Arash Abizadeh on “The Special-Obligations Challenge to More Open Borders” Feb 5, 2016

Arash Abizadeh on “The Special-Obligations Challenge to More Open Borders” Feb 5, 2016


– Welcome everyone. Good to see you, thanks for coming to our second Legal Philosophy
seminar of the term. I’m very pleased to have with us Professor Arash Abizadeh, from McGill University. Professor Abizadeh is
an associate professor in the Department of
Political Science at McGill, but also an affiliated member of the Department of Philosophy there. He’s got graduate degrees, an MPhil from Oxford University and a Doctorate from Harvard in the Department of Government. I also learned that he won a dissertation prize for the best dissertation in Political Philosophy, which is a nice honor for your PhD. His research interest, so
as a political theorist, his research focuses on
questions of democratic theory, history of political philosophy, contemporary political theory, nationalism, and discourse ethics. He’s published several articles in each of these areas, as well as others,
including cosmopolitanism, immigration, identity,
political legitimacy, and today’s topic, borders. I also learned he’s currently working on two book manuscripts on Hobbes, one on Insight and the Will, and the other on Hobbes’
view of Normativity. So we’re very pleased to have Professor Abizadeh with us today. He’s going to present a paper on The Special Obligations
Challenge to Open Borders. So as usual, we’ll have Professor Abizadeh give about a 35 to 40 minute presentation. And we have plenty of time
for questions and discussion with the audience, so welcome. – Thank you very much,
thank you for having me and I’m very pleased to be here. Thank you for coming. One of the most powerful arguments for more open borders,
and I’m talking about political borders, the
borders of the state, appeals to a notion of justice. It’s widely believed that justice requires treating all persons as equals. This doesn’t necessarily
mean that one needs to show equal concern for all persons. Justice, understood in this
sense of treating people as equals, is compatible
with special obligations that one might have to ones near and dear. But it does require treating
others with equal respect. And so, the question is, what is required to treat other persons as equals when you’re exercising
political power over them? That’s sort of the starting motiviation behind this presentation
and that will set up the problem that I wanna deal with. So, what’s required when you treat all persons as equals, when you exercise political power, which obviously also includes coercive political power over them? I wanna start out with the assumption that it requires respecting
two negative constraints. First is, if you’re exercising
political power over persons, don’t use it to systematically
prevent them from pursuing opportunities to
meet their very basic needs. So that’s one way in which you ensure that you’re treating them as equals, is by not violating that constraint. And the second is,
don’t use it to entrench structurally significant
sources of material, inequality amongst persons. So you can think of this as, these two constraints of justice, understood as treating persons as equals, or at least including that, and implying these two constraints for the exercise of political power over persons. And you can see how this can have a, this can produce a kind
of a justice argument for more open borders, because migration between states is one of the most promising ways that people from impoverished countries have to… escape from that poverty and to meet very basic needs, it’s
also one of the most promising ways that they have to improve their relative material standing. So, there’s empirical
research on this that shows how promising
that is for individuals. And so it appears, if you
accept this conception of treatment of persons as equals and the constraints that
it plays on exercising state political power over individuals, then it gives you a pro tanto moral duty in our world at least
for more open borders. This is a world that’s characterized by tremendous levels of poverty and material inequality
at the global level. At least more open borders on the part of wealthy developed states, with respect to migrants from poorer states. Right so, and of course this, if you think about the
first constraint that I mentioned, it’s very
relevant for, sort of, contemporary issues that
are in the media now because of the… tremendous salience of the
issue of forced migration, asylum seekers who are pursuing very basic human needs, security for
example, escape from war zones. So, if this is a kind
of pro tanto argument, what I’m interested here,
in this presentation and the paper that it’s
based on, is a reply to the justice argument
for more open borders, that appeals and tries to refute it, that takes its premises for granted. So there’s a kind of a
common commitment here to a notion of justice, but nevertheless, the argument here, and
this is what I’m calling the special obligations challenge to more open borders, on this view the pro tanto duty is overcome. Even though, right, so
it’s not a rejection of this conception of justice but it is, accepts its basic terms
but nevertheless there’s an argument here that appeals
to special obligations, that’s capable of overcoming
this pro tanto duty. How does it work? Well, first of all the
argument is that there are special obligations amongst compatriots to protect the most disadvantaged members of their political community, their most disadvantaged compatriots. In other words, that we have a duty to show our compatriots,
who are particularly disadvantaged in our political community, a special concern, and in fact, right? It’s a concern that we need
to show for their welfare that is greater than any
concern that we might have for the global poor or otherwise needy, who in fact might be more
needy than our compatriots. And so, that’s a kind
of a normative premise about the existence of these compatriotic special obligations. And the second point is that if migration of certain kinds of people harms this domestic poor to whom we owe these special obligations, then
we have an obligation to close borders, even
if the migrants to whom we are closing them are worse
off than the domestic poor to whom we owe these special obligations. So that’s the, if you see, the normative kind of argument in the normative premises of the special obligations
challenge to more open borders. And then, the argument
here is that you appeal to an empirical premise that, for example, migration by low skilled
workers from abroad, as a matter of empirical
fact, it might be claimed, harms the domestic poor, and one mechanism by which it might do so is by depressing wages at the low end of the pay scale in the domestic economy. So what I’m gonna do here is I’m gonna take for granted the empirical premise, though I have a lot of
doubts about it, in fact, some co-authors and I have tried to, we’ve published on this and tried to show that as a matter of empirical fact, low skilled migration, by and large, has little to no impact on wages of low skilled workers in wealthy countries, North America and in Europe. Except for on the wages of previous cohorts of migrants, there’s an argument for
why this is the case, so that’s an interesting empirical fact. But what I’m gonna do is,
I’m gonna take for granted the empirical premise,
I’m gonna take for granted that there are special
obligations that we may have that are compatible with
the requirements of justice. And I wanna argue that even if it is true, that low skilled migration
from impoverished regions of the world to wealthy polities would harm the domestic
poor, relatively speaking, I wanna argue that nevertheless
the special obligations challenge does not succeed to overcoming the justice
argument for more open borders. And in particular, I wanna challenge the normative premise
that special obligations that we have to our fellow compatriots, somehow overcomes this pro tanto duty that we have in the use, of course,
of exercise of political power over non-citizens. And I’m gonna do this by asking what the grounds would be for
compatriotic special obligations. On the assumption that there is such special obligations, the question is, where do they come from,
what kinds of relationships would one think would ground these? And I think in the
literature we can find three different kinds of
arguments for why we have special obligations to
our fellow citizens. The first emphasizes, the
first kind of arguments, set of arguments, they
emphasize social relationships. The second emphasize civic features of citizenship, the institution
of citizenship itself. And the third emphasizes
a kind of political relationship of joint responsibility for the exercise of political power. So, social, civic and political, and I’ll take these in order. So one kind, one set of
arguments that appeals to social relationships,
a good example of this is the idea that, well,
look, people who share a political society, they participate in a territorially bounded,
mutually beneficial, scheme of social cooperation, which grounds special duties of reciprocity to each other,
and that in turn is grounded in some kind of principle of fair play. So those of you that are
familiar with, kind of, Rosen arguments about fair play within the context of a scheme of social cooperation, should see what the
motivation behind that is. Now, one thing that you
should notice about this, is that actually, if it’s
the case that participation in a scheme of mutual cooperation, mutually beneficial social cooperation, grounds special obligations
amongst the participants, that those participants
don’t actually coincide with citizens, rather they
coincide with the residents. If you think about it as
territorially bound, why? Because residents, even
if they’re not citizens, nevertheless can
contribute to the economy. They can work and so
on normally, in most of the states that we’re talking
about, this is quite possible. So, we kind of have to expand the notion of compatriot here to include long-term residents at the very least. And I wanna say that it’s true, I think, that if we conceive of a political society in these terms as a scheme
of social cooperation, that this would ground special obligations to compatriots, understood
in this extended sense. But we need to distinguish between two different kinds of
special obligations. Special obligations that add to our pre-existing duties, to
sacrifice our own self interest for the sake of others for
example, that add to that, so think of these as additional
concern that we have to show to those with whom we are engaged in schemes of social cooperation. As opposed to, special obligations that we have that justify prioritizing some people over others. In other words, sacrificing… the interests of others in
order to be able to prioritize those to whom we have special obligations. And what I wanna argue
is that, the fact that we engage in a mutually beneficial scheme of social cooperation with associates, does not free of us
from the general duties that we have to the non-participants. What it does is, it adds to
the obligations that we have, pre-existing, general duties that we have. It adds to that by giving us these special obligations to those who participate,
but it doesn’t allow us. It doesn’t give us a moral
liberty, if you like, to discharge our special responsibilities to our co-participants by shirking our general duties to non-participants. And that’s the, so it kind of gives you additional concerns
but it doesn’t give you a prioritizing to the detriment of those general duties
that you have to others. Now, a different kind of argument that also emphasizes social relationships, would be a kind of equal stakes view. The idea here is that, while you have special obligations to those people who have a roughly equal stake in the political society’s well-being. So that, again, you think citizens and perhaps long-term residents have a kind of roughly equal stake. And perhaps that’s the relationship that grounds these special obligations. And what I wanna say about this kind of argument is that… if equal stakes, if the fact that this group of individuals
have roughly equal stakes in a political society, is itself a function of their status as citizens or long-term residents of the political society, then you can’t cite the fact of equal stakes in order to justify who should be permitted to share citizenship or residence,
and so have equal stakes. In other words, it’s a bit like, so the problem here is
a bit like saying that only property holders,
pre-existing property holders should be the ones who
have a right to determine what the property rules of
the property regime are, as of course was historically said, right? I mean, that was in the history of democratic country, representative government,
that’s how it was, suffrage was restricted
by property rights. But the problem there is,
that what we’re asking for is a justification for who
it is that will be permitted to have equal stakes in
the political society, not a description of who has equal stakes in the society. So there’s a kind of a problem of taking a description of who has equal stakes for the justification
for who should have it. So, what we’re looking
for is a justification. So those are different kinds
of social relationships that are sometimes
identified, and these are some of the problems that are
in the paper ARU they have. There’s a few others but
I’ll skip over these and move to the civic relationship of citizenship itself as the ground for special obligations. In particular, joint participation in the common political life of a political society. So, you get one variant of
this kind of an argument, in Nagel’s well-known
article about global justice, where he argues that there are these special obligations amongst and towards those who are the putative, what he calls, joint authors of the coarsely imposed system of laws, in whose name the institutions act through the active engagement of their will. So this idea of acting in their name, the active engagement to the will of those whose lives it regulates,
who are therefore understood to be the
joint authors of the laws. Perhaps these joint authors then enjoy special, well, they
have special obligations towards each other that
could ground the… special obligations challenge to more open borders. And what I wanna do is distinguish between two different interpretations
of this Nagelian argument, one is an active interpretation, this isn’t Nagel’s own
argument, this is an argument that Stephen Macedo makes,
for example, about borders. But the idea here is that the
notion of joint authorship is understood in a
democratic or an active way, you are joint authors
of the laws in so far as the state allows, and
therefore presumes, your actual participation in the political
processes that determine the laws that regulate our common affairs. And what I wanna say here is that, if this is the ground for special obligations, that allows you then to… If this political relationship, sorry, if this political relationship
is what is supposed to be the ground for these
special obligations that are owed to precisely
those joint authors, there’s a kind of perverse result. And the perverse result
is, that it implies that a state could avoid
special obligations to individuals just simply by refusing to allow them to participate in political processes. In other words, it sort
of adds insult to injury. It says that, “We don’t
have to provide you “with any social rights,” for example, “Because we’ve already
denied you political rights.” And this of course, the problem, I mean, what’s a
historical example of this? Colonialism, let’s say, right? So you have a colonial
power, and somebody says, “Well look, you know you really should be, “you have these special
obligations to those “over whom you’re
exercising political power,” and the colonial power says, “No, “we only owe these special
obligations to those people “who we’ve already allowed
to engage politically.” And so you might think, well, this is just adding insult to injury, right? It says, “Well, we’ve done one wrong, “and that’s just defining a second wrong.” So there’s a kind of a perversity
I think to this problem. Nagel himself addresses the case of colonialism and this is
in part why he adopts not an active interpretation, so he’s not vulnerable to this objection
that I’ve just leveled, he adopts a passive interpretation of what joint authorship means. So, joint authorship for him means that the state simply claims authorization from its subjects by relying on their, sort of, quasi-voluntary compliance with the laws. OK so, in the case of colonialism, he argues, the colonial
subjects are authors, in his sense of the
laws, in so far as they are expected to comply
by the state itself, they expect, they claim a right to rule and therefore an obligation on the part of the colonial subjects to obey the laws. But he says, “Notice that
this is not the case,” he argues, “With migrants,” he says that, “States do not claim to
impose duties on migrants, “they just enforce their
laws against them,” OK? So, there’s no claim of a right to rule, there’s no claim of
authority understood in this robust sense, and so that
political relationship is lacking, and so there’s no political, there’s no special
obligations to outsiders, but there is to insiders even
in the case where they’re deprived of active political
rights of participation. So, this kind of bypasses
the objection of perversity that one might level
against the colonial case, or not even the colonial case, by citing the colonial example as
paradigmatic of what’s perverse about the active interpretation. And so, the argument here is that in virtue of not making any claims over migrants, we don’t owe them special
obligations, we owe the special obligations
to our domestic poor, and so that ground,
those special obligations are what grounds… the right that we have to close our borders to the outsiders. And what I wanna say is that argument also is perverse, in a sort of parallel way to the active interpretation,
it’s perverse because, well, then in this case,
a state could avoid having special obligations
to individuals simply by treating them as legal non-persons, the way that you would treat a slave. So slavery, if colonialism
is a good example of the problem and perversity
of the active interpretation, slavery is a good example of the problem with Nagel’s
own passive interpretation. In other words, right, the problem is that just by exercising sheer
coercion over individuals, you get yourself off the hook from having any special
obligations as well, right? And that’s a, I think, it
take it as straightforwardly, a rather perverse result. So, let me give you a diagnosis of what’s going on here, why you get this kind of perversity in the Nagelian argument. There’s a fundamental mistake, I think, in his account, and it’s true, so there’s a kernel of truth in the account, which is that the joint exercise of political power does give rise to special obligations. So I think that’s right
about Nagel’s view. The fundamental mistake is, that those special obligations are
owed to the subjects of the exercise of political power, not to the authors of political power. So in other words, right,
yes, the joint exercise of political power gives
rise to special obligations, but it’s not owed to those who are exercising the political
power. It’s owed to those over whom the
power is being exercised. So, I take it that, I mean, in a kind of straightforward way, Nagel’s argument falls afoul of the
Spiderman principle, right? You know, “With great power,” OK. (audience laughs) So, good. So, I take it that the
civic sort of arguments that looks to citizenship as the ground for special obligations
to block the justice argument for more open borders, also fails for these reasons. But what about turning to a
directly political relationship? The joint responsibility, precisely what I was just talking about,
of exercising power. You might think that there’s
a kind of a requirement of justice to exercise power
responsibly in some way, and that doing so then,
in order to be able to exercise power responsibly, it gives rise to special obligations to those over whom you are exercising political power. Richard Miller, for
example, has argued this, and I think that by and
large, this is right. So, when… He argues in particular,
Richard Miller does, that when you exercise
political power over a set of subjects, that you must do so in a way that respects three different
principles or norms. First of all, you must
do so in away that gives each subject of the
exercise of political power, a reason to support the legal norms that you’re imposing on them willingly. OK so, one of the things that you wanna do in order to be able to say that, yes, power is being exercised in a responsible way. You might even cash this out as a, kind of, requirement of justice. That you have to do so in a way that gives each person, each subject, a reason to support the legal norms
willingly, and then you add to that, as Miller does, that this requires showing special concern for the needs of the compatriots who are the subjects of
the power of the state, who are particularly disadvantaged, right? So, you have to show a special concern to those over whom you’re exercising political power, in order
to give them a reason to comply and support the
legal norms willingly. And the way that you
do this in the case of disadvantaged subjects, is by showing them special concern, giving special concern
to their welfare, OK? And so then you can see,
right, so that might start giving you some ground for the special obligations challenge for why it is that we have to be especially concerned
with the domestic poor. Second point that Miller makes, is that we have to compensate for a fact about the way that political power, when it is exercised, it structures a system
of social advantages and disadvantages, and
it inevitably creates some social disadvantages for some people who are subject to the regime, and so you have to compensate for that. So those that are disadvantaged, precisely because of the
way that opportunities and so on have been
structured by the exercise of political power, should be compensated. And that gives you, again,
a special obligation to the domestic poor, if you like. And third, that those who richly prosper from the joint provision
of social opportunities thanks to these political institutions, owe a special concern to
compatriots who don’t prosper. Now one thing that I
wanna make note of is, that in the first two
cases, what we have is a kind of special obligation that is owed by the, if you like, those who exercise political power, or the authors of the
exercise of political power, that is owed by them
to the domestic power. In the third instance, it’s
about those who benefit, so it’s not necessarily
those who exercise power but those who benefit from the
exercise of political power owe social, special obligations, to those compatriots who do not prosper as much as they did from the, say, scheme of mutual cooperation that was provided by the
political institutions. And so the question is, OK, does that get you a argument to restrict borders in order to protect the domestic poor? Well, the first thing that we have to do to evaluate this argument,
is to notice that interstate borders themselves, on the first principle about how you have to exercise power responsibly, in so far as interstate borders are enforced through the
exercise of political power, and it’s one of the most
significant ways in which states are exercising political power in the contemporary world,
is by regulating migration. That interstate borders must give migrants reasons to willingly comply
with regimes of border control. So that is related to the first principle, and second, that we should notice that the interstate regime of border
control is one of the ways that states create social
disadvantages and advantages, in fact, they create social
disadvantages for outsiders. In fact, one of those sort of functional, if you look at one of the purposes, both historically, about why regimes of border control have arisen, is economic, it’s in order to protect economic interests, and to protect economic interests of insiders in relation to outsiders. So it is, in a way, both in its genesis, in its function, and
in its effect, a regime that creates social disadvantages for some and advantages for others, and normally it creates social
disadvantages for outsiders. Right, so then, so what’s the upshot then? It seems as if you can’t get an argument from this political… relationship that exists among compatriots towards the kinds of special obligations that would trump, or that would outweigh, the general obligations that one has to outsiders in the way that you exercise political power over them to enforce borders, to enforce
regimes of border control. Now, one of the things
that, I just kind of wanna end, I think, this argument so far. I wanna end by saying that, one of the things that I’ve assumed in the presentation so far, which you might wanna challenge, is that I’ve assumed that where
there is a genuine conflict between special obligations, that add to our responsibilities to our near and dear, when there’s a conflict between
those special obligations, and general duties that we have to others, that the general duties
have to be satisfied before we can then go on to satisfy our special obligations that
are additive in that way. And you might say, well,
and I’ve argued that special obligations that we get from these various relationships, when they work, say within cases of reciprocity, that they give additive special obligations, they don’t allow you to prioritize in a way
that gets you off the hook from your general duties towards others. So, I’ve assumed that
you can’t fulfill these special responsibilities by
shirking your general duties, and someone might argue, well, but surely, sometimes under conditions of scarcity, we can’t fulfill both
our special obligations and our general duties, the resources that we have for discharging them are limited and we can’t, it’s not
feasible to do both. And that surely, sometimes it’s the case that our special
responsibilities must outweigh our general duties that we have, under these conditions of scarcity. And I wanna grant that, that yes, there are circumstances in which your special responsibilities
may outweigh general duties that you have, and so then
the question is, OK well, what are the circumstances
under which that might happen? And I wanna argue that
those circumstances, I don’t have a general theory
about when that happens, but I wanna give you a few considerations that speak against the application of that argument to the case of borders. So here’s some thoughts
about potential candidates for when special responsibilities
to the near and dear, might outweigh our
general duties to persons as such that you are by justice
required to treat as equals. These are when special
obligations are grounded in deep and very robust
special relationships that everyone has a reason
to value non-instrumentally. So, I think here of
intimate relationships, they’re deep in the sense
that they are intimate, they are robust in the
sense that everybody has a reason to value the
them non-instrumentally, friendship or family relationships, I think, fall under this category. So, when you have special
obligations like that, as opposed to general duties that are positive general duties,
so they require you to actually do something rather than refrain from doing something. I think in that case, you
have pretty good candidates for the possibility of
the special obligation outweighing the general duties in the case of a conflict between them. And what I wanna notice is that, the special obligations
challenge to more open borders, meets neither of these requirements. Compatriotic relationships are neither deep in the sense of being intimate, we generally do not have face to face intimate relationships with all of our fellow citizens, thank goodness. (audience laughs) And nor are they particularly
robust in the sense that not everybody has a good reason to value them and, in fact, as matter of empirical fact, not everybody does value relationships of citizenship in a non-instrumental way, right? So in fact, many people who are citizens value their citizenship
in an instrumental way. This is probably true
of a large proportion of the population of our own country, and certainly a large proportion of the province that I reside in. So, and it’s important to see that… the general duties in
question, that we are now supposed to be overcoming, are negative ones, as
I’ve characterized them, they’re not positive general duties. So it’s not the case that I’ve supposed that justice requires that we treat, that justice requires
that in treating others as equals we have to do
certain things for them. But rather that we have to refrain from exercising a course of political power over them in particular ways, right? You can’t deprive them
from the opportunities to meet their basic needs nor to entrench the structural sources of material inequality. So, to conclude then, I don’t think that the special obligations that might arise, for example, because of
relationships of reciprocity through a mutually beneficial scheme of social cooperation,
could outweigh these general duties that we have to outsiders, and so the special obligations challenge to more open borders, I think, fails. I mean, put this as a slogan, you can’t associate yourself out of the general duties that
you have to others. I’ll stop with that. – OK, thank you. (audience applauding) OK, so now let’s open
up for some questions. You’ll notice there are microphones, now, so these aren’t meant to amplify the sound, but they’re
just for the recording, so for questions, make sure
you’ve got a microphone in front of you just so we
can record your question. – Let me also just put in a plug that by coincidence,
as I was getting ready to come yesterday, I got news that the article on which this is based in, is coming out in this edited volume by Sarah Fine and Lea Ypi, it’s called Migration in Political Theory, and apparently it has just come out as of, I don’t know, a couple
of days ago or yesterday. – [Voiceover] Find at stores near you. – Yeah, oh I don’t think
they’re in bookstores yet, I have not seen a copy.
(laughter) But apparently they told me that they’ve sent it to me, and there’s some interesting contributions from a range of authors writing on normative questions on borders and migrations, so that’s a little plug
for the book (laughs). (muttering) – [Voiceover] Thanks very
much, so this is a topic that interests me sort of in a citizen kind of way, I’ve not
really thought hard about it. So I will start with a non-philosophical observation, which is that it’s a notable fact that people, it’s true that the relations to their compatriots
are not strong or deep, but they do exist and, I mean, in a way it’s bizarre
when you think about it, that people are happy
when a bunch of people who happen to be born in the same country as theirs, they’ve never met them, and won some game in some tournament that takes place thousands of miles away, and they walk happy on that day. And you say, “Why would
you be happy about this? “It has nothing to do
with your life,” right? And yet, you know what happens here when Canada beats the US in the final in the Winter Olympics in Hockey, right? So that’s an interesting observation. It’s also the case with, there’s the local patriotism of cities,
there’s the fact that if I were to meet someone who was born in the same country as me, even though I only spent
the first three years of my life in that country, I would feel some sort of, or there
would be some sense of camaraderie, it wouldn’t be deep but, now all that suggests
that there is something in human psychology about this sort of (sucks air in through teeth) group membership that is
exploited, if you want, by, if you want, political entities that may be, kind of, cynically exploited, but it’s there. And to me, that’s an observation that’s worth thinking about. The second point is also perhaps not philosophically deep
but it’s the following. So, about the first one is, sort of, what do you make of that, and is this of any relevance to a
discussion like this? Is it simply an irrational aspect of our psychology that should play no role whatsoever in political philosophy? Or maybe it is a significant one? The second one is the following, so here’s a way of putting this. Liberals like the welfare state, but hate nationalism. And it’s something that makes, and I often wonder whether they don’t realize that the former is to some extent related to the latter. Because you can sell the welfare state, and for example, the high
taxes that come with it, by generating a certain sense of we owe this to our compatriots. So, the two go together and it
will be very difficult for us to sell, if you want, the
welfare state without it. And so, the project therefore, if to succeed in that must be able to create a sense of camaraderie with the whole world, and that’s a question,
whether it’s possible. Now, here these observations become, perhaps, a question. So perhaps there is no argument for… special obligations in
the context of the state in general, but maybe an
argument could be made in the context of the
modern welfare state. And it might, and the arguments that you’re discussing there, Richard Miller, it sort of seemed to me
to go in that direction. That while you cannot make an argument for special obligations
merely by the fact that two people find themselves
in the same state, the fact of the welfare state and what it entails, creates certain obligations, both on the side of duties
and on the side of benefits, that may justify some kind of distinction. – Good, so I think I’ll
take them backwards. So first of all, I do think that there are special obligations amongst compatriots. I wasn’t trying to deny that there are, I’m trying to deny that the
kinds of special obligations that exist succeed in… getting you a justification
for closing borders, right? By overcoming this general duty that we have about how we exercise political power over people. So, I do think there
are special obligations, and exactly of the kind that you say. In virtue of, for example,
that we are engaged in a scheme of mutual cooperation and so on, yes, we have special
obligations to each other, and that’s part of the
normative justification for some of the welfare
schemes that we have and so on. So, I don’t wanna deny that, what I wanna say is that, in so far as there are these special
obligations that we do have to take care of the domestic poor, it can’t be done by shirking our responsibilities in
how we treat outsiders. It has to be done perhaps,
for example, by having a greater redistribution
internally, for example. Or by adopting policies that mitigates some of the structural sources of inequality domestically, or you know what? I mean, there’s a whole set
of options that are available domestically, I think,
that we have not exhausted. Maybe at a certain point,
you get to a point where there’s a genuine
conflict, there’s no other, sort of, options available domestically, but I think that we’re very,
very far from that point. That’s why I’ve said “more open,” I’m not sure how open it will be, but certainly a lot more open
than those that we see now, I think, would be
justified by the appeal to the justice requirements
that I’m pointing to. Now, you might come
and say, well yes, but, and just to kind of go
backwards to your question, yes, but part of what enables, domestically speaking,
given political realities, the development of redistributive policies in a political
community, is a shared sense of identification amongst citizens. And that this is a very
important psychology fact that has to be drawn on in order to mobilize support for
redistribution policies. This is an empirical debate
in the social sciences, I’m more sympathetic to,
sort of, the reverse view about this empirically
speaking, but I mean, it’s– – [Voiceover] What is, I mean,
just what’s the reverse view? – Right, it’s that it puts
the cart before the horse. So, actually I think
there’s a lot of evidence that shows that actually sentiments of social solidarity arise thanks to political institutions that
show concern in this way. I mean, think about the current, I mean, Alberta is an
interesting situation right now, I guess we’ll see, where there’s a kind of a psychological disconnect
in Alberta right now, where all of a sudden they
feel like, “Oh my gosh, “are we turning into, do we
need to ask for hand-outs?” (laughter)
This is all over the Alberta newspapers right now, it’s
like, “Are we asking for “hand-outs, is this what the
Trudeau trip is all about?” And so, what’s interesting
about it is that you get this rhetoric of… national solidarity that supposedly is supposed to be the grounds for thinking about redistribution in, say, equalization payments. But in fact, what’s interesting about what’s going on right
now, it shows the way in which the existence
of these institutions is, in a way, productive of these kinds of sentiments of solidarity, “Oh
right, yeah right, this is, “we can count on these institutions, “and boy do I feel good
about these institutions.” I mean, there’s a kind of a
reverse causal process there. But that’s an empirical debate. Let me address the normative issue about identification more directly. And so you say, yes, isn’t
there a phenomenon here? About, we… cheer for, we feel great about the success of our team, the team of our country and so on. Isn’t that an important psychological fact, is it irrational? So no, I don’t wanna make any argument about it being irrational. And a sense of identification
may very well ground special obligations,
that might be the case. But what I wanna say is that special… identification with fellow citizens does not get you off the
hook from your general duties to those with whom you don’t identify. So even, think about
it, even this is true, even in the case of the
intimate sphere, where I think the notion of special
obligations is clearest, right? So, think about the special
obligations that I have as a father to my daughter,
for example, right? If it turned out that I
was the kind of father who could really care less about my kids, and so if I was kind of
making a decision about, will I take this decision that will have an impact on these kids, and one of them happened to be my kids
and the other’s kids, I don’t really care that much about my own kids, maybe I’m gonna favor these other kids because I like them more. This, I think, would be a, kind of, diagnosis of what is wrong with me, not a justification for me then favoring these other kids, right? So the normative, I
think the point is that this kind of identification,
when it comes to these special obligations, it
gives you kind of empirical, one of the roles that it has to play is perhaps grounding special obligations, that’s a normative role,
but not the kind of special obligation that gets you off the hook from treating others. And also, that there are obligations that we have. Well, let me put it this way, our lack of identification with outsiders, is not an excuse for… Is not an excuse for not living up to our general obligations towards them. So I gave you a slightly
different example, because I was giving you an example of lack of identification with those to whom you have a special obligation. It’s the relationship of parenthood that grounds the special
obligation, not my sense of identification, if I’m
missing it, that’s pathological. And in the same case
towards other persons, if I’m missing the relevant obligation, it’s not the relevant identification, it’s not the identification
that grounds it, that might motivate
it, but what grounds it is the relationship of
personhood that we have to others and the requirement of treating them as equals, as equal persons. – [Voiceover] Can I?
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] So I think,
maybe our difference is perhaps even non-existent because I accepted pretty much
everything that you just said. Where I try to kind of say why the welfare state makes a
difference is because when, and that may not exactly be true as well, because there’s distinctions between what you get when you
just enter the country whereas what you get as a citizen. But the thought might be that, because… entering into a country entails often, in the welfare state, more benefits, then they’re more… Then it’s a… Letting someone in goes
well beyond the obligations that we have outside
of special obligations, and that’s something that, and so, if you want, so if we
always have the obligation to go and run and save
the baby who is drowning in the pool, in a Peter Singer example… If I try to kind of
continue with this analogy, then in the welfare state, it’s not just saving the boy, it’s
also then, afterwards, paying him all the way up to university. Not a perfect analogy,
but that’s the thought. Now, one response that
you may have to me is, which you kind of did say, is we have a lot more to go before we end up, and that’s, in a way, also an empirical question, and I tend to think that
you’re actually right. But then the difference is, the entire, your argument can, in a way, be made by the sense
of, by letting people in we are doing something, like
saving the drowning baby, and is, do you, would you agree to that? – There’s something to that argument. So that’s focusing on the
first, right, so remember there’s these two parts to
the justice argument, right? There’s the poverty and then there’s the inequality arguments,
that’s focusing on the poverty argument, and there’s something to putting it that way. I think that part of
the issue that I think your point highlights, is
that we are talking about a general global context,
in which migration is one way in which
somebody’s opportunities of escaping poverty might be alleviated. Perhaps there’s other empirical
ways that could be done, but aren’t, right? So maybe one way is that you would have massive transfers of wealth, right? So that’s not happening globally. But the fact that that’s not happening doesn’t then mean that, “OK well, “we can do this other thing too,” right? So what we have is that
we have a global situation in which there are general
duties that we have to people in virtue of being persons, treating them as equals. Maybe those include positive duties, OK? So there may be positive
duties of aid that is required to redress dire poverty and various, that might be true. But my point is that, the fact that… Let’s assume that it’s
true for the moment that we have these general positive
duties to help others, the drowning people of somewhere else, OK? And let’s say that we’re
not fulfilling these duties. That doesn’t then give us a reason to now violate a negative constraint as well, to prevent them from coming
to places where, you know? So, oh they got themselves
out of the pool, they need to find some,
they just need to walk, they’ve kind of gotten out,
they’re on the bank, and now they need to walk on the ground, right? So now we’re not gonna let
them walk on the ground, right? It’s not that we’re
saving them, we’re like (laughs) pushing them back in, right? So, we can’t do that,
in virtue of not having saved them, we can’t sort
of, keep them from, right. So that’s a point, now let’s assume that there aren’t these general positive duties that require us to save the babies. I guess what I wanna say, that even if we didn’t have a duty to go and save them, we do have a (laughs) negative duty not to stop them when they’re crawling out, is another way to put it.
– [Voiceover] Thank you very much.
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] If I’ve understood you, you’ve given the general account of how you say states ought to behave. But I’m just thinking
here, I don’t travel much, I don’t know of any
states that currently do behave that way, I
wonder if you could list a few and give some more detail about how it’s been working out for them? – No, I don’t think any states have been acting this way, that’s right, yeah. That’s an empirical observation, yes. But, I mean… that’s the point of normative principles, is to not describe what people are doing but to hold them to standards and to criticize and to point to ways in which you can reform
political institutions in order to live up to normative principles. There is something to be
said for a description, which is to describe
the norms that states, the norms that are implicit
to the political institutions that states themselves claim to abide by. So I think by and large, the two premises that I cited in the first place are… normative principles that you could attribute to these states, and just say you’re not living up to them. So many people think of
liberal democratic states as states that are
committed to the treatment of all persons as equals in some sense. And so that’s why the
special obligations challenge is so important, it’s because it allows, if it succeeds, it allows you to say, “Yeah, we’re living up to these principles “that we uphold as
liberal democratic states, “and that justify the regimes of “border control that we actually have.” Yeah. Can I just say one other (audio drops out) asking an empirical question so how, I guess if I reform, yeah? – [Voiceover] Basically I
just have a statistical view of what normativity is (laughs). – Oh right, yeah, well that’s a different sense of normativity, yeah. So one sense of
normativity is descriptive, which is, these are the rules that a social scientist can observe that people are following in
their social interactions. That’s from a third person perspective, describing social reality,
I’m using the term normative here from a first
person perspective of, what are the rules that
you and I can justify to each other if we’re having
an argument internally? So from an internal
perspective, not an external third person observant perspective. But I mean, there is an
empirical question that, it might be implicit to,
sort of, what you’re asking, which is, what would be the empirical consequences
if states lived up to these kinds of norms? And so there’s various arguments, and someone might say,
“Well, this would lead to the “collapse of the economy,
or it would lead, “if you had more open borders,
it’ll lead to the collapse “of the welfare state,” and so on. So those are empirical
arguments that by and large I reject, though that’s
not the topic of the paper. I think the fears of collapse are largely exaggerated. – [Voiceover] Stephan, again. – [Voiceover] Thanks for that. So, I haven’t thought much about these issues, although
they seem really important. So, one thing I wanted to do was get clear on your thesis, so one argument would be that special obligations do not justify the border controls that we have anywhere like what we’ve got now. Another one would be
that special obligations wouldn’t justify very
significant border controls, even though they’re far more permissive than the ones that we have now. Is… Which of those, sorry, maybe a more pointed way to put it,
would your argument be that there is no special obligation that would justify… border controls of any sort? – No, I wouldn’t make
the argument that far, I think that it’s
conceivable that there are special obligations that would justify some level of border controls. But I think the argument, so to justify all things considered. And so, but the all things considered, I think, will have to take into account a whole set of other empirical questions about what the effects
of various levels of border control would be on, say, the domestic economy, the capacity for the welfare state
internally, the capacity of absorption and integration and so on. And all sorts of empirical
questions have to be on the table if what we’re looking for is an all things considered view. So special obligations
could play some role. The problem is that it’s not, I can’t… right now, say what role
I think it would play. Once we get to the point
where it could play a role, which is far from where
we are now, because the empirical questions are, in a way, it’s difficult to pre-judge those questions since we’re so far away
from those circumstances. So, it seems to me that
all that we need right now is to make an argument
that special obligations do not justify the levels of border control that we have now, and that the argument as it stands, justifies much more open borders. I don’t know how it will play
out, all things considered, once we get to… – [Voiceover] Yeah.
– [Arash] Greater levels of openness, yeah.
– [Voiceover] Right. – [Voiceover] (mumbles) I’m taking a, my apologies, I should explain this, I’m taking a queue, so
if you’ve got a question just signal, I’ll mark
you down on the queue, so we’ve got Jorge, then
Will, and then here. – [Voiceover] Thank you for the talk. I wanted to push a little bit forward the argument on the scarcity. And just, I know the empirical claims here might not suffice but let’s go with the case of Haiti… I said, I apologize, “Haiti”? OK, sorry, with Haiti. And I have nothing against immigrants as you might tell (laughs). In this case, you had a lot of people from this country, after the devastation of the earthquake and natural disasters, going to countries such as South America, where they don’t usually reject people. But in this case, they were rejected. The same thing happened with many African immigrants that were coming to South America. And the argument that was given is, “We barely have enough
for our own people.” So I can understand this argument working in the first world, but how can this, how can you make a claim of this sort of, special obligations do not prevent you from respecting your general obligations in this scenario where you actually have a case where you don’t
have enough resources to fulfill the special ones? That will be my concern. I agree, many, many of the things I heard in the talk, it’s
like, yes, I think that open borders should be the case, the rule. But I can understand this
argument in this other context. – [Arash] Yes,
– [Voiceover] Thank you. – [Arash] So I… haven’t thought enough about the cases of non-wealthy countries that are relatively better off than
even poorer countries. And so I’m not really sure how the argument would play
out in those cases. And that’s partly why
I’ve restricted it to, and part of the reason is, especially for the second aspect of the argument, which has to do with inequality, I think the context of
inequality has to be global. So there’s a kind of, so in a way, I could see the special
obligations argument in the case of these
more mid-range countries that you’re describing, doing work against the second leg of the justice argument, the inequality argument, right? Because you might argue that these states’ regimes of border control are not entrenching the
structural conditions of material inequality
in the global context, it’s rather the wealthier
countries that are doing that through their
regimes of border control. So that in a way, I think, the
special obligations argument, I think, can work against the second leg. Whether it works against the first leg of the argument, the poverty argument, or the, sort of, very
basic needs argument, I’m a little bit skeptical
about, but I don’t have a, sort of, considered view about it. I’m skeptical about it because again, I take it that what you’re describing is societies that, by assumption, let’s say that you’re describing a society that does have the internal capacity to meet the very basic
needs of its own population, and that it can do more, let’s say, in that case, and that the potential migrants, their very basic needs are at stake, in that case, then I think that… maybe the special obligations
argument will not go through. So but, I sort of put
a question mark on it. – [Voiceover] It sounds like my question’s already been asked by
Jorge, I was (laughs), that’s the thing about getting at the end of the queue, you get preempted. I was gonna suggest that your argument as you presented it, presupposes that the… general obligation is a negative one. Saying you can’t prevent
people, but I was just gonna make the suggestion that by fulfilling that obligation,
then you bring people into the country, and then automatically you’ve got a whole raft
full of positive duties. So, I’m not sure you can actually separate the positive and the negative
ones in the same way. Because you are, by
fulfilling the negative duty, automatically committing
yourself to a whole range of different positive
duties, and if the situation is as Jorge describes,
then you’ve got difficulty. – It’s true, well, I
think there’s a problem with the word “automatic,”
so it’s not a… It’s causally downstream, so it’s, there’s a kind of a causal process that intervenes in-between these two moments. So, there’s the moment of,
do you let somebody in? And then there’s a set
of physical facts that have to intervene between them being permitted juridically to enter, and physically to enter,
and then acquiring these new, say, social rights in virtue of being present, and various
kinds of civil rights, right? Like now the police will
have to protect them from murder, that’s another
thing that happens, right? – [Voiceover] All kinds. – All kinds of other things, so the automaticness, what I wanna say about the automaticness is that it is not constitutive of the act of not coercing people that that’s what happens, right? It’s true that the way
that we’ve set the state up is such that if they enter
the state, now the state has an obligation, even
as a visitor, right? If someone, a tourist,
enters into a country, the state has an
obligation to protect them from random killings and so on, right? So there’s a whole set of,
and the police has to be deployed, and there’s
resources to make that happen. So, I guess what I’m
trying to say is that… I think to fully work out the argument to that kind of a challenge,
I would have to give you a much more nuanced account
of what “entry” means. – [Voiceover] Yeah.
– [Arash] Right so, there’s sort of physical entry, and then there’s the status of resident
that gives you these other rights, and so on. And so then, I think there’s some… There’s some complications that occur in the argument there,
it’s because in virtue of physically having entered the country, now what kinds of obligations
do the state have? Does it have an obligation
to let you stay, give you residency, why? And so on, so, but yeah, I can see. I think Michael Blake has made an argument that is along the lines that I think you’re pressing against, that he suggests that the problem is that precisely in virtue of entering into a political community, that a migrant now imposes new obligations on compatriots. And so, those compatriots have a kind of a right to deny them the opportunity to impose those obligations on them. And I think that’s a mistake in view about how to characterize it,
because what I’m talking about is general obligations that are already obtained. And so, it’s not in virtue
of entering into the state that we have an obligation, for example, to ensure that people, so this is invoking the positive obligations,
once we’re talking about welfare state issues, then
we have to think about, OK, what kind of general duties
do we have to foreigners? And I think that they do
include the saving the baby sort of story that you were putting in. But that might weaken the rhetorical force of the argument, because
all I’m doing here is appealing to this negative constraint. And I think that’s what you’re, so I guess you were saying, “Isn’t there a behind
these negative constraints? “Isn’t there a, sort of, positive duties “that have to be doing some work as well?” – [Voiceover] Yeah.
– [Arash] Yeah. I’ll have to think about that more, I think that’s a good point. – [Voiceover] OK. – [Voiceover] So I’m
curious about your thoughts about the evolving situation in Europe. The large migration and the
speed that it’s happening, and the impact that it’s having on, well at least allegedly
having on the existing social order in some of these countries. I’m thinking about Germany
and the situation in Cologne. How does that situation sort of factor into your analysis about special duties versus general duties? – Right, so the state doesn’t just have special obligations to its, the special obligations challenge focuses on the special
concern that we need to show for the domestic poor, right? But the state also has obligations to those who are on its territory, say, public order obligations, to maintain public order within its own territory. And so there’s a kind of
a public order argument that you can make that
would justify restrictions, border restrictions, if it’s the case that a certain regime of border control would lead to public
disorder and the incapacity of the state to maintain basic… civil rights of individuals, for example, that would be an argument
for restricting borders. But these turn on various kinds of empirical complications, so there may be domestic actors that as a result of, so put it this way, it might be the case that one of the intervening causes, and necessary intervening causes for
why there’s disorder in a state is that you have various xenophobic groups who don’t like migrants and so they start attacking them, right? So now you have a public order problem. So the question is, whether the normative requirements that the state is under, and those citizens, are conditional on the violation of moral principles that people
should not be violating. So in a way, can racists
hold the state hostage, is another way to put
this question, right? So there’s a kind of a, do
the normative principles that count for evaluating
what the state should do depend on, are they sort of
comprehensive, as Jerry Cohen might have put it, are
they sort of comprehensive, do you have to take into
account, do you have to give a kind of comprehensive
theory, or should it be conditional on what, on taking for granted certain violations that will occur, right? And so there’s a–
– [Voiceover] So I’m thinking more fundamentally.
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] From public order, like the size or the speed of the migration could impact the values, right? And the social order.
– [Arash] Yes. – [Voiceover] And begin
to reorganize that. – [Arash] Yes.
– [Voiceover] And is that something that is of interest to the citizens of that country and how should we account for that? – Yes, so in so far as there’s a, in so far as just sheer numbers, and perhaps cultural difference
and integration, right? Integration problems, problems of integrating people into a new society. In so far as those are the primary reasons why there’s a public order
problem, then as I said, I think that that gives
you a straightforward justification for restricting borders. Empirically whether… Empirically whether
that’s the case or not, is a different question, because I think there are these other factors at play in the European cases that you’re citing. So there’s a public order issue, I think you’re also kind of pointing to, not just public order,
but perhaps a change in the culture of the
whole society that will inevitably be affected in
virtue of large amounts of migration, and change in norms and so on, and that sort of thing. And I guess what I would say to that is there are a few considerations. One is that it depends on how… Right, it depends on whether there is an operative principle of
cultural preservation or not. And that gets into a very complicated argument about what are the conditions under which a people has a right to defend its culture in the face of potential submersion by outsiders? And so that’s a feasible argument and, I mean, generally what we can think of is very small populations… that would be submerged
by large populations, so I mean, this is the strat. But empirically in human history, this has basically only occurred under colonial conditions. Where a culture has been wiped out, where you have, because of migration, a culture has been submerged in this way, has occurred under colonial conditions. It has not occurred under conditions of open borders that were not colonial. That’s historically how it’s happened. (person muttering) – [Voiceover] This
might be slightly unfair because you only mentioned
at the very beginning, you wanted us to take
for granted this argument that an influx of refugees would harm the poorest in a nation,
you say that’s kind of empirically dubious, and
I think you’re right. I don’t think I’ve ever been
convinced by that argument. And then you said something like, “Actually if you look
at it, the people harmed “by an influx of refugees
were the past refugees,” did you say something like that? – So what, the empirical evidence that I’m looking at, what it shows, it’s not necessarily refugees, it’s just low-skilled workers,
low-skilled migrant workers. What happens through this one mechanism that I’m talking about which is through… depression of wages at the
low end of the pay scale. What happens is that, so I mean, you can think theoretically, the mechanism that’s supposed to be in
place, fairly straightforward. So let’s say that you
have a certain number of jobs that are available
in the labor market at the low end of the
pay scale, and you have a certain number of,
fixed number of workers. And then what happens
is you add a whole bunch of other workers to that labor market, well then the price would
go down on a sort of neoclassical economic theory, right? So, that’s the mechanism
that’s supposed to, wage competition is supposed to depress wages at the low end. And so empirically what’s
interesting, what happens is that actually migrant workers who are low skilled workers, do not compete for the same jobs as native born
workers who are low skilled. Because the skills that they have, even though they’re low
skilled workers, are different than the skills that
native born workers have. So a lot of these have to do with communication for example, they don’t have the language skills
for example, they don’t have the same social
network, whatever, right? So they’re not substitutable
for each other, but they are substitutable
for prior migrants. – [Voiceover] Right.
– [Arash] And so they have the same kinds of skills
as prior migrants, so what you get is you have, let’s say, citizens who themselves
were immigrants, right? Who are low skilled, they will tend to be competing for the same jobs as. ongoing migrants who are low skilled And so what empirically
what you do see is, you see the evidence of
wages going down for them. So then there’s a kind of a question, OK, well what about these
citizens who are being harmed, right?
– [Voiceover] Right, yeah. I was gonna say does the state, by then taking in, let’s just say, Ontario commits itself to taking in 15,000 Syrian refugees and we get them in and we successfully integrate them, and they start working and stuff. At what point does Ontario have to say, “We can’t really take
anymore because we don’t want “to further harm the 15,000
we’ve already taken in”? – [Arash] Right.
– [Voiceover] So that, yeah. – [Arash] So what, I mean,
so that’s a different argument than this one and what I– – [Voiceover] Yeah, that’s why I said– – So what I, again, but a lot of the same considerations, I think,
apply here in this case too. So the special obligations
that you have to them, don’t get you off the
hook to the general duties that you have to potential migrants. And furthermore, I think that there’s a good way of construing those former migrants themselves as having special obligations to
potential future migrants. So obligate them to sort
of, even if the state did have kind of an obligation to them to close borders, then
they have an obligation to discharge the state from that. I think that’s how it would work. And the way that I characterize this is as a kind of a reciprocity. It’s not a standard form of reciprocity where you benefit those who have
previously benefited you, which is kind of how
reciprocity normally works, but it’s a kind of
reciprocity that is invoked sometimes in the literature
on inter-generational justice. So we have a kind of
of duty of reciprocity to future generations to
leave the earth as good as the previous
generations left it for us, it’s a kind of reciprocity
but it’s not towards the same people who benefited us, and so. – [Voiceover] Stephan do you
have a follow-up question? – [Voiceover] (mumbles)
A bite at the apple. I was just trying to think
of the toughest argument that I could give in
response to try to push. So, it seems like it would be important to pull apart the question of,
OK, what’s the best policy we might have as a polity
with respect to immigration? What’s the justified policy for us? But then another question would be, why are we justified as
a polity in exercising political power to enforce
this particular sub-optimal policy that we’ve implemented? And so, someone might wanna tow kind of a piggybacked story. First, OK there are special obligations to ensure a predictable social environment that’s a home for this set of people. There are various special obligations, and there’s a lot of debate about what they are, what their contours are, and there’s an empirical debate too. And then on top of that
there’s gonna be this democratic requirement
that everyone should have an equal say, a democratic process within a particular country should deliberate about this particular question. And then the thought would be, OK, there’s a question about
what the special obligations allow us to do, there’s
a democratic imperative that we make this decision, giving each an equal say in this community about what we’re going to do, and that justifies us in exercising political
power to keep these folks out in accordance
with this policy, even if it isn’t optimally just. It could be quite far off from
the optimally just policy. – And we’re justified in doing so… Sorry, what’s not optimally just? The domestic regime or the
regime of border control? – [Voiceover] The policy we implemented. – With respect to borders or domestically? – [Voiceover] With respect to borders. So we’re doing this to protect something that we have a special
obligation to protect, we overshoot, we’re overprotective. But we made that overprotective decision through a democratic process. – Oh I see, so it’s the
democracy that’s getting you this extra imperative.
– [Voiceover] This extra bit. And it maybe could get you a rather significant extra bit. – Yeah, I don’t think that’s right. And I don’t think that’s right because when you were talking about
democratic justification, the democratic principle
that’s relevant is that those over whom you exercise political power have a
right of democratic say over how it’s exercised over them. You didn’t give the
foreigners any right of democratic say in the
regime of border control. So there’s no democratic justification for the regime of border control
that you could appeal to. If you had given the foreigners a right of democratic say in the
regime of border control that you’re imposing on
them, I’d grant the point. Yes, I could see closed borders that were democratically justified to those who are subjected to the regime of border control. Yeah. – [Voiceover] I see the force of this, but I’m wondering if
there might be a textured, I’m tempted by saying something like, OK, the immigrants have no duty not to flout this law, that’s one issue, sure. but that’s not the claim, the claim is, now we were justified in doing this. You have no duty.
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] But we were
justified, and we’re justified by dent of our special obligation
and also this democratic requirement that everyone
have an equal say. So we’re justified, they don’t have duty, the immigrants don’t have a duty, but we’re justified in
exercising political power in this case, what’s the alternative? The alternative is not to give the people in this community an equal say, and just override it in the name of, I suppose the better policy, I’m not sure. – What’s the alternate is that they decide to have juster borders.
– [Voiceover] Yeah, but they won’t if they do it democratically. – What do you mean? – [Voiceover] So the thought is that, what justifies us in executing
this very particular policy. – [Arash] Yeah?
– [Voiceover] Is that it was democratically decided within this group, even though it was a mistake. I’d wanna admit that if
a mistake’s bad enough maybe it wouldn’t be justified. – Right, so, I, in virtue of the fact that I’m the one who’s decided how to treat you, that kind of gets… a kind of justification
because I decided this, I decided myself.
– [Voiceover] Right, yeah. – [Arash] I kind of freely,
and no-one manipulated me, in the way that I’m gonna treat you now, and so now I’m justified
because I kind of, voluntarily myself through
the free exercise of my rational capacities, I willed to treat you in this way that is a violation of
a condition of justice in our interpersonal relationships, but that’s justified. True, you don’t have a duty
to sort of let me do it, but I could still, in
the sense that I have a moral liberty to treat you in this way because I’m the one who
decided how to treat you. – [Voiceover] So I’m
the guard at the border. keeping these folks out, when I think of it, why am
I justified in doing this? Well, this democratic policy decided this is the thing to do.
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] They made a mistake, but it’s still, there’s something valuable about maintaining the equal say of this group with respect to that policy. Now, there are limits, if it’s too horrid then I can’t do it. – Are you, yeah? – [Voiceover] Can I?
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] If I’m
taking too long here just– – [Voiceover] No, no, no, I’d take it and put it in a different.
– [Voiceover] OK. – [Voiceover] I think I see where there might be a gap between them.
– [Voiceover] OK. – [Voiceover] So… So, in the way that you were responding, was to say that there was an “I” who decided to take a
certain course of action, whereas I think Stephan is suggesting that there’s maybe a rupture,
there is no single “I” there. So when you talk about the state, we could either be referring to its institutional offices, executive congress or what have you, as well as talking about what the people have as particular duties. So it could be the case that the people within a particular society have general obligations to outsiders, to foreigners, which aren’t compromised by conditions of scarcity or any instability that might be caused, and whose general obligations
also aren’t compromised by special obligations towards each other. So you could have this democratic people which has these obligations to have more open borders, but the
means by which they act, or through which they act is through their institutions
or representative democratic institutions. Which then have special
obligations to their people, so their people have
these obligations but they choose not to authorize, democratically, their institutions to act on their behalf and open their borders. Then you’ve got a kind
of democratic paradox where it’s supposed to
protect liberty and equality, but because there’s this
institutional layer, it’s actually preventing the
institutions that are capable of acting from, right?
– [Arash] Right. – [Voiceover] So you’d almost have to say, in that case then, there may not be an argument for having public, by means by which to sort of let open the borders more pervasively or more porous. But there’s an argument to be made for sort of private acceptance or more inclusion of low skilled workers or refugees.
– [Arash] OK. – [Voiceover] There’s a kind
of a, Jack Goldsmith, I think, has an argument along these lines, in this paper, I think
it’s Liberal Democracy and Cosmopolitan Duty, raises well. The people might have these certain obligations but in virtue of the fact they have
elected a representative democracy as their
institutional way of governing, that level or that layer gets in the way. – [Arash] Right.
– [Voiceover] Of the execution of satisfaction of duty–
– [Arash] So can I just take your initial point and go in a
slightly different direction? ‘Cause I think this may kind of get at both of your, so I take, let me try and reconstruct. There’s a people that, let’s grant my argument, which I think you were granting, let’s grant the argument that they have a duty to keep their borders open. But through these democratic processes which we’ll assume have some kind of legitimacy to them, they decide not to keep
their borders open, and so they authorize state officials to close the borders. And so, I take it that
when you clarify that there’s the people, and
there’s these state officials that have been authorized,
their representatives have been authorized by them to take certain actions which
were not the actions that they should have authorized
them do, but that they did. But given that there’s some kind of legitimacy about this process, there’s two different questions. What should the laws be, and what should the
guard at the border do? And so, I take it that your argument might be that my… argument so far is not properly addressed
to the border official. The border official may still have the moral liberty to enforce the border, at the border, that the border official does no wrong in following the laws. – [Voiceover] And you might
wanna say that about the state in some sense, the
executive apparatus anyway. – What’s that? – [Voiceover] The executive apparatus. – You might wanna say that about them too? – [Voiceover] Yeah, they’re
just a bunch of border officials who are carrying out the will of the– – OK well, if we want we
can start talking about which institutions we’re
talking about in the state. But I’m willing, at the limit, I’m willing to grant the point, and so I guess two things. One is that, the argument is addressed to a democratic public, rather than to the border official, I think you’re right. But that the argument might at some point also be addressed to the border official. So you might think, right, you might think that the violation of justice is so egregious
in these particular cases, that the border official
actually has a duty to bypass what they’ve been authorized by the democratic people, in violation of requirements of justice. Do, as an act of civil disobedience, so maybe let some people in if they can. Sort of a Schindler’s
List style thing, right? Under those circumstances, but you know… that’s not what I’m arguing here, I’m just laying out the logical
possibilities as I see it, given that, I think it’s a very good point you’re making, yeah. I can, there’s a, so there’s really different actors here, there’s the migrants
themselves which you grant are not under any duty, there’s the people that is under the duty, and then there’s the intermediary actors who are authorized by the people, what are their duties? Ans so on.
– [Voiceover] And I think a complicated consideration is that you might be willing to grant that at some point there’d
be a special obligation to protect the borders, even at the level of policy. And so if the people are
arguing about that line, but that’s just a further. – Yeah, but I thought the point about the border official is not that they have a special obligation to the domestic poor, but that they have a kind of positional duty in virtue of their, right? In virtue of their position
in the state apparatus and in virtue of the fact that you’re assuming it’s a legitimate state, and has been authorized through this. – [Voiceover] But they
have a special obligation to reflect the will of the majority, of the public.
– [Arash] OK right, yeah. – [Voiceover] And I would say that doesn’t adjust the part of the border official, And then we can just
talk about trying to be clear about who are advised.
– [Arash] Right. (person muttering) Did that go away from your
point a lot or was it sort of? – [Voiceover] No, no, I mean, the way that Stephan just put it there is sort of the objection that I had in mind. I was trying to figure out earlier whether that fit into one of
the three arguments for special obligations that you mentioned, and it didn’t quite seem to fit neatly into any one of those categories. But I was curious, I
mean, a couple of moves that I thought were valuable and improvements on, say, early Michael Blake work on global justice and Thomas Nagel, about what it means to be subject to laws. I mean it’s not a, in
the philosophy of law we’re always very
careful not to talk about citizens but rather norm
subjects or legal subjects, just because you can be subject
to law and not a citizen. And that includes both
within your borders but also outside your borders.
– [Arash] Yeah. – [Voiceover] So I’ve always thought that Michael Blake got it
wrong when he talked of, course of relationships
simply pointed inward, whereas it seemed like, if
you try and get into the US illegally, and you happen to be faced with border guards, that’s
coercion if anything is, when you’re turned away. And so, the second move
that I thought was valuable, was to say that, well,
if your immigration laws, or your laws closing your borders, were only democratically authorized by those who are within
the political community to begin with, and yet
they may subject others to those laws, because they can’t get in. A democratically, a law
which closes borders which is democratically
justifiable would have to include those who are being excluded, as those who authorized
that particular law. That’s a valuable, important move, but it’s a difficult one to then follow-up on or execute. And the parallel which
sort of comes to mind is, those questions about how to democratize institutions such as a security counsel? Which are notoriously, badly democratically representative. And the complications
in trying to think about how that might work, do you go by state, do you go by population,
do you go by region? Do you have a body of the whole? So I was just curious about
whether there was more to that move that you’d considered? How would you properly democratically justify
laws which close borders, or closing to some degree rather? – [Arash] Right.
– [Voiceover] Is that another? That’s a big question in one chest. – So that’s not, I mean,
that’s not part of this paper, this is part of some
other stuff that I’ve done on borders and democracy, and… I haven’t, I don’t have
a kind of a institutional scheme for how it is that
you might democratize border regimes, but… if one is concerned about democracy, and the democratic legitimacy of borders, then it seems to me that… the institutional
arrangement that we have now now, is sort of the worst possible arrangement from the perspective of
democratic legitimacy. In the sense that, there’s not even a minimal kind of democratic say that foreigners have over regimes of border control. So you can imagine
interstate arrangements, you can imagine transnational rights. There are various… Ooh… What we lack now is even a lack of a norm of justification to foreigners about our regime of border control. So, we have that with respect to war for example, if a country wants to
go to war with others, there’s a kind of an international norm where they will, at least these liberal democratic countries, will feel obligated to justify themselves
in an intrastate forum. So when the US attacked Iraq, for example, Colin Powell went to the UN and justified. Now it’s not that they
gave a right of democratic say to everybody, or to anybody, but the point is that
even if that is lacking in the case of regimes on border control. So that’s pretty far from any… But I don’t have a
theory of what’s the best institutional arrangement
to embody the norm, what I have is in the
context of this argument, that move is designed to show that the supposed democratic authorization of that border official is defective in a very important way. So there’s a question about
whether that border official, in fact, was democratically authorized and therefore has the
relevant justification. So that’s what it’s designed
to show, it’s not… Yeah.
– [Voiceover] No, I took the argument to show that that’s
where the conversation needs to turn
– [Arash] Yeah, yeah. – [Voiceover] John, you
had another question? – [Voiceover] Yeah, I
was just gonna give one small example of a very
tiny hole in the armor on border control is that,
under the Geneva Conventions, even the soldiers in an invading army have minimal rights to be treated as prisoners of war, even the members of an invading army have minimal rights under international law,
as generally understood. I mean, it leads you to the question of, what do you think international law is and how are its rules justified? But that’s a real right under international law, is of an invading army (laughs). – Right. – [Voiceover] Any other questions? OK, well, thank you so much.
– [Arash] Alright, well, thank you, thank you very much. (audience applauding)

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