Monday, March 16, 2015

Joseph H. Carens's "The Ethics of Immigration"

I read the TLS review of the book and knew I had to read it. I'm so glad I did. The book is obviously a culmination of many years of thinking and research on immigration. It is comprehensive in its scope, persuasive in its argument, and lucid in its exposition. Working on the basis of our common intuitions about our democratic commitments, Carens shows how the present immigration system is or is not compatible with what we profess. From the ground up, he builds up a theory of social membership that is humane and logical. The second part of the book is devoted to an argument for open borders. I find the argument utterly convincing, although others will find its claims too radical. Carens's most effective tactic is to compare closed borders to feudalism, both of which privilege birth unfairly, whether it is birth into a class (as in feudalism) or birth into a country (as in the present closed order). Human brings have a right to move wherever they wish. The curtailment of that human right requires very serious justifications. I know The Ethics of Immigration will be my go-to resource for many years to come.


As Bashō longed for Kyoto when he heard a cuckoo in Kyoto, I long for the city where I live.

wiping spurts of mud
off my old leather shoes--
even in new york…

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