Is there too much immigration?

by Chris Bertram on March 26, 2018

I spoke yesterday at the Oxford Literary Festival in debate with Sunday Times journalist Sarah Baxter on the theme “Is there too much immigration?” Something like the following constituted my opening remarks.

The title of this panel asks whether there is too much immigration? I’m inclined to wonder whether this question is simply a mistake. My own focus in a forthcoming book [Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants?](http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509521951) is not so much on whether immigration is good or bad for the country, but on whether states have the rights that politicians, pundits and journalists simply assume that they do, to regulate migration according to whether it is good or bad for the economy, strains public services, makes some people better off or worse off, and so on.

My book is a work in political philosophy rather than an intervention in current debates (though it can’t help being that to some extent). Let me just sketch the main argument and then I’ll get on to some further remarks about our current predicament. States are compulsory and coercive bodies. Legitimate states use that coercive force to limit the freedom of people subject to them. But there’s normally a quid pro quo involved: the state limits our freedom but also protects us from the threat that we, as individuals, pose to one another’s freedom. This tradeoff provides us with reasons to comply with the state’s authority. But unlike resident citizens would-be immigrants get all of the coercion with none of the protection. The world is divided into many states, some of which do a much better job for their subjects than others. And mobility is something that human beings have practised since forever. To make the regulation of migration legitimate, states ought to comply with principles that ought to be acceptable to everyone. Insofar as such principles don’t exist, legitimate states need to be working towards creating them (just as they regulate other areas of international life).
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Francis Bator has died

by John Quiggin on March 26, 2018

Francis Bator, the economist who popularized the term “market failure”, has died at the age of 92 after being hit by a car. His NY Times obituary is here.

Francis’ passing is a cause of sadness for me as my book, Economics In Two Lessons draws heavily on his work from the 1950s and 1960s. He had read excerpts on Crooked Timber and corresponded with me about it, much to my surprise and delight. I was looking forward to sending him the manuscript but now I won’t get the chance.