Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ideas or Interests?: a not quite run of three

A Profession With an Egalitarian Core
So why report cost-benefit results only for United States citizens or residents, as is sometimes done in analyses of both international trade and migration? The nation-state is a good practical institution, but it does not provide the final moral delineation of which people count and which do not. ... 
Economics evolved as a more moral and more egalitarian approach to policy than prevailed in its surrounding milieu. Let’s cherish and extend that heritage. The real contributions of economics to human welfare might turn out to be very different from what most people — even most economists — expect.
Mark Thoma links to Cowen, and adds the following
I can understand why it might have been advantageous from an evolutionary perspective for nature to make us care most about those who are closest to us.

It seems like there are two ways to get beyond this tribalism. The first is to expand the definition of the tribe to include everyone. According to the column, and to economic theory and evidence more generally, open borders don't just benefit immigrants, they help everyone.
My comment didn't go through. Expanded below:

1-This is Tyler Cowen in 2006 (and repeated here too many times)
An Economist Visits New Orleans
"To be sure, the shantytowns could bring socioeconomic costs. Yet crime, lack of safety, and racial tension were all features of New Orleans ex ante. The city has long thrived as more dangerous than average, more multicultural than average, and more precarious than average for the United States. And people who decide the cheap housing isn't safe enough will be free to look elsewhere—or remain in Utah with their insurance checks. 
Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again."
Socioeconomic Darwinism is not egalitarian.

2-If tribalism is dangerous then so is community and so is family. So liberal philosophers debate "Legitimate Parental Partiality"
Harry Brighouse.
These relationships appear inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships [parents and children] may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests in ways that may interrupt equality.
Intimacy is a danger to democracy. Love is unfair.
Now you see the line from hippies to neoliberals, right and left. Both begin with individualism and end with the formalization of all sociability, either in the name of the market or equality.
Either way you end up with this [recent repeat]

Would you have your children go to bed hungry so you could give food to the poor? Would you voluntarily cut your wages by two thirds or donate that two thirds or more to charity? Would you sacrifice your family's safety and security for the safety and security in the aggregate? Have you taken a vow of poverty? If not are you guilty of tribalism?

Cowen will never offer up his own children in sacrifice to the gods of free trade and neither will you.
Others' children are another matter. If immigration had as little effect on employment as they say then Dean Baker wouldn't be almost alone in arguing for an open market in managers and technocrats.

G.A. Cohen: "I'm a less good person than I would be if I were as good as I could be."
"It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms." 
Bertram: "First, I'm sympathetic, I really am…"

We all agree that moralism is the only option; now, confident in our own superiority and unwilling to change our own behavior,  let's talk more about utopia.

US policy involves weakening its trading partners as much as possible. Immigration is the natural result, It brings fresh meat to the machine. Immigrants beat out the native working class; in my 25 years in and around construction wages were flat or down, and that's ignoring inflation. I keep hearing references to the decline in unionization as if it had no relation to immigrant labor. I worked with and competed against immigrants. I respect them, legal and illegal, but that doesn't change the fact you feed your children first. That people and governments should not make it a policy to beggar their neighbors does not change the fact that "No person is illegal" is an argument from a narcissistic idealism opposed to the very idea of law. We're back to the hippies and (for the second time in this post) what they became.

As I said to a friend, a legal immigrant from a poor country with connections to various UN agencies dealing with immigration, I'm not in favor of changing US immigration laws, I'm in favor of breaking them.  I defend illegal immigration as such.  My friend understood because he understands that governments have a responsibility to their citizens. He knows what American policy has been towards weaker countries, and he knows that immigrants have changed this country for the better.  He's well aware of American ignorance. Americans only travel to go to war; the world has to come to them for them to learn.

Given the loyalty of academics to their class and tribe, the discussions of politics at CT have gone beyond parody.  David Estlund credits Rawls' predictive abilities, reversing cause and effect.
The title’s term, “Real utopias,” (anticipated by John Rawls’s “realistic utopia”)... 
The Continental and Anglo-American traditions continue their collapse into one another: a unified field/fantasy metaphysics.  [Sloppy.  Not cause and effect but primacy/authority, as if I were to write a sonata in a form anticipated by Mozart.]  

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