policy to impose such obligations as moral let alone legal norms.

To expand on the latter, it is a hallmark of modern society that people don’t depend on their children or relatives in old age, they are taken take of by institutional schemes like Social Security. If it were otherwise, people would feel the need to have as many children as possible, which is obviously not sustainable. That is one reason why relying on clan-based responsibilities is simply not feasible in a modern society. It is also not desirable because it would be incompatible with liberal conceptions of individual autonomy, which most of us cherish as an accomplishment of modernity. I do at least.

29

George Mason 04.20.16 at 7:52 am

If you had the temerity to emigrate from the United Kingdom to Australia, when you reached pension age, your British pension was frozen at the rate applicable when you left.
Could be construed as some sort of delayed punishment. See:
http://www.britishpensions.org.au/statistics.htm

30

Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 7:54 am

” Re Ronan, J-D explicitly answered your question in the negative and I agree. “

Yeah, my question was largely rhetorical. I just wanted to note a vague feeling of disagreement, but I don’t have any morally or logically coherent argument to back it up.

31

TM 04.20.16 at 8:00 am

taken *care* of, sorry.

Ronan, White Flight is an excellent case study. What I would ask is, what good does it do to make moral reproaches? These are collective action problems that you can’t solve on an individual level. Solutions depend on institutional arrangements.

Re CB 25, what I was asking isn’t just whether you think these states act immorally but also what can be done about it. Freeloading by tax haven jurisdictions is at least a recognized problem and there are measures that can and in a few cases are taken against them (and I’m sure much more could be done if the main powers wanted to).

32

John Quiggin 04.20.16 at 8:42 am

@28 I’ve written quite a bit about the Australian scheme and various possible extensions of the principle, for example, replacing criminal fines with an income levy. I’ll try to write a post on this.

33

John Quiggin 04.20.16 at 8:51 am

@33 That’s a bit misleading. As I understand it, the Australian government, under protest, makes up the difference between the frozen British payment and the indexed Australian pension. If I were running things, I’d confiscate British assets at random to make up the difference, but that would violate sacred property rights or something.

34

Stephen 04.20.16 at 9:38 am

How does this question apply to people who leave their country to escape conscription for a war? Are they neglecting their duties? Does it make a difference whether they consider that particular war is unjust (bearing in mind that there have been few, possibly no wars that everybody in the relevant country has agreed to be unequivocally just), or consider any use of violence to be unjustifiable, or simply dislike the possibility of their being killed?

35

Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 9:51 am

@TM: well, one thing that can be done about it is that we can vote for politicians who are committed funding higher education and training properly.

@Kevin US citizens overseas have the option of renouncing their citizenship. If they retain their citizenship then I take it they believe they have something to gain by doing so. (Right of return to the US, right of diplomatic support etc) Why is it unjust for the US to charge them for this benefit?

36

George Mason 04.20.16 at 10:26 am

@37 I seem to recall that this arrangement was terminated a few years ago, maybe 2000?. I’ll check the Australian Social Services site later

37

Peter T 04.20.16 at 10:32 am

I agree with TM @ 35. this is a tension between our individual selves and our inescapable sociality that cannot be solved – just managed. Pretty much like immigration, or hospitality, or charity.

38

engels 04.20.16 at 10:57 am

What I would ask is, what good does it do to make moral reproaches? These are collective action problems that you can’t solve on an individual level. Solutions depend on institutional arrangements.

– moral reproaches can be part of the mechanism through which collective action occurs
– just because you can’t solve a problem as an invididual doesn’t make your action worthless (eg. donating to a crisis fund)

39

TM 04.20.16 at 11:10 am

engels, specifically wrt White Flight, how do you apply that?

40

TM 04.20.16 at 11:15 am

Brett is right. Modern Europe is a terrible place compared to all those happy countries where society is still organized by clan structures and the number of a person’s surviving offspring determines how they will live in old age.

Blame Bismarck.

41

Peter T 04.20.16 at 11:31 am

It’s off-topic, but I’m pretty sure that ‘have children as insurance against old age” is a rationalising myth. I mean, it’s not like Poor Laws are a recent innovation, or church or manorial obligations to care for the poor never happened, or that the 5 per cent or so of western Europeans who were professedly celibate all died in ditches. With humans, there is rarely a tragedy of the commons, but tragedies of elite destruction of the mechanisms of community are all too common.

42

Layman 04.20.16 at 11:36 am

“Also, many parents feel that their children and grandchildren owe them something.”

Is this actually so? I don’t have even the slightest feeling that my ‘child’ (he’s 33) owes me anything at all. If anything, I still feel an ongoing sense of obligation to him, and probably always will.

43

harry b 04.20.16 at 11:45 am

Kevin — are expatriate Eritreans really so numerous as to make much difference to other people’s economies.

On the US: the 330 day rule (is it 330?) means that you only actually pay significant tax to the US government if you earn really a lot of money. Like… again, not looking it up I don’t know, but it is into 6 figures. This is why so many US citizens working for contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan spent no more than 30 days a year in the US — they got inflated salaries and paid no tax to any government on the first $X00,000. Good deal (if you didn’t get killed or kidnapped)!

Chris — Kevin didn’t say the US was ripping off the citizens, but the countries in which they work (which, he is right, lose a considerable amount of tax revenue).

44

Jacob 04.20.16 at 11:57 am

Lupita: to be fair, big parts of the Mexican economy collapsed significantly before NAFTA, and the PRI was all in favor of destroying ejidos with or without free trade agreements.

45

Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 12:02 pm

“Is this actually so?”

It seems to with some people. It doesn’t with my own parents (who aren’t at that stage now anyway) but then it didn’t with my grandparents, and still in practice it meant that the child who has stayed locally (particularly , but not solely, if a woman) had to take on those obligations. The State really only covers so much. I think I would personally factor it in in the long run.

46

Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 12:11 pm

@harry b : fair point re taxation. Expatriate Eritreans though are very numerous indeed (at least relative to the population of Eritrea). However, though numerous, they are usually too poor to make much difference.

47

engels 04.20.16 at 12:33 pm

specifically wrt White Flight, how do you apply that?

A white person living in a ‘white flight’ neighbourhood who stays put may be taking a positive action against segregation and racism; moral criticism of the people who leave might support this.

48

Nick 04.20.16 at 12:55 pm

Chris @39

As an expatriate American, the reason I retain my citizenship is that it is the only guarantee I have of being able to visit my relatives — non-citizens don’t have the right to enter the United States. Think of it as a hostage situation, not a service that I’m buying. America has my family.

Since all Americans, even those who don’t pay taxes, have this right, it clearly has no dollar value in the eyes of the US government.

49

TM 04.20.16 at 1:24 pm

engels, a handful of people resisting the White Flight individually don’t make any difference. In contrast to the example you gave – donating to a crisis fund – where the small indivual action does indeed have a small impact, in collective action problems, the point is precisely that it takes a critical mass of individuals to make a difference.

Peter T 46, there have surely been predecessors of what we now call the welfare state that go back a few centuries (which IS actually recent), and social norms for helping even unrelated poor may have existed in all societies. But you are surely aware that living in poor houses and orphanages or depending on alms was never much fun. I mean do you picture yourself in the 18th century or so saying, well if I remain childless there’s still the poor house that will take care of me? Celibacy btw was a choice only for members of religious orders, who could expect to be taken care of by their order. Others remained celibate if they were too poor to marry in the first place, and they had little to look forward to in old age (which they probably didn’t expect to reach anyway).

Without modern institutional arrangements, people did most certainly rely on the support of family members as their best chance for a decent life in old age (of course they also continued working to the extent possible) or incapacitation. In the life of my own grandparents it was still commonplace for farmers to make an explicit contract with the son (usually) who took over the farm spelling out exactly what they were entitled to: so many pounds of butter per month, so many kilos of potatoes, and so on, and spelling out their right to their private rooms as long as they are alive. That is the equivalent of a pension scheme, but personal and family based.

Would love to hear more on this topic from historians.

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TM 04.20.16 at 1:37 pm

Just out of curiosity, how many posters here are familiar with rural life in places where family ties and close-knit communities still play a significant role? And how many think that these kinds of arrangements are well-suited for modern society?

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mdc 04.20.16 at 1:41 pm

I’m not sure duties arising from unchosen relations can be rejected so easily. In the case of family, it’s not that children ‘owe’ their parents anything as a debt for services rendered, but rather that children find themselves in unchosen relations of dependance, and these relations produce duties.

A small example: many people really like being with family during the holidays. Grown children may be, through no choice of their own, the only means parents have to satisfy this desire (need?). Even if you can’t stand the parents, I’d say you have an obligation to offer them a seat at the table.

Democracy feels to me like it could impose analogous obligations. See Frederick Douglass:

‘To desert the family hearth may place the recreant husband out of the presence of his starving children, but this does not free him from responsibility. If a man were on board of a pirate ship, and in company with others had robbed and plundered, his whole duty would not be preformed simply by taking the longboat and singing out, “No union with pirates.” His duty would be to restore the stolen property.’

Also see Neil Young:

‘You got the rest of the Union to help you along.’

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 2:22 pm

Timothy Guinnane wrote an interesting book (from an economists perspective )on Irish population patterns (high emigration, high frequency of non marriage, high fertility from those who married). This is a good rundown of his position and the counter arguments

http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-vanishing-irish-irelands-population-from-the-great-famine-to-the-great-war/

(Also relevant to a lot of developing countries and the long term developmental consequences large scale emigration has, which are ignored by a lot of contemporary researchers)

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 2:23 pm

@TM

Just out of curiosity, how many posters here are familiar with rural life in places where family ties and close-knit communities still play a significant role? And how many think that these kinds of arrangements are well-suited for modern society?

I am and I don’t think there is a single way for a society to be modern or that strong family ties, family obligations, and mutual dependency exist only in poor, rural communities. Individualist, Western modernity is just one form of modernity, not modernity itself.

I also think that Americans, though many profess to be individualist and libertarian ideologues, are actually much less so than Europeans, or put another way, American individualism is only skin-deep and can disappear at a moments’ notice in case of need. I base this on observations of Americans and their personal space which shrinks or expands depending on who they are with. That is, is you greet an American with a kiss and hug, s/he will unblinkingly and with no discomfort return a culturally appropriate kiss and hug, whereas Europeans will take a step back. My interpretation of this personal experience of mine, leads me to believe that American families are just as touchy-feely as a Latin American one whereas European sons and daughters do not kiss their parents. Once, while feeling all sniffy and isolated in Europe because nobody touched me, I actually asked a group of friends if they ever kissed their parents, and the answer was ”no”.

Anyway, looking at family obligations as a personal choice or the product of asking to be born is absurd. These feelings are very profound, the product of socialization, and have nothing to do with modernity.

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 2:35 pm

I agree with lupita. It’s a fallacy to believe these “close knit ties” don’t exist even among the most educated classes in the wealthy countries. People just imagine their community differently. Less kin, or geography, more class, or ideology, perhaps.
Also “rural life in places where family ties and close-knit communities ” is not just one thing. It varies place to place , time to time.
Different people get different value out of different arrangements and relationships, but contemporary liberals are not standing apart from such parochialism and in group solidarity , they just have a different conceptions of it

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 2:39 pm

Conception is surely not the word I was looking for ? I’ve really no idea what was though

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Scott P. 04.20.16 at 2:57 pm

@Chris Bertram “Well @Scott P, indeed. But if there’s a world government, and it’s an oppressive and unjust one, where you gonna run?”

For 25 million North Koreans, having a place to ‘run’ to hasn’t seemed to do them a whole lot of good.

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RNB 04.20.16 at 3:09 pm

Remember this from Cowen’s Marginal Revolution blog; have not read the paper he mentions here

High skilled migration and global innovation
by Tyler Cowen on December 5, 2015 at 1:24 am in Economics, Law, Web/Tech | Permalink
Another argument against the brain drain hypothesis is that bringing talented workers to the “frontier” countries will boost the supply of global public goods. Rui Xu, in her job market paper from Stanford (pdf), considers exactly this effect. Here are her main results:

Science and engineering (S&E) workers are the fundamental inputs into scientific innovation and technology adoption. In the United States, more than 20% of the S&E workers are immigrants from developing countries. In this paper, I evaluate the impact of such brain drain from non-OECD (i.e., developing) countries using a multi-country endogenous growth model. The proposed framework introduces and quantifies a “frontier growth effect” of skilled migration: migrants from developing countries create more frontier knowledge in the U.S., and the non-rivalrous knowledge diffuses to all countries. In particular, each source country is able to adopt technology invented by migrants from other countries, a previously ignored externality of skilled migration. I quantify the model by matching both micro and macro moments, and then consider counterfactuals wherein U.S. immigration policy changes. My results suggest that a policy – which doubles the number of immigrants from every non-OECD country – would boost U.S. productivity growth by 0.1 percentage point per year, and improve average welfare in the U.S. by 3.3%. Such a policy can also benefit the source countries because of the “frontier growth effect”. Taking India as an example source country, I find that the same policy would lead to faster long-run growth and a 0.9% increase in average welfare in India. This welfare gain in India is largely the result of additional non-Indian migrants, indicating the significance of the previously overlooked externality.

In other words, the brain drain argument is overrated.

– See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/12/high-skilled-migration-and-global-innovation.html#sthash.kKgb1Iq5.dpuf

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TM 04.20.16 at 3:11 pm

I hope Lupita you are not getting me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with strong family ties and close-knit communities, I just think that modern large-scale society couldn’t function well on the basis of clan structures. It just wouldn’t work, and American society is a good example for that. Contrary to what Ronan and Lupita seem to suggest, in my (outside) impression, family ties here really are of much less relevance, if only due to geographic dispersion. It is quite common for Americans to have not a single relative living in easy distance, and for older parents to only see their children once a year on Thanksgiving (to be sure this is a generalization – in any society there is huge variability in people’s family relations). If in that situation you try to rely on family in times of hardship, you have a problem – and indeed Americans are far more likely to rely on communities like church which they belong to by choice, not birth. I wonder whether “family values” rhetoric has such a huge significance precisely because in social reality, family is quite fragile (consider the high divorce rate and so on). Also interesting to note that in many countries you can’t disinherit your legal spouse or children (here there is a sense of even legal duty towards family). In America you can and this is considered uncontroversial.

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TM 04.20.16 at 3:14 pm

RNB, sorry but you shouldn’treyl on anything Cowen writes. Note this claim, built into the model: “In particular, each source country is able to adopt technology invented by migrants from other countries, a previously ignored externality of skilled migration.” I’ll bet he offers no empirical evidence for that.

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 3:16 pm

Large scale emigration transforms a society and economy Completely. For generations . Whether or not it is good bad or somewhat inevitable is only something that can be decided on retrospectively by careful historians.

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TM 04.20.16 at 3:25 pm

A friend of mine (American) once said to me: She was gratified that her step-children (she doesn’t have biological children) like her and seek a good relationship with her, that they even “want me in their lives”. Herself, she left home as soon as she was able to and never felt any obligation or much positive feeling toward her parents. And that was not uncommon in her (hippie) generation.

Functioning family life can be breathtakingly beautful (hey, just ask Pope Francis) and I’m far from suggesting that family relationships will ever lose their significance for humans. But you can’t enforce good family relations and there’s no guarantee that people are compatible with those who happen to be family.

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 3:34 pm

I don’t think we should revert , societally, To some type of amoral familialism , where the only obligations that matter are to the extended clan, civil society be damned. But there’s still a big gap between that and whatever the other extreme is (children being raised by the state from birth?). What role the family should play, how you counteract inequalities built into it , what societal positives and negatives it encourages , what is even meant by “family” etc are broad questions.
Of course it’s *an* answer to the problems of contemporary society. What answer it is depends on what question youre asking and what you want to Achieve

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TM 04.20.16 at 3:42 pm

Ok let’s get this out of the way.

Dysfunctional, oppressive, even violent family and partnership situations are unfortunately far more common than we’d hope, and the right and the freedom to get out of these is a really important accomplishment of modernity. I’m sure we can agree on that.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 3:44 pm

@TM

But you can’t enforce good family relations and there’s no guarantee that people are compatible with those who happen to be family.

Good family relations are enforced through socialization. For example, in Mexico, everyone you greet (which is practically everyone who crosses your path) inquires about your relations, friends, and neighbors, and not knowing about the latest developments in everybody’s life would render you an outcast as certainly as being a known pedophile would. Even drug lords fulfill their obligations to family and community. Of course, giving the impression of being a good family relation is not the same as actually being one, but the social pressure to at least keep appearances is very strong.

As to compatibility, this is of no consequence. Family and community obligations are not contingent upon loving or even liking you relatives.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 4:03 pm

@TM

Dysfunctional, oppressive, even violent family and partnership situations are unfortunately far more common than we’d hope, and the right and the freedom to get out of these is a really important accomplishment of modernity.

Traditional relationships also help people escape pathological situations. For example, if a woman is the victim of domestic violence, relationships can actually help her confront and escape the situation, whereas a woman, who is alone in a city where she doesn’t know anyone and has no bonds of mutual obligations, may find herself in a more difficult situation. The problem of violent and dysfunctional families is universal; it is just that different cultures deal with problems in different ways.

What I do believe is that, in Western society, solutions are more visible. For example, shelters for abused women, women’s groups, and charity drives, are all out in the open for everybody to see and quantify, whereas in traditional systems, the help provided cannot be as easily observed and quantified because it is much more discrete and private.

But it is there. Actually, if you want it to be there in case of need, you better fulfill your family obligations.

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ccc 04.20.16 at 4:23 pm

Chris Bertram OP: “Yet the tax exile who relocates to some tax haven may well be doing something of great benefit to the least advantaged of his or her new country of citizenship”

I think that is very seldom the case. See Nick Shaxsons point 4 in this recent piece
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-tax-havens/2016/04/15/76d001d2-0255-11e6-b823-707c79ce3504_story.html There is also more on the topic IIRC in Shaxson’s Treasure Islands.

And if rich person is motivated to do what has best effect for the least advantaged on a global scale then spending his time and effort on tax evasion manouvres wealth is most likely not at the top of the list. He should that wealth on effective altruist projects right away.

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TM 04.20.16 at 4:26 pm

70, sorry but if your tradition tells you you can’t leave an abusive husband or father no matter what, then traditional family is not a helpful institution to you. Relationships that help you in that situation are more likely based on friendship not birth,

Friends and (in America) church are chosen. Mutual obligations are freely entered into.

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bruce wilder 04.20.16 at 4:32 pm

Lupita @ 70: . . . in Western society, solutions are more visible. . . . whereas in traditional systems, the help provided cannot be as easily observed and quantified because it is much more discrete and private.

I think that is more than a little bit pollyanna.

The visibility of liberal modernity you notice is a by-product of the main thing liberal modernity brings to the situation: philosophic rational intent for institutional reform.

That discretion and privacy can hide festering horror. I don’t think that’s just modernist propaganda.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 4:41 pm

@TM

if your tradition tells you you can’t leave an abusive husband or father no matter what, then traditional family is not a helpful institution to you

I haven’t heard of this tradition anywhere in Latin America where it is much more traditional than in Western societies for men to become violent towards another man who has laid a hand of their beloved daughter or sister.

It is also traditional that you can’t abandon elderly parents or disabled family members no matter what and, in that respect, traditional family can be a very helpful and comforting way of life. I say this without implying that traditional systems are the best for all cultures, just that they are not necessarily more backwards or pre-modern.

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ZM 04.20.16 at 4:59 pm

“That discretion and privacy can hide festering horror. I don’t think that’s just modernist propaganda.”

We had a terrible tragedy in Australia recently of a woman who migrated from Fiji for an arranged marriage which became violent, she didn’t know many people and got help from the government services and was moved to a safe house, a while later she reported her toddler daughter missing and the girl was found dead, and it turned out that the mother had killed her.

I think that the government services are not really enough alone. This is not a normal case, but the woman must have felt very isolated to do this. She was helped to leave the abusive situation but she didn’t have a support network. There was another case where a father was abusuve and killed his son, and the mother has become a campaigner against domestic violence.

I don’t really think domestic violence is something where the only role is for the State to do something about even in a country like Australia, it is also something for families and friends and communities to do something about and to support victims.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 5:05 pm

@ bruce wilder

That discretion and privacy can hide festering horror.

I do not deny this. But it is also true that abusers’ first step is to isolate their victim and this is more difficult in a traditional society where everybody knows about everybody else’s affairs. Of course, if the whole extended family and community shares a pathology, it would be very difficult for an individual to escape.

I still do not believe that individualist, Western society is superior and that people tend to see the benefits of their own culture and the deficiencies of the others. Also, cultural practices tend to evolve for the benefit of a majority of families, who are normal, and not for the pathological few. When pathologies become the norm then, I guess, it is time for the culture to evolve or face decadence.

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engels 04.20.16 at 5:10 pm

engels, a handful of people resisting the White Flight individually don’t make any difference.

Er, yes they do. Why do you think otherwise? Difference to what?

In contrast to the example you gave – donating to a crisis fund – where the small indivual action does indeed have a small impact, in collective action problems, the point is precisely that it takes a critical mass of individuals to make a difference.

That’s not what the means but even if it was that wouldn’t be an argument, just another of asserting that you are right.

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engels 04.20.16 at 5:11 pm

“That’s not what the term means but even if it was that wouldn’t be an argument, just another of way asserting that you are right.”

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Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 5:34 pm

@Ronan(rf) Thanks for the link to Guinnane. I wonder what the political history of Ireland in the 20th century would have looked like if emigration had been blocked as an option.

@RNB I deliberately didn’t take a position on the empirical side of brain drain in the OP, since I’m not competent to. However, a net positive economic benefit to a poor country doesn’t necessarily help you if you are a poor woman in a rural area and you need a caesarean and there are no obstetricians.

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RNB 04.20.16 at 5:44 pm

Good point, CB. I was not endorsing the paper which I have not read, just calling attention to it. And given your point it seems that the analysis based seemingly on the emigration of technologists only is from a narrow “Silicon Valley” point of view

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bruce wilder 04.20.16 at 6:09 pm

Lupita @ 77: When pathologies become the norm then, I guess, it is time for the culture to evolve or face decadence.

Well, yes. The point that I wished to raise was whether traditional cultures / societies have the means to reform. Liberal modernity’s appeal, it seems to me, is that its embrace of deliberate philosophic critical method (as demonstrated in the OP if it comes to that) provides a means of assembling programs of institutional reform. Of course, it is not just ideas — but ideas attached to means — scientific technology and the bureaucratic state — that matters.

I have friends in northern / northwest India and from that area. India is a rich and wonderful, fascinating place with a multifarious and vibrant culture. It is difficult to think of a large-scale society more weighed down by inherited cultural pathologies, or more conscious of them and more reformist.

Modernity is inevitably associated with the British idealist critique of caste and religion, as subsequently modified by Indian reformers. Part of India’s defensiveness about its own extreme poverty is to blame the poverty on British larceny, which is true up to a point, but has to stand beside British ambivalence and self-criticism over its hypocritical exploitation of the subcontinent. British investments in a bureaucratic government, railroads, education (admittedly in English, but replacing education in Persian), an Indian Army, in the idea of India itself, are foundations of modern India. The British colonial establishment was inherently pathological, given its exploitive purpose, but it was also inherently reformist and it evolved under pressures to reform that came from philosophic ideas of liberal modernity, and modern India became attached to those means of reformist evolution.

It is not like there has never been a native critique. The British idealist critique has to stand beside the Islamic critique of Hindu practice and the increasingly sharp Hindu critique of Islam, as well as the Sikh critique of both and others. It is very complicated and very rich and now is given expression thru modern means — Bollywood’s rich effusion; and India is witnessing major growth of newspapers and other vehicles of written cultural expression.

For India’s burgeoning middle class, globalization enters as a tw0-way superhighway, economically and culturally, and geographic mobility is a means to many ends. Getting a family scion education and employment abroad is a treasured prize at the top of the pyramid, success in civil service exams can secure employment that will finance extensive household establishments and getting a cousin or an uncle a 7-11 in Kansas City or a Motel 6 in Alabama a fantastic opening to travel and cashflow. The dark side of this upheaval is that a lot of people find themselves on the outside with no apparent way in once certain milestones are passed fairly early in life, sometimes even within families with some success; suicide rates among the still young but no longer promising are frighteningly high.

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JW Mason 04.20.16 at 6:12 pm

Agree with Steven Johnson and others. All the difficulties here come from equating people and property. Once you allow the right to expatriate yourself but reject the right to transfer your money, all the interesting problems go away. In general nobody thins there should be a legally enforced obligation to work at the career with the greatest social benefit, so migration does not pose any problems in this respect. Give the state a monopoly on foreign exchange — for which there are plenty of precedents — and the problem goes away.

In my mind, the most interesting part of this issue is precisely the way that the right to personal mobility is turned into an argument for free trade and unrestricted capital flows. What happens here is that the global rich get to exercise their claims over the rest of us without political constraint, by pretending they are morally equivalent to poor migrants.

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JW Mason 04.20.16 at 6:18 pm

She said, “I’m in the middle of this, Nachman. I don’t even know what’s going on. Ali is being mean to me. All I know is it’s your fault. Do you hate Ali? He’s suffered so much in his life.”

“Suffered? Ali is a prince, isn’t he?”

“Ali descends from the Qajar dynasty. It was deposed in 1921 by the Shah’s father, Reza Shah. Ali’s father owned villages, and beautiful gardens around Teheran. So much was taken away. They’re still multimillionaires, but they have sad memories. Can you imagine how much they lost? It’s really sad. Don’t laugh. How can Ali think about schoolwork?”

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L2P 04.20.16 at 6:20 pm

” sorry but if your tradition tells you you can’t leave an abusive husband or father no matter what, then traditional family is not a helpful institution to you. Relationships that help you in that situation are more likely based on friendship not birth…”

Well, of course? On the other hand, there are plenty of clan structures that are of immense help in those situations. If your husband knows that your brothers, cousins, and so on will kick the crap out of you if anything bad happens, you have an immense amount of support. Especially in extra-legal communities (think organized crime and so on) that’s one reason why clans (“families”) still exist.

“Friends and (in America) church are chosen. Mutual obligations are freely entered into.”

You must think “freely entered” is something very different from what I do. The vast majority of the members of any religion are descended from past members of that religion. It’s hard to see that as some obligation you “freely entered into” in any meaningful way.

We Americans have a way of thinking we’re free, unfettered individuals making free, unfettered choices in ways that those backwards, clan-bound people don’t. We’re pretty much wrong there. We just like to ignore all the ways we’re constrained.

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Lynne 04.20.16 at 6:48 pm

The example PatinIowa mentions is the first thing that occurred to me, and I do deplore it. But I don’t suppose the expat doctors who are raking in the money care.

In a different situation, two friends of mine, highly trained in Canadian universities, have settled Stateside and are raising their family there, because they could not get jobs here in their fields. Their move I don’t deplore.

I think we can sort of address the former situation through taxes, and even through requiring a certain number of years of service here, but that’s about it. Canadian doctors and nurses are both highly prized in the States, and some of them go there. We just have to live with it.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 7:00 pm

@bruce wilder

Liberal modernity’s appeal, it seems to me, is that its embrace of deliberate philosophic critical method (as demonstrated in the OP if it comes to that) provides a means of assembling programs of institutional reform. Of course, it is not just ideas — but ideas attached to means — scientific technology and the bureaucratic state — that matters.

And what good has liberal modernity, and its deliberate philosophic critical method, done when it was claimed that Iraq had WMD, that torture was fine, indefinite confinement without trial in Guantánamo was OK, financial crashes were impossible, Trump becoming a presidential candidate was absurd, and world poverty and global warming are inevitable? I don’t think that liberalism gives any society an edge at problem solving and all this is about insider/outsider point of view. We all think our societies are normal and rational and we tend to view others as weird and alien.

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bruce wilder 04.20.16 at 7:51 pm

Lupita: And what good has liberal modernity, and its deliberate philosophic critical method, done when it was claimed . . .

It prompts you to ask that question. It suggests the claims are ill-founded. It suggests that such claims ought to have some basis in facts and considered moral principles, and not just wilful impulse and instinct and feral self-interest, barely modified by habit and convention.

Lupita: We all think our societies are normal and rational and we tend to view others as weird and alien.

Perhaps. I am suggesting that philosophic liberalism would be an open door to seeing one’s own society as weird and alien and, in the process, opening one’s eyes to the pathologies and the consequences of inherited, unmanaged, undesigned institutions.

Liberalism doesn’t provide an immunity to social pathology. Liberalism provides an imperfect means to conjure the hope of improvement thru reproduction with repair; new rules for a new hope. Liberalism has its own pathologies. People can and do argue themselves into delusional conceits, hypocrisy and credulity. And, if those fail in their service to some evil or another, there’s always wilful stupidity to fall back upon. But, people can do all that, except the conjuring of a possibly effective plan, without enlightenment liberalism or critical method or science or the social democratic regulatory state.

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Watson Ladd 04.20.16 at 7:56 pm

Shorter Chris Bertram: the Berlin Wall was justified. Almost certainly the exit tariffs imposed by the Soviet Union on refuseniks would be approved of.

What moral claim does the US have on the earnings of an individual who does not work, reside, or even desire to reside within the US?

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Phil 04.20.16 at 8:04 pm

What’s not personally or culturally variable is political

Just wanted to unpack this rather compressed formulation from my previous comment.

So, Alice from the poor (and little-known) independent state of Agnotia travels to Britain (say) to train as a doctor. Back in Agnotia, a reforming government backed by a popular movement is building the country’s first comprehensive health service; there is a drive to contact Agnotian medical students and remind them of how useful their expertise could be back home. Should Alice go back to Agnotia? Yes, she should; her citizenship combined with the demands of her compatriots offer her a viable course of action and place a civic obligation on her to take it, which she should respect.

Alice’s friend Bernie from Barodia is in a different situation. Barodia is even poorer than Agnotia and in crying need of healthcare; however, Barodia is poorly-governed and chaotic, with no organised political movements or democratic parties to speak of. Bernie could go home and try and set up a clinic from scratch, but the chances of success are small – and nobody is asking her to. The potential benefits of this course of action can be weighed against the potential costs (up to and including Bernie’s life); in any case, the benefits alone are not sufficient to place Bernie under any obligation.

Colin from Carshalton is a cancer specialist; some promising treatments are under development at the institution where he trained. He also has family and friends in the area, and identifies with the democratically elected government. Should he stay put, despite knowing that his expertise will primarily be of benefit to rich white people who are already past the average Agnotian life expectancy? Or should he ship out to Agnotia, a country he knows nothing about, where he knows nobody and owes nobody anything?

Politics, for me, gives you ‘ought’ statements; I don’t think you can get them from costs and benefits. Apart from anything else, an ‘I ought’ statement that isn’t internalised is a way of acting against one’s own will, which is never a good idea – but an ‘I ought’ statement that is internalised is an ‘I want’ statement, and we know how endlessly variable they are. “I want to give something back to my community”; “I want to repay the cost of my education”; “I want to make the fullest use of my particular talents”; “I want to help the poorest and most vulnerable people”; “I want to combat the most urgent global problem”… All good statements, and I think it’d be a mug’s game to try and rank them in order.

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Lupita 04.20.16 at 9:32 pm

@bruce wilder

It [liberalism] prompts you to ask that question.

I am not a liberal, so how was I prompted to ask those questions? I think a functioning brain will do.

not just wilful impulse and instinct and feral self-interest, barely modified by habit and convention.

I have been comparing modern Western nations to Latin American ones. What are these feral, barely humanoids you are referring to and why did you bring them up?

But, people can do all that, except the conjuring of a possibly effective plan, without enlightenment liberalism or critical method or science or the social democratic regulatory state.

You do not need liberalism to do any of that. Again, an average intelligence will do.

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Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 10:22 pm

“Shorter Chris Bertram: the Berlin Wall was justified.”

Ah yes, a most succinct summary. Now go away and play in heavy traffic Watson.

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Chris Bertram 04.20.16 at 10:27 pm

@JW Mason “In general nobody thinks there should be a legally enforced obligation to work at the career with the greatest social benefit”. Not quite true. Or at least see, for example Lucas Stancyk, “Productive Justice”, in PPA 2012.

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Moz of Yarramulla 04.20.16 at 11:19 pm

I think it’s interesting to consider that until recently emigrating did mean leaving most of your wealth behind, and risking the rest. Emigration still happened, admittedly at times by force (the US and Australia both gained significant numbers of immigrants this way). Sure “progress”, but progress towards a global plutocracy isn’t really what I have in mind when I think “progress”.

How much of the problem is expropriation full stop, rather than expropriation by emigration? If the various tax havens were cleaned up would much of the issue simply go away or become much less important? I’m thinking of the goodly chunk of GDP that many nations see vanish every year, and the ridiculous amount of money thought to be sloshing around offshore.

Likewise, if we only affect the richest 100 individuals and 100 companies, that is something like 25% of the total wealth and likely a greater percentage of the problem. It’s difficult because many of them effectively control their countries of origin (Putin, Saud for example) but I’m not convinced it’s impossible, or that the consequences would be worse than business as usual.

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Ronan(rf) 04.20.16 at 11:23 pm

“I wonder what the political history of Ireland in the 20th century would have looked like if emigration had been blocked as an option.”

I don’t know, it’s a difficult question. To start You’d not only have a larger population but if you included the pre famine Presbyterian migrations you’d have a more ethnically diverse one. What would that mean for land redistribution after the famine, where social stability and inheritance norms were based around exporting large parts of the populations?
Early 20th century you’d have no diaspora, particularly in America, so irish nationalist politics would look very different. Emigration as exile as a nationalist motif wouldn’t exist. Class divisions could plausibly dominate sectarian or national ones. If you had a strong separatist movement and independence then you’d probably have economic dysfunction in the new state, you’d plausibly have large scale unemployment through the inter war period, probably a less homogenous society and no emigration “safety valve.” That could have played out disastrously in the European context.
And thats before you get to all the cultural institutions, ideas , traditions that flowed from the diaspora into the country. If at various times in history you had more irish born and their children living in New York, Melbourne or Birmingham t Han in most population centres on the island then there’s no logical reason to think that the norms and institutions built on the island are more representative of “irish culture “(whatever that might be) than those built by the emigrants.
The historian Thomas Bartlett called post famine ireland an ” emigrant society ie a society constructed around the necessity to remove huge numbers of its population”. He compared the importance of emigration in ireland to the centrality of slavery in the US south, where everything “ideology, economics, politics, not to mention penal code, women’s dress..popular religion” was directed at the consolidation and preservation of that system. Likewise (and it’s meant as an analogy rather than moral comparison) in ireland “an emigrant society would emerge ..one in which almost everything and everyone colluded to ship the surplus majority overseas, and conspired to do so in the interests of those selected to stay behind”

Short answer I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question .

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Paul Davis 04.21.16 at 1:59 am

Lupita: “We all think our societies are normal and rational and we tend to view others as weird and alien.”

Seen in an old book on Libya in the 1920s:

“And if on our return our own customs do not seem somehow strange and somewhat alien, then what, really, was the purpose of out travels?”

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ZM 04.21.16 at 2:53 am

Bruce Wilder,

“Perhaps. I am suggesting that philosophic liberalism would be an open door to seeing one’s own society as weird and alien and, in the process, opening one’s eyes to the pathologies and the consequences of inherited, unmanaged, undesigned institutions.”

Even if institutions are inherited this doesn’t mean they were undesigned. And if they were unmanaged then the institutions would no longer exist, they must be being managed by someone.

There was a fascinating article in the New York Review Of Books recently about some bamboo slip manuscripts that were stolen by grave robbers in China. Normally I deplore grave robbing, but these were from around 2,500 years ago before the unification of China, and buried with the people in the graves around 300BCE around when Mencius the disciple of Confucius died. There was burning of books during the unification of China so perhaps people had manuscripts buried with them to save them from being burnt.

The bamboo strips started to decay after being unearthed and the university which bought the looted manuscripts had to call in scientists to work to save them, then the government didn’t want any chemicals due to the Beijing Olympics, so the university had to convince the government the documents were of national significance.

The bamboo scripts are being translated into contemporary Chinese and are showing that China was more diverse with more arguments at the time than has been commonly thought, and for instance a Confucian might write about the importance of Emperors to abdicate to have a government based on merit rather than birth. But they show a period where there was considerable debate and analysis.

And you yourself are always commenting about the decay of US or Western institutions since the 70s, so it seems to me that both analysis and decay can exist in any culture, Western or other.

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J-D 04.21.16 at 2:53 am

1. I suspect that if you compare different societies and cultures you will find that they all have both advantages and disadvantages. This doesn’t mean that there’s no possible basis for evaluating two total packages and deciding that one is better than the other, but you need to do it carefully.

Also, intense relationships between individuals (whether the culture endorses them, condemns them, or is neutral) can do both harm and good. Both the desire to be independent and the desire to be part of something larger are natural human impulses and different societies and cultures offer opportunities to satisfy them in different ways and to different extents. Just one example of how any evaluation of cultural patterns needs to be done carefully.

2. Yes, I really do believe that my daughter has no obligations to me. If she decided to cut off all connection with me, I would feel sad at the loss, but not aggrieved or cheated. The relationship between us is voluntary and chosen on my part, but not on hers, so it can create obligations for me, but not for her.

(In general, I perceive no advantage in regarding people as having obligations to you; on the contrary, the advantage lies in regarding people as having no obligations to you. If you regard people as having obligations to you and they fall short of them, you feel aggrieved; if they live up to them, it’s no more than your due. But if you regard people as having no obligations to you (as I regard my daughter), everything you do receive is a bonus.)

By a similar line of reasoning, it seems to me that the state’s endowment of me with citizenship is voluntary and chosen on the state’s part, but not on mine, so it might create obligations for the state, but none for me.

On the other hand, my relationships with my fellow union members are voluntarily chosen by all, and so could create mutual obligations (although I still don’t perceive any advantage in regarding them as obligated to me).

3. Ze K @30

I suspect you’re confusing me with somebody else; I’ve only recently started commenting here, and have no history of having done so under another screen name.

Of course I don’t deny the widespread acceptance of the idea that children have obligations to their parents. The widespread acceptance of an idea doesn’t make it correct.

The Ten Commandments were not for Christ’s sake (they predate him by centuries, if there ever even was such a person), and I don’t see how they’re relevant to this discussion in any case. They also command people to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and almost nobody does. Still, since you mention them, I think it’s interesting that whoever wrote them felt it was important to give children a commandment about attitudes to their parents, but not to give parents a commandment about attitudes to their children.

4. I’ve often seen people cite the presumed advantages, in pre-industrial societies, of children as insurance against old age. What I don’t see cited as often are the more immediate potential economic advantages of children (still in pre-industrial societies). I don’t have by me a copy of Our Kind, by Marvin Harris, but it cites detailed anthropological research showing that in the pre-industrial society being studied children started making a tangible contribution to the household economy by age X, were contributing more than they consumed by age Y, and by age Z had effectively repaid the full economic cost of investing in raising them; and I can’t remember the exact ages, but X was around four and Z no more than sixteen, with Y obviously around half-way between them.

5. Low birthrates in rich countries are a good thing. They mean lower rates of consumption of non-renewable resources and more room for people to migrate from poor countries. Birthrates are also falling in most poor countries; that’s probably also a good thing. It’s possible to imagine a drop-off in birth rates so sharp and sudden as to be calamitous, but that’s not what’s happening. The continued welfare of the human race does not depend on global population continuing to increase, or even on its remaining steady; a slow decline could be a good thing.

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J-D 04.21.16 at 7:01 am

Ze K @100

The doctrine that widespread acceptance of an idea makes it correct cannot itself be correct because it leads to absurdities.

1. By that doctrine, when there was widespread acceptance of the idea that slavery is morally justifiable, that idea was correct; but when there was widespread acceptance of the idea that slavery is morally unjustifiable, that idea was correct. Now, for one definition of ‘widespread’, it’s possible for both of those contradictory ideas to be correct at the same time, which is absurd. If you define ‘widespread’ to make that impossible, you arrive either at the position that slavery changed from being morally justifiable to being morally unjustifiable at the moment when majority support tipped from one side to the other (but there’s no way anybody can know when that was) or at the position that there was an interim when slavery was neither morally justifiable nor morally unjustifiable.

2. By the doctrine that widespread acceptance of an idea makes it correct, that doctrine itself would be correct if there was widespread acceptance of it. But there isn’t.

3. If you accept that widespread acceptance of the idea that slavery is morally unjustifiable makes it correct, and you ask the people who accept that idea (and so make it correct) why they accept the idea, very few of them will give you the response ‘because there is widespread acceptance of it’.

4. The formulation ‘this is moral if it’s generally accepted that it’s moral’ leads to an infinite regress, by way of ‘this is moral if it’s generally accepted that it’s generally accepted that it’s moral’ to ‘this is moral if it’s generally accepted that it’s generally accepted that it’s generally accepted … and so ad infinitum

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TM 04.21.16 at 12:23 pm

J-D 100, agreed of course with your point 4. Clearly the value of children as labor provides a strong incentive for high fertility especially in agrarian societies. The Bible is full of references to how children are perceived as wealth, and childlessness is depicted as a terrible failure. To what extent the thought of children as old age caregivers really mattered in this calculation is perhaps difficult to reconstruct. Still I maintain that (1) in all premodern societies old and incapacitated people relied on family support, and (2) modern society can’t function on that basis. Family support still I hasten to add often plays a bigger or smaller role but who among us plans to take in their elderly parents and house and feed and care for them, as it was the rule in earlier generations? For most of us it wouldn’t be feasible.

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steven johnson 04.21.16 at 12:59 pm

As to the Bible and the horror of childlessness…given that women went into the husbands’s family, the child was the bond that made the woman a member of the family until death. After all, husbands often died. Without a child, the widow had no claims to family support. That’s why the institution of levirate marriage can be viewed as the command to give the widows a survivor’s pension.

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J-D 04.21.16 at 1:13 pm

Ze K @103

I have explained why your position is untenable. I don’t have to articulate a position of my own in order to demonstrate that. For what it’s worth you have guessed wrong about what my position might be. However, the appearance you create when you try to change the subject from your position to my position is that you’re uncomfortable trying to defend your position.

Another illustration of the untenability of your position: try asking people whether they think capital punishment is morally justifiable and why. You’ll get a variety of answers, but you won’t get anybody saying ‘I have to take a survey of what other people think in order to find out whether it’s morally justifiable or not’.

Or, I can expand on the point about slavery: apparently, according to your theory, the only possible reason that, at one time, acceptance of slavery was widespread was that many people accepted that it was accepted by many other people who accepted that it was accepted … (another infinite regress); and, equally the only possible reason that, at one time, rejection of slavery is now widespread is that many people accept that it is accepted by many other people who accept that it is accepted … But how would it be possible to get from one state of affairs to another? It’s plain that on many moral questions (not just slavery) majority opinion has changed; so, how can you explain that? The majority can’t switch from accepting it to not accepting it (or the other way round) on the basis of a recognition that the majority have already switched, because until they have switched it’s not true that they have accepted it. Majority acceptance is a statistical summary of individual opinions, which therefore can’t themselves be determined by majority opinion. It’s obviously not automatically true that everybody thinks what the majority thinks.

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TM 04.21.16 at 1:23 pm

L2P, in the US it’s far more common than in Europe that people choose their church rather than being born into it. Would you disagree with that? In that sense, church is very unlike birth family, although, as some commenters have pointed out, many Americans are very emotionally attached to their church community.

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TM 04.21.16 at 4:49 pm

As an aside, 58 and 71 seem to argue that individualists can’t care about community. Individualist doesn’t have to mean lonely!

The “rugged individualism” image of the American should be taken with more than a grain of salt but it is also true that American attitudes to community are distinct. Geographic mobility often implies that communities are transient, it’s not unusual for Americans to leave their community behind, move to a distant place, find new friends, a new church, and so on. Friendships, marriages and families too are more transient (see http://www.amazon.com/The-Marriage-Go-Round-Marriage-Family-America/dp/0307386384). This is neither good nor bad, it’s certainly distinct.

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Stephen 04.21.16 at 5:25 pm

Ronan@86: I don’t know either, but surely the consequences would have depended on whether the hypothetical ban on Irish emigration had been due to

a)Tyrannical and genocidal UK government forbidding anyone to leave the island of Ireland for any destination whatever. Not likely that any actual UK government, however t&g, would have seen any reason at all to do that: but if so, probable consequence really serious rebellion by Irish of all or no religious convictions, with considerable support in Britain.

b) US nativist government forbids any Irish immigration (less unlikely, but still obvious reasons against; much less so if virtuous Protestants admitted, evil Papists excluded) so all Irish emigration goes to Britain, Canada, Australia or wherever else will take them. Consequences for long-term Irish-American politics obvious: popularity among previous inhabitants of increased emigration to Canada, Britain, Australia debatable.

c) Exceptionally demented Irish Nationalist Politicians/Catholic Church place internal prohibition on emigration from sacred Irish soil to pagan foreign lands. Wonderfully unlikely since almost certain consequence is enormous revulsion by plain people of Ireland against INP/CC. That might not have been a bad thing.

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TM 04.22.16 at 10:14 am

engels 78, I didn’t mean to drop the ball but are you really interested in this? You do come across as picking a fight for the sake of it rather than showing any willingness to engage in an argument. To say that free rider situations and collective action problems can be addressed by individual action is a contradiction in terms. White Flight, the abandonment of a mixed neighborhood by mostly middle class whites, causes a downward spiral for the affected neighborhood (erosion of tax base, deterioration of schools and services, decline in living quality, more people leave, etc.), against which individuals are powerless. Moral reproach directed at those who leave is pointless because they are gone. It doesn’t affect them what the remaining residents think of them. So your objection is baseless, and yes, I am right.

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dax 04.22.16 at 12:44 pm

“@Kevin US citizens overseas have the option of renouncing their citizenship. If they retain their citizenship then I take it they believe they have something to gain by doing so. (Right of return to the US, right of diplomatic support etc) Why is it unjust for the US to charge them for this benefit?”

The option of renouncing citizenship has costs. First the exit tax, and take the case of Boris Johnson, who was physically born in the US but lived almost all of his life in the UK. Probably didn’t think much about the American citizenship (homeland Americans would find this astounding, but I know of many cases like this) until on a visit to the U.S. he was told he needed an American passport to enter the U.S. (one of the arcane American rules, seldom enforced, is that if you are a U.S. citizen you need an American passport to enter the country). He says, “Well I don’t want to be American, so I’ll renounce.” But by then he has significant assets, and to renounce citizenship he needs to calculate the total added value of those assets from the moment he paid for them (converting GBP to USD) to the day he renounced, with the U.S. government taking a cut on the order of a quarter. Now most people here are probably not sympathetic to the politics of Johnson, so they are probably happy he got slammed. But I think considered in the cold light of day, this is clearly unjust, not only to Johnson, but to the U.K. Here is someone who was part of the U.K. economic fibre and it is the U.S. which thinks it’s owed a significant part of his assets. All because Boris could flee to the U.S in trouble? Or more because Boris didn’t give it much thought? This is money that belongs in the U.K. and it is getting siphoned off to the U.S. And you don’t get so much as a peep out of the Brits. Talk about American poodles.

Other than the exit tax, which will be paid only be certain renunciants, there is also a 2350 Usd fee to renounce, to be paid by everyone. You also have to schedule an interview, and there is a waiting list until the end of the year at many embassies.

Here’s another angle. It is unjust for the American government to tax someone without representation. Now American expatriates can vote, but only in what is an effectively gerrymandered way. They need to vote by state, so their influence is completely diluted, and no one cares. Compare this to France, for instance, which dedicates a representative to expatriates.

But I agree generally that a country has the right to tax or otherwise extract money from its citizens. It also has the right to demand national service (army, etc.) But the counterpart of this is that a citizen should have the right, at any moment, to say, “Fuck off, I’m out the door.” And be out the door, without any further obligation to the country. This is not the case with the U.S., which for instance prosecuted draft dodgers who fled to Canada or Sweden under the idea, “You’re our property.”

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reason 04.22.16 at 1:14 pm

dax
yes you are correct on this point, the US really is out of order in taxing non-resident citizen’s. Virtually nobody else does this, and it stinks of arrogance.

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reason 04.22.16 at 1:16 pm

dax
What’s more it stinks even more since their welfare system is so weak.

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engels 04.22.16 at 2:44 pm

You do come across as picking a fight for the sake of it rather than showing any willingness to engage in an argument

I was trying to briefly point out that you are seriously misinformed about the basic topics in sociology on which you were confidently holding forth, if not for your benefit than for other people’s. The fact that you’ve since taken to following me around on other threads with stalkerish personal attacks makes me less willing to bother even with this.

I didn’t say CAPs can be ‘addressed’ by individual action, I said an individual’s action can still have a positive effect. That is indeed the case in a general CAP or in the specific case of ‘white flight’ (which I’m not sure is a CAP anyway ….) A moment’s reflection on the examples you gave on your own comment (falling local tax-takes etc) should reveal that

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TM 04.22.16 at 9:23 pm

All right engels, so you concede that individual action can’t address (in the sense of solving) the CAP, which is what I said.

White Flight is a CAP in the sense that when a neighborhood starts the White Flight downward spiral, then it is in people’s objective individual interest to leave if they can afford to, especially if they have school age children and want them to attend a decent public school. And it is in everyb0dy’s interest *to be among the first to leave* because the longer they stay, the more will their property value suffer, the more will their quality of living suffer. So this is a classical CAP. The group interest is that people stay and form a stable neighborhood but the individual interest, once the spiral has started downward, is to leave.

Now I believe I have offered satisfying arguments and answered all your objections. You may disagree with aspects of my argument, that’s fine, and we could even conceivably have a productive discussion if you deigned to offer arguments for your view, which you haven’t so far. But frankly your asshole behavior was and is totally uncalled for and I’m not gonna respond to that kind of BS any more.

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engels 04.22.16 at 9:43 pm

I’m not gonna respond to that kind of BS any more.

Good: fuck off then, and please stop barging into arguments other people are having with me too.

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Ronan(rf) 04.22.16 at 11:57 pm

Stephen, yeah, the consequences would certainly depend on the reasons for the ban. Most likely it would have been a combination of all three of your points.
The broader point that Irish politics was often outward looking and responding to that emigration (as much as – and a part of the reason for – the backward looking. parochial components of Irish politics) is a point you’d surely agree with.
On that, This is a decent read

http://www.drb.ie/essays/'them-poor-irish-lads'-in-pennsylvania

““Irish peasants” has always been a singularly inappropriate description for those precociously proletarianised Atlantic people. From the late 1700s, their young men did seasonal tours of duty in the tattie fields and navvy camps of Scotland and from the 1820s, in successive generations, they moved back and forth between the potato patch and the mine patch. Some returned to marry. Others came to fetch family members or recruit work parties. And others came just long enough to realise why they had left in the first place. In other words, not all “returned Yanks”stayed….”

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John Little 04.23.16 at 2:00 am

I’ve lived in four countries, though I am born and raised American. I have seen both sides of this issue, er, from both sides. My French friends say it best, though it is not only their vision,” I am a humanist.” We are atop the heap as it were at this stage of Mother Earth’s development. Let’s try to leave things tidy for the next ones to come along.

In other words, our petty divergences and deviations are just that. We can claim borders and differences in color, shape or place of origin, but we are all children of the same mother (and same father according to some). We owe each other respect and, where necessary, the space to exercise that respect.

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J-D 04.23.16 at 5:02 am

Ze K @110

I agree that there was an incremental transition over a lengthy period, perhaps generations, in attitudes to slavery, but what, then, would you say about the moral status of slavery during that transitional period? During that transitional period would it have been correct or incorrect to say that slavery was acceptable? Also, since that transition involved individuals changing their minds, how do you reconcile your analysis with individual changes of mind? Consider, for example, Lord Denning’s change of mind on the subject of capital punishment. At one time, he thought capital punishment was morally acceptable. Later, he changed his mind and took the position that capital punishment was morally unacceptable, that it always had been, and that his own earlier position was incorrect. He did not mean that at one time he thought the majority were in favour of capital punishment and that he later realised that they were not. How do you reconcile that with your analysis.

In answer to your questions:
Yes, I believe that slavery was always morally unacceptable;
No, I do not believe that the Romans were all moral monsters;
No, I do not believe that the so-called ‘Founding Fathers’ of the United States were all moral monsters;
I don’t have enough information about the Founding Fathers to know to what extent they were practitioners of the mainstream morality of their time, but on the basis of general principles I judge it likely that they were practitioners of the mainstream morality of their time for the most part, although not all of them to the full extent in all respects.

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passer-by 04.23.16 at 12:17 pm

On a couple of points discussed here, from France:
– re: children’s obligations toward their parents – by law, in France, children are obligated to support their parents through alimony, just as parents are obliged to do so for their children, as long as children / parents are not able to do so themselves. I guess that parents rarely sue their children for alimony, but social security definitely does so to recoup part of the cost of placing them in retirement homes etc. So that traditional obligation can definitely be made legal, and I would be surprised if France was the only country to do so.
More generally, intergenerational family obligations tend to be more strongly codified in law than most people imagine, from alimony to inheritance laws. Not only may you not disinherit your children; as soon as you have one child, half of your wealth (including any donations you may make while still living) is reserved for him. If you have three or more children, they are owed, by law, 3/4 of your wealth.
Btw, that law (dating back to 1804) was not primarily meant to deal with parental obligations to children, but to break primogeniture and definitely destroy aristocracy (and the possibility of a return of the Church’s material power). It was debated again in the 1840’s, and restored as a major condition of a socially mobile, democratic system.

– in some French “grandes écoles” (also dating back to the Revolution / Napoleon), students are paid by the state during their studies, but are contractually obligated to “serve the state” for ten years or pay that money back. In practice, the system is broken, both because of sporadical enforcement and because the “buy-back” is a weak obstacle to the graduates who leave to work in the financial sector (they simply negotiate that as a condition of their employment). It does, however, create expectations and norms, that do have some weigh. Similar schemes have been discussed as a possible answer to the problem of doctors not wanting to work in underserved rural areas.

– wrt expatriates, the main topic of discussion has been the perceived abuse of the social system by returning expats. “They leave to work in Wall Street, but they come running back as soon as they get sick / have kids going to high school or university” etc.
Being French means having rights and obligations. The question, then, is which rights are tied to which obligations. You do have obligations to your country, as long as you want the rights that are tied to them.
Do you have a moral obligation to fight for your country, if that country calls you to serve? Depends. But most countries have usually tied some very fundamental rights to that obligation (some legal, some customary – in France, in the 60’s, some young men avoided conscription by faking illness and madness, but that meant that they were de facto barred from most of traditional jobs). You dodge that obligation by leaving the country during war, you’re probably never coming back and never getting anything from your country of origin.

The debate is then mostly what rights are / should be tied to what obligations, including the obligation to live / work in the country that has given you the possibility of leading the life you’re having.

As to tax heavens and billionaires leaving, the problem is, as already pointed out, not a problem of the free movement of people, but of money.

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J-D 04.23.16 at 1:07 pm

Ze K @122

Is it your position that so long as something is legally practised, it’s acceptable, and when legal practice of it ceases, it has become unacceptable? or, if that’s not your position, how is your position different from that?

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RobinM 04.23.16 at 8:50 pm

I was a bit taken aback at Chris Bertram’s response (#39). It seems rather insensitive to the variety of possible cases. So I’m happy to see dax (#112) and reason (#114) responding to him.

What surprises me is that no one, so far as I can see, has yet put forward the predicament of “accidental citizens,” many of whom are surprised to learn that simply by having been born in the USA, although they may have lived their entire lives since early childhood elsewhere, now find themselves being pursued under the new foreign reporting and to some degree enforcement of US taxation laws. [See, e.g., Allison Christians, “Uncle Sam wants . . . who? A global perspective on citizenship taxation” at
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2717367 ]

It also seems to me–an issue somewhat related to accidental citizenship–that the claims the USA makes on the non-US spouses of US citizens living outside the USA should be included among the considerations of those pronouncing on moral obligations.

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Watson Ladd 04.23.16 at 11:40 pm

Chris, if you write a post arguing states should be permitted to restrict emigration, don’t be surprised if people point out actual states that do this. The Berlin Wall existed because of the exodus of East German citizens which threatened the viability of the state.

Emigration restrictions have existed in actual, existing states. I would think you’d at least acknowledge this historical fact, and understand why these restrictions were widely condemned. The right to leave is the surest guard against tyranny.

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J-D 04.24.16 at 12:58 am

Ze K @125

You wrote (I agreed, but you wrote it first) that there is a lengthy transition period between the state of affairs in which there is widespread acceptance of slavery and the state of affairs in which there is widespread rejection of slavery. Then you wrote, in response to a question I asked you, that during the transition period it is correct to state that slavery is acceptable. Are you then stating that a moral principle, once generally accepted, remains in force until it is generally rejected; that it can continue in being for a transitional period even though it no longer has the general acceptance which first created it? If that’s not your position, how is your position different from that? If that is your position, what’s the justification for it?

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J-D 04.24.16 at 10:53 pm

Ze K @129

Earlier in this discussion I wrote that widespread acceptance of an idea does not make it correct, and you wrote in response that widespread acceptance of an idea is what makes it into an actual moral principle.

When slavery is controversial, some people state that slavery is in contravention of moral principles, while others state it is not in contravention of any moral principles. When the abolitionist party state that slavery is in contravention of moral principles, they don’t mean ‘it is generally accepted that slavery is in contravention of moral principles’ and when the retentionist party state that slavery is not in contravention of any moral principles, they don’t mean ‘it is generally accepted that slavery is not in contravention of any moral principle’.

What people mean when they say something is a moral principle is not the same as what they mean when they say something is generally accepted to be a moral principle. Being a moral principle is not synonymous with being generally accepted as a moral principle.

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