Bryan Caplan  

Foreigner Day

Extracting Information from Re... We Are Lucky...
Robin Hanson proposed a Capital Day to complement Labor Day. In that spirit, I suggest a Foreigner Day to complement the world's ubiquitous National Days and Independence Days.  Here's how Robin explains the point of Capital Day:
[J]ust as on Labor Day we may pause to notice the busboy who would usually escape our notice, today let us notice the capital around us, without which we would be impoverished and uncivilized.   Let us also wonder if we take capital too much for granted.  Do we neglect the ways in which we may discourage its creation or maintenance?
Similarly, just as on National Days you take the time to appreciate your nation's virtues and accomplishments, the point of Foreigner Day is to appreciate other nations' virtues and accomplishments.  What can we learn from foreigners?  In what ways should we emulate foreigners?  Is it possible that we take foreigners for granted - or even mistreat them

Foreigner Day is not about self-hatred, but the quest for self-improvement.  Suppose your country is the best on Earth.  It would still be miraculous if your country were the best in every respect.  So why not examine the planet in all its variety and see how yours can improve?  And needless to say, half the world's countries are, by definition, worse than most countries on Earth.  Foreigner Day, for them, is a time to humbly look beyond their borders for solutions their own culture has failed to originate.

Foreigner Day is a simultaneously a celebration of both multiculturalism and Western civilization.  Like multiculturalism, it takes seriously the fact that almost every culture has something of value to share with the world.  But it also embraces Western civilization at its best: Universalism, or, as I call it, openness to awesomeness.

Robin suggests celebrating Capital Day half a year away from Labor Day.  In the absence of a better idea, I suggest celebrating Foreigner Day every January 4th, half a year away from the 4th of July.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (11 to date)
Hana writes:

Hmm. As an immigrant to the US, something about 'Foreigner Day' doesn't sound very uplifting to me. I am not a marketing/PR person, but I would think focus groups would want a more uplifting, universal term. I remember, "I'd like to teach the world to sing", which felt at the time uplifting, today probably schmaltzy. Head over to the GMU marketing department for an assist.

Rich Berger writes:

Maybe the Moslem countries could have an Infidel's Day when the celebrate Judaism and Christianity among others.

Daublin writes:

I like "Foreigner Day". It's meaning is obvious, and the word foreigner suggests we focus on what we might learn from people who are feeling out of place.

I don't think immigrants are foreigners. Immigrants are Americans.

JK Brown writes:

Wouldn't 'Foreigner Day' lead to cultural appropriation? Isn't that supposedly a bad thing, at least for Western Civilization?

But it is a good idea as long as it was a day to notice, not just celebrate diversity.

blink writes:

You seem to have timed your proposal to maximally test our (your readers') attention spans. But perhaps that provides time to improve the PR as Hana notes is needed.

CC writes:

Bryan, you might be the absolute last person who should ever run for office. [And I think that's a huge compliment!]

Sam writes:

How about a day to celebrate the Lacanian Other?

In all seriousness, I love the idea of both Capital Day and Foreigner Day, though I concur the name needs work. Unfortunately, at this point foreigner is virtually a pejorative.

Why don't we try to co-opt Earth Day by rebranding it as less about the environment and more about the value of cosmopolitanism? The environmentalists can even keep their energy saving campaigns because it's easy to see reducing emissions in terms of reducing negative externalities on other nations who we tend to exclude from our CBAs.

Michael Crone writes:
And needless to say, half the world's countries are, by definition, worse than most countries on Earth.

Worse by what metric?

If countries are shaped by the values of their citizens, then most countries would be better than the median by their own values.

Even if one believes in objective moral truth (as I do), then one must believe this truth is or can be translated to a single dimension (which I don't believe) to rank the countries "best" to "worst".

I think you had it right before this sentence, there are always aspects on which we could learn from others. In general, I like Foreigner Day, or whatever it gets named.

David Ray writes:

Needless for me to say, but I can't resist, half the world's countries cannot, mathematically, be worse than most of the world's countries.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

"Foreigner Day" sounds like the day you blast "I Want To Know What Love Is" on your stereo...

Here are some existing suggestions:

December 18, designated “International Migrants Day” by the United Nations (

October 28, 2008 as National Immigrant’s Day (

May 19 "Immigrant Day" in California (

April 11, "Connecticut Immigrant Day" (

Andrew M writes:

I also want a Division of Labor Day!

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