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One untouched aspect of this issue is the option of relieving suffering by allowing migration. Especially with global warming (and water running out in Yemen, and lack of economic opportunities in Spain...) we might be able to do the most good for some people by allowing them to join our institutions/country.

I'm most comfortable with a mix of free-market principles and Obama's immigration reform on easing global suffering. A free-market must allow for human capital to move around at free will - so those people stuck in Egypt should be allowed to move to America and take advantage of our institutions.

I bring up Obama's amnesty to those under 30 because due to resource and political constraints the abolition of nation-defined internment will probably only be available to people under the age of 30. I hate to sound prejudice but I don't know if 50 year old's will ever be capable of adjusting to America in a fully productive way.

Oh and now you have to consider brain drain.

Ahhhhhh! So difficult.

Brendan Saloner


I'm very honored that you crafted such a thoughtful post partially in response to my earlier comment, and I think Will also brings up another tricky and interesting issue with immigration.

The fact that we cannot administer Medicaid in Egypt counts as a very good reason why institutions can make a difference in our moral commitments. But I think the significance of institutions runs deeper than feasibility -- there are many things that we can do to aid non-citizens, but which we are not obligated to do. We could provide resources in the form of targeted foreign aid to reasonably competent and transparent governments (like Rwanda or Botswana) to provide comprehensive public insurance with services on a par with Medicaid (thus surpassing a standard of care in the developing world). That might do a lot of good, but it is not an obligation -- certainly not on a par with providing Medicaid to poor Americans.

I think institutions matter because they establish the ground rules for a particular political, social, or economically interdependent group of people, they represent the terms on which we who are intimately bound with one another should be treated. As our world becomes more global, and more interdependent, weaker ties are also created with non-citizens (for example, Chinese workers who make electronics and sneakers). The notion I was playing with -- but I'm not confident what I believe -- is that the spheres of obligation can be carved below the level of nations to encompass separate responsibilities and claims among people who live in the same cities, provinces, and states. I think the devolved structure of American government lends itself to this kind of an arrangement, even though I also see that a devolved system is a major source of inequality in America, and often a hindrance to progressive social policy.

I'll also blog about this at some point.


Brad F

As I read above, and listened to something from Health Affairs moments before, the ironic juxtaposition popped out. Its a lovely piece, and you will see what I mean:

Its the 7/6 posting. Something to be learned.


Brendan Saloner

Yeah, it's very interesting Brad. I just gave it a listen, and recommend it to others.

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