Wednesday, July 11, 2018

In N Out

Some are talking about Ilya Somin's post "The Hereditary Aristocracy of Citizenship."  The thesis is simple.  Just as there once was an unjust aristocracy based on bloodline, so today is there unfairness in that some win the lottery by being born in the right place while others, simply by accident of birth, aren't so lucky.

There's something to this, but I don't see any easy solution.  The two things that can be done are kicking people out of a country who don't deserve to be there, and letting people in who do.

Citizenship, even if conferred automatically on the worthy and unworthy alike, creates a certain cohesion, and it would be tricky to strip citizenship and remove people from a country in large numbers. Politically and logistically, it would be tremendously difficult.  And even if you believe it in theory, it would be such a dangerous weapon in the hands of partisans and those with prejudices that it would likely lead to monstrous moral decisions (and I think has, historically speaking).

So there's the other side, immigration.  Why shouldn't others be allowed to enjoy the bounty some get by being born?  Maybe they should, but how would it work?  Can anyone move anywhere they want to?  Maybe that would be fair, but, once again, the logistics seem almost impossible.

So, assuming we will continue to have borders, then we'll have to have rules.  And then the rules should be based on what works best.  Though is it what works best for the country or for the world?  Perhaps we want to help the world, but then mightn't the self-sacrificing "good" countries have more problems while the more "selfish" countries prosper?  Then where will we want to move?

Or must we set up a one-world government where everyone can pass easily back and forth as they wish.  Again, this might be nice, but we'd be at great risk of this government becoming too powerful and not following the most altruistic path, even if they have the best intentions.

There's always a lottery at birth.  (In fact, just to be born you had to beat out millions of others trying to fertilize that egg.)  There's being born in the present and not the past when they couldn't cure a lot of disease.  There's being born a human and not, say, a worm.  (I have no idea how happy worms are--perhaps it's not a good deal for humans.)  And if science advances into science fiction, maybe Somin would think it our moral duty to make sure no one is, effectively, born in the past, or as a worm.

But in today's world as it is, how obvious is it that some countries are better than others?  And if it is, isn't a good solution to convince less successful countries to adopt the systems of the more successful.  Along the way, we'll keep having many different laboratories to keep trying various experiments, and the average drags up along the way.  This might work better than people abandoning their countries and going to the "good" ones.

Maybe we should have fairly open borders, but we still have to set up rules, and decide just how open they should be.  And if Somin believes a lot of immigration is good for a country, as he seems to, just say it, recognizing that's a separate argument from the aristocracy of citizenship.


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