Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants? (published today)

by Chris Bertram on May 25, 2018

I know you’ve all been waiting expectantly …. My book Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants? is published in the UK today by Polity Press (those of you in North America will have to wait until Wiley publish it in July). The book challenges the assumption that lies behind most debates on immigration, namely that states have a discretion to do pretty much as they like and may set their policy according to the interests of their own citizens.

The book has three chapters. In the first, I look at migration today and in history, say something about patterns of migration, why people move and how recent many of the restrictions on movement that we take for granted are. In the second chapter I look at the question of state exclusion from an ideal perspective and ask whether the currently accepted norm of unilateral state discretion over immigration is defensible. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that I think it isn’t. Rather a global migration regime has to be justifiable (in some sense) to everyone subject to it. This doesn’t mean that states never get the right to exclude, but it means that the reasons they use have to be justifiable from an impartial perspective. I also reply to some arguments defending the right of states to exclude. In the final chapter I address the worry that this ideal theorizing is all very well, but we don’t live in an ideal world. I defend the idea that states can have some provisional rights to exclude in a world where other states are not acting justly but that to exercise them they must actively work towards the creation of a fair global migration order and must not undermine existing elements like the 1951 Refugee Convention. Where states fail to work towards justice they lose their authority over would-be migrants who have, in turn, no obligation to obey their immigration laws. That’s a very brief summary of 135 pages. It is a short book, and it argues for a particular perspective. It can’t and doesn’t cover all the bases in the space available, but I hope it is engaging and readable for those without a prior background in the subject matter.

{ 85 comments }

1

Scratch 05.25.18 at 1:49 pm

“This sounds like a job for InnatelySolomonicBourgeoisMan.”

I tsuspect our correspondent is going for the post-democracy gold medal.

2

John Quiggin 05.25.18 at 2:41 pm

Even if you don’t demand impartiality between citizens, it’s just about impossible to defend the immigration restrictions in place in most countries. The harm done to would-be migrants by exclusion is huge, and the only clear benefit is to appease prejudice. Economic arguments have never been resolved, but the net effect of current rates of migration on existing residents is certainly small).

Moreover, much of the harm is done to citizens. Citizens in many (most?) countries are not free to marry and live with the person of their choice, have non-citizen relatives live with them (especially if those relatives are in need of medical care), have friends visit them freely, and so on. As someone (a restrictionist, I think) has put it, the votes for restrictive policies come from “Stayers” who don’t need any of these freedoms for themselves and are happy to deprive their fellow-citizens of them.

3

Roxann Gifford 05.25.18 at 2:55 pm

Immigrants are the ones holding a valid immigrant document
done through the proper lawful way.
Others we called “immigrants” and overstaying visa permits
and simply walking through the borders have no rights.
Yes, the States have the right to exclude them and deport them.
They are breaking the law..Otherwise, what are laws for?

4

Sebastian H 05.25.18 at 4:24 pm

My belief is that we could safely deal with much higher immigration levels in the US if we returned to an assimilation/melting pot focus. But statements like “but the net effect of current rates of migration on existing residents is certainly small” seem misplaced. It makes two errors that we really should have gotten over from the re-evaluation of the 1990s globalization debates. First, the current rates of migration are based on current laws. Easier migration laws will increase migration. Second, economics studies based on average net effects don’t deal with the fact that rich people do better and poor people do worse in most of these net effects. Globalization has been great for the people in the rich cities, and often very bad for everyone else. On net it has been good for GDPs but that hasn’t trickled down to most of us. With that error I corrected on a policy level, it isn’t surprising that people still injured from the last big economics error won’t want to risk listening to the experts again. Especially not when they are using the exact same explanation.

5

Sebastian H 05.25.18 at 5:00 pm

Sorry. It should be “with that error uncorrected…” that’s what I get with my fat fingers on the phone.

6

Corey Robin 05.25.18 at 5:08 pm

Congratulations, Chris! It’s a lot of work to write a book, particularly when one is as meticulous and fastidious about formulating an argument as you are, when one takes as much care and caution before weighing in, in thinking before speaking, as you do. We could all learn from you, in that regard alone. In any event, congrats!

7

Ronan(rf) 05.25.18 at 5:15 pm

Congratulations. Looks interesting. Will definitely read.

8

Javier 05.25.18 at 6:15 pm

Congrats! I plan on picking up a copy when it’s published in the US.

9

John Quiggin 05.25.18 at 9:44 pm

Any idea on availability in Australia? We used to count as a British colony, but I’m not sure if we still do.

Anyway, Chris, congratulations on getting the book done and published! You’re way ahead of me.

10

Mario 05.25.18 at 10:04 pm

Even if you don’t demand impartiality between citizens, it’s just about impossible to defend the immigration restrictions in place in most countries.

Impossible to defend? There are a lot of people who think that these restrictions are not hard enough. You will not need to defend these restrictions against them. They might, and sometimes do, even win elections and get those restrictions tightened more. And they seem to be fine with this huge harm done to would-be migrants by exclusion.

So anyway, each time this comes up here, I really wonder what the framework is. Especially: what is that instance that grants or denies rights to states, deciding against the states in this particular matter? Perhaps even against the will of its inhabitants?

11

L2P 05.25.18 at 11:17 pm

Congratulations on the book! Look forward to reading it.

12

L2P 05.25.18 at 11:33 pm

“Moreover, much of the harm is done to citizens”

That’s nonsense, unless “much” means “some.” Non citizens suffer the vast majority of the harm from immigration controls.

13

J-D 05.26.18 at 1:17 am

Roxann Gifford

I am not sure there is any good general answer to the question ‘What are laws for?’ I am beginning to suspect that this may be because the question has at least two possible meanings which are clearly distinct (although not entirely unrelated). On the one hand, it might mean, ‘Why do people make laws?’ On the other hand, it might mean, ‘What good purposes are served by having laws?’

In any case, what’s probably more important to this discussion is that I’m not clear on what your answer is to the question. When you write ‘Otherwise, what are laws for?’, the use of the word ‘Otherwise’ suggests that you have just indicated what laws are for and then asked what they could be for apart from that, whatever it is, that you have just indicated. But what you wrote just before that was ‘Yes, the States have the right to exclude them and deport them. They are breaking the law.’ What is that statement supposed to indicate as the point or purpose of laws? If somebody wrote, ‘The purpose of laws is to create penalties that can rightfully be imposed on people’, I might respond, ‘Why do you want to penalise people?’ But you didn’t write that, and I’m not sure how (if at all) it might relate to your position, because I’m not clear on what your position is.

A somewhat differently worded question is ‘What are laws imposing penalties for if the penalties are not enforced?’ That question more obviously presupposes that there are, or should be, or are going to be, laws imposing penalties. But why?

Suppose there are laws imposing penalties on actions which should not be penalised: something like, for example, the Fugitive Slave law, which imposed penalties on people who helped slaves escape to freedom. Helping slaves escape to freedom is a good thing to do, and people should not be penalised for doing it. In some cases, in practice, it’s not clear what the best thing is to do about a bad law: to ignore it? to defy it openly? to undermine it covertly? In some cases, perhaps, the best thing to do might be to insist on such rigorous application of the law that the system breaks down, forcing a change in the law; but if this ever works, it’s surely not going to work in all cases. Uncertainty about how to deal with bad laws doesn’t change the fact that the best thing to do is not to make bad laws in the first place. Whatever reason there is for ambivalence about failing to enforce penalties required by law, there’s no doubt that if a bad law were never made, the question of enforcing penalties under it would never arise in the first place.

14

Ikonoclast 05.26.18 at 1:26 am

It is valid to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary migration. We tend to do that by having categories called voluntary migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The injustice comes from treating the latter two categories too harshly. Voluntary Migrant implies a degree of choice with a voluntary decision to seek a new and perceived better life. Life presumably is tolerable and not subject to persecution or privation in the old country.

Australia, for example, has an unjust immigration policy at present. It could be amended from a human rights perspective and made less costly by re-balancing the equation;

Net migration = Voluntary Immigrants + Refugees + Asylum Seekers – Emigrants.

First, have a population growth and then stabilization policy in relation to environmental policy, limits to growth and sustainable footprint theory. This would enable the nation to set and reset net migration over time with respect to natural increase be that positive, neutral or negative.

Process the Refugees + Asylum Seekers expeditiously in Australia according to International Law, UN Agreement(s) and International Treaties, satisfying all requirements of all of these. Reset voluntary migration levels as required by changes in the other variables. It’s not that hard.

A country with a low carrying capacity for humans, even with the assistance of technology, be that a micro country or a vast but very arid country like Australia, does not have an open ended obligation to take voluntary migrants beyond its likely ecological footprint capabilities long term. That is where, as a matter of realism, I would draw the line.

There also could be cases where, due to regional wars or global ecological crises, the numbers of refugees regionally would exceed Australia’s capacity (as an example) to absorb them. As a matter of realpolitik we have to realize that the shutters will then go up and such a country would be in a state of siege (war siege, refugee siege or ecological siege). This is quite possible given limits to growth, climate change, sea level rise and damage to ecological systems and bio-services. To think these things will never happen is to ignore the grave warnings and indications from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the IPCC and others.

15

GrueBleen 05.26.18 at 2:48 am

I also reply to some arguments defending the right of states to exclude.”

Is there any chapter in which you explain the whole “rights” thing ? You know: what is “a right”, how do “rights” come into existence, do they have to be approved by anybody, how are they estabished and enforced, if they aren’t actually enforced, then to what extent are they really “rights” ?

I’d really appreciate some kind of rational analysis of all that.

16

John Prince 05.26.18 at 4:38 am

“Immigrants are the ones holding a valid immigrant document
done through the proper lawful way.

Yes, the States have the right to exclude them and deport them.
They are breaking the law..Otherwise, what are laws for?”

Compare that reasoning with: “Immigrants [to the US during the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act] are the [white Europeans] holding a valid immigration document. States have a right to exclude [the Chinese and other Asians]– They are breaking the law.”

Also, compare that reasoning with “Black people [in the antebellum US] are free if they have been emancipated. Others who try to leave slavery are breaking the law. States have a right to capture them– otherwise what are laws for?”

Rights are creations of law– by definition states have a “legal right” to enforce their laws, no matter how evil and unjust those laws. That tautologous reasoning does not answer the question of whether those laws are themselves justified.

17

Marc 05.26.18 at 5:04 am

@10: This idea – basically, open borders – makes sense only in the context of an empire. There are no citizens who have any say about who lives where they live – because their fate is controlled externally.

This is especially a pressing matter for small minority populations near large nations. Tibet, by this logic, should have no reason to object to the in-migration of an arbitrary number of Han Chinese.

But this is a matter of religious faith, not an actual argument that pays attention to the stated assumptions and beliefs of the large majority of people on the planet who disagree with open borders.

18

Chris Bertram 05.26.18 at 7:30 am

Having written the book, I don’t intend to reply to substantive argument in comments here. And those of you who think the answer, as you see it, is just too obvious to warrant further thought will probably wish to spend the £9.99 on something else.

19

philip 05.26.18 at 7:48 am

Congratulations, Chris! I’m looking forward to reading this. From your posts on here I think my instinctive thoughts on immigration are pretty much in line with yours. Hopefully this book will help me think through these things a bit more.

20

Matt 05.26.18 at 8:46 am

Congratulations on the book being out, Chris. I enjoyed reading it. It’s certainly provocative. I do want to ask about a point you don’t (to my mind) address as clearly as I’d like in the book, perhaps especially since you mention it here, too. You say,

where states fail to work towards justice they lose their authority over would-be migrants who have, in turn, no obligation to obey their immigration laws.

As far as I could tell, no state comes close to meeting the standards you set in the book, and none are actively moving towards them. (Many, alas, are moving away.) This suggests that, at the current time, no one has any obligation to obey any immigration laws. (In the book, you apply this to current citizens, too, but I want to leave that aside for a minute.) I’m interested how far you want to push this. It’s most plausible in relation to people in pretty bad situations – those fleeing serious danger, or who face low living prospects. But the statement here and in the book doesn’t seem to be limited in this way. Do you want to include all people and all immigration laws (as seems to be suggested by your formulation here)? For example, my visa in Australia has several different requirements on it – that I work only for my current (sponsoring) employer unless I get special permission, that I maintain private (fairly expensive) health insurance, and some others. I knew this before I came. On your account, it would seem that I don’t have any obligation to obey these laws. That would seem surprising to me. Is that a conclusion you’d accept, or do you want to limit the claim to a smaller subset of immigrants and immigration laws? I’m eager to hear what you say!

21

Chris Bertram 05.26.18 at 9:29 am

Hi Matt, I’m going to stick to my self-denying ordinance at #18 above rather than answering your very interesting question for now. (I may email you.)

22

John Quiggin 05.26.18 at 10:20 am

@12 In my usage “much” means a substantial amount (in absolute terms) not “most” (in relative terms). To rephrase, immigration restrictions do a lot of harm to citizens of the country that imposes them.

23

Matt 05.26.18 at 11:07 am

No worries at all, Chris – let me add that the book is very good and thought provoking, even though I disagree with a lot of it. It should be accessible to non-academics, I’d think, and is short enough that it’s not a huge time commitment. People should read it!

24

Mike Huben 05.26.18 at 4:09 pm

Based on reading the brief view on Amazon, as much as I agree with the moral positions in this book, I feel that they are incorrect presented in terms of the real world. Of course, I may be dreadfully wrong because I haven’t read the rest, so please forgive me and correct me if I am guessing incorrectly.

You write “Indeed, states do have the legal right to do that. But this book argues that the legal rights states have need moral justification and cannot be taken for granted.” (p.3)

I heartily agree that states have the legal rights, and that there is a difference between legal and moral rights. It is terrific that you make this clear in your introduction. But it is merely a moral claim that legal rights need moral justification. I think that all they need is coercive power, and while that power might in part come from people convinced of your idea of moral rights, it is hardly necessary.

I would prefer that your title was “Do States Have the MORAL Right to Exclude Immigrants”.

IMHO, moral rights are simply priors, no matter how well argued. Moral rights, because they have no cost of enforcement, can multiply like angels on pinheads and conflict in a battle of all against all. I could just as easily say that there is a moral right to make legal rights without any other justification. Moral rights are just the preferences we argue for, and we can prefer one to another, but not really disprove one or the other preference.

Thus we enter the basic realm of liberalism: how to deal with conflicting values to create practical governments. Some people’s values (moral rights, for example) will be satisfied and some not, no matter what we do. The liberal solution is to convince, weigh, balance, and bargain using systems such as democracy to optimize results.

You then write “But I have no right (legal or moral) to exclude people different from me from my area…” (p. 4) But of course you might have such a legal right, and it might even extend to exclude people who are like you. The whole idea of private property, for example, gives you such legal rights as an individual. And you are bypassing the question of whether a group can have such legal rights whether or not an individual can.

You point out that states are coercive. But you don’t seem to address under what circumstances coercion could ever be justified.

In your conclusion (p.122), you reasonably suggest that unrepresented people outside state boundaries who are affected by state power are prone to being wronged, presumably because there is no feedback through representation. You propose a test for fairness. But how can you decide what fairness is except through representation? And then, once again, we are in the standard liberal situation of trying to reconcile conflicting notions of fairness. Any group and outgrip has the same problems of externalities. For example, the system of property has the same exact problem of unfairness to non-owners. Do you propose solving this with a universal group? Can groups limit their membership in any way?

In short, I don’t see this book as situating itself in the context of the basic philosophical problems that are really unsolved. Instead, I see a rush to complain (justifiably) about many harms of the current system. Without such a basis, you can’t really say you are right and they are wrong, merely that you have these preferences and values. Perhaps that’s the best anybody can do.

25

Chris Bertram 05.26.18 at 4:41 pm

@Mike “Of course, I may be dreadfully wrong because I haven’t read the rest, so please forgive me and correct me if I am guessing incorrectly.”

That’s OK, since you have ample opportunity to correct yourself (or not) by reading the intervening pages.

26

GrueBleen 05.27.18 at 5:23 am

G’day, Ikono, it’s quite a while since I read anything of yours.

Now here you say: “First, have a population growth and then stabilization policy in relation to environmental policy, limits to growth and sustainable footprint theory.”

But do you mean that to apply only to states with immigrants, or to the planet and its human occupants as a whole ?

I could see, for instance, that 100 million Chinese and 100 million Indians could emigrate “by choice” to Australia without significantly, or for very long, reducing the human occupancy of their countries of origin (without even beginning to consider Bangladesh, Pakistan etc). Is that what should happen ? Or should we just declare, say, 25 million as the ‘optimal population’ of Australia (since there would still be a significant agricultural surplus which could be exported to help feed the rest of the world) and terminate ‘voluntary’ immigration, and all but a small asylum/refugee intake ?

When the world population is 9.7 billion – an extra 2.4 billion (or roughly the equivalent of the Indian plus Chinese populations now) over today – in 2050, what will “limits to growth and sustainable footprint theory” look like then ? And who will have what “rights” then ?

27

John Holbo 05.27.18 at 6:21 am

Congrats, Chris!

28

J-D 05.27.18 at 7:16 am

GrueBleen

I suggest that you consider the possibility that this is a case where an excess of reification is an obstacle to comprehension. If you stop looking for an answer to the question ‘What are rights and where do they come from?’ and instead try asking ‘What do people mean when they talk about rights?’ you may find that you can figure out more of this for yourself than you’d thought.

29

Marcos 05.27.18 at 8:25 am

Congratulations Chris.
And it’s already marked temporarily out of stock on Amazon.
May I ask why no kindle edition, or similar e-book?

30

Ikonoclast 05.27.18 at 8:47 am

GrueBleen,

I meant Australia should have a population policy. I was speaking as an Australian citizen and voter so I am only likely to be able to influence Australian policy… a tiny little bit.

Australia should try to set its population limit at about 35 million people. That would put us at about 75% of footprint for carrying capacity. We could even still export a little bit of food. As you point out, Australia’s capacity to take serious levels of overpopulation from the rest of the world as voluntary migrants or otherwise is negligible. The UK and USA are already way over their carrying capacity at current living standards. The world in total is way over its carrying capacity. Sooner or later there are going to be far more climate refugees than the few countries with spare carrying capacity can ever take.

31

Chris Bertram 05.27.18 at 9:19 am

@Marcos the Wiley link in the OP has an e-book, but says it isn’t available for purchase. So I think there will be one, but maybe when it is published in the US?

32

engels 05.27.18 at 9:25 am

Congratulations

33

GrueBleen 05.27.18 at 10:14 am

Ikonoclast @30

Well, if the Australian ‘population limit’ is 35,000 then how exactly do you propose that this nation (a) reaches that count – how much voluntary immigration and how much local birth and what will the ‘cultural’ mix be when we reach that count; and (b) how do we stop when we get to that point ?

Remembering, of course, that the Australian annual population increase is currently around 400,000. So, at that rate about 27.5 years to get to 35,000,000.

34

GrueBleen 05.27.18 at 10:20 am

J-D @28

Why thank you for that suggestion, J-D. And if you ever stop to ask yourself what people are really saying, you may find that you too can occasionally participate in a conversation.

But just a quickie – how do I get your comment up the top as a pointer as you did with mine ?

35

J-D 05.27.18 at 11:11 am

GrueBleen

Do you see the paragraph that says

You can use these HTML tags and attributes:

It’s the first one

open angle bracket a href=”” close angle bracket

that creates a hyperlink. To get the URL you need to create the link to a particular comment here, click on the number next to the comment.

And if you ever stop to ask yourself what people are really saying, you may find that you too can occasionally participate in a conversation.

Sometimes when I ask myself what people are really saying, the answer is ‘I don’t know’. And sometimes–often, really–when I ask people what they are really saying, the responses (if any) are uninformative. For example, if I ask you what you were really saying in your earlier comment, will you tell me?

36

GrueBleen 05.27.18 at 6:17 pm

J-D @35

Ok, thanks. I don’t actually see what I have to enter – before, during or after the “””” for instance – and exactly how the URL gets into the thing, but I’ll give it some further deep thought.

Anyway, how to know what people are really saying ? Well I guess it’s a process consisting of asking them, prompting them, expressing puzzlement etc etc. You know, the usual homo sapiens sapiens uninformative merry-go-round.

But in this case, I’ll have a go: I was merely expressing annoyance at people using next to meaningless words such as “rights” as though they conveyed some clear meaning that we’d all understand. Well, maybe some of you – eg Chris Bertram – do understand that meaning, but I don’t.

Do you ? Can you try to explain it to me ? Did you ask yourself ‘What do people mean when they talk about rights?’ and if so, what was your reply ?

37

Ikonoclast 05.27.18 at 10:40 pm

GrueBleen,

An estimated upper safe limit doesn’t imply that you have to reach it. It just implies that you don’t go over it. Such a limit also does not imply that you rush to reach it and then suddenly stabilize at that limit. Given the uncertainties surrounding limits to growth and ecological footprint analysis, at this time, the estimated safe limit could have an error factor of plus or minus 5 million. That would imply that we should approach even a 30 million population level cautiously while continuing to re-estimate the safe level.

The key formula is;
New Population = Extant Population + Births – Deaths + Voluntary Immigrants + Refugees + Asylum Seekers – Emigrants.

The way to set an interim goal would be to fit a curve that would just reach the asymptote of 30 million. Then do modelling on the variables of that formula. The most controllable variable is Voluntary Immigrants. Other variables are very predictable, barring catastrophes, though they can trend slowly, for example births and deaths. The most controllable variable is Voluntary Immigrants. This category could be reduced quite markedly if necessary. Births and deaths could also be equalized over time by setting socioeconomic incentives for a replacement rate and no more.

Refugees + Asylum Seekers tend to be smaller numbers but in a time of world or regional crisis they could rise markedly. Changing the numbers in the large category Voluntary Immigrants could, with a lag factor, provide the correction for blips upward in Refugees + Asylum Seekers.

The attempt to flatten growth at 30 million could overshoot but would be unlikely overshoot 35 million. The danger of overshooting a target mandates a cautious approach to the target. In the same way, you shouldn’t speed up to a red light and then slam on the brakes. Rather you begin slowing early and smoothly and you can still avoid hitting the pedestrian who jay walks in front of the stopping bar. In like manner, if we reached 30 million with population nearly stabilised and then discovered from trends and research that limits to growth are nearer than we think then we would be well placed to not overshoot.

I have no idea what cultural mix we would reach at a stabilization point. It’s not entirely predictable given the methods above. I also don’t think it matters so long as we remain democratic, stable, inclusive and sustainable. It might be that we would have to pay more attention to receiving climate refugees from Pacific Island nations.

38

Chris Bertram 05.27.18 at 10:53 pm

@GrueBleen doesn’t understand what rights are. Fortunately there are many books on the subject and even helpful resources like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which he or she can study carefully before commenting further on the subject:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/

39

J-D 05.28.18 at 1:41 am

GrueBleen

The URL goes between the quote marks. So it’s like this:

open-angle-brackets a href=”[insert URL here]” close-angle-brackets [insert text-to-be-displayed here] open-angle-brackets /a close-angle-brackets

40

GrueBleen 05.28.18 at 3:52 am

Chris Bertram @38.

Thanks for that Chris, the very first words in the Stanford exposition explained everything: “Rights are entitlements …”.

I also very much appreciated this:
“A right is a power which a creature ought to possess.” (Plamenatz 1938, 82).

So, you really think I should study that “carefully” ? Or should I just assert my right to comment without having to capitulate to your, or Stanford’s, idiosyncratic thinking ?

41

GrueBleen 05.28.18 at 4:08 am

Ikonoclast @37

Ikono, if you have an “upper safety limit” then what you are saying is that you have a limit that you won’t exceed. Whether that limit is 10 million, 30 million, 35 million or 100 million, if it’s a limit then you have to be able to stop before you exceed it. Yes ?

And even if you set the sum of ‘Voluntary Immigrants’ at zero, then you’d better just make sure that the birth survivor rate never exceeds the death and emigration rate, or your population will continue to increase. Won’t it ?

And if you can set the ‘Voluntary Immigrant’ rate, then you are clearly opposing Chris Bertram’s point about “not having the right to exclude immigrants”, so this is no longer a discussion of Chris’s book.

As to whether the culture mix matters “so long as we remain democratic”, well no, Ikono, I have no wish whatsoever to end up living in a de facto province of China. I could never learn the language this late in life for starters. All set by a ‘democratic vote’ of course.

42

J-D 05.28.18 at 5:29 am

GrueBleen

Anyway, how to know what people are really saying ? Well I guess it’s a process consisting of asking them, prompting them, expressing puzzlement etc etc.

I used to think that too, and in other contexts I’d still employ that strategy, but bitter experience has taught me to be wary of employing it in Web discussions because of the hostility it frequently provokes.

43

nastywoman 05.28.18 at 5:32 am

@41
”I have no wish whatsoever to end up living in a de facto province of China.”

– a great point – then don’t move to ”Chinatown” – and as we have entered the area of ”the absurd” may I chime in and suggest the Great America an way of making sure that nobody HAS to move to ”Chinatown”:
If you live in Australia just buy a house in Bondi Beach -(Sydney) in the US I would suggest Laguna Beach CA and in the UK Mayfair -(London) but if you don’t want to end up living de facto with Sheiks and women with Burqas – what’s about ”Bath”?

I love Bath and especially ”the Circus” – You just buy a house there and you are going to be… ”fine”?

44

GrueBleen 05.28.18 at 5:49 am

J-D

Muchos grazias, J-D Ok, I hope I’ve got it right and this works.

45

nastywoman 05.28.18 at 5:50 am

And it is really… disturbing? that currently people of countries who in a certain way ”owe it ALL to immigration” complain the most about ”immigration”? –
As if it wouldn’t have been just… some ”luck” -(or the opposite?) when they HAD to immigrate and that ”their people” -(whatever ”their” people are) – were first or second or third by establishing some Little Italy or Chinatown somewhere else?

I mean what would the Chinese say if they would have send the richest members of their society firstly to Australia and THEN some GrueBleen from… where would have shown up speaking ”the English”?

”We could never learn the English language this late in life for starters”?

46

faustusnotes 05.28.18 at 8:21 am

GrueBleen, the 2016 census has about 1.2 million people of Chinese descent living in Australia, about 500,000 of whom are from Mainland China. We don’t know what proportion are new migrants, but let’s be generous and assume half. So 600,000. To be living in a “province of china” you would need the half of mainland China residents who are migrants – so perhaps 300,000 people – to include to larger than the population of Australia, currently about 24 million. This would mean that the total population of Australia was something near 48 million. THEN you might be in a province of China. Even if we add 300,000 people a year this is going to take 80 years, by which time the non-Chinese population will have increased by about 1% per year, or about 240,000 people … meaning that the Chinese will remain a minority. I’m sorry but your fever dream will never come true.

Why oh why do critics of Chris’s proposition always start from this fevered nightmare of billions of people trying to invade the shire, instead of from a reasonable supposition about the state of international migration? The answer of course is because they consider any number of non-white migrants, no matter how small, to be an emergency. A great way to write an article for the Daily Mail, but not a great way to discuss population policy.

47

nastywoman 05.28.18 at 12:17 pm

@46
”THEN you might be in a province of China.”

That’s not true – as there are a lot of… ”areas” at all kind of places where somebody like True Bleen might think he is ”in a province of China” – like this really great Chinese restaurant we know in Mayfair – and that’s this really ”super-thing” that for example Little Britain – you don’t have to leave no more at all in order to ”living de facto” with any cook of this planet – like ”Indian”?
How long did it take in the bad ole times to get to a decent Indian dinner?
Months?
Weeks?
Days? –
and now you just go next door and y’all can enjoy – in a province of India some great tasting Garlic Naan!
-(instead of suffering from ”ancient pub food”)
And shouldn’t that be reason enough to forget about these silly laws of immigration?

48

Chris Bertram 05.28.18 at 5:06 pm

@GrueBleen: having reviewed your comments in moderation, I’ve decided that there’s too much noise and too little signal. Please take your custom elsewhere.

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Sebastian H 05.28.18 at 5:25 pm

How does one deal with Tibet in an open borders international situation? Under our current understanding we can see it as a type of cultural genocide or something along those lines. In an open borders world is China empowered to flood a country with “immigrants” and then “vote” to take over?

50

Chris Bertram 05.28.18 at 7:05 pm

@Sebastian, I discuss such scenarios at pp. 115-16 of the book, albeit briefly.

51

Ikonoclast 05.28.18 at 11:09 pm

GrueBleen,

Yes, a limit does imply a limit (to put it tautologically). Australia’s birth rate does not threaten any upper limit. In 2016, Australia’s total fertility rate was 1.79 babies per woman. Replacement rate is about 2.1. “In 2013, Australia’s total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.88 babies per woman, a decrease from the 2012 TFR of 1.93 babies per woman, continuing the trend of the past 5 years. Since 1976, the total fertility rate for Australia has been below replacement level.” – ABS.

Thus we see Australia is below replacement rate and the trend is still going down. This result seems to flow from improving and making available family planning, contraception and abortion. More importantly, it flows from granting more equality to women; working and earning equality and the right to control their own fertility. Whilst we keep such policies in place and advance them more as we are not “there yet”, then natural increase is a vanishingly low danger to a demographic limit in Australia.

Chris Bertram’s point about “not having the right to exclude immigrants” is this. “Rather a global migration regime has to be justifiable (in some sense) to everyone subject to it. This doesn’t mean that states never get the right to exclude, but it means that the reasons they use have to be justifiable from an impartial perspective.”

That last sentence is important. I don’t take that as a statement that a nation has no right to formulate an immigration policy and must keep totally open borders. Also, I don’t see that this debate has to be about Chris Bertram’s book. C.B. himself won’t discuss his book or arguments on this forum. This thread has become a discussion about immigration policies themselves by the “discussional vote” of the self-selected participants on this thread. That seems democratic and non-hierarchical to me.

I am putting forward reasons and a method that I propose would be justifiable from an impartial international perspective and which would recognize the realities of limits to growth and ecological footprint analysis from the perspective of an arid nation, namely Australia.

Under my proposals, there is no way any part of Australia or Australia itself would become demographically or politically a de facto province of China. The only way that could happen would be WW3 and invasion. In the case of WW3, the short story is “nuclear winter and everyone dies, globally.”

To end on a more positive note, I am saying Australia should have a population policy. Natural increase is clearly no threat to this. Indeed, we would need some continuing net immigration to even remain population stable. Voluntary immigration is clearly the most adjustable category in practical and ethical terms. It should be reduced significantly from now on and any extra numbers from refugee and asylum seeker intakes could be offset by further (usually temporary) cuts to voluntary immigration.

Of course, a world or regional crisis would throw a spanner in that works. This is a plan for non-crisis conditions and indeed a plan that attempts to stop Australia reaching its own population and ecological crisis (outside of globally impacting crises like climate change and sea level rise for two examples).

52

J-D 05.29.18 at 12:08 am

I can discern no conflict between holding, on the one hand, that it would be wrong for Tibetans to prohibit or restrict the migration of people to Tibetan territory solely on the grounds of their ethnic background and, on the other hand, that it would be wrong for the Chinese government to promote the migration of Han Chinese to Tibetan territory in order to change its demographic character.

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Sebastian H 05.29.18 at 2:23 am

“on the other hand, that it would be wrong for the Chinese government to promote the migration of Han Chinese to Tibetan territory in order to change its demographic character.”

Why would that be wrong? They seem to flow from irreconcilable axioms. Either a polity has a right to determine at least pretty large portions of its demographic character (and it can exclude some immigration to maintain it) or it does not have a right to determine at least pretty large portions of its demographic character (in which case it can’t).

Now there is a libertarian objection to that line of thinking, but libertarian objections aren’t normally well received around here, so I’m not going to assume it unless you’re willing to bring it forward. So at the very least it isn’t self evident.

54

Chris Bertram 05.29.18 at 6:50 am

C.B. himself won’t discuss his book or arguments on this forum.

No, this post was to publicize the UK publication of the book. When more people have had an opportunity to obtain a copy, I’ll happily discuss.

55

Collin Street 05.29.18 at 7:04 am

Sebastian… the key to your confusion is as follows:
+ it is not OK for the tibetan community to act to control ethnic demographics in tibet
+ it is not OK for the chinese government to act to control ethnic demographics in tibet.

56

J-D 05.29.18 at 8:46 am

Sebastian H

There are lots of reason why people move from one place to another. I expect often it’s a combination of reasons. Sometimes people want to move away from places where they are being persecuted; sometimes they want to move away from places where there is famine, or other hardships. Sometimes they want to move to places where they think there are better opportunities: they hear about a gold strike and they fancy their chances mining; they hear about mercenaries being recruited for a war and that takes their fancy. Sometimes they want to move near to sites which they consider have religious or spiritual or cultural significance; sometimes they get the idea they want to move to the place they heard their grandparents or great-grandparents or remoter ancestors came from. Sometimes they fall in love and want to move be with the people they love. Sometimes they want to move somewhere they prefer the climate, or where they think their health will be better.

All of these, and more, are examples of people moving to follow their own desires or purposes or preferences. They could easily be desires or purposes or preferences which they share with other people who might be moving along with them; they might work together to make the move easier. Also, of course, people’s desires and purposes and preferences are shaped by the circumstances in which they find themselves, including the effects on them of the actions of other people.

But all of that is different from a government deliberately setting out to get people to move from one place to another in order to serve the purposes of the government, whether the government works by direct compulsion or by more indirect means.

If Han Chinese people want to move to Tibet because they think it will make their own lives better, they may well be mistaken; but in general people should have the chance to try to make their own lives better so long as they’re not doing it by making other people’s lives worse. But if the Chinese government decides to stimulate a large-scale Han Chinese migration to Tibet in order to change the demographic character of Tibet, they’re not doing it to make people’s lives better: they would have no good purpose, and I’m opposed to governments acting with no good purpose.

If individual Han Chinese people, in whatever numbers, decide they want to move to Tibet, what harm would they be doing to anybody? If the Chinese government decides to try to turn Tibet into a Han Chinese territory, what good would they be doing to anybody?

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Sebastian H 05.29.18 at 2:55 pm

“If individual Han Chinese people, in whatever numbers, decide they want to move to Tibet, what harm would they be doing to anybody”

In whatever numbers? Really? Tibet is a small country. If even a tiny percentage of ‘individual Han Chinese’ people decided they want to move there, Tibet would be swamped.

Next, it isnt obvious why we shouldn’t treat the Chinese government as the collective will of lots of individual Chinese people. Some very significant fraction of Chinese people think that Tibet is theirs. And really we should look at what ‘theirs’ means in this context. It means “has a right to freely move there, against the wishes of locals, and exercise political power when they arrive”. In democratic oriented countries that will mean “gets to vote”. In less democratic countries that will mean other levers of power.

So you haven’t thus far provided a good explanation of what morally distinguishes the case because you’ve strongly attacked the objection that a country has the right to influence how immigrants change the makeup/character of the country. If you give that objection up, so what if China floods Tibet?

It’s also hard to see how a legal regime would deal with the distinction you allude to (but do not explain) without interrogating each immigrant in a way that would be similar to the bad side of immigration enforcement already. Eg: please prove that you aren’t an agent of Chinese government infiltration into Tibet or we will deport you.

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DDOwen 05.29.18 at 5:58 pm

The example of Tibet is a pretty weird one to bring up in this context, given that (regardless of whether it ought to be or not) AIUI it has been in no sense de facto or de jure an independent state since its incorporation into the PRC as an autonomous region (and arguably not since the invasion in 1949/150). The relevent issue in this case is not one of open or closed borders, it’s of the rights of national and linguistic minorities within a nationalistic state that seeks to assimilate or otherwise marginalise them.

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Sebastian H 05.29.18 at 10:38 pm

The Tibet case isn’t that weird because it is an example of migration being used to extinguish nationality, which is pretty much the failure mode of highly increased immigration. (Or maybe the it’s a classic feature not a bug depending on your point of view). But whether or not you see it as a feature or a bug, it’s the scenario that people who want to limit immigration are worried about—that the immigrants will largely or entirely supplant the currently existing culture.

Now the success of California (where more than 50% of current citizens have at least one foreign born parent) suggests that for at least some local cultures the immigration rate could be much higher than it currently is. So I’m certainly open to the idea that places like France or the UK or Germany might be able to handle much larger immigrant populations. But countries like Sweden might legitimately worry that a big flood of immigrants could swamp their national character much like Tibet, even without a country doing it to them on purpose. And focusing on immigration as a “right” tends to obscure that.

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Collin Street 05.30.18 at 1:55 am

Sebastian, your position is essentially “if communities and polities can’t control their own ethnic demographics, so then if group a wanted to fuck around with demographics in group b, there’s nothing that group b can do, right?”

You have been given the knowledge you should need to see the nature of your error. If you want more understanding you need to look at how you handle information, which is not something we can help you with. (You also need to look at how you think about “intent”, which is as I’ve mentioned a pretty common problem among conservatives)

61

faustusnotes 05.30.18 at 2:55 am

Sebastian H, the Tibet example is a poor one. Minorities throughout China are “swamped” by Han Chinese – there are about 50 registered minorities in China, I think, and they are all a miniscule percentage of the national population, and they all largely live in areas full of Han Chinese. But there are special laws to protect their cultural rights, they speak their own language, they have cultural traditions they can preserve and they have special rights regarding taxes and (until recently) exemption from the one child policy. The problem specifically in Tibet and Xinjiang is not the large numbers of migrants from the rest of China, but the Chinese state’s active efforts to undermine the culture and language of Tibetans.

It should also be noted that there are actually and always have been large numbers of Tibetans in areas outside of Tibet – in particular Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces – and large numbers of Hui outside of Xinjiang (I met Hui people in Sichuan province when I was there 15 years ago, I think, and I certainly met lots and lots of Tibetans in Gansu and Sichuan). For example Xiahe in Gansu province has a large and famous Tibetan buddhist temple and is a pilgrimage site for Tibetans from Tibet itself. I don’t think it’s possible to say that Tibetan culture can’t thrive while surrounded by Han Chinese. The problem is it can’t thrive if its major cultural figures are exiled, or in prison for campaigning to have their language taught in schools (as recently happened).

Contrary to your Tibetan model, Chinese management of minorities offers potentially an example of how cultural groups can live successfully and retain their culture within much larger populations. Multiculturalism allows this in the West. Indeed, given how much conservatives complain about how tiny groups foreigners don’t assimilate, it’s kind of surprising that they’re so sure that a population of e.g. 20 million white Australians will immediately assimilate if swamped by 80 million Chinese. Why would that happen, if the 10 Uighur people living in Sydney don’t “assimilate” to the majority white culture?

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J-D 05.30.18 at 7:10 am

Sebastian H

So you haven’t thus far provided a good explanation of what morally distinguishes the case …

I’m going to explain some of the general principles I’m working from, because if you disagree with these then they’re we’re not going to get anywhere discussing application of principles to specific cases; if what follows is obvious and the explanation supererogatory and a waste of time, I’m sorry.

Not always, but in general, it’s fairly easy to tell what’s a harm and what’s a benefit. Sometimes people are mistaken about what harms them and what benefits them, but it’s unusual; it’s less unusual, but still unusual, for people to be mistaken about what harms and what benefits others.

In general, it’s wrong to harm people, and good to benefit them; it gets more complicated when actions can cause both harm and benefit, or when different options are likely to result in different harms, or different benefits.

If you disagree sharply with these general principles, I think it would clarify the discussion if you made that disagreement explicit. But if you don’t, then I can explain how I apply them to the kind of case we’re talking about.

Now, in one general kind of scenario, we have people from one group (in the particular case under discussion, Han Chinese people) trying to move to an area inhabited by another group of people (in the case under discussion, Tibetans), and the people who are already there have a choice between two options: try to stop the movement, or don’t try to stop the movement. The people who are trying to move must have some motive: they must perceive some kind of benefit to themselves in making the move. If the current residents try to stop the movement, they will denying access to those supposed benefits. On the other hand, if the movement is not restricted, there’s no obvious general kind of harm that will be caused, and no obvious general benefit to the existing residents. I’m sure it’s possible to construct specific examples in which these general presumptions could be overridden; I expect I could and I expect you could. If we’re discussing the specific example of Han Chinese people moving to Tibet and you can give me an example of how the presence of more Han Chinese people in Tibet makes life worse (for the Tibetans, or for the Han Chinese, or both), then I may concede its relevance and importance. General principles point me to the conclusion that people should, in general, not be prevented from moving where they want to move; I concede easily that these general principles can be overridden by specific considerations, but you need to show me specifically what those considerations are before I’ll concede the overriding.

On the other hand, in a different kind of scenario, we have a government with a choice between two options: deliberately seeking to promote the movement of people from one background (for example, Han Chinese) to a territory inhabited by people from a different background (for example, Tibetan); or, not to do so. In history, governments have sometimes tried to promote such movements by providing generous inducements to people who relocate, and have sometimes more simply compelled people to relocate. Both methods have significant costs, borne respectively by the people who have to finance the inducements or by the people who are compelled to move; their lives are made worse, to some degree, and there’s no obvious general benefit from this kind of government action. Again, I’m sure examples can be constructed where there are specific considerations that override the general principles, but general principles point me to the conclusion that, in general, the government shouldn’t be involving itself in deciding where it’s best for people to live, and you’ll need to point me to the specific considerations before I’ll concede the overriding.

You could say, also, that I’m taking in both cases the view that ‘because they’re different’ is usually not a good enough reason, in this sense: if Tibetans want to stop Han Chinese moving into Tibet, I want to know why, and ‘because they’re different’ is not a good enough reason; if the Chinese government wants to induce (or force) Han Chinese to move to Tibet, I want to know why, and ‘because they’re different’ is not a good enough reason. I am less interested in trying to decide whether Tibetans have a ‘right’ to keep Han Chinese out than I am in knowing why they might want to do that; I am less interested in trying to decide whether the Chinese government has a ‘right’ to move Han Chinese in than I am in knowing why they might want to do that. To me, those are important and relevant facts (because they relate to the general principles about harm and benefit), and in the absence of information about them I am inclined to the general view that it’s better if people let each other make their own decisions, which is how the two conclusions which seem to you contradictory seem to me compatible.

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novakant 05.30.18 at 10:53 am

Sebastian, you don’t seem to be aware of this, but your framing of the question and the language you choose to describe immigrants is straight out of the Alt-right playbook:

“cultural genocide
flood a country with “immigrants”
Tibet would be swamped
what if China floods Tibet?
infiltration
extinguish nationality
supplant the currently existing culture
a big flood of immigrants
swamp their national character”

As an immigrant I find this rather offensive.

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bianca steele 05.30.18 at 3:38 pm

I wonder if it would be fair to reword J-D’s final paragraph as: if a person or group does something I think is wrong, but which they have a right to do, I have an *obligation* to understand (in a strong sense, that is, to essentially agree with their arguments, and not just potentially but right now) their reasons for believing they are right. If not, I’m curious why J-D uses the word “interested,” is this as a historian, a philosopher, a person potentially talking to Tibetans or Han Chinese in a social setting, or what? It has some appeal in a sense but seems to me a little strong. It is off-topic, though.

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DDOwen 05.30.18 at 6:43 pm

“Contrary to your Tibetan model, Chinese management of minorities offers potentially an example of how cultural groups can live successfully and retain their culture within much larger populations. “

Up until recently it might have been, but there may be policy shift in progress. What’s going on in Xinjiang at the moment, for instance, is less that and more forced assimilation via putting anyone of Uighyr ethnicity who doesn’t measure up to vaguely defined ideological criteria into re-education camps. It remains to be seen as to whether this will spread elsewhere in the PRC; I really hope not.

(As with Tibet, there’s been a fair bit of encouragement of Han migration to Xinjiang by the PRC government, but anyone who thinks that’s the main reason that the locals are under cultural pressure is ignoring all the *other* things the government is also doing.)

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DDOwen 05.30.18 at 6:49 pm

Ah, sorry faustusnotes — you made largely the same point I was making. The perils of reading very quickly while cooking…

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Sebastian H 05.30.18 at 9:24 pm

Novakant, my framing of the issue suggests California-like outcomes where more than 50% of the people have a foreign born parent so I’m not sure it counts as even unintentionally Alt-right. And describing Tibet as “cultural genocide”, “swamping their national character”, “extinguishing nationality” and “flooding a country with immigrants” isn’t really framing is it? That is straight up what is happening. How would you personally describe what China is doing to Tibet?

J-D, thank you for explaining what you mean. I want to mention that your approach is a full throated libertarian critique of governmental immigration policies. I say that not to disagree–I’m actually very open to the strength of libertarian critiques. But for me, it fails in a key area.

“In general, it’s wrong to harm people, and good to benefit them; it gets more complicated when actions can cause both harm and benefit, or when different options are likely to result in different harms, or different benefits.”

You have a very particular view of ‘harm’ that I don’t really buy into. You also seem to be suggesting either intense ignorance about the actuality of Tibet, or you seem to be suggesting that the Chinese migration and cultural takeover of Tibet might be positively good in sentences like these “If we’re discussing the specific example of Han Chinese people moving to Tibet and you can give me an example of how the presence of more Han Chinese people in Tibet makes life worse (for the Tibetans, or for the Han Chinese, or both), then I may concede its relevance and importance.”

I guess I’m not really interested in getting sucked into a discussion with someone who either doesn’t know enough about Tibet or thinks it might be an open question about whether or not they have been harmed.

But for those who do see that Tibet has been harmed, I would ask where you see the harm? Is it in the immediate Chinese governmental takeover of governmental institutions? Or is it ALSO in the attempt to weaken resistance to the takeover by dramatically changing the makeup of the nation through very large scale immigration.

I’m asking whether or not you would say “no serious damage” in a scenario where people have a ‘right to immigrate’ and the Chinese government just decided to reverse the order of the current takeover of Tibet. Encourage mass migration BEFORE the government takeover. Would Tibetians have as much right to complain in that situation? Or we would just say things like “the current inhabitants of Tibet want China to be in charge therefore no big deal”?

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J-D 05.31.18 at 5:21 am

Sebastian H

I want to mention that your approach is a full throated libertarian critique of governmental immigration policies. I say that not to disagree–I’m actually very open to the strength of libertarian critiques.

I wouldn’t shift from the views I’ve expressed because somebody tells me that they’re libertarian; I also wouldn’t shift from the views I’ve expressed because somebody tells me that they’re not libertarian. As far as I’m concerned, neither ‘that’s a libertarian view’ nor ‘that’s not a libertarian views’ is an adequate basis for a negative evaluation. So I don’t understand why you’re bringing up this point at all.

You have a very particular view of ‘harm’ that I don’t really buy into.

I find this comment very confusing. I am not conscious of having expressed any particular view of what constitutes harm. If you could explain why you disagree with my view (or whatever view it is that you take to be mine) , it might be clarifying.

I guess I’m not really interested in getting sucked into a discussion with someone who either doesn’t know enough about Tibet or thinks it might be an open question about whether or not they have been harmed.

If you want to limit yourself to responding to people who can attain your stipulated minimum pass mark in a test of knowledge of Tibet, obviously all I can do about that is accept your choice.

However, for the record, I am in no doubt that the policies of the Chinese government have caused harm to the people of Tibet. What I don’t understand is how it’s supposed to be reasonable for you to ask me now to explain how I think the people of Tibet have been harmed when you appear to be unwilling to explain exactly the same thing.

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Z 05.31.18 at 5:34 am

Chris Bertam When more people have had an opportunity to obtain a copy, I’ll happily discuss.

Yeah, about that, I have some good and bad news. The good news (for you, Chris) is that at the (truly great) London Waterstones bookstore on Gower Street, your book was already sold out yesterday, so evidently people are buying it. The bad news (for me) is that I consequently don’t have it, and won’t get a chance to purchase it in a bookstore for a little while now (and I try to cut out on electronic bookstores).

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Hidari 05.31.18 at 10:19 am

As ever, I am surprised by how seriously we all take de facto alt-right talking points, as though they are genuine and meaningful contributions to the topic (Novakant is, as usual, an honourable exception).

If self-described ‘Conservatives’ were genuinely concerned about ‘immigrants’ ‘swamping’ the ‘original inhabitants’ of a country, they wouldn’t be blathering on about Tibet (China being a country Washington has had in its sights for some time now), but would instead concentrate on Israel.

e.g. ‘But for those who do see that Palestine has been harmed, I would ask where you see the harm? Is it in the immediate Israeli governmental takeover of governmental institutions? Or is it ALSO in the attempt to weaken resistance to the takeover by dramatically changing the makeup of the nation through very large scale immigration.’

etc. etc.

But of course in that case, Conservatives love wide scale (overwhelmingly European or North American) immigration with the deliberate (and, so far, successful) attempt to ‘swamp’ the native culture. So, the right do not, in fact, have any ‘principles’ about ‘swamping’ ‘native cultures’. They do, on the other hand, have issues with brown, yellow and black people (mainly from the global South) coming to live and work in ‘white people’s countries’ (mainly in the global North).

People, right and alt-right ‘arguments’ against immigration make no sense, and are not being given in good faith. The right really do have real arguments about immigration, but as these would inevitably turn the conversation towards issues about race (where the right are no longer comfortable about stating their real beliefs) these arguments cannot be, so to speak, ‘used’ any more in the public sphere. So instead we have random blah about Tibet.

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nastywoman 05.31.18 at 10:54 am

@63
”But countries like Sweden might legitimately worry that a big flood of immigrants could swamp their national character much like Tibet” – for sure was the funniest remark as it reminded me on what I read just yesterday:

”There’s no getting away from the fact that Vikings did a lot of raiding, but the image of them as pure pillagers is increasingly being replaced by nuance: that the Vikings then came to settle, and had a major effect on the surrounding populations. Traces of Viking culture can be found in Britain, where settlement took place, and perhaps the greatest Viking settlement was in Normandy, where the Vikings transformed into the Normans who would , in turn, spread out and forge their own extra kingdoms including a permanent and successful conquest of England”.

And does this Sebastian-dude know – that ”England” actually might be a Vikings -(Swedish? colony) – of Men with ”Raping hats” on – who totally swamped some ”national character”?

And shouldn’t he write about that – instead about Tibet – which was too far for the Vikings to reach with their boats?

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Faustusnotes 05.31.18 at 1:45 pm

Hidari it’s important to respond to these ideas because lots of people who aren’t especially racist or otherwise concerned have imbibed this idea that migration is a threat to the dominant culture through years of constant conservative pressure. I don’t think Sebastian is racist but he is using a pretty extreme anti migrant language, as novakant oberves, because that’s how the debate is framed. Sadly the ideas underlying multiculturalism need constant defense against conservative assault.

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bianca steele 05.31.18 at 7:25 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the argument about Tibet, or against genocide generally, presented in terms of “swamping culture.” It seems to me to be Sebastian’s usual way of finding the stock right-libertarian argument* that’s closest to hand, and refusing to engage in detail with anyone outside his bubble, until they resent his strawmanning enough that they allow themselves to be converted to his own concerns, thinking “oh if the strawman is wrong maybe he is right!”

* not that the one he uses here is especially libertarian, even. but everyone has their quirks.

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Faustusnotes 05.31.18 at 11:53 pm

Bianca Steele, I have seen this concern expressed before because it is part of the Chinese strategy in Tibet – sending lots of Chinese from the east into Tibet to work and live. There were demonstrations a few years back because the han Chinese were getting all the best work, for example. But they’re also there as part of Chinese plans to develop the region, which really needs development. There’s also a lot of resentment against them for past misdeeds (Chinese policy in Tibet has changed a lot since the 1980s), and of course the whole security apparatus is Han Chinese. I think a lot of western critics see it as kind of similar to the way white populations pushed native Americans out of their la d in the 19th century partly just through population movement. The differences are obvious though and I think the population changes are often conflated with the aggressive security policies. They’re not the same though and certainly a poor comparator for peaceful mass migration elsewhere.

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Collin Street 06.01.18 at 12:21 am

Seriously: has Sebastian ever actually “learned” anyhting – defined even as lowly as demonstrably changing his mind – the entire time he’s been here? ‘Cause I sure as shit can’t remember anything.

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bianca steele 06.01.18 at 12:33 am

fn,

I think you’ve missed my point, or I’ve missed yours (for instance in your earlier comments to Sebastian ). I was referring to the word “swamping,” which is used by white American racists with regard to immigration from Latin America, the use of Spanish in some places as an official or semi-official language, and so on. Sebastian could easily have emphasized the differences between the policies you mention (which I am aware of but which I’d suggest comparing more to colonialism generally) and mass migration that isn’t orchestrated by a government for the purpose of wiping out an ethnic minority, culturally or physically). Or he could have mentioned an argumentative about what policies governments should or can justifiably take to preserve cultures within their borders. Instead he used a word that conflated two different cases with different characteristics and different moral attributes.

If your position is that it’s reasonable for China to colonize Tibet, and reserve positions of responsibility only for some ethnicities, just because ethnic Tibetans aren’t as good at modernization and so on, I think that would require a lot of scrutiny before I’d say “oh yeah that makes sense.” Definitely I’d be inclined to doubt you’re right. If you said Tibetans were a bit silly for wanting to preserve their traditional culture, and of course China is right to discourage them if possible without too terribly much violence, I would think that would require even more scrutiny. If you said the only reason North Americans and Australians are concerned is that our own history with indigenous peoples—which, for unexplained reasons, is much much worse—makes us irrational, I obviously am not going to follow you there.

In the best case, I’d say your argument rests really, really implausibly heavily on my knowledge about China’s Tibet policies being out of date as of any time since my thirteenth birthday. And almost certainly on your discounting religious persecution to an unreasonable extent.

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Mitch Guthman 06.01.18 at 12:44 am

Ikonoclast@ 51,

I am curious about how you can have a discussion of “carrying capacity” in the context of a “right” of migration which says that the receiving state cannot discriminate against newcomers and people who are already citizens. You seem to be saying that states can but maybe exclude people once a particular places’s “carrying capacity” is reached.

But if everyone has a right to live wherever they choose, and states have a corresponding duty to accommodate them, where exactly does the concept of “carrying capacity” come in and how is it determined? Who get to decide the factors that go into the balancing and how they’re weighted?

Equally, if it is an absolute right, doesn’t that negate the concept of “carrying capacity”?

Your response to others here seems to be that the right to live where you want is somehow neither categorical nor unconditional, yet one that should be treated as absolute which implies that the “carrying capacity” analysis seems to be little more than a rhetorical sop to critics of open borders. Would Australia be able to have, say, a national referendum on either “carrying capacity” or whether unrestricted immigration is incompatible with the country’s interest in promoting the social welfare state? Or would Australia’s duty to receive people who want to live there demand that they accept everyone until the country looks like “Soylent Green”?

Would all of these rights and duties be determined by a popular vote or would they be “discovered” as a form of natural law by various cosmopolitan elites? Basically, (1) where do there rights come from and how are their contours established and (2) if people right to live where they want is legitimately restricted by “carrying capacity” who get to decide stuff related to the meaning of that term?

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Mitch Guthman 06.01.18 at 12:57 am

Hidari @ 70,

A general problem that I see here is that everyone’s basically saying that unrestricted migration is good except when it isn’t. If there’s a right to live wherever one wants, that presumably means that Israelis can live wherever they want including Palestine even if the Palestinians don’t want them there.

I’m not a professional historian but my impression is that the Briton natives of modern-day England and Wales weren’t very enthusiastic about the inward migration of the Vikings. The ancient Celtic peoples and tribes probably weren’t happy to see the Gauls or the Romans. Nobody was happy to see the Huns.

Putting to one side all the other issues related to these conflicts, I don’t see how one can have a general principle (the right to live wherever you want) but cave out exceptions here and there. If there’s a right to live wherever you want then, presumably, the Jewish settlers have a much right to take the land of the Palestinians as a Libyan economic migrant has to choose to live in Italy.

Either there’s a principled way to discriminate among people and groups with claims of exclusivity or there isn’t. If there’s no principled way to adjudicate that dispute, there’s an awful lot of people who would want to live in both Israel and Palestine who are unwanted by the current inhabitants of both places. How would you resolve this?

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Chip Daniels 06.01.18 at 2:26 am

It seems odd to feel alarm over the physical presence of immigrants altering the native culture, while being unconcerned about the free flow of music, food, art, language, and consumer goods across borders.

It would be as if Italians became hysterical over Americans strolling through the Roman Forum, while being nonchalant about the MacDonald’s nearby, or the Italian youths with saggy pants performing rap.

And even the notion of cultures being “swamped” as a negative seems strange. Haven’t all the most vibrant cultures in world history been the ones fed by a cross current of trade and cultural mingling?
It seems to have this pernicious notion of culture as static entities instead of constantly evolving forces.

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faustusnotes 06.01.18 at 5:16 am

Bianca Steele, I guess we’re misunderstanding each other. I read your comment “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the argument about Tibet, or against genocide generally, presented in terms of “swamping culture.”” as meaning that you hadn’t encountered this argument, and was just commenting to say I had, and I think it is sometimes used to conflate migration and cultural destruction. I think that’s what Sebastian is doing here (and also Mitch Guthman? when he presents the example of Israelis living in Palestine as if their free movement into Palestine occurred peacefully).

I would say if one’s argument against unrestricted migration relies on comparing it with violent dispossession, you’re on shaky ground.

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J-D 06.01.18 at 1:37 pm

Mitch Guthman

Obviously I’m aware of the general phenomenon of people espousing general principles and then being inconsistent in the application of them; but when you aver so confidently that the phenomenon is manifesting in this particular discussion, you cite no examples, and I can’t find any.

Here is how I apply my general principles to three different illustrative cases, two contemporary and one historical; let me know if you detect me in inconsistency.

The policies of the Chinese government are harmful to Tibetans; they are harsh and unjustified and should not be maintained. The policies of the Israeli government are harmful to Palestinians; they are harsh and unjustified and should not be maintained. The policies of the Norman conquerors were harmful to Saxon people in England; they were harsh and unjustified and should not have been maintained.

I am not sufficiently expert on Chinese government policy to know in detail how the government might be promoting the movement of Han Chinese people into territories inhabited by Tibetans; but I know enough to be sure that any such policies must have costs that are not justified by any possible benefits. I am not sufficiently expert on Israeli government policy to know in detail how the government might be promoting the movement of Jewish people into territories inhabited by Palestinians; but I know enough to be sure that any such policies must have costs that are not justified by any possible benefits. I am not sufficiently expert on the policies of William the Conqueror to know in detail how his government might have promoted the movement of Normans into Saxon England; but I know enough to be sure that any such policies must have had costs that were not justified by any possible benefits.

Any movement of Han Chinese into Tibetan-populated territories is taking place within the context of broader government policies which are harmful to Tibetans independently of any population movement; any movement of Jewish people into Palestinian-populated territories is taking place within the context of broader government policies which are harmful to Palestinians independently of any population movement; any movement of Normas into England took place within the context of broader royal policies which were harmful to Saxons independently of any population movement.

It is not within the power of Tibetans to restrict the movement of people from outside into the territories where they live; but if it were, they would not be justified in refusing permission for such movement solely on the grounds that the incomers were Han Chinese. It is not within the power of Palestinians to restrict the movement of people from outside into the territories where they live; but if it were, they would not be justified in refusing permission for such movement solely on the grounds that the incomers were Jewish. It was not within the power of the Saxons (after the Conquest) to restrict the movement of people from outside into England; but if it were, they would not have been justified in refusing permission for such movement solely on the grounds that the incomers were Normans.

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bianca steele 06.01.18 at 3:06 pm

Fn,

As I see it, we disagree on (1)whether Chinese policies in Tibet are reasonable and justifiable, and (2) whether “swamping” has a narrow or a broad definition. I’m happy to leave it there.

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Mario 06.01.18 at 9:40 pm

It is not within the power of Tibetans to restrict the movement of people from outside into the territories where they live; but if it were, they would not be justified in refusing permission for such movement solely on the grounds that the incomers were Han Chinese.

Ok, but why and before whom would they have to justify that? If they had the power, there would be nothing but the great, vast, (and quite deaf) void above them in hierarchy, all the way to the Andromeda galaxy and beyond. Having the power, they could very well kill every Han Chinese entering their territory, and it, for all we know, wouldn’t ask for a justification.

No?

There seems to be a great and invisible God mediating this, but I can’t seem to get any information on Him/Her/It/Whatever from anyone here.

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J-D 06.02.18 at 2:07 am

Mario

It does not follow from the fact that an action cannot be prevented that it cannot be evaluated; more specifically, it does not follow from the fact that I cannot prevent it that it cannot be evaluated, and it does not follow from the fact that you cannot prevent it that it cannot be evaluated. Nobody can go back in time and alter the actions of William the Conqueror, but it does not follow that nobody can evaluate the actions of William the Conqueror. I evaluate them negatively; I can’t find in your comment any reason why I should not do so. Obviously he was under no obligation or compulsion to justify his actions to anybody, but that doesn’t make it impossible for people now to evaluate whether they were justified and equally it wouldn’t have made it impossible for people at the time to make the same kind of evaluation; equally, the fact that the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is under no obligation or compulsion to justify its actions to anybody doesn’t make it impossible for people to evaluate those actions.

I leave room for the possibility that you genuinely and sincerely do not understand what people mean when they express normative evaluations; it’s not an impossible supposition; but it’s not a probable one. It’s less improbable to suppose that you do understand such statements but, for reasons which are at best only partly clear to me, are trying to deceive yourself into believing that you don’t so that you can then pretend, when others utter them, that they’re meaningless. Normative language is so widely understood that it seems more likely than not that you also understand it, even if you choose, for whatever reasons, to pretend otherwise.

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Faustusnotes 06.02.18 at 3:25 am

Bianca, I’m really not sure where you got the idea that I think China’s actions in Tibet are justifiable or reasonable. I was simply replying to “haven’t heard”, not saying I agreed with anything !

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