Bryan Caplan  

Intermediate Hypothetical Bleg

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Sailer on Fundamental Moral Ob... Social Intelligence: The Wisdo...
I asked Steve Sailer:
Steve, would you please name a few examples of citizenist policies that you think go slightly beyond the limits of our moral obligations to outsiders?  A few examples of such policies that you think are just barely within those limits?  Inquiring minds want to know.
To reduce Steve's workload, I'm soliciting intermediate hypotheticals for Steve to assess.  Please share them in the comments, and perhaps Steve will read them and respond.  I'll start:
Would it be morally permissible for the U.S. to impose a tariff on imports that raised median U.S. income by 1% but reduced mean non-U.S. income by 10%?  If this were permissible, would you actually advocate it?
Please be civil in the comments.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (50 to date)
Ken B writes:

Imagine we have a stock of dangerous material we want rid of: poison gas, spent rods. Would it be permissable to sell this abroad in a weaponized format?

Motoko writes:

Simple. You have a choice between saving 1 American's life, or saving 2 foreigners'.

(The obvious extension being that you can save many foreigners at, at worst, a slight reduction in American wealth)

Finch writes:

Not that I propose this as the true moral standard, but my observations of world events and reporting would suggest people think the tradeoff is somewhere in the range between 10 to 1 and 100 to 1.

That seems roughly acceptable to the American public in war. It also seems like the ratio used in tragedy reporting. When a couple of Americans die in a far off place, it makes the news. It has to be a great deal more foreign people to raise the same interest. If that's the ratio people think is acceptable for deaths, I'd expect people to favor a higher ratio for things like financial transactions or visitor permits.

To be clear, in your tariff example, it would be rational for Americans to advocate the hypothetical tariff. Some aesthetic sense might incline them not to, although presumably at a higher threshold. After all, people de facto do this by refusing to donate a significant fraction of their income to the world's poor. Perhaps I'm wrong, but you seem to be advocating Americans act irrationally because your tastes differ from theirs? Mine do, too, in many respects. But is this a strong argument for open borders?

MikeP writes:

Suppose the government of China elects to subsidize its nation's producers in order to hold their export prices low. This is of course a direct subsidy to US citizens at the expense of the Chinese consumer and taxpayer who have no say in the process.

Should the US government try to prevent this?

Andrew writes:

An oldie but a goodie.

A plane crashes on the border of the US and Canada. The plane is full of US and Canadian citizens.

Where do you bury the survivors?

Haha

Scenario # 2

I am at Brainerd International Raceway enjoying my annual trip to the NHRA Nationals with some Canadian friends of mine. As we are enjoying our time in the Zoo, a native imbibes a little too much grain alcohol and decides to take his frustrations out on my Canadian friends.

Do I come to the aide of my Canadian friends or do I take the side of my native Minnesotan?

egd writes:

I would consider the following acts to be morally objectionable if engaged in by the United States government against citizens of a sovereign nation (except during times of war):

Prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Prohibiting free speech.

Prohibiting free press.

Prohibiting free association.

Prohibiting the right to keep and bear arms.

Quartering of soldiers in homes during peace time without permission.

Searches without a particular warrant from an unbiased magistrate.

Deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Prohibiting assistance of counsel in a criminal prosecution.

Prohibting a jury trial in cases at common law.

Requiring excessive bail or engaging in cruel and unusual punishment.

MikeP writes:

egd,

So do you support the right of free migration due to recognizing free association, or are you against it due to leaving out the Ninth?

daubery writes:

Bryan, I don't know if you read the comments, but could you please clarify when you argue in favour of immigration whether you are arguing for the full gamut of current citizenship rights to be extended to everyone (eventually, at least), or just some kind of guest worker status with no voting rights or claims to entitlement programs?

If you think these are equivalent, at least in the long run in the US, there are countries in the world where citizenship passes entirely by blood (Japan, for instance), so I think this is a hard distinction. Your arguments in favour of universal guest worker status are quite strong, but I feel like *most* of the "citizenist" ire is directed at huge numbers of new voters and entitlement recipients, not merely a temporary minor drop in wages due to a supply spike.

Sonic Charmer writes:


Would it be morally permissible for the U.S. to impose a tariff on imports that raised median U.S. income by 1% but [...]

Huh? Surely Bryan the libertarian isn't asking us to accept the premise that imposing tariffs on ourselves is a method of raising our standard of living?

Do libertarian open bordersers just forget they are libertarians sometimes?

egd writes:

MikeP:

So do you support the right of free migration due to recognizing free association, or are you against it due to leaving out the Ninth?

Including the 9th would also require me to include the 10th. That opens a whole can of worms.

The right of free migration is the requirement that states (subsets of the federal government) afford the same rights to all citizens under the federal government. It isn't an individual right, rather a enforcing the agreement between the states of a sovereign union.

Since the US isn't a party to any such agreement granting sovereignty over citizenship matters, I don't think it applies.

A question for those who favor open borders:
Should the US provide military defense only to those within our borders, or is the US morally obligated to provide the same benefits to non-residents? (Feel free to substitute any other obligation of the US government.)

MikeP writes:

Should the US provide military defense only to those within our borders, or is the US morally obligated to provide the same benefits to non-residents?

The US is obligated to secure the unalienable rights of individuals only in the territory where it exercises its sovereignty.

What is at issue is the boundary condition. Open borders proponents believe that, since the US has sovereignty over entry across the national border, it should not violate individual rights there.

MikeP writes:

Let me rephrase...

What is at issue is the boundary condition. Open borders proponents believe that, since the US has sovereignty over entry across the national border, it should secure unalienable individual rights there as well.

John K writes:

Bryan, it seems to me you're introducing unnecessary confusion by implicitly conceding the idea that immigration is a transfer rather than a strict Pareto improvement. Charity doesn't make much sense no matter the ratios because if you can't internalize a benefit then it isn't sustainable. A corporation not being homicidal makes sense in the ambit of a state that maximizes its land's value by expelling/debilitating aggressors, not due to an absolute, context-independent principle of non-aggression IMO. The only argument I'm interested in on immigration is how to stop the dispossession of the current franchisees through dilution.

Nathan Smith writes:

Just barely inside:
1. Waging war, in the face of enormous provocation and when it is the only way to achieve victory, in ways that predictably, though not intentionally, kill quite a few civilians.
2. Imposing high taxes on immigrants (or certain classes of immigrants) which reduce their incomes relative to those of similar natives, albeit less than the surplus value they get from government services (admittedly that's hard to define).
3. Teaching the tenets of a majority religion in schools publicly financed through a voucher system, which non-adherents of that religion are de facto obliged to attend because no other schools are available.
4. Exclusion of foreigners who have significant criminal records.
5. Exclusion of individuals from countries/regions where terrorist violence is endemic, and known to harbor intensely hostile public opinion. For example, the US might be justified in excluding people from Pakistan who have a certain demographic profile.

Just barely beyond:
1. Waging war in ways that intentionally kill civilians (not working in military industries) in order to make the other side surrender to spare further civilian lives. (The A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima is probably an example of this.)
2. Enslaving immigrants, even if it's a special kind of voluntary slavery that is entered into consensually at some point. ("If you let me escape China and live in your country, I'll be your slave for the rest of my life." "No, we can't do that.")
3. Forcing people to practice, or profess adherence to, a state or majority religion, on pain of imprisonment.
4. Exclusion of individuals who are members of demographic groups with an observed disproportionate propensity for crime, though the particular individuals are guilty of no crime.
5. Deportation of individuals from nations with a propensity for terrorist violence, and hostile public opinion, who however (the immigrants, not the nations) have lived in the community for some time and exhibited no personal propensity for terrorist activity.

FAR BEYOND
1. Deporting people who have lived in a community for years, and have friends, family, and jobs in that community, to countries they barely know.
2. Deporting recent arrivals who have done no one any harm.
3. Deporting people who are guilty of minor crimes such as traffic offenses or misdemeanors.
4. Exclusion of individuals solely for the motive of protecting domestic workers from competition.
5. Exclusion of individuals solely to avoid the obligation of caring for them at the public expense, which obligation is for some reason imagined to be a function of residence in a country's territory.
6. Exclusion of individuals seeking refuge from totalitarian regimes, so that deportation means subjecting them once again to those regimes. (This consideration overrides some others, e.g., terrorist propensities of those nations. You have to accept refugees from Saddam's Iraq, otherwise you're working as Saddam's jailor, which is unacceptable. That an Iraqi refugee might be a terrorist is just a risk you have to take.)

Of course, I'd draw these boundaries in a different place from Steve Sailer.

Johnson85 writes:

Some hypotheticals that I think would be acceptable or close to citizenists (all of these involve allowing much more latitude to migrate and work in the U.S., but with additional burdens imposed solely as a result of being an immigrant and without the opportunity to become a citizen; not sure if that is consistent with past discussion):

(1) Requiring non-citizens to pay a 5% surcharge on their earnings in the U.S.

(2) Not allowing non-citizens to receive any gov't benefits (disability, unemployment, etc.)

(3) Requiring non-citizens to pay tuition for public schools.

(4) Allowing employment discrimination in favor of citizens.

These are all basically the same thing though. But I assume this is the type of thing people are thinking about when they talk about favoring citizens. Or they wrongly think that imposing tariffs somehow enriches citizens generally, and don't just enrich some citizens at the expense of others.

MikeP writes:

To be fair, (4) is not the same as the others: it actually restores a right for private employers to discriminate that was illegitimately abrogated.

Mike writes:

Re: Nathan,

FAR BEYOND
5. Exclusion of individuals solely to avoid the obligation of caring for them at the public expense, which obligation is for some reason imagined to be a function of residence in a country's territory.

I might be with you if you meant to say expulsion instead of exclusion.

Just about every other country in the world, particularly those with more socialized health care than the U.S., has a health examination as part of the work permit (immigration) process. AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis will disqualify you just about anywhere in the world.

If you really mean to say it's wrong to exclude people with these diseases from entering in the U.S., you are a member of a very small group. It's not the cost of caring for that individual, it's the cost of dealing with that one individual as a possible vector of infection. It becomes not an immigration issue, but rather a public health issue.

Silas Barta writes:

Bryan_Caplan, could you answer the corresponding question about your pro-immigration views? Is there something that just goes *slightly* beyond morally justifiable pro-immigrationism?

I'm assuming it would fall far short of "allow the Chinese army to peacefully immigrate in and then mail themselves military grade hardware". Am I wrong in that assumption?

James writes:

Since no one has pointed it out already:

Sailer has been writing on his views for a very long time now. And yet it is impossible, even after reading what he has written, to predict where he "draws the line."

What more would it take to see that Sailer's "citizenism" and his endless train of question begging analogies are just instances of motivated reasoning?

BK writes:

I think some of Sailer's audience at VDARE is composed of nationalist extremists. They help to pay the bills, so he tries to avoid issues where he disagrees with them.

Vipul Naik writes:

BK, your thesis is plausible and entirely consistent with some facts. But, if true, it would make Sailer a hypocrite, given how much effort he devotes to mocking the establishment for its political correctness.

In this blog post, Sailer seems to indicate that he is indifferent to ending world poverty forever if its costs Americans 1 cent in per capita GDP. Of course, he may mean something else when he writes "2. Whatever." I've asked him to clarify in a thread on another EconLog blog post, and look forward to his response.

Sonic Charmer writes:

The idea that Steve Sailer is reticent and holds his tongue to please an audience is certainly a novel one I had not encountered nor had it ever occurred to me. Fascinating.

Sailer can speak for himself but I just assumed that "Whatever" was exasperation at a dumb question. These tradeoff constructions involving 'if you could do X that would guarantee contrived economic outcome Y' all suffer from a vacuous premise. There's just no such thing as an X that would 'guarantee' such a Y; such 'guarantees' do not obtain in the real world. The same thing is true of Caplan's tariff example above. What kind of economics is this?

BK writes:

Journalists working for ideological publications can't say everything they think. Famous mainstream journalists like Matt Yglesias and David Brooks read Steve Sailer's work, and often indirectly engage with it or crib ideas, but carefully avoid situations where they have to outright deny many of Sailer's claims. Instead they look for opportunities to signal political opposition without ever quite addressing the factual issues. This is probably because they think he is right on many issues that would offend their employers, audience, and ideological allies.

The VDARE funders offer an unusually different sort of pressure, so that their addition to the overall media landscape broadens the debate and brings many true facts into view, which would otherwise be buried (disproportionately by way of Sailer, I think). So it's probably pretty easy for him to live with himself on the grounds that he isn't lying and his work is shifting the overall social debate towards reflecting censored truths.

I don't think Sailer will unambigously deny this, although he probably won't unambiguously endorse it either.

BK writes:

I'd guess Sonic Charmer is right, "whatever" as a response to the "1 cent per capita to end poverty" hypothetical is disdaining the ludicrousness.

The USA already spends over 10,000 times that per capita on non-military foreign aid with effects that fall far, far, far, short of eliminating poverty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_foreign_aid#2000s

Just cutting foreign aid after eliminating poverty would let Americans benefit selfishly from the magic hypothetical opportunity. Americans would have nicer vacations in the absence of poverty. There would be less pressure for unskilled immigration.

So the magic 1 cent poverty plan would be endorsed by citizenists on selfish grounds. And so it's a bad hypothetical to test moral intuitions about the treatment of noncitizens: the conclusion is overdetermined and the intuition about what we should do reflects non-cosmopolitan considerations.

Similarly, Bryan constantly tries to generate hypotheticals on which citizenism violates moral side-constraints via murder or theft to argue against the partiality in helping citizens vs noncitizens. He keeps trying to generate examples in which one positively helps citizens by actively molesting foreigners, asymmetrically deploying deontology.

But if he wanted to be even-handed he could construct symmetric examples. For instance:

Hypothetical #1: suppose that a pandemic is ravaging both the U.S. and other regions, and a treatment exists, invented and manufactured in the U.S. Without treatment, the disease is invariably fatal and infects everyone.

The treatment can be used in a high dose of 100 units or a low dose of 1 unit: the high dose saves the recipient, while the low dose has a 10% chance of working. The U.S. government, anticipating the threat of the disease has built up a stockpile which is just sufficient to give all infected Americans, but other countries have produced only very small amounts. However, the U.S. could give some or all of its citizens the low dose, freeing up treatment units to be provided overseas. For each American who is sentenced to a 90% risk of death, the lives of 9.9 foreigners can be saved.

Hypothetical #2: U.S. investigators learn of two terrorist plots, one aimed at New York City and one at Mumbai. They estimate that the Mumbai attack would kill 500 people, while the New York attack would kill 50. They have one mole/double agent they can use to stop exactly one plot. Should they stop the plot targeting New York or the one targeting Mumbai?

One problem with both of these hypotheticals is that more all-things-considered damage per life would be done by killing rich Americans than poor people: more lost income, the loss of longer life expectancies, more lost tax revenue for funding science and foreign aid, more lost economic activity that may contribute to growth, more lost happiness as measured by surveys, more lost health, and so on. But I'll leave that to others.

8 writes:

Sailer isn't even allowed to join the mainstream debate. He's widely read but uncited. Yet he has to draw the line on his argument, whereas the people in charge, executing or directly influencing political decision making, often at odds with the general public's opinion (based on polling data), don't even have to directly confront his arguments?

Hugh writes:

I think the citizenist position, with which I agree, has evolved in reaction to the immigration into the USA of large numbers of marginally educated Mexicans. These problems are different to those that might be encountered if we were dealing with a small number of Norwegian philosophers/rocket scientists/neurosurgeons immigrants. Bryan would like to avoid talking about the specific so as to pontificate on a higher level – but I have no problem dragging this discussion back down to earth.

The USA is not just a legal and economic entity with a fixed set of rules, it is (was) a cultural entity too. The new immigrants inevitably change the culture and the cultural changes then result in changes to the legal and economic rules. If this point is not clear, it will become clearer over the next four years.

The citizenist protects the culture by putting the citizen first. In return, the citizen takes an active interest in the welfare of the nation: we pick up our litter not just to avoid fines, but to keep our country beautiful. We worry about the future not just for ourselves but for the sake of our children and fellow-citizens too.

Take away the primacy of citizenship and we all become less invested in our country (it’s not really ours!). Short-termism takes over, as we only need to worry about our own futures. Look at Wall Street, crammed full of highly intelligent people with no real loyalty to the Nation, if you want to get a glimpse of where Bryan’s ideas lead us.

Alex writes:

Bryan, are you arguing that a country may not make decisions that benefit its own citizens at the expense of citizens of other countries or that immigration is a special category of decision?

If the former, do you think countries should be required to transfer ownership of all national rewources to international trusts?

If the later, can you explain what makes immigration a special policy category?

As an aside, most normal people and especially libertarians believe that conclusions from presumptions of cardinal utility are morally repugnant. For example, most people belive it is not ok to kill one person to provide life saving organs for 10 others. You resort to cardinal utility in your hypothetical by tcomparing concrete perfentages of welfare. It is a strong signal that you have gone off the deep end on this topic and should possibly seek help from your more sober colleagues.

Christopher Chang writes:

See my comment in the other thread.

As a member of a population that massively benefited from altruistic Western immigration and trade policies, I accept the argument that other populations should have access to the same opportunities to escape poverty that mine did. But this does not actually require allowing much immigration. Anyone who continues to claim otherwise after staring the obvious counterexample in the face loses the right to be taken seriously in this argument.

Joe Cushing writes:

"Would it be morally permissible for the U.S. to impose a tariff......

The problem with asking such questions is that person who is new to economics will think such a thing is possible. A tariff lowers outcomes for everyone except for the the people who are involved in making the good protected by the tariff. You could even make a case that tariffs hurt these people sometimes too.

I cannot think of a single economic manipulation by government that truly helps us at the expense of others--just manipulations that hurt others and in some way hurt us too. Even the petrodollar; which provides us a whole lifestyle of cheap imported goods at the cost of other states loosing their sovereignty, having their economies destabilized, and loosing millions of lives; hurts us too. We have to pay trillions of dollars to maintain the empire through military force. We anger millions of people in countries we control and these people are inclined to blow up buildings. Then we react slashing at our own civil liberties.

No: I don't like this question because there is nothing we can do to harm outsiders that won't also come back to harm us.

josh writes:

GDP, GDP, GDP... I wonder if you libertarians realize that you are communists.

georgesdelatour writes:

"Would it be morally permissible for the U.S. to impose a tariff on imports that raised median U.S. income by 1% but reduced mean non-U.S. income by 10%? If this were permissible, would you actually advocate it?"

I tried this alteration to your question as an experiment:

Would it be morally permissible for Iceland to impose a tariff on imports that raised median Icelandic income by 1% but reduced mean non-Icelandic income by 10%? If this were permissible, would you actually advocate it?

Ask the question about one of the smallest rich countries and the absurdity of the question becomes apparent. But it applies equally to the largest. All the evidence we have is that tariff barriers tend to make countries poorer. India began rapid economic growth precisely when it abandoned autarky and opened its economy up.

The great 19th century British advocates of Free Trade saw it as a way un-like-minded societies could nonetheless get along. Tsarist Russia and Ottoman Turkey might be profoundly different societies, with values antithetical to ours. But we could still trade with each other to our mutual advantage. Free trade should be an alternative to conquest and colonisation, not a lever to bring it about.

Evan writes:

@Alex

Bryan, are you arguing that a country may not make decisions that benefit its own citizens at the expense of citizens of other countries or that immigration is a special category of decision?

I think Bryan is arguing that a country may be able to do this under some circumstances, but that there are important moral constraints. He often uses the metaphor that it is acceptable to favor your family over strangers in some circumstances, but not in others.

For instance, it's okay spend more money helping your children then helping other people's children. But if your son is a serial killer it's not okay to hide him.

As an aside, most normal people and especially libertarians believe that conclusions from presumptions of cardinal utility are morally repugnant. For example, most people belive it is not ok to kill one person to provide life saving organs for 10 others. You resort to cardinal utility in your hypothetical by tcomparing concrete perfentages of welfare. It is a strong signal that you have gone off the deep end on this topic and should possibly seek help from your more sober colleagues.
I think that Bryan is probably proposing some sort of "utilitarianism with side-constraints" morality, where utility isn't cardinal, but is still very important, and therefore very relevant.

Really, I think that any ethical system that doesn't have some utility element is too inflexible to be workable.

Sonic Charmer writes:

Bryan,

Just some advice, whichever hypotheticals you choose, you should probably take some care to ensure that they are:

1. Feasible/attainable. Surely you agree that not every configuration in the GDP-state-space makes sense or can be attained just because we can write the numbers down. Surely you can see that "If we could increase our GDP 5 zillion percent by imprisoning the rest of the world in solitary confinement.." posits up a nonsense state of affairs, and so whatever the rest of that question is or what 'answer' someone comes up with, it's meaningless.

2. Stable. I could perhaps arrange for a blob of 1-degree water to sit surrounded by 99-degree water, initially, but things would not stay that way. Similarly, reducing the world's mean income (in real terms, I assume?) by 10 percent (!) sounds actually rather disastrous; you ask us to imagine we get a 1 percent boost in median income out of the deal, but over what time frame/for how long? 'Permanently'? Nonsense. Doesn't the resulting world depression affect us at all? Of course it does.

Unless your hypotheticals satisfy 1 and 2, at minimum, they are meaningless nonsense whose answers can't possibly tell us anything. You see that right?

egd writes:

MikeP writes:

What is at issue is the boundary condition. Open borders proponents believe that, since the US has sovereignty over entry across the national border, it should secure unalienable individual rights there as well.

That's not the argument (I think) Bryan is making. He asks whether there are any moral obligations owed to outsiders.

My question is: if we owe moral obligations to outsiders, how far do those moral obligations go? Is it morally permissable to provide food aid to citizens but not to outsiders?

Perhaps Bryan could explore this corollary to his question.

MikeP writes:

egd,

If by "we" you mean the government, as Bryan does, then the only thing the government owes people is "to secure these unalienable rights," and the only place it is obligated to secure those rights is within its sovereign dominion.

Outside its sovereign dominion, the government is, as is of course everyone, obligated not to violate unalienable rights.

So as to your example of providing food aid to citizens versus outsiders, it is perfectly fine for the government to do that. If you are talking about citizens versus outsiders even in the US, it is still perfectly fine. It's rather obnoxious if the outsider has been taxed in order to pay for inequitably provided food aid, but the rights violation is the tax, not the food aid.

MikeP writes:

egd,

By the way, I don't believe that the US government has a moral obligation to provide food aid to anybody. So the difference in treatment of citizen and outsider here is easy to accept.

On the other hand, the US government does of course have the moral obligation not to violate anyone's rights. So the difference in treatment between citizen and outsider in how they are kidnapped, imprisoned, and transported from where they live and work represents a significant moral breach.

egd writes:

MikeP:

Thanks for the responses. But I get the feeling we're talking past one another.

Why does the government have a moral obligation that extends beyond the sovereign domain of the country? If it does have such a moral obligation, why is this moral obligation limited to "not...violate unalienable rights"?

Lets set aside food aid for now. Within the borders (and to its citizens) a government has a moral obligation to engage in traditional government functions - national defense, adjudicate cases, and provide internal security - in addition to not violating inalienable rights of citizens.

Why not extend these positive moral obligations to outsiders as well?

Glen Smith writes:

Problem is that income does not tell the whole story. A change in a tariff, assuming it works, would probably also raise the cost of living most significantly for those with lower incomes. That is, the wealthier individuals profit might go up about 1% but as you go down to median and below, their marginal profit (income minus cost of living) probably would go up only marginally at best and maybe even show a loss. Conversely, in the long run, the income loss might actually be a good thing in the other parts.

Bryan,

Don't know if it was your intention but you have successfully moved me from an open border guy to a closed border guy.

ladderff writes:

Still in the dorm room. In real experience, if any kind of policy such as Bryan's tariff contrivance really could clearly and directly enrich a given sovereign at the expense of the others, we would observe all extant sovereigns instituting the policy, those who refused for moral or any other reasons having failed and disappeared over the long run.

Hmm. My comment is subsumed by Sonic Charmer's earlier points about useful hypotheticals.

ColRebSez writes:

I'm not sure that a tariff would increase living standards in the United States, but to be plain the world owes us nothing and we owe the world nothing. If another nation could reduce its tariff by one penny and instantly each American would be a billionaire and live in a mansion they would have no obligation to do so. The converse is also true. But this is really a straw man argument.

Unlike many posters on this board, I actually am in favor of tariffs to the extent that they allow us to enforce counter-productive social edicts. For example, we don't allow child labor. We enforce safety standards that are greater than those of many countries. A tariff that prevents unfair competition from products produced though what is to us socially unacceptable means seems okay to me. The various social rules we have do reduce overall economic income. We've chosen to have this reduced income to advance other social values. To the extent tariffs can protect these values I support them.

Many corporations make charitable contributions. To the extent they get favorable publicity from this I suppose this is okay, but corporations exist solely for the benefit of their shareholders. Instead of giving away these profits they should give them to their shareholders, many of whom will then give them away to charity. It's the same for a nation. A nation exists solely for the benefit of its citizens. Many citizens will voluntarily act to benefit non-citizens, but it should be their choice, not one made for them.

MikeP writes:

egd,

Within the borders (and to its citizens) a government has a moral obligation to engage in traditional government functions - national defense, adjudicate cases, and provide internal security - in addition to not violating inalienable rights of citizens.

"Traditional government functions" are not moral obligations. They are merely mechanisms and artifacts of securing individual rights -- the only reason the government exists. Thus they do not apply outside the sovereign dominion of the government.

Vipul Naik writes:

8 writes:

Sailer isn't even allowed to join the mainstream debate. He's widely read but uncited.

Citation needed. I've seen a number of links to Sailer from EconLog, Marginal Revolution, and on the Open Borders website and blog, we frequently cite him and link to his blog posts, VDARE writings, and EconLog comments. And the "Sailer strategy" has also been referred to in the mainstream press.

EconLog: Apart from the recent Caplan posts on Sailer, here's David Henderson citing Sailer on race, Bryan Caplan addressing Sailer on Moynihan's Law of Proximity to the Canadian border, and Bryan Caplan addressing Steve Sailer's critique of his bubble (these are just the links I could find quickly offhand).

Marginal Revolution: Cowen critiques Sailer on IQ and race.

Here is a Daily Kos piece on the Sailer strategy. Here is the American Spectator on the Sailer strategy. Sailer has been addressed by William Saletan at Slate.

I fail to see from all this how you could call Sailer "uncited" -- may be "undercited" is what you mean?

Perhaps Sailer would be more widely cited if he weren't writing for a publication such as VDARE which publishes people far more polemical than him, such as Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan, and Jared Taylor, to name just a few of the other people whose material is published on the site.

egd writes:

MikeP writes:

"Traditional government functions" are not moral obligations. They are merely mechanisms and artifacts of securing individual rights -- the only reason the government exists. Thus they do not apply outside the sovereign dominion of the government.

Just to clarify, your position is that "securing individual rights" is a government's obligation only where they exercise sovereignty, but governments only have an obligation "not to violate individual rights" where they do not exercise sovereignty?

MikeP writes:

Yes. And only the latter obligation ranks as a moral obligation.

egd writes:

MikeP writes:
Yes. And only the latter obligation ranks as a moral obligation.
Governments owe no more moral obligation to those within their sovereign territory than they do to foreign citizens? I'm not sure that's correct.

I think most would agree that internal security (policing and criminal prosecution) are a moral obligation of their sovereign.

But at least we've discovered the point of disagreement.

MikeP writes:

So you think the 14,180 people murdered in the United States in 2008 represent a moral failing of government?

I'd rather not grant the state the sort of power required to absolve itself of this moral responsibility.

Svigor writes:

Imagine we have a stock of dangerous material we want rid of: poison gas, spent rods. Would it be permissable to sell this abroad in a weaponized format?

That's a fairly good question. I say no, because it's our mess and we should clean it up. Sovereignty and responsibility are of a piece in my mind.

But what if some foreign country was really good at the task, and their economy depended on the industry? Wouldn't it be immoral to deny them their bread and butter? My tongue's only partially in my cheek here.

Simple. You have a choice between saving 1 American's life, or saving 2 foreigners'.

(The obvious extension being that you can save many foreigners at, at worst, a slight reduction in American wealth)

In my case, it would depend on who the foreigners were, and who the American was. Assuming random choices, though, I'd choose to save the American, since he has a far better chance of being someone I care about. Also, I'm into reciprocity, and I sure as hell know what most people the world over would choose, given a similar choice.

As for making Americans' decisions for them to save foreign lives, no, I wouldn't. It's not my place. As for my own vote, I don't know. This stuff is too abstract for me. I'd want to drill down into the details before I made my decision. No, I wouldn't vote for Americans to give up 1% of their money to save lives in sub-Saharan Africa, because that's a hypothetical with no basis in reality; i.e., it's impossible to save sub-Saharan Africans from themselves, and supporting their breeding beyond the limits they can naturally sustain is making things worse, not better.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but White Supremacy, Colonialism, whatever you want to call it, is the only thing ever proven to approach making non-basketcases of sub-Saharan Africans, and westerners have proven themselves incapable of sustaining it.

So do you support the right of free migration due to recognizing free association, or are you against it due to leaving out the Ninth?

I don't know about egd, but no, no way in Hades am I going to support free migration due to free association when Americans have no such right among themselves: they're not free to hire or fire, not free to dispose of their property as they wish, but they're supposed to allow free migration on the basis? That's completely absurd.

CMC writes:

Would it be morally permissible for the U.S. to impose a tariff on imports that raised median U.S. income by 1% but reduced mean non-U.S. income by 10%? If this were permissible, would you actually advocate it?

This strikes me as an angels on the head of a needle type of hypo, where the real takeaway is a discussion of the nature angels.

Is that what was intended? To draw out a discussion of the nature of tariffs, which are obviously to favor specific industries or businesses, or a discussion of the nature of income, or both, or something else?

Obviously, and similar to the needles question, it's pointless to toy around with the numbers ('oh, my, 10% seems like a lot'), while completely ignoring historical, political, international relations, and a whole host of other contexts.

egd writes:

MikeP writes:
So you think the 14,180 people murdered in the United States in 2008 represent a moral failing of government?

If I were a proponent of moral obligations, I most certainly would consider it a moral failing.

But I don't accept the idea of moral obligations. Instead, I think the US government is contractually bound by the Constitution to the issues I first raised above. Enforcement is based on the collective will of the people.

To answer Bryan's hypotheticals: the government can do whatever it can get away with.

MikeP writes:

Instead, I think the US government is contractually bound by the Constitution to the issues I first raised above.

Then I'd again ask why not include the 9th. That is the single most important amendment with regard to the relationship between the federal government and the individual. The 10th is in no way implicated by the 9th as it mediates the relationship between the federal government and the state governments.

To answer Bryan's hypotheticals: the government can do whatever it can get away with.

Wonderful.

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