Archives for posts with tag: immigration

Rights asymmetries were the rule in the ancient world. Hierarchies were caste hierarchies, with different rights and duties dependent on where you came from, who your parents were, etc. “My station and its duties,” as F. H. Bradley put it. The king had a divine right to rule, and it was the duty of others to obey. Case closed.

Modernity begins with a universalist attitudes towards rights. This yielded a belief in symmetrical rights assignment, to basic rights, human rights, “natural rights.” The idea?  Everyone — every person, every individual human being — was to possess the same basic rights set, and any hierarchies that evolved from there were to be based on action, chiefly, and seen as derivable from universal rights. That is, particular rights that we do not all share were dependent upon the basic rights that we do share.

The big issue of our time appears to be immigration. And here we stumble upon a rights asymmetry: 

It is almost umiversally believed that everyone has a right to leave one’s country. Only tyrannies hold their inhabitants within state-demarcating border lines. But the flip side of migration-out is migration-in: the right to emigrate would seem to entail a right to immigrate.

That is not today’s everyday reality: immigration controls are almost universal these days.

What good is a right to leave a country if one may not be accepted elsewhere?

The immigration debate sounds like excuse piled upon excuse. It is all based on fake rights, non-compossible rights.

One reason I occasionally worry about the current anti-immigration craze is memetic contagion: to resolve cognitive dissonance, emigration rights would also become widely opposed. And real, palpable tyranny would result.

  • Who has best dealt with this apparent antinomy? 
  • Can it be legitimized by appeal to universalizability? 
  • Is the émigré/immigrant asymmetry a representation of an underlying compossible rights set, something I cannot yet fathom?

What follows is something I did not write 33 years ago, but could have.

Businessmen and businesswomen take “business trips,” often working wherever they go. Politicians and political activists travel and work at the same time . . . at least some of the time. Writers trek the world and write about the world they see, as well as worlds they don’t see.

So, we expect some people to be able to move about the planet and work.

But normal folk may not.

Every country has rules prohibiting “tourists” from working — that is, foreign folk on holiday, “merely traveling.” Apparently, governments want the benefit from foreigners visiting and spending money as consumers, but the added benefit of providing useful labor? That’s heavily regulated. You must get green cards, and, indeed, cards of all sorts of colors. These cards come down to one thing: One Must Not Work Without Permission.

The big issue heating up on America’s back burner, right now, is immigration reform. My conservative friends are very wary of any reform that might be proposed, because so many of them would “take it too easy” on “illegal immigrants.” My more liberal friends seem to be incoherent on the subject of foreign workers in this country, but nearly everyone seems to agree: “government” must “regulate” the flow of workers from “other countries.” We cannot have people wandering around making contracts to work! Why, that would be . . .

I’m not sure what. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

I guess the idea is “we” don’t want tourists to become residents, thus overstaying their welcome. “We” don’t want competitors with our labor force. “We” want to control the labor markets here.

Like you, I’ve heard (and made) many arguments about the costs and benefits associated with foreigners working in our country. I’ve seen statistics that suggest a variety of responses.

But the crucial thing, as near as I can make out, is the paranoia and fear involved in all the worry over someone “stealing” a job. All this is very contentious. And looking at the current labor climate (with hordes of ex-workers wiling away their hours and days and lives), it’s not always easy to see what would happen if more workers were to “invade” our shores.

And yet, I take a step back, and witness people traveling about the planet, and the idea that a government — any government! — should stop any two parties from agreeing on a wage contract, or some salaried position, seems outrageous to me.

Maybe what we should do is stop worrying about people working in our country, and worry about people not working in our country.

And maybe not rush to prohibit trades, but, instead, encourage them.

I’m not saying that there aren’t things to worry about. But fixating on the “taking” of “jobs” strikes me as the wrong fixation.