Christopher Freiman – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Christopher Freiman – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 Libertarianism for Luck Egalitarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/libertarianism-luck-egalitarians/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/libertarianism-luck-egalitarians/#comments Thu, 28 Sep 2017 15:38:27 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12048 Luck egalitarianism is, roughly, the view that inequalities in life prospects resulting from luck are unjust. (There’s a lot to nit pick about that characterization, but it’s a start.) If...

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Luck egalitarianism is, roughly, the view that inequalities in life prospects resulting from luck are unjust. (There’s a lot to nit pick about that characterization, but it’s a start.) If Amy has better job opportunities than Bob because she happened to have parents who could afford to send her to a fancy private school, that’s unfair.

You might even think it’s unfair that Rob Gronkowski makes so much more money than, say, me simply because he was gifted with 6’6” height and fast-twitch muscle fibers that enable him to run a 4.68 40 yard dash. Even if we both work equally hard at our crafts, Gronk will earn more than me because his natural talents are more marketable than mine. But it’s not like Gronk earned those talents; he just got lucky and won the genetic lottery. So it’s wrong for him to make so much more money than I do.

Suppose, for argument’s sake, this account of distributive justice is correct. What institutional conclusions follow? Luck egalitarians suggest that the income disparities between people like me and Gronk show that free markets are unjust. It’s the job of the state to correct for these kinds of market-generated inequalities via regulation and redistribution.

As I detail in my book, luck egalitarians (and fellow travelers who might not apply the label to themselves) are nearly unanimous in their rejection of free market regimes. Here’s a small sample:

“Laissez-faire capitalism (the system of natural liberty) secures only formal equality and rejects both the fair value of the equal political liberties and fair equality of opportunity.” (John Rawls)

“Market allocations must be corrected in order to bring some people closer to the share of resources they would have had but for these various differences of initial advantage, luck and inherent capacity.” (Ronald Dworkin)

“Desert as a principle of justice, then, rather than justifying the distributional consequences of free market choices, requires precisely the elimination, or at least the minimization, of the differential brute luck that characterizes the free market […]. The adoption of desert as a principle of justice seems to result in a much more demanding requirement, as far as its implications for the regulation of the market are concerned, than a commitment to voluntariness as a legitimating condition for the imposition of obligations, even when this is suitably revised so as to square up with a defensible account of voluntariness and force.” (Serena Olsaretti)

I could go on, but you get the point: the market generates luck-based inequalities and the state reduces them.

One problem with this argument is that you don’t clinch the luck egalitarian case against free markets by simply showing that they create luck-based inequalities. What you need to do is show that the alternative is better. To use an old analogy of mine, showing that Steph Curry misses over half of his three point shot attempts doesn’t justify benching Steph Curry. To justifiably bench Steph Curry, you’d need to show that his replacement would do better. Similarly, luck egalitarians need to show that a highly regulated market with extensive redistribution will have less luck-based inequality than a libertarian regime.

Here’s a reason for doubting that claim: those who benefit from inherited wealth, elite education, and natural talent in the market also benefit from those factors in politics. Put very roughly, political power will concentrate in the hands of the rich—the very people the political power was created to regulate and restrain. Thus, we might naturally expect such power to be used to increase rather than decrease the advantages of the rich.

Interestingly, this is Rawls’s own view. He says that a

“reason for controlling economic and social inequalities is to prevent one part of society from dominating the rest. When those two kinds of inequalities are large, they tend to support political inequality. As Mill said, the bases of political power are (educated) intelligence, property, and the power of combination, by which he meant the power to cooperate in pursuing one’s political interests. This power allows a few, in virtue of their control over the machinery of state, to enact a system of law and property that ensures their dominant position in the economy as a whole.”

By Rawls’s own lights, the rich will use their “(educated) intelligence, property, and the power of combination” to acquire political power and “enact a system of law and property that ensures their dominant position in the economy as a whole.” But now we can see a problem for Rawls’s view. The people that Rawls wants the state to control (those with property, education, and so on) are the same people that Rawls thinks control the state itself. So how can the state control the rich if the rich control the state? Shouldn’t we instead expect state intervention into the economy to favor the rich? Indeed, this is exactly what we see in many cases: subsidies, licensing, trade restrictions, housing regulations, and so on tend to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.

Of course, we cannot definitively establish a conclusion about the effects of regulation and redistribution on luck-based inequalities by doing a priori institutional analysis. But at a minimum, luck egalitarians shouldn’t rule out libertarianism as a viable institutional option at the level of philosophical theory. Perhaps libertarianism and luck egalitarianism are compatible after all.

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Rawls, Ideal Theory, and the Public Goods Argument for the State http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rawls-ideal-theory-public-goods-argument-state/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rawls-ideal-theory-public-goods-argument-state/#comments Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:14:19 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12004 It’s been a while since I blogged here and I figure that some shameless self-promotion is the best way to ease back in. As discussed in Jason’s review, I’ve got...

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It’s been a while since I blogged here and I figure that some shameless self-promotion is the best way to ease back in. As discussed in Jason’s review, I’ve got a new book out titled Unequivocal Justice. The book builds on work from other BHL contributors, including Jason, Jacob Levy, and Will Wilkinson.

“Ideal theoretical” analyses of political institutions face a dilemma. In an ideal world in which everyone fully complies with the principles of justice, then coercive state intervention isn’t needed to secure justice. People will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. On the other hand, in a nonideal world where people are not fully compliant with justice, state intervention may have a role to play, but the people running the state itself might not act justly. In brief: if we rule injustice out, then the state isn’t needed; if we rule injustice in, then we may not assume that the state itself is just.

This dilemma poses a problem for an ideal theorist like Rawls who assumes that the state is both needed to secure justice and will operate justly and effectively. Rawls and others resolve the dilemma illicitly; namely, they rule injustice in to give the state a job to do and then (implicitly) rule injustice out to ensure that the state does that job well.

The public goods argument for the state makes the problem particularly clear. Rawls starts with a textbook explanation for why people won’t voluntarily contribute to public goods—they have a strong incentive to free ride. As Rawls puts it, “Where the public is large and includes many individuals, there is a temptation for each person to try to avoid doing his share. This is because whatever one man does his action will not significantly affect the amount produced” (A Theory of Justice, 236). Better to let everyone else pony up for a Tesla and buy a cheap gas guzzler for yourself; this way you get the clean air produced by others without paying the costs yourself. But everyone else is thinking the same thing, so they all buy gas guzzlers, too. The result is polluted air for everyone. Since the market won’t provide public goods, Rawls concludes that “the provision of public goods must be arranged for through the political process and not through the market” (A Theory of Justice, 236). For instance, the state can enforce a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions.

How, though, will the political process arrange for the provision of public goods? Suppose that the election pits a candidate who favors cap-and-trade against a candidate who favors no environmental protection whatsoever. Will I, as a voter, do my share and contribute a vote for the cap-and-trade candidate? By Rawls’s own assumptions, the answer is “no.” Better to let everyone else research the candidates’ platforms, read the experts’ opinions on the effectiveness of cap-and-trade, and spend time at the polls while I stay at home watching TV (or perhaps cast a thoughtless, uninformed vote at the last minute). But everyone else is thinking the same thing, and so they too fail to vote for the cap-and-trade candidate. Thus, the behavioral assumption that Rawls invokes to generate a need for state intervention—that people are motivated to free ride—simultaneously undermines the state intervention itself. People have just as much temptation to free ride on the thoughtful, informed votes of others as they have to free ride on the emission reductions of others.

To resolve this problem, Rawls (implicitly) resorts to using different behavioral assumptions to model nonpolitical behavior and political behavior. We free ride in the market but not in politics. But this move violates what Geoffrey Brennan and James Buchanan call “behavioral symmetry”—that is, we should apply the same behavioral models across different institutional contexts to ensure a fair, apples-to-apples comparison of those institutions.

Here’s how Rawls will reply. Ideally just people are only “conditional cooperators.” They prefer to do their share so long as others do the same. But they won’t be “suckers” and contribute when others aren’t contributing. Thus, they prefer to reduce their emissions when others also reduce their emissions, but they need state enforcement to get assurance of reciprocation.

This reply won’t work because the state introduced to solve the assurance problem simply creates another assurance problem. Think back to the voting case. Suppose you’re on your couch deciding whether to spend the day with your family at a park or to spend it looking up experts’ opinions about environmental policy, candidates’ voting records on the environment, and so on. You are happy to do the latter so that you can cast a thoughtful, informed vote on election day—but only if you have assurance that others will too. However, no such assurance is available, and so you head off to the park instead of putting time and effort into your vote. Other citizens do the same and, as a result, just and effective environmental policy goes unprovided. Here again, Rawls’s reason for thinking that state intervention is needed is equally a reason for thinking that the intervention won’t work.

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A Theory of Justice, Post-Trump Edition http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/theory-justice-post-trump-edition/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/11/theory-justice-post-trump-edition/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 20:46:40 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11398 John Rawls famously argues that we should think about principles of justice from behind a “veil of ignorance.” How robust would you like the protection of religious freedom to be...

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John Rawls famously argues that we should think about principles of justice from behind a “veil of ignorance.” How robust would you like the protection of religious freedom to be if you had no idea whether you turn out to be a Christian, Muslim, atheist, etc.? How would you like income to be distributed if you had no idea whether you’ll be rich or poor?

If there’s a chance that you’ll be part of an unpopular religious minority, you’ll want to make sure religious liberty is taken seriously. If there’s a chance you’ll be among society’s poorest, you’ll want the economic institutions that do the best job of alleviating poverty.

In a Rawlsian spirit, I suggest that when we theorize about the institutions we’d like for our society, we ask ourselves the following:

  • How expansive would we like executive powers to be if they might be wielded by Donald Trump?
  • What do we want the Department of the Interior to do knowing that it might be run by Sarah Palin?
  • How powerful should the Department of Education be in light of the possibility it could be headed by Ben Carson?

(These questions aren’t pulled out of thin air.) If there’s a chance that the Department of Education will be run by someone who thinks the Big Bang is a “fairy tale,” you might want to scale back its power, just to be safe.

This is an old thought. Hayek says it goes back to Adam Smith. On Hayek’s view, Smith’s concern

was not so much with what man might occasionally achieve when he was at his best but that he should have as little opportunity as possible to do harm when he was at his worst. It would scarcely be too much to claim that the main merit of the individualism which he and his contemporaries advocated is that it is a system under which bad men can do least harm. It is a social system which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it, or on all men becoming better than they now are, but which makes use of men in all their given variety and complexity, sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes intelligent and more often stupid (“Individualism and Economic Order,” page 12).

Classical liberals like Smith and Hayek have a point. Now would be a good time for us to revisit it.

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What is the Root of Wrongdoing? http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/09/what-is-the-root-of-wrongdoing/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/09/what-is-the-root-of-wrongdoing/#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:26:43 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11236 I’ve got a piece up at Aeon on moral philosophy. I argue that conventional wisdom overstates the role of self-interest in motivating wrongdoing and understates the role of what Kant...

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I’ve got a piece up at Aeon on moral philosophy. I argue that conventional wisdom overstates the role of self-interest in motivating wrongdoing and understates the role of what Kant called servility. (This piece draws on my article “Why Be Immoral?” in case you’re interested in reading more.)

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National Partiality and the Rights of Foreigners http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/06/national-partiality-and-the-rights-of-foreigners/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/06/national-partiality-and-the-rights-of-foreigners/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:25:16 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10815 By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo We claim that immigration restrictions and liberalism are incompatible. One response to our argument is that states have stronger obligations to their citizens than...

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By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo

We claim that immigration restrictions and liberalism are incompatible. One response to our argument is that states have stronger obligations to their citizens than they have to foreigners. For example, a public official in the U.S. government could argue: “It’s true that immigration restrictions limit the freedom of foreigners. But the U.S. government isn’t obligated to protect the liberties of foreigners. It is only obligated to protect the liberties of our citizens. Thus, immigration restrictions don’t interfere with liberties that we are obligated to protect.”

This argument is wrong. For one thing, it is false that immigration restrictions only interfere with the liberty of foreigners. In practice, immigration restrictions interfere with the freedom of citizens too. States fine and arrest citizens for hiring unauthorized migrants, imprison citizens for participating in “fake” marriages with foreigners (in contrast, the only reason that citizens get married is surely pure romantic love), and forbid citizens from renting to unauthorized migrants. So, even if we only care about the freedom of citizens, there is still a strong objection to immigration restrictions.

Anyway, we deny that governments lack strong obligations to foreigners. Immigration restrictions are coercive. We have weighty obligations to refrain from coercing other people, including foreigners.

Here is a case to illustrate. Imagine that Sally and Robin are walking down a neighborhood street. One resident of this neighborhood, George, threatens to assault and kidnap Sally and Robin if they don’t immediately turn back. Now, imagine that Robin is a U.S. citizen, while Sally is Canadian. Does George have a weaker obligation to avoid coercing Sally in comparison with Robin? After all, George and Robin are compatriots, while Sally is a foreigner. Yet it seems equally wrong for George to coerce Sally and Robin. This same argument applies to government officials. Suppose that George is a police officer. We again think it is still just as wrong for George to threaten Sally as it is for him to coerce Robin, even though George is an official in the U.S. government.

Maybe you think that the U.S. government is justified in coercively restricting would-be immigrants in order to fulfill its positive obligations to its citizens. Take a standard worry: by driving up the supply of labor, immigrants will decrease the wages of some American workers. So, the argument goes, the state ought to forcibly prevent immigrants from entering the U.S. labor market to ensure that American wages don’t drop.

In reply, consider a case adapted from one of Michael Huemer’s. Suppose your daughter is one of two finalists for a job. You know that the other finalist is willing to work for less than your daughter. On the day of the other finalist’s interview, you decide to physically prevent him from getting to the interview to ensure that your daughter gets the job at a sufficiently high salary. Clearly, your use of coercion against your daughter’s competitor is not justified even though you have special obligations to look out for our daughter’s welfare. Similarly, a state’s use of coercion against would-be immigrants is not justified even if states have special obligations to their own citizens. The general point is that the state’s negative duty to not coerce foreigners typically outweighs its positive duty to benefit citizens.

Other examples abound. Suppose that a TSA agent at LaGuardia airport notices that there is only one Cinnabon left and that a Greek tourist is ahead of a native New Yorker in the line. So the TSA agent forcibly prevents the Greek tourist from buying the Cinnabon in order to save it for the hungry American. Or, suppose the TSA agent forcibly prevents the Greek tourist from taking the last spot in the airport chapel in order to keep it open for the same native New Yorker. In both cases, the agent is doing something wrong.

So, it is false that governments have relatively weak obligations to respect the liberty of foreigners and, even if they did, this wouldn’t vindicate immigration restrictions. This is more evidence that liberalism and immigration restrictions are inconsistent.

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Why the Freedom to Immigrate is as Important as Other Freedoms http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/06/why-the-freedom-to-immigrate-is-as-important-as-other-freedoms/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/06/why-the-freedom-to-immigrate-is-as-important-as-other-freedoms/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 13:21:30 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10778 By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo We think the freedom to immigrate is a basic liberty along with freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, occupational freedom, and so on. A...

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By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo

We think the freedom to immigrate is a basic liberty along with freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, occupational freedom, and so on. A truly liberal state would respect all of these liberties. But not everyone believes that the freedom to immigrate is a basic liberty.

David Miller argues that some freedom of movement is a basic human right because it is needed to protect vital interests. If you’re locked in a cell, you lack the freedom of movement you need to live a decent life. But you can live a pretty good life without unlimited (or close to unlimited) freedom of movement across borders.

But, if people are only entitled to adequate freedom of movement, then why aren’t they only entitled to adequate freedom of speech or religion? (For similar objections, see Oberman, Brezger & Cassee, and Hidalgo). Surely you can still live a pretty good life if the state prevents you from practicing your religion between 2-3AM on the first Tuesday of each month. The same goes for having 2 or 3 children rather than 7. And you don’t really need all those books on gluten-free cooking, do you? Nevertheless, no liberal thinks the state is justified in restricting freedom of religion, reproductive choice, or freedom of the press in the preceding ways, at least not without extraordinary reasons.

Miller has a reply: empowering the state to restrict freedom of religion (for example) is more likely to lead to abuse and oppression than empowering it to restrict freedom of immigration. Suppose he’s right. This distinction still wouldn’t explain why it is wrong for the state to restrict liberal freedoms like freedom of religion. To see why, just imagine that we live in a country with a “Unicorn State” that never abuses its power. So, for instance, if that state passes a law that prevents you from, e.g., practicing Calvinism between 2-3AM on the first Tuesday of each month, there is no danger of this power spilling over into other cases. Still, this is a bad law–people ought to be allowed to practice Calvinism between 2-3AM on the first Tuesday of each month. The takeaway point is that a state that respects only those liberties needed to protect vital interests is insufficiently liberal. So even if an expansive freedom of immigration isn’t needed to protect people’s vital interests, it may still be the case that such an expansive freedom ought to be respected.

Think about it this way. Even if the right to immigrate isn’t as important as other liberties on average, it can be more important on the margin. Consider two scenarios. In scenario 1, the government forbids Chris and Javier from practicing Pastafarianism. In scenario 2, the government prohibits Chris and Javier from moving to California. We each have good lives in Virginia and we don’t have any plans to move to California. But we would be more upset in scenario 2 than in scenario 1. This suggests that freedom of movement is sometimes even more important than other basic liberties.

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The Costs of Immigration Are the Price of Liberalism http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/the-costs-of-immigration-are-the-price-of-liberalism/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/the-costs-of-immigration-are-the-price-of-liberalism/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 16:58:24 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10757 By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo Our first post in this series argued that freedom of immigration is on a par with other important liberal freedoms like occupational choice and...

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By Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo

Our first post in this series argued that freedom of immigration is on a par with other important liberal freedoms like occupational choice and freedom of association. Next, we argued that if states’ rights to collective self-determination justify restrictions on freedom of immigration, they justify restrictions on these other important liberal freedoms, too. Now we’ll show that the costs allegedly created by freedom of immigration are also costs that other liberal freedoms may create. Since the costs don’t justify restricting these other liberal freedoms, they don’t justify restricting freedom of immigration either. Let’s run down the list.

Overconsumption of Government Services

The worry that immigrants will consume more in government services than they pay in taxes and thus increase citizens’ tax burden is a common one, particularly among libertarians. Suppose for argument’s sake the empirical claim is correct (we doubt that it is, but we won’t press the point). This doesn’t clinch the case for immigration restriction—after all, an increase in the tax burden is a predictable consequence of the exercise of lots of liberal freedoms. You have the right to enroll in any philosophy Ph.D. program that accepts you. But this choice puts you at risk of long-term unemployment and raises your odds of needing unemployment benefits.

Or suppose you convert to Thoreauvian transcendentalism and become a hardcore minimalist. You quit your job, chop down your house, burn all of your remaining property, and give away your land. But now you’ll need public assistance to get food, healthcare, etc. Still, liberals (including classical liberals) think you are within your rights to do all of these things. Indeed, as one of us has argued before, libertarians think you are within your rights to consume heroin despite that fact that doing so increases the likelihood you’ll need government-funded medical assistance.

Wage Effects

Another popular objection to open borders is that the subsequent increase in the labor supply will drive down wages for native-born workers, particularly lower paid native-born workers. Here again, just suppose for argument’s sake the empirical claim is correct. Plenty of other choices people make can have this same effect. The most obvious example is outsourcing, which places domestic workers in direct competition with foreign labor. Automation worsens the labor market position of native-born workers, too (at least in the short run). So do certain forms of occupational choice. If a bunch of highly-paid lawyers burn out and decide to work as baristas, they’ll drive down the wages of existing baristas. But surely a liberal state may not prohibit this career change. There is evidence that women drove down the wages of men when they entered the workforce in large numbers. This is obviously a bad reason for forbidding women from finding jobs (although not everyone has always agreed).

Norms and Institutions

Consider the claim that an influx of immigrants will disrupt the recipient country’s cultural norms. The problem with this objection is that cultural change can occur through the exercise of a variety of liberal freedoms, like freedom of speech, association, and religion. But a liberal state wouldn’t prohibit people from publishing the Communist Manifesto, joining an unorthodox and unpopular religion, or protesting prevailing cultural and political norms.

Another worry is that immigration damages political institutions. The fear is that immigrants will push for illiberal laws and norms. Notice though that many of our fellow citizens support illiberal policies. Nonetheless, liberals don’t think it’s a good idea to put our illiberal compatriots in detention camps. (Happily, there is little evidence that immigration actually does undermine good institutions).

Now, you might be thinking that we have stronger reason to refrain from restricting the freedom of fellow citizens than the freedom of non-citizens. Our final post will explain why our obligation to refrain from coercing non-citizens is just as strong as our obligation to refrain from coercing citizens. But before we get to that, we’ll add a post addressing the objection that the freedom to move across borders simply isn’t as important as other liberal freedoms and thus isn’t deserving of the same protection.

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Immigration and Self-Determination http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/immigration-and-self-determination/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/immigration-and-self-determination/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 16:46:30 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10755 (by Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo) As we noted in our previous post, there is a tension between liberalism and immigration restrictions. Why? Well, immigration restrictions interfere with important liberties,...

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(by Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo)

As we noted in our previous post, there is a tension between liberalism and immigration restrictions. Why? Well, immigration restrictions interfere with important liberties, like freedom of association and occupational choice. We now want to generalize the argument. Our claim is that standard arguments for immigration restrictions also justify curtailing other basic liberties (liberties that no liberal wants to curtail).

Some philosophers argue that states have rights to exclude immigrants because states have rights to collective self-determination. The idea here is that citizens have the right to control their collective affairs and shape the character of their society. Some people cash this out in cultural terms: we have rights to control cultural change and preserve our national culture. Immigration causes cultural disruption and so citizens have the right to restrict immigration.

It’s true that the freedom to immigrate can cause cultural change. But so can the exercise of other freedoms. Take freedom of speech. Imagine that Joe invents a distinctive new religion and persuades many other people to join up. Or imagine that you are wildly successful at convincing people to become libertarians. Or suppose that the campaign to use Esperanto gains steam. All of these exercises of speech cause cultural change. But, if self-determination justifies restricting immigration to prevent cultural change, why can’t it justify restricting freedom of speech?

Other people think that states have rights to freedom of association. Harvard isn’t obligated to admit all applicants. Why not? Well, Harvard has a right to freedom of association. But why can’t the same point apply to the United States? Maybe the USA is kind of like a big, private club. Just as Harvard can deny admission to 95 percent of all applicants, so can the USA.

Notice though that private organizations routinely restrict the liberty of their members in ways that would be seriously illiberal if stated acted in a similar manner. Consider private universities. Some private universities forbid students from having sex out of wedlock or growing beards. Other private colleges only allow free speech in tiny “free speech” zones” (if you’re lucky). If states are like private clubs, then why can’t states also restrict the liberty of their members in similar ways?

Or take the idea that citizens collectively own their country. Suppose you and your spouse co-own a house and yard. You have the right to exclude people from trespassing on your lawn. Perhaps immigration restrictions are justifiable in this way.

The problem with the ownership argument is that it also proves too much. Imagine a worker-owned co-op. A majority of the co-owners vote to require everyone to wear uniforms and spend at least 5 minutes a day sweeping the floors. Collectively mandating forms of dress and occupation may be permissible for this worker-owned co-op, but liberals would balk at the idea that a democratic state may collectively mandate certain forms of dress and occupation.

Collective ownership can only justify immigration restrictions if collective ownership takes precedent over individual liberties. Suppose you want to hire a foreigner or invite foreigners to live with you, and your fellow citizens (your “co-owners”) say no. If your co-owners can forbid you from doing this, why can’t they forbid you from holding a political protest, dressing flamboyantly, or criticizing Christianity on “their” property? After all, these are the rights that the owners of private property often already have.

So, if you buy that rights to collective self-determination justify immigration restrictions, you should be prepared to say goodbye to a whole range of other basic liberties, like freedom of speech, sexual freedom, occupational choice, and freedom of religion.

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Liberalism or Immigration Restrictions, But Not Both http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/liberalism-or-immigration-restrictions-but-not-both/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/05/liberalism-or-immigration-restrictions-but-not-both/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:18:07 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10745 (by Christopher Freiman & Javier Hidalgo) We recently published an article in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy titled “Liberalism or Immigration Restrictions, But Not Both.” We argue for a...

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(by Christopher Freiman & Javier Hidalgo)

We recently published an article in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy titled “Liberalism or Immigration Restrictions, But Not Both.” We argue for a dilemma. You can either accept the core principles of liberalism or you can accept substantial restrictions on immigration (Brennan made a similar point in a post a few months ago.) We’ll spell this argument out over the course of several posts and, in doing so, show that the main objections liberals (classical liberals included) make to open borders are inconsistent with their own principles.

First things first–what does it take to qualify as a “liberal”? We identify three commitments:

  • It’s important for the state to protect specific liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, occupational choice, bodily integrity, etc.
  • The burden of justification rests with those who restrict liberty rather than those who exercise it. (E.g., You don’t owe the police an explanation for peacefully walking down the street; they owe you a justification for stopping you.)
  • Generally speaking, the only successful justifications for restricting liberty are those that appeal to other liberty-based reasons rather than reasons concerning, e.g., moral virtue, social solidarity, economic growth, etc. For instance, the state may restrict your freedom of occupational choice if your chosen occupation involves blocking people’s access to their places of worship. But the state may not restrict your freedom of occupational choice simply because you could be more productive in a different field.

Our argument for open borders is straightforward. First, freedom of movement is on a par with other textbook liberal freedoms and so the burden of justification rests with those who would restrict freedom of movement just as it rests with those who would restrict freedom of speech or association. Then we show that the standard arguments for restricting freedom of movement are arguments that liberals wouldn’t accept as justification for restricting any other sort of freedom.

So why think that freedom of movement is worthy of the same protection of other liberal freedoms? Well, imagine that you wake up one day and you discover that the police have cordoned off your neighborhood. They won’t let you out and, if you try to escape, they will just forcibly shove you back in. As a result, you can’t get to your job, you can’t attend your church, and you can’t hang out with your friends and family.

Clearly, the government has restricted your basic liberties, like your right to freedom of association and your freedom of occupational choice. This suggests that freedom of movement is a valuable liberty because it is a constitutive component of these other liberties: people need freedom of movement in order to enjoy freedom of association and occupational choice. Liberals, at any rate, think that freedom of association and occupational choice are basic liberties that warrant protection.

Now, that’s not to say that freedom of movement is some absolute right—obviously, it is not. The point is that freedom of movement just is an extension of other basic freedoms.

But, if freedom of movement is valuable, then surely it is valuable across national borders too. Take two cases. In case 1, the US government won’t let you move from New Jersey to Florida. That’s a violation of your freedom of movement. In case 2, the Canadian government won’t let you move from New Jersey to Vancouver. This seems like it’s a violation of your right to free movement for the same reasons.

What does all of this show? Only that, if you think freedom of association and occupational choice are valuable, then you should think that freedom of movement is important too. And there is no reason to think that the value of free movement only applies domestically. Its value extends across borders.

The upshot: restrictions on freedom of movement are restrictions on liberal freedoms. Thus, immigration restrictions stand in serious tension with liberalism. If you want to defend immigration restrictions, you need to be prepared to limit freedoms that liberals prize.

Of course, maybe there are important differences between the freedom to immigrate and other liberal freedoms that justify restrictions on the former but not the latter. We’ll take up that objection in a future post.

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A Moral Case for a Basic Income http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/04/a-moral-case-for-a-basic-income/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/04/a-moral-case-for-a-basic-income/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:39:56 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10669 Over at Café Hayek, Don Boudreaux has a nice post on a universal basic income. He says that he does “not believe that as a practical matter a UBI would...

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Over at Café Hayek, Don Boudreaux has a nice post on a universal basic income. He says that he does “not believe that as a practical matter a UBI would make society freer or more prosperous.” However, he also writes, “I oppose any universal basic income . . . principally because I oppose the confiscation of private property regardless of the purpose, the motive, or the identity of the confiscator(s).”

I think the sort of confiscation of private property involved in funding a UBI is morally justified. You don’t need to be a stone cold utilitarian to believe that rights may be overridden. Suppose you’re on a pier when a railing breaks. You fall into the water. You notice that another person on the pier has a couple of life preservers handy. You shout out, asking her to throw one down to you. She refuses. If you don’t get a life preserver soon, you’ll likely die or suffer hypothermia.

A passerby who confiscates one of her spare life preservers and tosses it your way would be morally justified in doing so. The confiscation comes at little cost to the owner and saves you from a serious harm. But the same rationale applies to taxation for the sake of a UBI. The tax comes at little cost to the rich and can save those in poverty from serious harm. If you share the judgment that the passerby is justified in confiscating the life preserver, then you shouldn’t object to a UBI simply on the grounds that it requires taking the property of some and redistributing it to others in greater need.

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