Friday, June 24, 2011

On Rights to Immigrate

Do people have rights to immigrate? Most people think: no. I think: yes. But let's get clear on what this means.

In international law and the domestic laws of some liberal states, there is a limited special right to immigrate. Asylum-seekers have this right. It is the right to flee from tyrannical regimes and rights violations. But people don't have a general right to immigrate. For example, "economic migrants" do not have rights to immigrate. These are people who just want more economic opportunities.

If you accept a certain understanding of the justification of rights to immigrate, then this conventional view makes sense. On the common understanding, rights to immigrate are justified on grounds of beneficence. States are morally required to let people immigrate because this is necessary to save them from violence or severe hardship. But we aren't under duties to better people's economic opportunities in general. I'm not obligated to help you find a better job if you're already making $20,000 a year.

This conventional view already presupposes that states have territorial rights: rights to coercively exclude certain people. In other words, if a state has already satisfied its humanitarian duties to you, this state can now freely prevent you from immigrating to its territory. So, the only reason (besides family reunification, say) to permit immigration is beneficence.

However, this conventional view is false. I'll explain why in future posts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Education

As someone who both values education and wants to be a teacher, I'm a bit worried by the suggestion that education is useless (see also here). Of course, some education is useful. But I'm never going to be teaching engineering or shop class. So, I have reason to worry. Is my current profession a waste of time and money?

I have to admit: it is plausible that liberal arts education might be useless for most students. I really don't think there is decisive empirical evidence on either side. Of course, I have really enjoyed the liberal arts and benefited from it. But I'm not most people.

Bryan Caplan thinks education is worthless for the marginal student. But I have a partial defense of education. As Caplan knows, a university education seems to be causally related to both pro-trade and pro-immigration attitudes. The mechanism is that college education socializes people to become more cosmopolitan and tolerant. Bryan Caplan is a stalwart defender of free trade and open borders. So, this is a defense of education that even he should love.