Wednesday, July 26, 2006

moral arithmetic

Tyler Cowen has a short post on incorrect moral arithmetic
1. For reasons of practicality and cost, nations should in many cases devote more resources to their own citizens than to foreigners.

2. Once the costs mentioned in #1 are taken into account, foreigners are still "worth less" than citizens.

#2 does not follow from #1, that is a mistake in moral arithmetic. #2 is false.
I don't really think he's going out on a limb here, it's similar to agreeing that while parents should take care of their own kids that doesn't mean their own kids are "worth more" than other kids. People can probably agree when it's put like that but its difficult not to get the feeling that people who live in rich countries really do think they are more important than people living in poor countries. As always the comments are interesting
No libertarian economist could listen with a straight face to an official in a socialist government explaining "Trust me, I'm making policy for the good of the people of my country." Yet the very same economists will solemnly swear that they only advocate policies for the good of all the people of the world (which is even more improbable) and that their own tastes and self-interests has zero to do with it. Nowhere is this more obvious than when economists who know very little about immigration start preaching on the subject.
Tyler's normally lucid prose style has collapsed into Hegel-like vagueness. This may not be an accident. Whenever the subject turns to immigration, Tyler's usually sharp insight turns dull and clouded by arational emotions.

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