Category Archives: Economics

Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part III – Impartial Rights

What if you didn’t get to choose your parents? Well, I guess you didn’t. But, who you are born to will greatly dictate your life. Such luck seems incredibly unjust.


We have already explored two other arguments for open borders (the greatest good for the greatest number and libertarianism). We are now at our final argument – the argument from impartial rights. I ask for your patience; this one is a bit complex, but I believe it to be by far the most important, powerful, and profound.

John Rawls thought we should think of society as a group of people who want to cooperate for mutual advantage. To ask what justice requires is to ask what sort of hypothetical contract would free and equal persons agree to as the terms of cooperation. This is our tool for figuring out what justice demands.

But contracts are apt to be unfair in favoring one of the parties because of either ignorance or a superior bargaining position. That is why, when asking what contract we would agree to, we should imagine ourselves behind the “veil of ignorance.”

Behind this veil, we do not know who we will be in the hypothetical society – so we don’t know our race, wealth, health, intelligence, religion, gender, age, etc. We could be anyone in the society we create.

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Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part I – The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

Whatever you think about the current immigration debate, you have likely never questioned our country’s right to dictate who can, and cannot enter our borders. But, what if we are all wrong about that?

Undocumented border crossing.

This is the first part of a series of blogs concerning arguments for open borders. However crazy this sounds, I will give three separate arguments for open borders, each from a very different ethical perspective – the greatest good for the greatest number, libertarianism, and from the perspective of impartial rights – which should cover most of my readers.

These arguments were originally conceived by Joseph Carens, in his groundbreaking paper, “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders.” All I will do is reformulate and simplify his arguments in order to call into question one basic assumption we all share – countries have a right to prevent people from crossing their borders.

This first argument concerns utilitarianism. This is the ethic of bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The idea is that we should pursue policies that provide for the greatest overall level of well-being for everyone affected by the policies.

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The Hidden War on Public Education

We must not turn our backs on public education – it must not become a for-profit business.

Marco Rubio

In a recent opinion piece, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) championed a Florida program that provides tax dollars for low-income children to go to private schools. Such programs, in which the government gives people a “voucher” that they can use to pay tuition at a private school, have become a popular talking point, especially among libertarians.

However, such voucher programs are fundamentally flawed in that they miss the point of the problem. Supporters argue that children in low-income neighborhoods are forced into schools that cannot offer them a good education. This is assuredly true. Their solution is that we must get our kids out of these schools, and into the capable hands of private institutions. This, though, is the wrong conclusion.

Imagine that one of the walls of your house has fallen in. Your house is really no longer doing its full job as a house. Sure, it keeps the rain off of your head, but it lets in bugs and wind, and a big hole is of little deterrence to would-be burglars. So, what should you do about your broken house? Fix the wall, obviously. What you do not do is buy a new house.

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Is the Pay Gap a Result of Sexist Men, or Something Much Deeper?

How is there still a pay gap between women and men despite the fact that we have progressed so far concerning women’s rights? Our immediate response is that there are still too many sexist men running companies. I, however, think this is a mistake. Overt sexism is not the problem.

Equal Pay Protest

Yes, perhaps some hiring and compensation decisions are a result of old, sexist men, but this is too small a problem to account for the dramatic pay gap we see today. In a recent Yale study, 127 scientists were given an identical CV (a resume for academics), except that they were randomly assigned either female or male names. Overall, the male candidates were rated as deserving $4,000 more than female candidates. Interestingly, this held true even when the person reviewing the CV was herself a woman.

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The Battle for a Living Wage Heats Up: What We Can Learn from the Past

Thursday morning, in over 100 cities across the country, fast food workers hit the streets to demand a raise in the minimum wage. Of course, as protests often do, there have been many arrests.

 photo protestarrest_zpsd832f86d.jpg
Image by @masseydaniel

Across the country, these low wage workers, who are demanding a $15 minimum wage, have had to resort to blocking traffic in order to garner the public’s attention. This civil disobedience has obviously led to arrests.

Whatever the merits of this particular protest, and their particular tactics, it is impossible not to see historical parallels in this dramatic move by fast food workers.

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Minimum Wage: Hope for the Poor

After President Obama’s latest State of the Union address, the media lit up. The most controversial thing he said? Not gun control, we have heard that all before. Not the war. What could have been so controversial that it out shined some of the hottest topics in the media today? Minimum Wage.

Why is this so controversial? Why wouldn’t we want to give everyone who makes $7.25 an hour a pay raise to $9.00? The GOP is calling it crazy, but in reality it’s not crazy at all. In fact, it makes complete sense from both a moral and a prudential standpoint.

When we think of poverty, we think of unemployed families. We envision those who have not been able to find work, or have not looked for work; however, if we look at our countries impoverished, they largely consist of working families. A single parent working full time that is earning minimum wage takes home $15,080 a year. That’s $3,400 below the federal poverty line for a family of three1. What’s even more scary is that as we are allowing the market to drive up prices on things like food and health care, it’s also driving up the prices of housing because we have not adjusted wages to levels of inflation we are seeing around the nation. In turn, families are now being forced to spend nearly 60% of their monthly income on housing alone.

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