Privileged By Birthright?



. . .suppose you could give American high school dropouts an 8% raise by deporting every man, woman, and child from Latin America back to their home countries. Would that be the right thing to do?


Economists are used to rolling their eyes when people object to better policies on the grounds that some special interest will suffer from the change. It's time to cross the final frontier, and start rolling our eyes when the special interest is low-skilled Americans.

That's Bryan Caplan, and he's absolutely right. It's long past time for cosmopolitans everywhere to mount a serious offense against the premise that location of birth is a morally relevant category. I think the economic arguments are a red herring; they're a superstructure built on this ethical foundation, and cease to have force once it's removed. I like to persuade through positive arguments wherever possible, but in this case it's necessary and probably more productive in the long run to strike at the normative root.

I realized a while ago that one way to tell a true liberal (in the broad philosophical sense, not the narrow North American political sense) from a poseur is whether their moral circle extends to include as much moral consideration to those beyond their border as to those within it. Joe Miller and Brad DeLong (to take two handy examples) pass that test with flying colours, but sadly many others do not. Even the once mighty Paul Krugman, despite his protestations that he really, honestly does care, has been on a slow slide toward mercantilism for the past several years.

Krugman's hemming and hawing highlights the tension between welfare-statism and cosmopolitanism on the leftish side of politics. When the rubber hits the road, which one wins?

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