A young man being executed in Tehran a few nights ago. Some reports say that the witnesses in the first image were the family of the person executed, others say that it’s the family of his victims. Makes a big difference in interpretation of the image, obviously. Maybe they’re both there.
It’s fairly easy to make a rights-based case for open borders – or, more realistically, for reduced immigration restrictions: human beings have
- a right to free movement (yes, also internationally, just as people can speak to me from another country)
- a right to associate
- a right to work
- a right to be with their family members
- a right to escape injustice
- a right to not be poor etc.
All of these rights depend, in some cases, on the possibility to migrate. And there’s no reason to believe that the actionability of these rights stops at the border (maybe the legal actionability stops there, but not the moral one).
Sure, you can have rights-based reasons to limit immigration, but those are relatively weak. People have a right to private property and to exclude others from their property, but it’s a stretch to argue that a nation of people has a “property” right to a territory. It’s also true that people have a right to democratic self-government, but again this is not a good reason to limit immigration (you can allow immigration and refuse to grant immigrants the right to vote, although you probably shouldn’t). What about the right to cultural identity? Relax. A culture that can’t survive the presence of neighbors is probably not worth saving.
The best right-based reason to limit immigration is perhaps freedom of association: although this right can be used to argue in favor of immigration – when a native and an immigrant decide to associate in, for example, a business relationship, then who are we to stop them? – it can also be interpreted as a right to exclude. A right to associate includes the right not to associate with certain people. One can make the case that allowing people to live in a country is a form of association that people who already live there can accept or refuse. However, is a nation really an association? Anti-patriots and cosmopolitans exist, and yet they are not excluded from the nation. Hence, it’s doubtful whether a nation is an association in the relevant sense. If it’s not, then it doesn’t have a right to exclude, at least not a right to exclude that is similar or equal to the right of proper associations.
So, we do have robust rights-based reasons in favor of open borders, but these aren’t the only reasons. Here’s a list of some types of people who normally don’t use rights as the basis for their thinking but who nevertheless have good reasons to favor open borders (or at least reduced immigration restrictions):
- Hayekians: In most current immigration systems, governments exclude “bad” immigrants and admit “good” ones. E.g. they exclude criminals, terrorists and economic refugees but try to attract high skilled geniuses. However, Hayekians should doubt that governments have the knowhow that is necessary to do this. Better to remove immigration regulations and leave it to the market – i.e. immigrants and their employers – to sort this out. The government should then focus on keeping out the criminals and the terrorist.
- Christians/Jews/Muslims: The Abrahamic religions remember the Exodus. If some children of God suffer an injustice for the simple reason of living somewhere rather than somewhere else (a present-day example of such an injustice would be the place premium) then the adherents of one of the Abrahamic religions have a moral obligation to rectify this. Charity can be one option, but open borders seem to be a much more effective remedy.
- Economists: All those who favor GDP growth should favor open borders which could lead to a one-time boost in world GDP by an estimated 50 to 150%.
- Law-and-order people: The average immigrant is less likely to commit crime than the average native-born person.
- Socialists/Social-democrats: Left-leaning folks are primarily concerned with the poorest social classes. Hence, they also should favor immigration because there’s evidence that low-skilled native workers may be able to move up the job ladder when low-skilled immigrants arrive (some low-skilled natives will lose the wage competition but can then be compensated by the welfare state to which a lot of migrants contribute through the taxes that they pay).
More posts in this series are here.
Yarmouk, a Palestinian neighborhood in Damascus, has been under siege by the Syrian army since July 2013.
At least 55 people have died from hunger and the majority of children are suffering from malnutrition, according to a Palestinian activist living in Yarmouk.
About 20,000 people are currently besieged in Yarmouk. The regime of Bashar al-Assad says “terrorists” are holding people hostage. Beyond the tactical starvation, Syrian jets have also been bombing the area.
This picture, published by United Nations Relief Workers Agency, shows a seemingly endless line of people waiting for food aid.
We usually define poverty as a level of income or financial assets below a certain “poverty line”. This poverty line is set, often implicitly, at a level that is supposed to make the difference between decent survival and a life unworthy of human beings. The line is typically a single line, identical across all individuals – or even across nations. The best example is the $1 a day line. This is a single, universal line, adjusted only for purchasing power parity. Many national poverty lines are also fixed and identical for all citizens.
The problems with these fixed and uniform lines have been noticed by many, notably by Amartya Sen. According to Sen – and he’s right I think – being poor means being unable to achieve certain minimally satisfactory states of being and doing, for example the state of being sufficiently nourished, of being mobile, of being free of disease and ignorance, of being sheltered against the forces of nature etc. Poverty is about what people are or are not able to do and about who they are able to be. Poverty is capability-deprivation.
A poverty line only makes sense if it’s set at an amount of money, income or resources that is sufficient to guarantee the required capabilities. A first problem: it’s not at all clear that existing poverty lines are indeed set at a level sufficient to guarantee this. $1 a day in particular seems low, intuitively. Of course there are pragmatic reasons to set the line at a low level (one has to make priorities in life and help the worst off first). But then you’ll have a hard time calling it a poverty line, given the definition of poverty as the inability to achieve certain minimally satisfactory states of being and doing. Call it a survival line instead.
A second, and more serious problem arises from the fact that poverty lines are fixed and uniform. People, however, are obviously not uniform. Different people require different things in order to achieve the same capabilities. A pregnant women or a young mother needs more nutritional resources than the average person in order to achieve the state of being sufficiently nourished. A physically handicapped person needs more resources to achieve the capability of being mobile. If you focus on the average person – which is what you do with a uniform poverty line – then you’ll fail to identify some as being poor, while erroneously identifying others as being poor. And the environment also plays a role. A person living in unsanitary conditions may be forced to drink infected water. This affects his or her calorie absorption, implying a larger than average amount of food necessary to be sufficiently nourished. Cold weather means more effort to protect against the environment. And so on.
Identical capabilities require different levels of resources or income. A single, fixed poverty line obscures this reality. The only good poverty line is individually specific. However, that’s completely impractical. Differentiation across demographic groups, regions, occupations, lifecycle etc. might be more feasible, but at the cost of simplicity. Be that as it may. I would already be happy with increased awareness that there is indeed a problem. Talk of a “line” reduces this awareness, but I’m realistic enough to understand the appeal of something as simple as a line.
More posts in this series are here.
This may seem like a good time to publish some illustrated commentary about homophobia. It used to be the case that in most countries of the world, homophobia meant outright legal prohibition of homosexuality. And that’s still the case today in some countries. The often grotesque punishments make it even worse. Uganda is now in the spotlight for it’s recent anti-homosexuality legislation. The risk of vigilante violence against Ugandan gays is not unreal when you have newspaper headlines like this:
This is the Red Pepper tabloid, one of Uganda’s biggest selling newspapers:
A Ugandan tabloid has named the country’s “200 top homosexuals”, a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill toughening penalties for gay people.
Red Pepper’s list appeared under the headline: “Exposed”, raising concerns of a witch-hunt against gay people. … Homosexual acts were already illegal in Uganda, but the new law bans the promotion of homosexuality and covers lesbians for the first time. (source)
Another Ugandan newspaper also openly called for the persecution of homosexuals a few years ago:
One of those listed in the now defunct Rolling Stone, David Kato, was subsequently murdered.
Homophobia is also on the rise on Russia lately. Putin has masterminded a series of laws discriminating against homosexuals, which have resulted in this amusing protest:
Of course, there’s homophobia even in countries that don’t make homosexuality or the promotion of homosexuality a crime. And it doesn’t have to be less painful. For example, there’s been the infamous Matthew Shepard murder in the US, somewhat of a cause célèbre of homophobic hate crime:
However, some doubts have been raised as to the nature of the crime. Perhaps it wasn’t a hate crime after all. Whether or not it was, there have been numerous other cases that most definitely were. Here’s an example:
The sources are here.
Let’s start with an unintentionally ironic one:
This one is fun as well:
“Ethnics” doesn’t make good noun, if you ask me.
Following the recent floods in the UK, someone thought it was a good idea to use development aid money to help UK flood victims, because fellow citizens whom you’ve never met before are obviously more important than desperately poor people born on the other side of an imaginary line on the ground:
It’s hard to understand, but there are apparently people who want to send back all immigrants:
Your respectable xenophobe usually limits himself or herself throwing out the criminal immigrants:
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to private and family life - is now in force in the UK, and some “foreign criminals” have won appeals against deportation based on this article. This has led to a backlash in the UK against the Convention and against “human rights” and “Europe” in general. As if deportation is necessary for the fight against crime. I mean, they do have prisons in the UK, don’t they?
Here’s an older clipping, from the US this time, with a review of a book about the “celebrated” Dred Scott decision:
The Dred Scott case, rather than celebrated, is now infamous for upholding slavery. The “prognathous race” is the African race, by the way. Prognathous means having a projecting lower jaw or chin, and this was believed to be typical of blacks:
You might ask, what has Dred Scot to do with xenophobia? Isn’t that a simple although horrible case of racism? Well, part of the Supreme Court decision was the ruling that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court. In other words, they were strangers – xenoi – forever.