What do you call a man you never met? A stranger.
What are you morally forbidden to do to a stranger? You may not murder him. You may not attack him. You may not enslave him. Neither may you rob him.
What are you morally required to do for a stranger? Not much. Even if he seems hungry and asks you for food, you’re probably within your rights to refuse. If you’ve ever been in a large city, you’ve refused to help the homeless on more than one occasion. And even if you think you broke your moral obligation to give, your moral obligation wasn’t strong enough to let the beggar justifiably mug you.
Notice: These common-sense ethics regarding strangers, ethics that almost everyone admits, are unequivocally libertarian. Yes, you have an obligation to leave strangers alone, but charity is optional.
One last question: What fraction of your “fellow citizens” have you actually met? Virtually zero. The vast majority of your countrymen are, in fact, utter strangers to you. When you tell your kid “Don’t take rides from strangers,” you don’t make an exception for anyone who happens to share your citizenship. Modern government – and most of political philosophy – is just a massive effort to pretend otherwise.
The point of the pretense is twofold. First, to make unjustified demands on some strangers’ behalf: You’re going to help the American elderly, the American poor, and the American sick whether you like it or not. Second, to help us forget our basic obligation to leave all strangers alone: We’ve never met you before, but you still owe us.
When libertarians say things like this, people ridicule them as cold and cruel. But they’re just dodging the issue. Even staunch anti-libertarians would be baffled if a homeless man announced, “Give me my money!” instead of asking “Spare change?” After all, the beggar is a stranger. All the libertarian is pointing out is that your other “fellow citizens” are strangers, too. You’re not cold and cruel when you refuse to help; they’re being pushy and totalitarian when they refuse to take no for an answer.
This would be bad enough if modern governments focused on forcing rich strangers to give to poor strangers. But it’s outrageous when the direction of coercion reverses. The most egregious example, of course, is restrictions on immigration. People in the Third World are strangers, but we still have a moral obligation to leave them in peace. Instead, we pass draconian laws forbidding these strangers to work for other complete strangers. And for what? To fulfill our fantastical obligation to maintain the wages of fellow citizens we don’t trust enough to give our kids a ride.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:03am
wow. Fantastic post. And your writing style puts Hayek and Mises to shame 😉
Jan 24 2011 at 1:20am
To some extent those are “common sense” only within a particular cultural framework. Suppose you are a farmer and a beggar asks you for food. You refuse. He walks onto your farm and starts eating from your fields. If you are Jewish, its 2000 years ago, and you’re living according to the Torah, the beggar is justified, so long as he only eats his fill, and doesn’t carry anything off for later.
In fact, you would have violated the ethical code merely to refuse him (even if you suspected he was not hungry, from what I am told). Plus, he didn’t even have to ask you for food first, he could have gone right to your field. Plus you are not supposed to harvest your whole field, but leave some for the hungry that might come along.
I suspect, though I could be mistaken, that people who lived in that fashion, often thought those kinds of rules were “common sense” as well.
It’s possible our liberalism has a certain Jewish sensibility. Historically (though not in modern times), even towns with a small Jewish population had to appoint tzedakah collectors–well known men of high moral character–who went door-to-door each week before Sabbath to collect the charity the Jews were required to give under Jewish law. These collectors then distributed the money before Sabbath so that each poor person could acquire. By Jewish interpretation of the Bible, the tzedakah money was never the property of the person from whom it was collected. It always belonged to the recipient, thus one had an obligation to turn it over to the tzedakah collectors for redistribution.
In the hypothetical “help the poor” case, though, I think people tend to assume that those receiving aid are genuinely poor and the “help” of a genuine and socially-acceptable form of aid. Both of these assumptions may be wrong, but I think people who listen to and reject libertarian arguments against such programs as being “cruel” make these assumptions anyway.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:23am
Logically, it wouldn’t make sense for rich strangers to give to the poor strangers based on moral laws alone, because there is no connection between the two people. However, our society does not support these Libertarian views.
I think that people should be able to live on their own. If someone is rich, what gives the government the right to tax them more in order to support the poor who are lazy and not looking for jobs. They rely on the rich to supplement them while the rich work hard in order to support the living of themselves and the poor? Logically this does not seem fair.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:23am
Nah, you have a moral obligation to help starving strangers.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:31am
I’m a libertarian and I liked this. I’m not sure if anyone else would be convinced by this because it is essentially an appeal to moral intuition. Unfortunately, There are all sorts of matters where moral intuition is overrated. I’m inclined to agree with Pandaemoni that moral intuition about the morality of murder, charity, and slavery are likely highly cultural specific. I wish it were not so, and that doesn’t mean that all morality is relative, but it does make this argument unlikely to be of use in convincing those not already inclined to agree with the conclusion.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:38am
You’re trying to cram all strangers a single box– a stranger is a stranger is a stranger, so however we would treat one type of stranger must be the way we treat all strangers. Like, we should treat “our fellow citizens” the same as “that street beggar who asked or shouted for spare change.”
That’s the kind of rhetorical fumble that would get an F on a freshman homework assignment.
But some strangers are unrelated and others who are your blood relatives (the ones you haven’t met, perhaps very closely related if your parents moved far away from their families).
Some strangers are criminals and others not. Some you wouldn’t mind living next door and others who you’d move away from instantly (like Central American immigrants — correct me if you live surrounded by them). Some this and some that. Etc.
That’s the whole point of statistical discrimination, which you’ve whole-heartedly endorsed before. The more information you have about some group of strangers, the more you can use this to statistically discriminate against them, e.g. being less likely to hire ex-con strangers than strangers with spotless records.
I know you disagree with the statistical discrimination against poor and unskilled immigrants (e.g., keeping them out since otherwise the neighborhood would go down the toilet). But don’t try this slight-of-hand where we’re supposed to believe that all strangers should be treated the same.
Jan 24 2011 at 5:17am
The early Church Fathers would disagree.
Jan 24 2011 at 5:23am
That’s a point I used to make: I know the same ‘nothing’ about 90% of people in my country as about people e.g. from India. In a sense what I know would actually be that people in India are nicer.
Why should I be forced to help people I don’t know just because they happen to live within 200km radius from me?
Jan 24 2011 at 7:15am
Christina, I think it is unfair to assume that the poor are poor because they are lazy and the rich are rich because they are hard working. In some cases this may be true but luck cannot be ignored as a factor. You are also ignoring those with disabilities (as did, conveniently, the original post).
The entire post just reeks of selfishness. Personally I am happy to pay my taxes and not see poverty all around me. I also know that I myself would have a safety net should things take a turn for the worse. (I’m not a socialist, far from it).
Jan 24 2011 at 7:30am
1) More or less, there’s some genetic similarity within within nation-states.
2) We feel naturally more inclined to those more like us (not necessarily exclusively genetic markers – see class markers and Palin).
Ergo, it’s a pretty base emotion to prefer “us” over “them” that you’re not going to change via this kind of argument.
Example economics test – cooperation works better in a more homogeneous society.
Again as to how this developed, see group selection.
Jan 24 2011 at 7:33am
But again you fail to address the fact that all those strangers would vote for a massive redistribution.
So more precisely, we are keeping out strangers, because most likely they would rob us!
Jan 24 2011 at 7:36am
Maybe Bryan is right that the externality upon “me” (leftwing voting, wasted gov money on AA, crime)from low IQ immigration to the welfare state is outweighed by the utility the low IQ get from working in the welfare state.
Still, because I only care about my own utility, and have no hope of overthrowing the welfare state, I will never go along with open immigration. Its the same debate we always have on here. We have a welfare state and democracy, and it is not realistic to exclude permanent residents from voting and welfare. In my view Bryan is asking me to sacrifice my own utility for the sake of others. He is asking me to give charity.
BTW I do mean safety. Google Muslim crime in Europe or Hispanic crime in America. And Bryan’s own research shows a link between economic views and IQ. He should be pushing for IQ tests at the border, over 110? Welcome in!
Jan 24 2011 at 7:55am
There is a demand for borders, if the government doesn’t supply a border, the market will. And then you can blog from inside the borders of New England and argue how they should let all those third world people from Virginia in.
Jan 24 2011 at 8:06am
@Robert, yes, many agree w/ you there.
I’ve always been curious regarding how those that agree feel about Brian’s quote below?
“And even if you think you broke your moral obligation to give, your moral obligation wasn’t strong enough to let the beggar justifiably mug you.”
Most I know simply dodge this question, at least when applied in different contexts. Competing moralities cause dissonance which is to be avoided or rationalized away at all costs. Right or wrong, some claim there is no conflict. Some rationalize smartly, others clumsily. Most people, however, simply pretend the question does not exist.
It reminds me, btw, of that old philosophy school thought exercise about whether it’s fine to put a gun to your head to force you to touch a dying child in the same room as you, if your touch would heal him. Now say you’re in LA and the child in NY; is it still OK (if you thought it was in the first place) to put a gun to your head? Now…(add next level)
Jan 24 2011 at 9:21am
I tend to agree with Pandaemoni here. Your moral obligations are dictated by what your morals are and the source of those morals. For instance Matthew 25 and the parable of the Good Samaritan lay out certain moral imperatives for Christians and how they should treat strangers. In many cultures, showing hospitality to strangers is an obligation.
I remember driving home from work sometime after midnight years ago. A car had slid off the snowy country road and was stuck in the snow. I stopped and helped a total stranger get his car back on the road. Why? I expected no reward, nor would have I accepted one. I did and still do believe that how you treat others – friends, family, and strangers, does influence the world around you. If you are unwilling to help strangers, it is less likely that strangers will be willing to help you.
A confession here. I often pass homeless people by without donating, and I often feel some guilt.
Jan 24 2011 at 9:40am
Stuhlmann, that’s because you could not realistically be expected to help every homeless person you pass. However, government redistribution provides a mechanism (inefficient as it may be) through which you can effectively do just that over the course of your lifetime.
Jan 24 2011 at 9:47am
If I was starving in the streets, on the brink of death, and resorting to robbery was the only option I had to prolong my own life, I would absolutely do it. I’m quite certain that every one of you would as well.
Given that we would all resort to violence if we were truly starving, is it hypocritical to oppose coercive wealth redestribution on moral grounds?
Jan 24 2011 at 10:10am
Your have attempted to deal with partiality by grouping all people into two basic categories, strangers, and not-strangers. The former to whom you have no obligations. This is a great rhetorical move and I applaud you for it, but it doesn’t hold up to further scrutiny and is again what I consider an example of your Utopian thinking.
A basic truth about people, we like to classify ourselves in many ways, some of us are jets fans, some of us Stealers fans. I hugged a man at sports bar today, is he a stranger, a comrade in arms, for a brief moment he was part of my in-group and if some NY fans started some stuff perhaps I would have had his back. This is the way people behave, they aren’t so logical. The rhetoric about the American poor is successful because that is the way people think. The fact that it isn’t strictly logical at the level of individual behavior isn’t important. You need to think at a level above, the evolutionary level, perhaps from a game theory perspective you can see how people who are quick to form new groups might have some advantage over those who classify the world in two groups, strangers and not-strangers.
Two more things. First, try reading some non-western philosophy. One thing I got from reading Kung Tzu was that he placed what at the time I originally thought was a ridiculous emphasis on rites and rituals. His insight was essentially that common culture matters. When I see Brain get married in a similar ceremony to my own, I know that he is somehow like me and that I should treat him fairly. Think about all the ways you signal you are part of a many different groups and status hierarchies. It is so other people in those groups will recognize and welcome you.
Last thing: Think about how you could make an argument that would resonate with real people, people who like to form ad-hoc groups beyond the stranger/non-stranger grouping model, an argument that would convince them that more immigration would be beneficial. It can be done, and it has a way better chance of working.
Jan 24 2011 at 10:14am
Bertholt Brecht (German communist playwright in the thirties) actually discouraged people from giving to the starving/beggars. he wanted them to start an uprising so matters would change.
on revolutionary grounds he would also oppose wealth distribution.
to extend JLA’s question: how much of you would oppose wealth distribution if this opposition would raise the changes of a revolution to topple TPB?
Jan 24 2011 at 10:45am
@JLA, I suppose that most, well, to be less presumptuous, many of us do empathize with 24601… (I, like you, certainly do. That doesn’t mean most do or that we’re right.)
Of course there’s also the flip side about modern reality in the U.S. today (apologies for forgetting who originally said this), i.e., the state of poverty today is less accurately described by The Grapes of Wrath as it is by SuperSize Me.
(Now, if we’re talking coerced redistribution from U.S. citizens to those abroad who actually are starving, well, the case may be stronger; though then tribal sentiments based on physical geographical, and emotional racial or societal, boundaries kick in to a higher degree.)
Then again, thought experiments along the lines of starvation to the point of death are still useful starting points when it comes to determining one’s own personal moral stances…
(The problem is when the most extreme of these experiments, at either end, are mis-characterized as accurate depictions of the choices we’re actually making in the real world. Sometimes matters of degree do matter, especially when weighing competing moralities that force one to give primacy to one over the other, though we’d ideally like to satisfy both.)
Jan 24 2011 at 10:58am
Bryan. This is your best post (ever).
Jan 24 2011 at 11:01am
I live in a big city and people on the street ask me for money all the time. I always say no, but I am not sure the reasons I give myself to justify saying no would also apply to “government-enforced charity”.
1. I am not good at distinguishing between the truly needy and scam artists. I would rather donate to the Salvation Army or some other entity (government?) that can do a better job at that than me.
2. Giving money to beggars on the street encourages more begging on the street. Not sure what the supply elasticity of beggars is, but I do not wish to subsidize that activity because it has negative externalities on property values and tourism.
3. I already give lots of money to the poor through my taxes. I do not feel the need to do more than I already am doing.
I am not sure I could use any of these justifications to say no when the government comes calling, “asking” for “donations” to strangers.
Jan 24 2011 at 11:07am
Wish I’d thought of of this…
It’s better than my metaphor — the government as your business partner.
Jan 24 2011 at 11:12am
Its one thing to say that I have a moral obligation to help a stranger who seeks my help (I usually do), and quite another to say that I have a moral obligation to contribute to a political organization that claims to help strangers (I don’t). The evidence shows that political organizations only help strangers when it serves the interests of the polical organization, and that often what they pass off as “help” is actually subordination.
Jan 24 2011 at 11:16am
It gets worse. How about when modern governments force rich strangers to give up resources they would otherwise use much more effectively to help poor strangers to give those resources to the government to waste 80% of them as part of the process of giving the remaining 20% to the poor strangers who are least deserving from the rich strangers point of view? When that 80% ends up enriching the people wasting those resources?
Jan 24 2011 at 11:49am
All good points, but as several have mentioned, comparing all strangers to a beggar on the street is a bit flawed.
Often the people that legitimately need the most help are the ones too proud to ask for it.
What happens if you need help one day and everyone around you turns a blind eye?
Just something to think about.
Jan 24 2011 at 12:33pm
The problem with this argument is that it’s not at all obvious that states that allow emigration are truly coercive, since the option of leaving is always open. Do churches in free societies “force” their rules of behavior on their members? One can argue that being forced to choose is a violation of natural rights, but natural rights are ethereal, subjective things that no one can define with much precision. Ask a hundred people how to adjudicate conflicting claims of natural property rights and you’ll get a hundred different answers. The property rights we have under state laws are the only ones that amount to a hill of beans.
Jan 24 2011 at 12:52pm
I have a moral obligation to not find myself in a position to have to rely on strangers to help me.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:17pm
There is a demand to spend other people’s money on borders. Spending your own money on borders, by contrast, isn’t in very high demand at all. Example: how many of the people posting about how we should keep Hispanics out of the US, or Arabs out of Europe, live in a gated community? I’m sure some of you do, but I think a lot of you don’t.
Why don’t you, don’t you know your country has lots of low IQ citizens you need to keep out? What if they devalue the property, or commit crimes? The answer is, of course, that you only care about borders in Far Mode. In the more rational and objective Near Mode, you realize that they aren’t that valuable. Certainly not valuable enough that you’re willing to spend your own money maintaining them, instead of your country’s taxpayer’s money.
That is true, but in our modern society a lot of these classifications transcend petty national borders. I identify a lot more with a Mexican who watches Gundam or plays D&D than I do with an American who watches reality TV or plays sports. I feel like I have more in common with other Econlog commenters who are from other countries than I do with a lot of people from my country. Even if we disagree about things like borders, we still think more alike than not.
I believe that we should sort ourselves by classifications like common interests, rather than mostly involuntary things like the country you were born in or your race. I think discussing common interests is more fun than feeling solidarity with people I otherwise have nothing in common with because we came out of our moms on the same side of an imaginary line.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:26pm
Bryan, this was a great post. I have a quibble –
“To fulfill our fantastical obligation to maintain the wages of fellow citizens we don’t trust enough to give our kids a ride.”
Perhaps you put this in to reduce potential criticism from the anti-immigration crowd, but most empirical studies show the impact on wages of immigration is positive.
Jan 24 2011 at 1:44pm
“To fulfill our fantastical obligation to maintain the wages of fellow citizens we don’t trust enough to give our kids a ride.”
If that were the bar for conducting transactions, we would conduct many less transactions.
The nice part of free exchange is it limits our necessity to rely on the trust of others. But I’ve never bought the libertarian arguments or open immigration (although I largely agree with it in practice) because my fellow citizen stranger is different from a foreign stranger in a crucial way; in practice, we have recognized each others’ rights as citizens.
That recognition, I think, is what moves a society out of a Hobbesian (or even Buchananesque -Limits of Liberty) sort of world. We have rights because we mutually assent to recognize them in each other. We extend some level of trust to a stranger who is American because to some extent he’s a joint owner of that very worthwhile bargain we make to recognize rights in each other.
If A and B reach an agreement, I’m all for allowing C to join the agreement as well. But I don’t think it can be done by A’s will alone, if B is opposed.
Jan 24 2011 at 2:26pm
Bryan, I agree with you 100% but I think this only works if you assume a more or less objectivist rational egoism. Let me explain.
You are pointing out that the way many people think of strangers in their private lives is incompatible with the way they think of strangers when discussing politics. But who’s to say that the former is the correct and the latter incorrect, rather than the other way around? Maybe we owe people in our geographic area, or everyone in the world, and we commit a sin when we don’t give to every beggar or allow beggars to take our money. You may point out that that makes life very difficult, but who says life is easy? Who even says that maximizing my happiness is legitimate?
You are appealing to a moral intuition that I share, but some people (particularly those from other cultures) may not share our intuitions. This is why Objectivism is so important.
Jan 24 2011 at 2:35pm
Let me give you an example of a different moral intuition.
I come from a middle eastern country where people don’t believe that they should leave others alone. If someone is found to be homosexual, it is ok for strangers to beat him up in the street. If a child “misbehaves” and his parents are not around, it is considered normal for strangers to beat that child in place of the parents. If a man is found to have long hair on his head, it is normal for men to gang up on him and cut his hair.
These are all things that appeal to the moral intuitions of people in that society. When discussing politics with people of that society, moral intuition doesn’t lead to freedom…it leads to dictatorship. The real question is why SHOULD those people believe in leaving others alone.
Chinese parent's child
Jan 24 2011 at 3:24pm
Bryan’s sophistry is reaching new heights.
I am with agnostic here. Just because I don’t personally know any of the ‘strangers’, that doesn’t mean they are all the same to me.
In addition, personal acquaintance is neither necessarily not sufficient reason for moral obligation. I am morally obliged to call 911 if I see an injured man on the street that I have never met before. On the other hand, I am not morally obliged to help my childhood friend whom I despise stay out of jail. ‘Strangeness’ is a property that happens to be correlated with moral obligation but is by no means some supreme principle from which moral norms follow.
Jan 24 2011 at 3:24pm
And, more importantly – what happens when we have the cherished open borders and these people come in bulk to Western countries with their culture and their mentality? Are we in the dream world where they leave them behind or do they continue to behave in a similar manner? What happens when open borders bring in more migrants than there are natives around? What happens with politics? It’s all good talking about not giving them political rights – but what is it that prevents them from simply taking them – either by physical force or simply by appeals to human rights and all, that the leftist and the deluded right among the natives will take whole-heartedly?
‘Cause, you see – demography is destiny. And that’s all there is to it.
Jan 24 2011 at 3:53pm
“what happens when we have the cherished open borders and these people come in bulk to Western countries with their culture and their mentality? Are we in the dream world where they leave them behind or do they continue to behave in a similar manner?”
Even with open borders, it would take a lot of motivation/perseverence to come to the U.S. And people with those qualities tend to be liberty minded.
Jan 24 2011 at 4:09pm
To close the loop on my post above (it was late, and I did not come back to this point):
My suspicion is that liberals (and others) would disagree with the assertion that there is “not much” in the way of obligations owed to the truly needy. While it is true that our obligation does not give the needy person the right to physically assault us (i.e. “mug us”), it could well be enough for society either to apply social pressure to force us into giving, or apply legal pressure to compel our giving.
I suspect most people would not equate either social pressures (like possible ostracism or negative gossip) or legal pressure (like taxation) to being mugged, except by what they would view as hyperbolic analogy.
Assuming I am correct, the more persuasive argument when dealing with people like that is not that one has no moral duty to help those in need or that the government has no right to redistribute, but that the government is simply bad at redistributing…the the process of redistribution isn’t helping the people in need (whether because the aid is going to the wrong people, the aid is going to the right people but creating perverse incentives which leave them worse off, or the losses to inefficiency are such that more could be done for the needy through other mechanisms).
Jan 24 2011 at 4:26pm
“Even with open borders, it would take a lot of motivation/perseverence to come to the U.S. And people with those qualities tend to be liberty minded.”
Aha. And that’s true because you say so or you do have something concrete to base it on?
Really, the idea of raising your standard of living 5 to 10 times surely attracts only cultured people of libertarian bend. On a related note, the moon is made of cheese and we will all live in peace and love when we embrace our common nature. That was bed-stories for three-year-olds and I wish you goodnight.
Some Men just don't learn
Jan 24 2011 at 5:40pm
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Jan 24 2011 at 5:57pm
What Agnostic said.
Additionally, you would be more persuasive if your arguments didn’t elide the action/inaction dichotomy which matters in the moral calculus of nearly everyone (else).
We do! We leave them entirely unmolested in the peace (such as it may be) of their homes (countries).
Nonsense. We do not interfere* with foreign strangers working for foreign or domestic strangers, so long as they do so in their own countries, or wherever else they may be welcome.
Perhaps you recall the concept of “externalities” from undergraduate economics?
All people of normal perspicacity can see that (many) immigrants impose costly externalities on destination-country citizens, above and beyond those imposed by fellow-citizens. It might be immoral to interfere with a contract between willing parties (e.g., employment of an immigrant) which inflicted few externalities, but it’s perfectly rational and moral for people to act in concert to limit externalities imposed by “strangers.”
If you don’t agree, then surely you won’t object when I open a feedlot for pigs or cattle next to your home? After all, I and the folks I do business with will be strangers to you…
*Of course taxes and so-forth may interfere with some employment arrangements. I favor free trade and oppose special taxes/regulations on dealings with foreigners. I oppose most impositions on domestic employment, too. I didn’t think your rant about immigration was really focused on taxes, though.
Jan 24 2011 at 6:13pm
“People in the Third World are strangers, but we still have a moral obligation to leave them in peace.”
Right. Let’s leave strangers in the Third World in peace.
Instead, the Grand Strategy of the Bush Administration was:
Invite the World
Invade the World
In Hock to the World
It was morally wrong to keep Muslim terrorists out of our country, so to keep them from killing us in our own country, we had to go smash up their countries to make them like us more.
How’s that working out, by the way?
Jan 24 2011 at 6:55pm
Brian – I would rather can revise the first two paragraphs to replace “moral” with “legal”. For me, it works better. My revision follows:
What are you legally forbidden to do to a stranger? You may not murder him. You may not attack him. You may not enslave him. Neither may you rob him.
What are you legally required to do for a stranger? Not much. Even if he seems hungry and asks you for food, you’re probably within your legal rights to refuse. If you’ve ever been in a large city, you’ve refused to help the homeless on more than one occasion. And even if you think you broke your moral obligation to give, your moral obligation was not a legal obligation, and it was not strong enough to let the beggar justifiably mug you.
Jan 24 2011 at 8:15pm
Brilliant and absolutely right, and let me just say that I argue something like this at greater length in my book, Principles of a Free Society. This is exactly the kind of moral intuition we need to build in people. The idea of coercive redistribution for egalitarian ends, though I disagree with it, is easy to understand and seems morally to have at least some force. But coercive exclusion of foreigners for anti-egalitarian ends is totally indefensible, and that point has to be hammered home every chance that arises. In this argument, forget sportsmanship, just keep running up the score.
Jan 25 2011 at 12:40am
I don’t get Bryan. He’s obviously super smart and often insightful, but he regularly gets beat up in the comments by Two Things, Agnostic and Steve Sailer, yet he continues to say the same things and never replies to their points. Instead a week later he makes up a straw man rather than dealing with the very good arguments made in the comments. Yo Bryan, what up with that!?
(Buying your new book and also bought and read your last one, just so you don’t think this is personal.)
Jan 25 2011 at 3:07am
@ Steve Sailer
Apparently you don’t visit this blog enough to have noticed the extremely large amount of anti-war posts Bryan has made lately. I’m sure he’s right on board with you in complaining about the war.
I still don’t buy this country=home thing. If you accepted that to its fullest it would lead to totalitarianism. Imagine someone (who was elected democratically) censoring free speech by claiming that it’s no different than someone not allowing certain speech in their house.
No they don’t. I think you’re mistaking a lack of instinctive distrust of the Other for a lack of perspicacity. To people who don’t feel distrustful or disgusted at the idea of more people coming here the complaints of the nativists sound kind of alarmist.
Jan 25 2011 at 5:54am
That’s a ridiculous comparison. Elected officials are not property owners of their country. But citizens are – there are de facto owners of all public land and infrastructure. And if they do not want immigrants – they should not be forced to have them.
Really? That’s your evidence? Articles that several times confuse causation with correlation (I especially love the suggestion that, apparently, Latin Americans are less violent than white Americans; oh, the quasi-Marxist self-hatred). Not even to mention the fact that you equate externalities only with crime and welfare. What about the cultural ones? What about the fact that you may, God forbid, not like certain groups of people and not want them in your vicinity? What about the fact that you may be forced to put up with them on public property?
Also, I should mention the fact that trusting Cato on this issue is equivalent to trusting the government when it is claiming that the size of the fiscal multipler is greater than 1. ‘Cause, you see – when you receive funding to claim something, you usually claim it no matter what the evidence says.
Jan 25 2011 at 1:24pm
Fine, allow me to modify the comparison slightly. Imagine there was some sort of voter referendum where the voters of a country voted to censor free speech by claiming that it’s no different than someone not allowing certain speech in their house. Or what if a majority of voters decided to ban some religion they don’t like? Treating a country as equivalent home will inevitably lead to totalitarianism. You might say that’s okay because you’re a moral nihilist, but you aren’t really a moral nihilist, or you’d be acting like this.
You might make a slightly closer analogy by treating the government as a joint-stock company that provides services. But if that was the case anyone who paid taxes, regardless of citizenship, would be entitled to live here.
Citizens are not being forced to have immigrants. They are forcing other people they have no right to control to not have immigrants.
Those were the first two bits of evidence I could dig up since I had other things to do than research a post all night. I bet that no matter what I dug up though, you’d claim it had a flaw because you decided immigrants shouldn’t be let in before you started gathering evidence for it. Is there any evidence I could provide that you’d accept?
Very few people hate other groups so much that they are actually willing to pay to avoid them. The reason reducing immigration has such great support is that the majority of money spent on it is other people’s money.
Your complaints, and the complaints of the other anti-immigration posters, are rife with the status quo bias. The arguments (IQ, cultural, etc.) you make are used to justify the immigration status quo, but arguing from the same conclusions you could justify sterilizing low-IQ citizens, forbidding minority citizens to move without a permit, etc. Yet you only use those arguments to defend the status quo, never to suggest new policies (except for maybe restricting immigration even more).
I think it comes down to moral intuition, conservatives tend to be easily disgusted, neurotic, and easily frightened and base a lot of their morality on that, so they are horrified at the idea of new people coming to their country and make up reasons why their intuition is correct. Libertarians, by contrast, are not neurotic, tend to be open to new experience, and aren’t easily frightened, so they tend to not see what all this immigration fuss is about.
Jan 26 2011 at 3:24am
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Jan 26 2011 at 3:02pm
And yet you’re not a deontologist? This is one of the best concise summaries of the central point in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. It is basically Nozick’s whole argument.
Jan 27 2011 at 3:46am
On a similar note, a DJ said on the radio the other day “how can people visit that poor country with its orphans and people dying of AIDS and stay in a luxury hotel?”. The idea being that if you are far away from poor people you can live your life however you choose but your obligations to these poor strangers should rise as you approach them geographically. People living in mansions far away from the poor – that’s OK – people living in mansions with poor people living next door – they ought to be ashamed of themselves!
Jan 27 2011 at 10:22am
“The most egregious example, of course, is restrictions on immigration. People in the Third World are strangers, but we still have a moral obligation to leave them in peace. Instead, we pass draconian laws forbidding these strangers to work for other complete strangers. And for what? To fulfill our fantastical obligation to maintain the wages of fellow citizens we don’t trust enough to give our kids a ride.”
Wow!, what an incredible leap. Nobody is suggesting that we don’t “leave them in peace”. What most people concerned with unrestricted immigration are concerned about is unrestricted entry. Unfortunately, people can bring many things along with (or without) a desire for work.
Foreign and antithetic views of governance.
Tolerance for autocratic governance. (we have enough of that)
Disrespect for Authority.
The purpose of the state is mutual defense. It is not solely an economic argument. That is the problem with economists-their only tool is a hammer, so every problem is a nai-and every whack is a blow for utopia.
Personally, I can’t wait until La Rasa starts marching on your street, or your hometown becomes like the border towns.
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