Thursday, May 03, 2007

democracy and stuff

Everybody agrees that democracy is not the ultimate value: if a majority favours killing all Jews it doesn't matter, you still don't do it. But how do you know which things are "just wrong"? You can't vote on it.

An argument against immigration (which I think is pretty good) is that the immigrants could come in and vote for horrible illiberal things, possibly undermining women’s rights, to take an example. So we say, "we have the power and we won't give you any because we worry what you will do with it."

That might sound ok, but the same argument could have been used to deny women the vote. Back in the day, men had all the power and there was a pretty good classical liberal status quo. Women like taxes and lots of other stuff that libertarians regard as rights violations. So men could deny women the right to vote for exactly the same reson as keeping foreigners out.

How is this argument against immigration different to the argument that women shouldn't vote?

These days it seems self evident that women should vote, but it hasn't always been this way. Opponents of immigration think it's self evident that immigrants have no right to enter. Proponents instinctively feel that people should be able to move around as they like.

How do you decide questions like this?


Anonymous said...

You raise interesting and disturbing points.

To reiterate and add....

1. The majority of people can carry out immoral practices which are sactioned by cultural norms.
(A clear example for me, would the abuse of animals in animal-rearing for food). So a majority view is definitely not neccessarily the right view.

2. Cultural norms and acceptability also assist in moderating behaviour without actual police enforcement.

In terms of immigration, if a country has a clear constitution which is founded on secular ethical principles then it will hopefully prevent the votes of immigrants from causing a clear discordance with these principles.

However, if the immigrants begin to form such concentrated numbers and have practices which are against the comstitution, enforcing the constitution without massive police (and legal) action will be difficult. Which is possibly why, in fundamentalist Muslim areas in the Netherlands, the rights of women are not enforced. This means that not all people within the country experience the same rights. But they probably wouldn't have those rights in their own country either.

If the immigrants begin to be comparable to the original inhabitants numbers, their practices may also begin to impact on the nationals' rights, change the dominant cultural norms, and disturbing social cohesion.

I'm not saying I'm against immigration though. But these are serious problems. Of course it could happen naturally within a country's own people. What about the rise of radical fundamental Christian groups within the U.S.?


stuart said...

Yes that's all true. So would you agree that giving women the vote also causes serious problems?

The last point is a good one. Children from particular groups are most likely to end up being criminals. if government action is called for to stop immigrants with naughty ideas, why not take steps to alter the fertility of the underclass?

Tracy-Leigh said...

well, in the end I think it's more a problem of democracy than this and that particular group based on some supposed lines of nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc. Problem with democracy, is that the majority may be right. But who knows what the alternative is?