the plan for the future

Revolutionary Ideas: An Introduction to Legal and Political Philosophy


6. Political Community and Borders

6.1. Introduction

size and basis of the political community
The first part of the course focused on various answers to the question, why should we have a state? The second part of the course focuses on questions that concern more concrete details about the specific legal and political institutions that we might like to see.
This first unit raises some basic questions about something that some see as prior to legal or political institutions, and which others see as a result of our particular legal and political institutions, that is, the political community.

size and basis of the political community
There are a number of questions that are considered. What is the appropriate size and basis of political community? Should we be in a political community together because we share a geographic region, a religion, a cultural tradition, a set of values, or even a planet?

Should we be allowed to change or to choose what political community we're a part of? If so, how easily? Should we have what are called open borders? What's the value of political community?

size and basis of the political community
What's the relationship between community and autonomy, particularly individual autonomy? Who should have a say, in how the community is defined and how the community is governed? These are all questions to think about.

what makes political communities distinct
There are all kinds of communities; communities of friends, people who are all friends together, communities of scholars, so people who all work on similar academic topics, fans of sports teams, religious communities, or linguistic communities, which are people who all speak the same language.

A question is what makes political communities distinct? What makes a community a political community? There're different features that we might identify, and several are particularly important. One of the most central is the idea that political institutions will often employ coercion or the threat of coercion. This makes them different than other kinds of communities. For this in particular, we need a greater moral justification than when we form other kinds of communities.

One way of defining a political community, is just by looking around and seeing who's brought into the political and legal jurisdiction of some set of legal or political institutions. Jurisdiction in this respect means just the territory, whether physical territory or in some other sense, over which a political system exercises its power.

what makes political communities distinct
This would be a descriptive way of identifying a political community. The political community consists of all those people who are within the jurisdiction of some particular political system, so that the political system will in fact apply its laws and policies to those people.

This way of thinking about political community focuses on the application of laws to particular individuals. It defines the community that way.

restrictive laws
There're additional dimensions that we might consider. A first issue is the generality of application. In many political systems, some laws will apply to some people, but not to everyone, or not in every instance.

For example, everyone physically located in a particular jurisdiction has to obey the traffic laws, but not everyone physically located in that same jurisdiction has to pay income tax. There's a question about how to think about political community in a situation like that.

distributive laws
A second issue might be the way in which people are subject to the laws. There might be a political system in which everyone physically located in some area has to abide by various restrictive laws, limiting what they can do, but in which not everyone located in that area gets the various benefits from distributive laws, laws that provide that some people will receive various benefits or resources from the political system.

descriptive question
In either case there might be some disagreement about who counts as a member of the political community. What do we say about people who only are covered by some of the laws or for whom they only get some of the maybe restrictive application of laws, but not the benefits? We might identify distinct political communities within some territory or even say they are parts of political communities here.

normative question
A different way of defining a political community is less descriptive and has less focus on what's actually being done or who is actually under the jurisdiction of some political system, and instead asks a related normative question.

There's a distinction between a descriptive and a normative application question. The descriptive question is who is the law in fact applied to? The normative question is, who is the law justifiably or morally appropriately applied to? We can define political communities either descriptively or normatively.

Who in fact has political power?
There are similar distinctions if we shift to a different way of understanding political community, not in terms of who is subject to the laws, but in terms of who has a role in creating the laws or in conferring power to those who create laws. You might think of political community, not in terms of jurisdictions of application and jurisdictions of benefit, but also in terms of the foundation of political power. So who has political power?

normative question
We can ask this question either descriptive or normatively. So who in fact has political power, and to what extent and in what form? Or who ought to have political power? Who in some sense, is entitled to political power?

All of this suggests, we might imagine situations in which membership in a political community, is something that comes in degrees. Where how fully one is a member of a political community, is determined by how many of the following boxes, so to speak, one can check off. So here are for example, some of the descriptive factors we might consider in assessing whether or not some person is a member of a political community.

These might be different boxes we could look to. All laws of a political system are applied to this person. The person's eligible to receive all benefits, including rights, of the political system. The person is required to share all costs of supporting the political system. All restrictive laws of the political system apply to this person. The person has some political power in terms of creating the law of the political system. The person has as much power as anyone else in the political system.

These are the descriptive factors we could look to, to see and identify whether somebody's a part of a political community, and we can imagine views in which all of these are required to be a full member of the political community, or in which just some of these are required. Then there'd be normative versions of all of these, that this particular person ought to have this particular right, or ought to be required to do that particular thing.

This is an abstract discussion. Not much is said about how a particular person feels about any of this. One sense of political community that's pretty natural for people to think about includes something like self identification or feelings of allegiance, loyalty or commitment, or a shared history in some sense or mutual trust. A related sense includes something like larger group acceptance of the individual. So you are a member of the political community if everybody in that community thinks so.

We might add all of that in as well, so that a person's a member of a political community, if all of these previous descriptive things are true, and if the person has these attitudes of loyalty and identification with the community, while the rest of the community has these attitudes of inclusion and acceptance toward that person.

We can offer accounts of the definition of political community that include more or less of these elements. These elements are called conditions of application of laws, so the ways in which the laws apply to people, conditions of rights of creation of laws, so whether you have a right or some sense the current power to be a part of creating the laws, and conditions of identification with the political system. All of these can be sort of more or less descriptive or more or less normative.

6.2. Voluntarism and political community

voluntarist communities
There is a problem of defining political communities. An initial idea is to treat political communities like many other kinds of voluntarist communities. These are communities that one belongs to or not voluntarily based on one's personal preferences or choices. This would connect nicely with an idea that many political philosophers have advanced, the idea that consent is an important component of what makes it permissible for the state to exist and for the state to act backed by coercive force.

The idea is familiar from contractarian traditions dating all the way back to Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes. It states that we're in a political community together because we have all consented or agreed to be part of that community, signing or endorsing something that we might call a social contract. Hugo Grotius, who was born in 1583 and died in 1645, was an important early Dutch legal and political philosopher. He wrote, among other things, a book titled On The Law of War and Peace, which was originally published in 1625.

Hugo Grotius' view
In that work he expresses an early version of this contractarian sort of consent based view. He writes, but as there are several ways of living, some better than others, and every one may choose which he pleases of all those sorts; so a people may choose what form of government they please. Neither is the right which the sovereign has over its subjects to be measured by this or that form of which diverse men have different opinions, but by the extent of the will of those who conferred it upon him.

Abraham Lincoln's view
So in other words, there's this idea that the right to rule comes from us having willed or consented to that rule. Political leaders throughout history have voiced sentiments in this vein as well suggesting that political legitimacy can come only from the consent of the governed. Abraham Lincoln, the former United States President, famously said that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.

There are problems with this picture however. So let's assume that generally speaking we're morally free to do as we like, to find our own meaning and joy, and to live a life that accords with our findings. There're going to be constraints on this freedom. If someone's badly injured or in great peril, one's not morally free to ignore his plight if one could easily help him, and one's not always free to pursue projects that harm others. But leaving aside these constraints and complications, it's natural to think that we're fundamentally autonomous creatures. Liberty is our appropriate condition.

When someone asserts that we're fundamentally autonomous creatures, we don't need to be suggesting that we're solitary or individualistic creatures, or that we could survive in a satisfying way on our own. Most of us tend to find that an enjoyable and rewarding life includes other people. The point is just that we're morally free to socialise as we like. With the possible complicated exception of family, we're free morally to associate with, love, befriend, work with whomever we choose, assuming that they choose us as well.

Most relevantly for our purposes we're free to enlist others in our projects and to engage in joint projects with other people. So, imagine several of us might choose to work together on a project. If all these others freely consent to participate, there's no moral objection to us working together. This is a consent based idea as to forming communities working together toward some end. We might even decide as a group that we all want to work together on some project, even when we know we don't all agree on the details, and that when we don't all agree we're going to act in the way that the majority favours.

Assuming that all members of this group agree, there doesn't seem to be any moral objection to acting in this way, and there doesn't seem to be an objection to holding, at least in a reasonable way, those members of the group who are in the minority on some issue, bound to the project. So you lose a vote about what to do but you made this agreement to work together and you made an agreement to keep working together even if you lose the vote. So when you lose, you should, you have a moral obligation to keep working together, in the same way that there's typically no moral objection to holding people to what they've agreed to do.

No existing political system can claim the actual explicit consent of all
The suggestion on the voluntarist picture of political community, is that political community should be voluntaristic consent based like this. The problem is that the situation looks more complicated when we move from these kind of abstract imagined descriptions of joint projects that are really freely engaged in, to something that looks more like actual politics and actual political institutions. No existing political system can claim the actual explicit consent of all those over whom the system governs.

tacit consent
People are generally just born into a political community and most people, those who don't leave, just remain in that political community for their lives. Some have suggested that we can infer that a person can consent to be a part of the community by not leaving that community. That's called tacit consent. There are worries about this inference and reasons to think this kind of inference is not generally going to be a good inference. The main problem is that it may be very costly to leave or there might be no better options, so the fact that somebody stays can't infer that they are consenting to the system.

For example, one does not consent to being robbed or otherwise. If one is only given the choice, your money or your life, we can't infer from the fact that this person gave his or her money that he or she consented to giving the money. The way in which we stay in political communities might be more like that. So that's an initial worry for the view that political legitimacy requires as a kind of necessary condition, the consent of the governed.

philosophical anarchism
Given that no actual political system can claim actual consent of the governed, this condition would lead to the consequence that no actual political systems are justified. That doesn't mean that consent is not a necessary condition for legitimacy, it still might be, but if we hold that it is, then that becomes tantamount to what's called philosophical anarchism, the thesis that no actual political systems are morally legitimate because no actual political systems satisfy this necessary condition.

Leaving aside the debates about legitimacy, there remain the questions of whether we should embrace a conception of political community that requires that political communities be voluntarily joined. So here are some initial concerns. One concern is about how voluntary this joining can really be. So what one prefers and what one will agree to is going to depend on one's options.

It might be that there are no better options. Perhaps one joins this political community, only because all the other ones are all very inconvenient, or morally terrible, or because one is already, in some sense, a part of that community, so that it would be very costly to leave, to go somewhere else. Perhaps one's ties are to the people around there, and one's occupation, and language, and house, and land, and all these things connect one to this community. Perhaps one feels compelled to join some community or other as to prevent living in an isolated or state of nature way. So these are ways in which one might suggest that there might be at most degrees of voluntariness.

A related concern comes from how our wills are formed, and how we may not be the pure autonomous individuals that this kind of picture pre-supposes. It's natural for voluntary community accounts to focus on the choices of fully formed autonomous agents, so adults are often used as kind of the rough guide. But when located within and formed by the communities that we're a part of as we develop and grow from childhood to adulthood, and part of that background includes the political community that we're in.

Indeed, most political allegiance, and social and political identity is inculcated in children at relatively young ages. Think of pledges of allegiance that children might recite in schools. We can of course push back against this when we're older, but both how and why and whether we do this, whether we think about and reflect on and maybe question the political community we are born into, will itself be a function of the forces that have shaped us.

Again, there's a question of what's special about voluntary communities. People often suggest humans have a kind of moral standing that's important that they're voluntarily entered into. And then there's going to be a question about whatever is special about them will be present even in cases like these, where we see only something like relative degrees of voluntariness. Finally, there's the question, not of the possibility of voluntary choice, but of the desirability of voluntary choice as the basis for political community.

duration or stability
One issue concerns the duration or stability of such communities over time. So if one joins a political community today, is one going to be bound to that community forever? Presumably not, on a voluntaristic picture, it'd be odd to think you just get one choice point. But then there's going to be a question of how to reconcile the fact of political community with the fact of political disagreement.

So when is it going to be appropriate to leave a political community, for what kinds of reasons and under what kinds of conditions? In particular should we make this as easy as possible? From a voluntaristic perspective, it's natural to say yes, we want this to be up to the individual.

diversity and difference
This might make certain kinds of collective projects or long term projects very difficult, if not impossible. And it raises real concerns about strategic behaviour on the part of individuals. Attempting to gain the benefits of joining some political community without ever bearing the cost. So staying just long enough to get the benefits but then not bearing the costs of doing so, or breaking laws when one can and attempting to leave when one's detected. Another concern is that if we have political disagreement and you're on the losing side, people who lose might leave the political community.

A second issue with the voluntaristic picture stems from concerns about diversity and difference. So in short, the worry is that voluntaristic political communities, will end up be populated by like minded individuals, and individuals who share certain salient characteristics, beliefs, or values.

individual autonomy
This might initially seem like a good thing. We can all kind of cluster to the communities that we most identify with. It makes agreement within those communities more likely, and if a representative is chosen from those communities, it's going to make that representative more truly representative of a large portion of the electorate.

imperfect sorting
But this lack of diversity comes with troubling downsides. So one of these relates back to the epistemic benefits of a diverse group of people. Diversity might help avoid certain kinds of group think errors. If everyone comes to this political community because they have a certain conception of the world, and that conception is false, they might run into lots of problems that they would not have run into if they had a more diverse group.

A second concern stems from concerns about inter-generational difference. So how do we think about the development of individual autonomy, under conditions of widespread homogeneity? So if someone happens to develop divergent views, then very homogeneous political communities make it so that an individual would have to give up all or most ties. A concern related to this is, what if, for practical reasons, there's going to be imperfect sorting, so that there are some with the divergent views that are essentially permanent losers or permanent minority groups in politics? None of these concerns are insurmountable difficulties, but they are important questions to consider.

6.3. Rehfeld's random constituencies

voluntarism versus diversity
There are difficulties if the basis for political community should be voluntary choice. There are values other than autonomy, consent or voluntariness that might be relevant to the choice of how political communities ought to be established and defined, and there are some other bases on which political communities might be established.

The voluntarist picture has certain attractions, although there are also concerns. In particular, there might be a tension between voluntarism for adults and community diversity, and this in turn might lead to a tension between voluntarism for adults and a robust autonomy development for children raised in homogeneous communities.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
There are also much more practical worries about the voluntarist picture with respect to political governance, in particular the use of political representatives. There're also concerns about the stability of the community that relate to the representation idea and even geographical complications relating to the application of the law as to particular individuals.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
The American political philosopher Andrew Rehfeld in his fascinating book, The Concept of Constituency, thinks about the relationship between the character and definition of the political communities, and political representation through elected representatives. He sets out an extreme non-voluntarist view about political community or at least about political constituencies, which might be helpful and interesting to consider.

He's focused on the concept of an electoral constituency, which is the group in which a citizen's vote is counted for the purpose of electing a political representative. This is focusing on the political community with respect to the creation of law through elected representatives. He notes that in almost every democracy in the world, citizens are represented by where they live.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
His book engages the question of why we should use geographic territorial districts for elections, or whether we should use these kinds of districts at all. He suggested there are reasons not to use territorial districts and that, in particular, the long-standing sort of implicit justification that territorial community formed communities of interest no longer applies for many modern political societies, including the United States.

As he puts it, the use of territory to define electoral constituencies persisted as a habit of mind, a historical remnant no longer serving its original purpose of representing communities of interest, but so ingrained that it was never seriously challenged. Rehfeld's book is an attempt to challenge this use of territorial districts. He identifies three different dimensions of constituencies. The first is homogeneity, the second is stability, and the third is voluntariness.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
Homogeneity concerns the degree to which the members of the constituency share some similar features. In the case of a large territorial district, there's likely to be quite a bit of heterogeneity, a lot of diversity along a number of different dimensions. Within a very small constituency that's voluntarily chosen, there might be much more homogeneity. Rehfeld thinks that homogeneity can be worrisome, not just for the reasons having to do with intergenerational options and autonomy, but also in thinking about national discourse.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
If we have representatives coming out of very homogenous districts, they will look out very narrowly for the interest of those people. That's good from a perspective of how representative the elected officials will be, but it's bad from a perspective of taking the broader national interest if that's something that an elected official is also supposed to keep in mind. Arguably, if you're elected to the national legislature, you should think both about what your constituents want, what they think would be best, but also, you have to keep in mind the national interest.

Rehfeld's suggestion is that representatives coming from homogeneous districts will have little incentive to consider the national interest. This might also result in a heightened polarisation and unwillingness to pursue political compromise with representatives from different districts. This happens in the United States as a result of what are called gerrymandered geographic districts, which are districts that are drawn so as to be relatively noncompetitive from a political point of view. The resulting kind of homogeneity might lead to polarisation.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
Stability or permanence of the constituency concerns the frequency with which membership in the constituency changes over time. Rehfeld is concerned about how much change there is between elections. Large territorial constituencies are going to be somewhat stable although people might become of political age, or might become citizens, or might die, or might leave. But people in general tend not to move that much and mortality rates are usually not so high, so there is a lot of stability from one point in time to the next.

Rehfeld argues that if we're going to have elected representatives, stability of the constituency is very important sent, since this is the mechanism that's going to be key for electoral accountability to work. So as he puts it, for a political representative to be accountable to those whom they represent, they must stand for reelection before the same group of individuals who elected them at the start of their term.

That might be a small overstatement, but it's certainly important that there won't be too much difference between subsequent elections. If there's too much difference, then there is no real accountability. If the group entirely changed then it won't be the same people evaluating what that representative has done and trying to make assessments about whether it was in their interest or whether the person did a good job or not.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
The last idea he is concerned with, with respect to constituencies, is the idea of voluntariness. Voluntariness is mostly about the possibility and ease of entry and exit into the political community or out of the political community. Rehfeld argues that voluntariness in this sense is relatively less important as long as the whole system, including the rules defining political community and the rules defining the possibility of entry or exit, are itself agreed to in a voluntary way.

Rehfeld argues for randomised, national, permanent constituencies that would be heterogeneous, stable, and involuntary. The argument to this conclusion is subtle and relies on views about the purpose and the morality of political representation. He sets out an alternative to either simple territorial districting with some modest amount of voluntary community since people can enter and exit or something more explicitly and extensively voluntaristic. He argues against either of those two methods.

In his alternative, if there were 435 seats to be filled, as there are with with the United States House of Representatives, each person in the United States would draw a random number between 1 and 435, and be assigned to a permanent randomly generated electoral constituency. Everyone would be given a number. If I get number 326 then I'd be in the district with all the other people in the country who drew the number 326. Within a city like Renton, Washington, where there're about 90,000 people, there would be people within that city belonging to all 435 different federal congressional districts, with about 150 to 200 people from each district.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
This picture of political communities would basically eliminate any difference between the different districts, between the different constituencies. as Rehfeld puts it, the almost half a million members of any one constituency would be demographically identical to every other, each an exact demographic representation of the nation, each reflecting all of the nation's salient demographic and ideological features.

Andrew Rehfeld's view
For example, if 10% of all Americans live in California, 15% are black, and 27% are Catholic, then all electoral constituencies would be 10% Californian, 15% black, and 27% Catholic. This system would create districts in political communities that were maximally heterogeneous within this particular nation, minimally voluntaristic as you'd just be randomly assigned and stuck there, and maximally stable.

He envisions these as permanent communities that you'd be assigned to, so you'd always be in district 326. Rehfeld envisions campaigning and communication with people who are all in a district together happening online in various ways since it would no longer makes sense to put up television ads in a particular geographic community or to put signs out along particular roads or to hold town meetings in a particular town. He thinks this is possible in the 21st century. We could come up with ways of doing it.

national interest
Why would it be better to have electoral constituencies formed this way rather than geographically or some other such as purely voluntarily? The short answer is that using elected representatives is good given the difficulties of all of us becoming adequately informed about all of the political issues.

A national legislature should be structured so as to think about and act in the national interest. So if people living in New York and the people living in Texas are concerned with very different things, then we might not get a national legislature thinking about the national interest if representatives are primarily be thinking about the interests of their constituents.

One view of how representatives should behave is that they should think just about the interests of the nation, but many plausible views state that they need to think also a lot about what their constituents want and what would be best for them. Representatives from New York and Texas might come into conflict. In Rehfeld's system, then a representative thinking about his or her constituents' interests will be thinking about the national interests since his or her constituents are simply a microcosm of the whole nation. At the same time the constituents are all able to monitor their particular representative to see what she's doing.

why default
Interestingly, geographic territorial definitions of political community end up looking something like a compromise position between the Rehfeld random selection, permanent, non-voluntary, very heterogeneous political communities on the one hand, and something more like a pure voluntaristic system on the other. There's a lot of randomness and where one ends up being born or living in a territorial system, at least in terms of districts within a single country, so that gives some diversity. There also is some opportunity for voluntary relocation, although this is sometimes with very high cost. You get more voluntariness than with Rehfeld, but also more stability than with people just picking which community they're in when voting for a particular candidate.

What is interesting is the question that Rehfeld really wants us to think about. Why just default into territorial districts and territorial political communities? That might have been required at a time when movement and long distance communication was practically very difficult and when there were strong regional identities and distinct interests. It's not obvious that we're living in such a time today, or at least not for every kind of nation or political community.

Another strong point in favour of territorial political communities comes from thinking about how laws are enforced and the difficulty of having people living in the same geographic space, but under different laws or legal systems. It might be much harder in terms of legal applications through courts and police, to have non-territorial political communities for both the creation and the application of laws so that you and your neighbour might be governed by, say, a different set of criminal laws.

6.4. Political community, cosmopolitanism, and world government

The world has many different political communities. Most have sharp and clear boundaries. Almost every significant portion of land in the world is now under the jurisdiction of some political community. We live in a world of interlocking nation states, each of which forms its own political community. Many of these nation states contain within them many smaller political communities, either states with a federation, municipalities within a state or counties or provinces. This has not always been the case. In human history this near complete political occupation and political definition of the world is relatively young and exists maybe a few hundred years.

moral cosmopolitanism
There's a question of whether it's good that the world is divided in this way or whether we should be aiming to identify different basis for political communities than the ones we currently have or whether we should instead be rethinking the idea of being in different political communities at all. A number of different theorists have recently embraced what they call cosmopolitanism. The word cosmopolitan means citizen of the world.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's view
Cosmopolitan views maintain that all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation or geographic location, are or should be citizens of a single global community. There are different versions of this view. The Anglo-Ghanaian, Kwame Anthony Appiah, one of the world's leading living philosophers, defended what we might call moral cosmopolitanism.

In his book Cosmopolitanism, Ethics in a World of Strangers, Appiah notes that there are two strands that intertwine in the notion of cosmopolitanism. One is the idea that we have obligations to others that stretch beyond those to whom we are related by the ties of kith and kind or even the more formal ties of a shared citizenship.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's view
The other is that we take seriously to value, not just of human life, but of particular human lives which means taking an interest in the practises and beliefs that lend them significance. People are different, the cosmopolitan knows, and there is much to learn from our differences. Because there are so many possibilities worth exploring, we neither expect nor desire that every person or every society should converge to a single mode of life. Whatever our obligations are to others, or theirs to us, they often have the right to go their own way.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's view
Appiah sets out two core values, what he calls universal concern, and respect for legitimate difference. These two core values are at the heart of the cosmopolitan view or attitude. Others, although more rarely, have embraced the idea of not just a moral cosmopolitanism, but also a political cosmopolitanism, where we would all be literal citizens of a world state. This kind of view suggests that it's a mistake to think of the proper basis of political community, or that the proper basis is something like interaction and interconnectedness, something that it's manifestly global now in the 21st Century.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's view
Appiah himself worries about a global state. He says such a state would have three obvious problems. It could easily accumulate uncontrollable power, which it might do to create great harm; it would often be unresponsive to local needs; and it would almost certainly reduce the variety of institutional experimentation from which all of us can learn.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's view
Professor Guerrero thinks we should no dismiss the idea of a global state so easily. We might have a federalist global state, so that there'd be a central sort of world government but with a great deal of local power and flexibility at the level of the member states.

This might reduce some concerns about accumulation of power and it would make it more likely that local member states would be responsive to local needs and capable of engaging in various forms of political experimentation. Obviously there'd questions about how votes would be distributed. One way would be to just do a popular vote of the whole world. A very different way would be to give each nation-state essentially a vote. Then we'd worry a lot about sort of imbalance and size. These are all questions of design and implementation.

One reason to take the idea seriously is that our current international order can look very problematic in different ways. First, as many have pointed out, our current system of interlocking, interdependent nation states means that a few of the largest and most powerful nation states, dominate the international agreements and international organisations that do exist. This is a big problem because of the actions of these large nation states like the United States, China, India, Russia, have profound effects on the rest of the world. Even when we get international agreements they're often structured through the interests of these individual countries.

The philosopher Robert Goodin at the Australian National University has argued that all people whose interests are affected, or possibly affected by a political decision, should be taken in to account by that political institution. They should have some say or some role in determining the course of that decision. He develops ideas suggested by the political theorist Robert Dahl. Goodin ends up considering a world state as one way of actually living up to what he sees as this poor democratic principle of enfranchising all affected interests.

Another concern that has moral implications is that many problems we now face are really global collective action problems, for example climate change, terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear arms, economic exploitation, material inequality and health epidemics. These are the kinds of problems that a state might be capable of helping us to address, but to do that, there needs to be global coordination and cooperation. Our current system allows far too much free riding and self interested depletion of shared resources and does far to little in the way of taking care of the global commons and providing and ensuring the existence of global public good.

A different concern about political cosmopolitanism or a world-state is raised by those who argue that a key part of the political community has to do with strong attitudes of identification on the part of citizens and political community. Some suggested these attitudes would be impossible to have or to maintain with a world state. People wouldn't feel the right kind of loyalty and commitment to this state to really keep it going. Some suggest that it's important for these attitudes that there be at least some soft national rivalries, and that there are mechanisms by which some individuals are intentionally included in the political community and in some cases mechanisms by which others are excluded. If we had a world-state then we'd lose this.

Professor Guerrero thinks these are big concerns. So it seems at least possible that we would come to have these kinds of attitudes of identification with the world state, particularly if the creation of that world-state is seen as a great accomplishment off all so that we could all take pride in it, or if we saw the world state as vital part of a solution to significant world problems that threaten all of us. So we might come to have positive attitudes and identification with a world state, even if we also kept some attitudes of pride and identification in local institutions and differences such as culture, language, cuisine, art, and religion.

universal concern
If we had a centralised federal world-state but still had a lot of local variation, we might get a lot of what we have today, but we'd also be able to address some of the global problems. In this way it seems that we could embrace the attitudes of both universal concern reflected by this federal world system and respect for legitimate difference, reflected by our commitment to the sovereignty of local nation states. This is what Appiah identifies as being at the heart of the cosmopolitan worldview.

It's unclear whether there will ever be anything like a real world government or a global state and it's unclear whether it'd be a good thing or a disaster. At any rate it's very likely to be a very far off thing if it ever does come to exist. So recently many have made the case for something that has some of these elements of the cosmopolitan spirit behind world government, but which is often defended on very different grounds, and ends up looking pretty different. The idea is that within the context of our interlocking nation-state organisations, there should be unrestricted immigration. We should have, in other words, worldwide open borders. The case for open borders runs into what other see is the legitimate right, of existing political communities to exclude others from entry.

6.5. Immigration and exclusion

We now live in a world in which almost all land is under the jurisdiction of some political entity, usually a nation state. Furthermore, we live in a world with sharp rules set by these individual nation states regarding who can enter a country, who can immigrate there, staying permanently, who can come to work there, perhaps staying only for a period of time, and in some cases, who can leave, who can emigrate or travel abroad and for how long. The World Bank estimates that in 2010 there were a total of 216 million immigrants that have moved permanently from one country to another in their lifetime. This is 3.2% of the world's population.

top 10 migration countries
The top ten countries to which people move, the destination countries, are the United States, Russian Federation, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the UK, Spain, France, Australia, and India. So these are the top ten countries with the most people moving there. The top ten countries from which people move are Mexico, India, the Russian Federation, China, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the UK, the Philippines, and Turkey.

freedom of movement
India, the Russian Federation and the UK are on both lists. So a lot of people are coming and going from those three places in particular. So there's a lot of world wide movement, a lot of immigration. The rules governing how, when and why people move have really pronounced effects on people's lives. So in this segment, we'll consider the grounds on which people argue that nation states can permissibly exclude people, limiting the amount of immigration to a country.

It's plausible that there's a general human right to freedom of movement. We might put the point by saying that the proper default is that we're allowed to move and go where we like. Importantly, however, it also seems plausible that this right is not absolute. So, we're not allowed to simply walk or run over someone who's literally in our path. We don't have freedom of movement just anywhere.

bundle of rights
If we endorse some kind of property rights, there might be limits to where we can go that are set by the boundaries of people's private property. But private property is something that's thought to need considerable justification.

economic benefits
Property rights, for example on land, can be seen as a bundle of rights. These might all be rights that we could get in a bundle or we might only get some of them. So you get the right to use the land, the right to exchange or transfer the land to someone else, the right to exclude others from using it, the right to let some particular people use the land, the right to refuse to sell or rent the land, and even the right in some sense to destroy the land.

There're different justifications for property rights in general and for each of these rights in the bundle that might be included. Many of these justifications focus on the economic benefits and incentives from private property, the potential to reduce overuse or depletion of resources, and the possibility of individual long-term planning.

Michael Huemer's view
In the case of immigration restrictions and rules regarding exclusion, it's plausible that a moral justification is needed there as well. If we have to justify private property, imposing this kind of limitation, we're going to need to justify something like the current immigration restrictions, and given the significant costs to individuals of those rules, these justifications have to be fairly weighty. That might not seem obvious, so how is it such a big deal if we decide to restrict immigration?

Michael Huemer's view
The American philosopher, Michael Huemer, in his paper Is There a Right to Immigrate?, asks us to start by imagining a case. Here's the case as he describes it.

Marvin is in desperate need of food. Perhaps someone has stolen his food, or perhaps a natural disaster destroyed his crops. Whatever the reason, Marvin is in danger of starvation. Fortunately, he has a plan to remedy the problem. He's going to walk to the local marketplace, where he will buy bread.

Michael Huemer's view
Assume that in the absence of outside interference, this plan would succeed. The marketplace is open, and there are people there who are willing to trade food to Marvin in exchange for something he has. Another individual, Sam, is aware of all this and is watching Marvin.

Michael Huemer's view
For some reason, Sam decides to detain Marvin on his way to the marketplace, forcibly preventing him from reaching it. As a result, Marvin returns home empty-handed, where he dies of starvation.

Then he asks us the following questions. What is the proper assessment of Sam's action? Did Sam harm Marvin? Did he violate Marvin's rights? Was Sam's action wrong?

Michael Huemer's view
Huemer thinks it's clear that Sam harms Marvin, that Sam violates Marvin's rights, and indeed, that if Marvin's death was reasonably foreseeable, as it likely was, then Sam's intervention to prevent Marvin from getting to the marketplace forcibly, was murder. Even if it is not murder then what Sam does to Marvin is surely extremely wrong.

Huemer points out that this isn't a case of someone standing idly by and allowing someone to suffer or to die. Maybe Sam could be said to do that if he simply refused to give Marvin food, but what Sam does is very different than that. He actively and forcibly intervenes to prevent Marvin from getting to the food. Huemer claims that Sam's act was both coercive and that it violated Marvin's rights not to be subject to extremely harmful coercion.

Michael Huemer's view
He suggests that perhaps Sam's behaviour could be justified if, for example, it was necessary to prevent the deaths of a million innocent persons. But as Huemer notes, this case doesn't have any special circumstances like those. So Huemer uses this case to illustrate the case of the right to immigrate, offering a kind of analogy, and in particular, the case of United States' immigration policy.

Michael Huemer's view
As Huemer puts it, the role of Marvin is played by those potential immigrants who seek escape from oppression or economic hardship. The marketplace is the United States. Were they allowed in, most immigrants would succeed in meeting their needs to a greater extent, at least, than they will if they’re not allowed in.

The role of Sam is played by the government of the United States, which has adopted severe restrictions on entry. These restrictions are imposed by coercion. Armed guards are hired to patrol the borders, physically barring unauthorised entry, and armed officers of the state forcibly detain and expel immigrants who are found residing in the country illegally.

Michael Huemer's view
As in the case of Sam's detention of Marvin, the United States government's exclusion of undocumented immigrants is also very harmful to most of those excluded. Many suffer from oppression or poverty that could and would be remedied, if only they were able to enter the country of their choice. In view of this, the actions of the United States government, prima facie, constitute serious violations of the rights of potential immigrants. Specifically, the government violates their prima facie right not to be harmfully coerced.

Michael Huemer's view
Professor Guerrero sees this as very striking. As an American citizen, he thinks that he plays some small role along with millions of others in directing the course of United States policy. He finds it uncomfortable, to put it mildly, to think that maybe he is just like Sam, or that collectively, all of the United States citizens are together playing this role of Sam. Having thought about this case a lot, he thinks that the situation with respect to immigration policy is very much like the Sam and Marvin case.

this land is my land
There are possible justifications for a country in having and enforcing significant immigration restrictions. For example, in the case of Sam and Marvin, the sort of simple case, it doesn't seem that Sam has any special right to the marketplace, but in the case of a country like the United States, it may seem that there's a special right to the land, so that people living here can decide to let people in or not.

this land is my land
Kids in American schools grow up learning the classic Woody Guthrie song, This Land is Our Land. So I learned this when I was in elementary school. So it starts with these words. This land is your land. This land is my land. From California to the New York island. From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land was made for you and me.

This song's been sung by all kinds of people advocating for all kinds of policies. Here is that this kind of idea that has seeped into many of our minds and that there's songs like this everywhere for everyone's country. We come to have national cultures and national pride. We learn about these things as we're growing up. We learn to think in these terms. This is is who we are, this is what we're like, and this is what we stand.

arguments for restricting immigration
It may become natural to think that we have some special right to be here in this physical place, wherever we happen to be, not a right in some particular piece of property and not an individual or a particular right. The sense in which this land is my land is not a personal right, but there is some idea in the background that somehow, collectively, this is our land.

arguments for restricting immigration
This idea gets expressed philosophically in two different ways. One way is to introduce the idea of a distinctive state or national culture, and then to argue (a) that it's necessary to restrict immigration to preserve that culture, and (b) that it's morally permissible to restrict immigration for this reason.

The second idea is to introduce the idea of a right to collective self-determination, which is the idea a national community has a right to self-govern, and then to argue that this right includes the right to restrict membership and participation in that community.

The first idea, which we can call the cultural preservation argument, consists of three distinct claims. The first claim is the existence claim. There is a national culture, a set of national cultural traditions and values in some non-trivial sense. The second claim is the threat claim. Unrestricted immigration poses a threat to that national culture. The third claim is the justification claim. Preserving our national culture is an adequate moral justification for restricting immigration.

arguments for restricting immigration
All three claims are necessary to make this argument work. Joseph Heath and David Miller are two of the philosophers most closely associated with arguments of this kind. Although the idea itself is also closely associated with Samuel Huntington. Professor Guerrero finds all three of these claims somewhat dubious. He might ask the Indians about the consequences of unrestricted immigration.

First, it's not obvious what the national culture in a place like the United States would be. There're certainly some elements that are more present in places in the United States than elsewhere, but in the modern interconnected global world, there's also quite a lot of mixing and blending of art and music, language, food, religion, and other aspects of culture. We both export a lot in the way of culture and import a lot in the way of culture. Technology has made it much harder for there to be sort of walls in place, separating nations and cultures in a way that might have been sort of more the case 1,000 years ago or more.

With regard to the second claim, assuming there is a national culture, it's not clear how unrestricted immigration poses a threat to the national culture. For one thing, immigrants, people who arrive, often assimilate to the local culture and their children certainly do. So if the culture is already quite multicultural and cosmopolitan like in the United States, then it's going to be hard to see how adding more immigrants will threaten that culture, rather than add to it or strengthen it. People often say of the United States that it is a culture of immigrants. That's becoming more true around the world for a lot of places.

But even if we want to grant that there's a national culture and then grant that there's a threat posed by unrestricted immigration, a threat to that national culture, it's still very hard to imagine that the last claim could be true, that this provides an adequate moral justification for restricting immigration. Culture is, of course, of great value, but there's no suggestion in this argument that immigration will eliminate culture. At the very most, it will change it, but that's not a great harm. Whatever this kind of harm to the existing national culture, it's certainly not such a great harm that it would justify the extremely harmful coercion that immigration restrictions constitute, or at least it's hard to see how that argument would go.

6.6. Immigration, exclusion and open borders

arguments for restricting immigration
One argument to justify significant immigration restrictions could be the importance of protecting national culture. This segment treats two more arguments as well as the case for open borders. The first of these arguments suggests there's a right to collective self-determination. One part of that right is the right to exclude or determine the bounds of membership. The second suggests that one justification for having immigration restrictions, is the potential economic harm that we would suffer if we allow unrestricted immigration.

There're several different arguments that rely on the idea that people living in a country have a special kind of standing. Some of these suggest that the current members of a national group have a right to political self determination, and that this right includes the right to close the country's borders or to limit entry. Michael Walzer and Kit Wellman have made arguments in this spirit.

A related idea is that we're part of a democratic society, and that we have a collective right to democratically determine what we do. To make this idea work, there first needs to be a relevant demos, a relevant people, who have a say in the process. Bob Goodin and others suggest that the demos should be drawn not just at the national borders as they currently exist, precisely because the effects of one nation's decisions can affect people elsewhere. He thinks that we should give everyone a say who's affected by the decision.

Some have suggested that whatever demos we start with, we're going to have to have a right to determine who can join the group and even who can enter the territory that's democratically controlled by the group. These arguments all point to a right that we have, if we have such a right as a group. One objection to this argument is that this right would have to be a moral right. Currently in the United States there is a legal right to impose immigration restrictions under US law, but that doesn't serve to morally justify this legal right.

collective moral rights
The objection is that political states or group political entities don't have moral rights in this sense. One might maintain that only individuals have moral rights and that the collective doesn't have any rights in this sense. Another kind of rejection related to this is that even if there is such a group right to exclude or not associate with some people, it's not going to be as strong as similar individual rights.

So, thinking about the individual case, I certainly might have a right not to have to spend time with you, some particular person, if I find that person annoying or even if I just find them boring. So we have freedom of association rights. And I certainly have a right not to have my fortunes tied to yours, say by sort of merging our bank accounts or having us get married without my consenting to this.

It's not clear that rights of this personal kind would extend to a very large group like a nation state. We can't just force some people upon a specific nation state community. One suggestion is that even if there are rights of this kind, they would be relatively weak, and they might well be overridden by the seemingly much weightier rights of others to move freely, particularly when moving freely would prevent them from great harm. When we think about how big a group a country actually is, and how small a role most of us play in becoming members of the country in which we are citizens, mostly we just happen to be born there, or our families moved us there, it's going to be hard to see a very robust right to keep the group just the way it is.

It's at least plausible that democratic principles concerning having a say in the creation of laws that have a great effect on others, would motivate expanding the relevant group of people who should have a say, to include those who are affected by immigration restrictions. Michael Humer talks about arguments regarding collective self determination and thinks that a nation state is like a private club, such as a study club, that decides to exclude unwanted members. He points out that nation states are unlike private clubs because everyone has to be a citizen of at least one country. Another significant difference, is that nation states provide extremely important services. So it's not just like getting to study with some other people.

Some states are much better than others, so that it has huge effects on a person's overall life what state he or she happens to belong to. This places a much more significant burden on those arguing that it's permissible to exclude people. Some think that the collective self determination argument can meet this burden when it's paired with the argument that immigration restrictions are going to be justified on economic grounds, as a way of protecting the employment and economic opportunities of the current members of the nation state.

Some people say that we as a collective have an obligation in some cases to pass policies that will benefit us, and that one way that we get this kind of benefit is through having immigration restrictions that make it easier for us to have jobs, or make our jobs better in various ways. Often there are complaints like the immigrants will take away our jobs, or the immigrants will reduce our wages. Although these kinds of objections are common, they seem to be profoundly confused, at least according to the economists who study the issue.

arguments for restricting immigration
Many studies suggest that immigration increases wages and has a positive net effect on native employment. All of the studies show massive net economic gains for the whole society if there is unrestricted immigration. Recently two economists at Purdue University, Angel Aguiar and Terrie Walmsley, modeled the effects of three US policy alternatives: full deportation of Mexican immigrants, full legalisation and full legalisation with increased border control.

They found that full deportation reduces the gross domestic product, and that the other two options would increase the gross domestic product. The deportation policy would reduce GDP by 0.61%. Legalisation with increased border control would increase it by 0.17%. Legalisation without any border control would increase it the most by 0.53%. There's some controversy with respect to some of these issues, but not with respect to the overall effect on the economy. Overwhelmingly economists think that immigration would benefit the economy.

Harvard Economist Lant Prichett has calculated that world wide open borders would increase the world GDP by $65 trillion. This would effectively double world GDP. Some estimates state that it would triple world GDP. The studies are quite remarkable but also somewhat complex and they rely on a lot of assumptions as every paper in economics does.

The basic reasons that immigration is thought to make everyone better economically is that, although some workers may see reduced wages, certainly in the short term, as there's more competition in the market and a greater supply of workers, these reductions are offset. In particular, firms are able to pass on lower prices to consumers, which we all benefit from, since these companies are able to pay less for the cost of production. There will be an increased demand for various goods and services as the poorest in the world become able to buy and consume more. So at least in a sort of economic prospective, open borders seems beneficial, and a lot of the benefits will get passed on in a dispersed way.

Michael Huemer's view
Michael Huemer suggests that these questions are beside the point. He suggests that we could even grant that immigration would make some native workers economically worse off, and this would still fail to justify the harmful coercion that immigration restrictions constitute. He offers another helpful example.

Michael Huemer's view
Imagine that I'm being considered for a particular job, for which I know that Bob is the only other candidate. I also know that Bob is willing to work for a lower salary than the salary I could obtain if I were the only candidate. On the day Bob is scheduled to have his job interview, I accost him and physically restrain him to keep him from going to the interview.

When confronted about my seemingly unacceptable conduct, I explain that my action was necessary to protect myself against Bob's taking the job that I would otherwise have, or my being forced to accept a lower salary in order to get the job.

Michael Huemer's view
So does this provide an adequate justification for my behaviour? Does it show that contrary to initial appearances, my harmful coercion does not really violate Bob's rights? Alternately, does it show that my action, although a rights violation, was an ethically justified rights violation?

Michael Huemer's view
Huemer suggested the answer's certainly not. The mere fact that Bob is competing with me for a job that I desire, or that Bob is willing to accept a lower salary than I could obtain if I did have not have to compete with him, does not invalidate or suspend Bob's right not to be subjected to harmful coercion. Nor does my interest in having less economic competition, outweigh Bob's right not to be coercively harmed.

If my need for the job in question were very much greater than Bob's need, then some might argue that I would be justified in overriding Bob's rights. We need not decide exactly when a right may be overridden, nor whether a greater economic need could constitute an adequate basis for overriding a competitor's right to be free from harmful coercion; we need not decide these things here, because we can simply stipulate that Bob has at least as much need for the job for which we are competing as I do.

Michael Huemer's view
In such a case, no one would say that Bob's right to be free from coercive harms is suspended or outweighed. This example suggests that we can't justify immigration restrictions on this kind of ground. It's not going to work very effectively, as a way of grounding the sort of coercion that's employed through immigration restrictions.

Michael Huemer's view
There is of course certainly much more that could be said with respect to all of these attempts to justify immigration restrictions. It's not going to be easy to justify immigration restrictions. On the other hand the more positive case for open borders has some real strengths.

One of the main arguments in favour of open borders is a luck egalitarian idea, or in some views a justice related idea, that our life chances shouldn't be dramatically different, simply as a result of luck with respect to our starting points.

positive case for open borders
Joseph Kearns, one of the main advocates of open borders writes that citizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent to feudal privilege, an inherited status that greatly enhances one's life chances. Like feudal birthrights privileges, restrictive citizenship is hard to justify when one thinks about it closely.

positive case for open borders
There might be other ways of altering the huge role that's played by where one happens to be born. Open Borders isn't the only way to address this kind of inequality of starting points.

We might, for example, support measures that improve the situation of people everywhere, so that the gap between the richest and poorest countries becomes much smaller and there wouldn't be those incentives that people have to leave like they have now. In reality we're very far from that result. And it's asking a lot of those who would really benefit from moving to wait for the whole world to improve.

voluntary transactions
Another very different kind of argument is motivated by ideas of freedom. Although we're used to the idea that where we can go is in some ways going to be limited by national boundaries, there's a pretty strong case that this is hard to justify in the modern world. Why is it that I cannot move somewhere if I want to? Why is it permissible to prevent them from doing so?

Here we can pursue a sort of more libertarian idea. Kearns' writings offer another kind of argument. Suppose a farmer from the United States wanted to hire workers from Mexico. The government would have no right to prohibit him from doing this. To prevent the Mexicans from coming would violate the rights both of the American farmer and the Mexican worker to engage in voluntary transactions.

There might be some justification for this, in the way that there's justification for private property rights, which similarly limit our freedom, but the justification in the case of immigration restrictions is not obvious. Economics does not provide support for such an argument.

Another argument for open borders is that democratic considerations require that states cannot adopt restrictive immigration policies unless they give the people who would be excluded a say in whether or not to use restrictive immigration policies. This might be another way we'd get to open borders, because people affected in this way probably wouldn't vote in favour of the immigration restrictions.

Finally, there is an argument for open borders if we just consider the utility or the benefits that people around the world would get from such a policy. Of course it's impossible to know exactly what would happen. One concern is that some people in those countries would benefit significantly, maybe those with the resources or talents to leave, and that those people would go to the places that would be better for them. There's a worry that the people who are left behind are worse off as some kind of brain drain takes place.

Whether this would happen or not is hard to know and there might be some responses that could be made. A lot of people study these effects even now. There's some evidence that the countries from which people leave benefit greatly as well as people either return, they go somewhere for ten years and then come back, or they send money or other resources to their former homes or to family that remain in the country that they left. But, if the economists are even close to correct about the huge benefits, with respect to worldwide GDP, productivity, and innovation, open Borders would make the world much better off from a material point of view.