Sunday, 4 November 2012

Should votes be for sale?

Ahead of Tuesday’s U.S. Presidential election, Stephen Levitt, citing the work of Glen Weyl, has made a provocative suggestion for improving the electoral process – people should be permitted to vote multiple times, paying increasingly higher fees for each additional vote. I’m attracted to this idea because it addresses one of the major drawbacks of ‘one man, one vote’, that every vote counts the same, regardless of how strong the preference expressed is. It is problematic (to me, at least – others may have different intuitions) that a vote cast by a fervent anti-Republican, who fears that a Romney victory would be as calamitous as a zombie apocalypse should be cancelled out by the vote of someone who thinks the candidates are much the same, but that Romney just has the edge. To be clear, the objection is not that the former voter is better informed or qualified to vote, just that they feel stronger about the issues – the opinionated but ignorant would still be likely to buy plenty of votes.
A trivial example should make my intuition clear. Suppose a group of people are trying to decide what topping to get on their pizza. Four people have a weak desire to get prawn, while two have a weak desire not to get prawn. Meanwhile, one person is strongly against prawn because it will cause them to have a severe allergic reaction, and require them to go to hospital. If the decision is put to a simple majority vote, the group will opt for prawn, 4-3. Yet it seems wrong to me that the preferences of those who gain so little from having the prawn should be counted equally with the person who is allergic. For a more clearly political example, perhaps the views of those enjoying a modest tax cut should not be counted equally alongside the person who loses vital services to pay for the cuts.

The obvious objection to the vote buying proposal, which Levitt discusses, is that it gives disproportionate political power to the rich. His response is unconvincing – he points out that such a transparent system would be better than the status quo, where the rich exert greater influence through campaign finance. But that is just an argument to reform campaign finance, not to create an alternative way to perpetuate the inequity.

Moreover, the objection is deeper than Levitt appreciates - insofar as the vote buying scheme gives greater power to the rich, it fails in its attempt to reflect the strength of voters’ views, because it fails to account for the law of diminishing marginal utility. The logic behind the vote buying scheme, as I understand it, is that it forces people to put their money where their mouth is. In buying $50 worth of votes for the Republicans, I am showing that a Republican government is worth $50 to me. The trouble is that that $50 is a much more powerful statement when it comes from a poorer person, involving a more significant sacrifice on their part. If $50 pledged to the Republicans means giving up a meal at a nice restaurant, and person A dines at nice restaurants regularly, while for B it is an annual treat, then it is clear that B wants the Republicans to win more.

The obvious way to reflect this would be to make voting fees progressive i.e. proportionate to income. So the richer you are, the more you have to pay to vote.

Even with this amendment, there are two types of concern I have about the scheme. On one hand, I am sceptical as to whether this measure would be successful in achieving its own stated goal - to successfully reflect public opinion. On the other hand, I wonder whether this goal is the only desirable one to have.

The first reason for scepticism about vote buying accurately capturing people’s real views is that it depends on people being able to provide an accurate and meaningful valuation of how much an electoral outcome is worth to them. Yet as behavioural economists such as Dan Ariely have shown, this is something most people struggle to do without a set of reference prices for context (do you have a clear idea, right now, how much you would be willing to pay for a certain number of votes in the next election?) This is further complicated by the fact that people wouldn’t be buying a Romney or Obama victory, but just the mere possibility of being decisive one way or the other.

Even if people could accurately gauge how much their vote is worth, the market for votes might still be distorted. Just because a person is willing to  pay $100 to vote for Obama, this might not fully be a reflection of their endorsement of the president. People might pay a voting fee for all sorts of reasons, just as people vote for all sorts of reasons just now – out of a sense of civic obligation, to express gratitude for the historical sacrifices of their forebears, out of a sense of power. Each of these motivations means that the amount they pay for their vote will fail to track their enthusiasm for the candidates.

A more fundamental objection to the vote buying scheme is that it fails to understand hat voting is really about. It could be argued that it is not just about taking a snapshot of public opinion, but that it has some other function, which is subverted by vote buying. For example, political theorists have long argued that democracy has an educative value – by giving citizens the responsibility of a say in how the country is run, they are encouraged to live up to that faith by engaging with politics, developing and trusting their own judgement. If engagement with politics becomes a prerequisite of voting, then those who are not inclined to involve themselves in politics will simply shrug off this responsibility, and opt not to develop these faculties.

Whatever you think about the vote buying proposal, it offers an illuminating challenge to the way democracy proceeds just now – does it really expose an important problem with the status quo? And if so, what is wrong with its proposed solution? In answering these questions, we get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of democracy, and why (if at all) we value it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The difficulties of a ‘coalition of the rational’ on immigration

One of the intriguing ideas to emerge from the Labour party conference earlier this month is shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant’s proposal of a non-partisan ‘coalition of the rational’ in favour of immigration. The idea is attractive and interesting because it raises the ideological complexity of the issue. However, it is this very complexity that threatens the feasibility of the hope.

What Bryant appears to recognise is that immigration is an issue that cuts across the traditional left right divide, pitting libertarians against conservatives on the right, and liberals against egalitarians on the left. If those in favour of migration are to prevail, they are of  course going to have to reach out to those on the other side of the spectrum.

However, it is important to recognise how difficult this diversity of opinion makes forming and maintaining such a coalition. I think it’s generally true that the inherent difficulty of coalitions stems from the fact that people agree on something, but do so for different reasons. Immigration is unusual because of the extremely high number of different ways in which people can be in favour of it: because it promotes economic prosperity, because it helps businesses, because it reduces state regulation, because it brings cultural benefits, because it atones for historic injustices, to name but a few.

Both Bryant and Don Flynn of Migrants’ Rights Network, who has also discussed the idea, appear to be too optimistic about the scale of the differences between potential coalition partners. Bryant’s moniker for the group suggests that all unprejudiced ‘rational’ people will inevitably come to the same conclusion. Meanwhile, Flynn seems to suggest that there are only two necessary conditions for the project to be a success: transcending party tribalism, and establishing the facts about immigration.

Both these views seem to suggest that a common appreciation of ‘the facts' is all we need to establish common ground on immigration. But this is a gross oversimplification of the diversity of possible positions on the topic. For a start, how would we even know what the relevant facts are? Is it about the effects of immigration on growth, unemployment, Gini coefficients, or what? Different facts will seem salient or irrelevant to different people, and I would suggest that no set of facts will convince people of all perspectives.

Even more threatening to the vision of a coalition of the rational is the fact that the same set of facts may be received in diametrically opposite ways by different people. Let’s say immigration doesn’t significantly affect the bargaining power of labour, or cause wages to fall. That might encourage egalitarians to favour immigration, but equally it could alienate pro-business types from the cause. If it were to emerge that immigrants are overwhelmingly high skilled, the news might be taken as positive by those who see immigration as an engine of growth, but it is unlikely to be cheered by cosmopolitans concerned by brain drain in developing countries.

The point is that the very diversity of values and assumptions that make a wide pro-immigration coalition possible also make it inherently fragile, especially to new facts. And frankly, that is what makes the idea so interesting.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Banal Nationalism of Olympic coverage

The Olympics are invariably a troubling time for those wary of the excesses of patriotism and nationalism. This time around the BBC’s coverage of the games has been singled out as reflecting a narrow concern for promoting the glory of the British athletes, and failing to draw sufficient attention to the successes of other countries. The BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson is alleged to have expressed his concern over the tone of the coverage, criticised as ‘jingoistic and sentimental’ by American journalists who insist “U.S. journalists would never openly root for the home team”. Robert Shrimsley nicely sums up the way that the coverage was skewed towards ‘team GB’: foreigners were only deemed worthy of attention if they are:
“a) as famous as Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps; b) a great sporting discovery who will become synonymous with the London games; c) a double amputee and, most importantly, d) not in the way of a British medal hope”.
There seem to be two issues here. First, the BBC is being criticised for the tone of its coverage i.e. for cheering British competitors too blatantly. Second, the BBC is being criticised for its editorial decisions over which events to focus on in their coverage. The first issue doesn’t seem too hard to remedy – it just calls for commentators and presenters to have a little more self-control. The second is more fundamental  – can anyone really imagine the BBC giving similar airtime to Kazakhstan’s weightlifting success, or South Korea’s shooting medals?

That this is so offers a nice example of the phenomenon Michael Billig calls ‘banal nationalism’. The idea of banal nationalism refers to the way that apparently innocuous, everyday occurrences reinforce the fact that we live in a world divided into nations, and emphasise the significance of our national identity. Billig focuses on the subtle and insidious: “not a flag which is being consciously waved with fervent passion”, but “the flag hanging unnoticed on a public building.” Of course, the Olympics involve plenty of conscious fervent flag waving, and it was fervent conscious flag waving that the BBC’s tone has been criticised for. But I think the banal nationalism of the BBC’s coverage, reflected in its editorial decisions, is even more interesting, not least 
because it seems so obvious and inevitable that it rarely invites comment.

Banal nationalism derives its force from the numerous times a day that we are reminded of our national identity, our commonality with our compatriots, or our difference from foreigners. For example, when the British news refers to the British government as ‘the government’, it reinforces the idea that it is the government that British people should care about, to the exclusion of all others, whether or not the matter in question affects them personally. Similarly, the division of newspapers into ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ news reinforces the mental division between compatriots and foreigners.

We can see the banal nationalism of Olympic coverage by comparing it to the coverage of other sporting events. I don’t think that most cosmopolitans have any problem with the idea of rooting for teams in spectator sports – I think most would acknowledge that this adds to the enjoyment of the event. However, supporting a country in the Olympics is different to supporting a football team. For a start, the degree of choice that accompanies the latter decision is greatly reduced – many people choose to support teams other than their home team, for a number of reasons, including liking players in the team, or enjoying their style of play. Yet in the Olympics, it is deemed aberrant to pick and choose countries or competitors to support in this fashion. Even if you already have favourites, there is a pressure to discard them – I imagine many British supporters of Roger Federer felt compelled to abandon him in the interests of ‘team GB’.

The notion that it is aberrant not to get behind your home country is fostered by the media coverage of the games. It is presumed that you will be most interested in the fortunes of the competitors of your country, whichever sport they compete in, whether you like that sport or not. It is presumed that you only care about the backstories and narratives of your compatriots. Even if you wanted to support another country, the lack of attention given to non-British competitors gave viewers essentially two options: with us or against us. This mirrors and amplifies the banal nationalism of news coverage more generally – the assumption that you care more how the British judokas are doing reflects the assumption that you are more concerned about the British earthquake victim than those trapped beside them.

Interestingly, just as global telecommunications are generally beginning to offer an alternative to the narratives of banal nationalism, so modern technology provided the best hope of escape from the banal nationalism of the 2012 Olympics coverage. Between its interactive online and TV broadcasts, the BBC offered the chance to watch near enough every event of the games, without biased commentary or analysis, if you wanted. To take an example, one sport I really got into during the past fortnight was handball. Before 2012, I had never watched an Olympic handball match, mainly because Britain isn’t very good at handball. But since I no longer had to depend on the BBC’s guess of what I wanted to watch (Britain winning things), I was free to discover a new sport and cheer for teams that aren’t GB. Yet as I’m sure Michael Billig would insist, resistance to banal nationalism is near futile – even if we overcome a few particular instantiations, it is so powerful and pervasive that it is basically inescapable.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Does Obama believe in determinism, left-libertarianism or justice as fair reciprocity?

Dylan Matthews has made an interesting attempt to reverse-engineer part of Barack Obama’s political philosophy, based on some remarks he made in Roanoke, Virginia a couple of weeks ago:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me —because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
This point was immediately leapt upon and misquoted in a Romney attack ad, suggesting that the Republicans at least want to present this as a key point of philosophical difference between the two presidential candidates.

Matthews sees the debate as tracking the old philosophical dispute about the existence of free will and moral desert. On one hand, you have Obama sympathisers, who are sceptical about free will, and so whether people can ever be held ultimately responsible for their own success. This means that the rich cannot use the argument that they deserve their wealth to defend it against redistribution. On the other hand, those on Romney’s side of the debate are relatively credulous of the existence of free will, and so more likely to believe that the successful deserve credit for their success and deserve to keep their wealth. 

Now this is certainly a plausible reading of the dispute, and I think Matthews is right to connect Obama’s comments to luck egalitarianism, but I think this is only one of a number of ways to frame the argument. Even if it is a debate essentially about desert, the two sides might not map neatly onto the opposing sides of the free will debate. For example, someone who believes in free will might be in full agreement with the claim that the rich do not deserve full credit for their own success. All that the rejection of hard determinism entails is that it is possible that some people are sometimes morally responsible. But of course, this does not entail that people are always morally responsible. Thus it is likely that many Obama sympathisers believe it is possible (though perhaps unlikely) for rich people to deserve their wealth, but that as a contingent fact, in the present society, most or all do not.

In any case, it is far from clear that Obama’s point is about moral desert at all. Notice that in the quote above he makes only factual claims – there are no explicitly moral arguments at all.* I think this means, whether by accident or design, that Obama’s argument has ecumenical appeal across different moral perspectives. As I see it, Obama’s argument goes something like this:

Empirical Premise: The rich are not solely responsible for the own success, they were dependent on others in society.
Normative Premise:?
Conclusion: Some of the wealth of rich ought to be shared with the rest of society.

Obama’s argument can be filled out with the normative premise of luck egalitarianism: that inequalities can only be justified if they result from responsible choices. This seems to be Matthews’ assumption, which explains his focus on free will – without free will, there can be no responsible choice, and so no legitimate inequality. But there are other normative premises which can serve the argument just as well. I think the two most interesting, and the ones that are most likely to capture Obama’s point, are justice as fair reciprocity and left-libertarianism.

The basic normative premise of the position I call justice as fair reciprocity is that we have special duties to other members of our society because they are necessary contributors to what John Rawls calls “a cooperative venture for mutual advantage” without which we could not prosper. Elements of this position are sketched out in the work of Rawls and Brian Barry. However, perhaps the clearest contemporary proponent is Andrea Sangiovanni, who argues that “those who have submitted themselves to a system of laws and social rules in ways necessary to sustain our life as citizens, producers and biological beings are owed a fair return”. Notice that questions of free will, luck and desert are not immediately relevant on this account. What matters is that success was dependent on the efforts and actions of other people, and so these others are owed a share of the rewards. Whether Obama is pumping the intuition about luck or the intuition about dependence on others is unclear – I can see the argument for both.

Another thing that Obama seems to be doing in the speech is subverting orthodox libertarian notions of property. In this he echoes left-libertarian political philosophers. As Matthews notes, Robert Nozick saw questions of free will and desert as irrelevant to distributive justice – he was against redistribution as he believed it to infringe individual rights. On the Nozickian view, the rich (like the basketball player Wilt Chamberlain in his famous example) get rich as the result of “capitalist acts between consenting adults”. That is, the free exchange of property. Left-libertarians accept the principle that there should be no restrictions on how people use their property. However, they argue for a more complicated view of who initialy owns what. On the left libertarian view, everybody has an equal claim to the natural resources of the Earth, and so anybody that has got rich by exploiting more than their fair share of these resources owes rent to the rest of humanity. Thus they combine the libertarian respect for property rights with relatively egalitarian proposals.

Obama follows the left libertarians in pointing out how supposedly self-made men like Robert Nozick’s idealised basketball player utilise the property of other people, and society in general to achieve their successes. The implication is that they owe rent in the form of redistributive taxation. Thus left libertarianism, too, can provide the normative promise Obama needs to complete his argument. In the context of current American politics, given that his argument is clearly aimed against libertarian defenders of the status quo, the left libertarian interpretation seems like a plausible reading of Obama, too.

Barack Obama’s Roanoke speech is so interesting from a philosophical point of view because of the variety of perspectives he could be appealing to. In its ambiguity it underlines the fact that effective political interventions often lack the rigour and precision of good philosophy.
*Whether normative propositions can be derived only from empirical facts remains a controversial question in moral and political philosophy, but I can’t see how Obama’s argument here can work without a normative premise.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Should Academics Brainwash their Students? and Other Professional-Ethical Dilemmas

Related to my discussion a couple of weeks ago of the problems and responsibilities of philosophers engaging with non-academics, you might be interested to look at Simon Caney’s latest article (or, for that matter, the rest of the latest issue of Ethics & International Affairs). Caney’s paper addresses the question of what academics can contribute to the struggles against global poverty and climate change. I think he makes a persuasive case that academics have a lot to offer, and there’s little of substance that I disagree with. However, I think it’s interesting to focus on a question that he doesn’t dwell on.
Caney seems to accept that academics should be bound by a norm of ‘neutrality’ or non-partisanship in their teaching responsibilities, and that this means that their anti-poverty activities should be kept away from students: it seems reasonable to think that academics should not use the classroom to convert people to the goal of eradicating poverty”. It is certainly a reasonable view, but is it right? I certainly don’t think it’s obvious that teaching is ‘off limits’ in this way.
First, it is important to see what academics give up if they refuse to use their influence as teachers as part of their armoury. Like all teachers, they have the capacity to strongly direct the thoughts and opinions of their students, many of whom will go on to be powerful and influential, especially at elite universities. For example, Caney teaches at Magdalen College, Oxford, which has produced five members of the current British cabinet. If he were to persuade just a handful of his students of the significance and desirability of action on poverty and climate change, many of them are likely to take up positions (like senior government roles) where they can make significant contributions to these causes.
I can see why Caney wants to rule out such influence. There are obvious concerns about violating dignity and autonomy that arise with the prospect of brainwashing vulnerable youths. Some people might think these are sufficient to ensure that deviations from academic neutrality in the classroom are always immoral.
I think this position has a couple of weaknesses. First, not all deviations from neutrality are the same. The idea of ‘brainwashing’ suggests that students are passive receptacles, powerless to resist the propaganda they are fed. But influence doesn’t just mean telling people what to think. It can take the form of setting agendas. For example, tutors might develop optional courses on climate change or global poverty. They might go a step further, and make these courses compulsory. But notice that the influence is procedural, not substantive: students are not told what to think, only what to think about. They can still conclude that climate change and global poverty are not morally problematic. Thus I don’t think that these forms of influence are all that controversial. 
I guess what worries people more is the prospect that lecturers might push certain substantive views. Again, this needn’t mean dictating a worldview. It could just be a matter of framing questions in a non-neutral way, or pressing objections to certain positions a little harder. As I have suggested before, the ideal of neutrality here, merely helping others to better understand their own positions and exerting no external influence, is rather unrealistic. I don’t think it is psychologically possible to slough off your biases in favour of the things you believe.
But just because some non-neutrality is inevitable doesn’t mean we should actively seek it. The most important argument for abandoning neutrality is the potential benefits. I think most people would accept that sometimes it is acceptable to thwart or violate autonomy if the stakes are high enough. For example, if I believe it will prevent you from committing a murder, most would agree it is morally justified, indeed obligatory, to lie to you, trick you, physically restrain you. Thomas Pogge and Luis Cabrera argue that we should see the problem of global poverty as a calamity demanding exceptional measures – like the ones academics were willing to take during the Second World War. If things are that serious, if the stakes are that high, and non-neutrality can have a positive effect, then that is surely a strong argument in its favour.
This argument is particularly interesting because I think it might be a particular instance of a general phenomenon - a clash between professional ethics and general moral demands. Or, to put it another way, a contradiction between the duties attending to a certain role and duties arising from humanity. Another interesting example might be a person who hires new employees for their firm. While their professional obligation is to find the best qualified applicant for the position, they might think that morally they ought to discriminate in favour of disadvantaged applicants. Just like the non-neutral academic, doing the right thing seems to involve behaving unprofessionally.
Of course, there may be prudential or pragmatic reasons to follow your professional code – in both cases, there is nothing to be gained from losing your job. However, assume that this is not an issue – in either case, we can imagine that detection might be impossible.
Notice that in neither case are the job or the professional injunction themselves immoral. Indeed, we would think that neutrality in the classroom and picking the best candidate for the job are generally morally good things to do. This suggests that there might be epistemic reasons to follow a generally morally good professional code rather than your own ethics. The circumstances where departure from the professional code is morally right are likely to be extremely rare, and most people are likely to have difficulty judging them, so we should never depart from professional ethics, even if we think it is the right thing to do. (This is reminiscent of an argument for split-level consequentialism).
I’ve only scratched the surface of the issues around conflicts between professional and global ethics, but when the stakes are as high as they are with global poverty and climate change, it certainly seems a question worth pursuing.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

My Experiences of the British Citizenship Test

With Theresa May recently announcing plans to revamp the British citizenship test, focusing more on culture and history, and less on practicalities, the whole citizenship process has been back in the spotlight. Having gone through it myself, I think it might be interesting to offer my experiences, frustrations and comments. So here’s how I found it.

The first thing I should probably explain is why I had to sit the citizenship test at all. I was born in the UK to Indian parents, and have lived in this country for all but a year of my life. This means that I received Indian citizenship by default, but that I was always eligible to apply for British naturalisation. If I’d had the sense to apply before I turned 18, I wouldn’t have had to sit the test. But I put it off too long, and by the time I finally got around to applying I was 19.

The first thing to say about the Life in the UK Test (the existing ‘syllabus’) is that it is not as hard as people make out. Newspapers and websites like to shock people with how low their scores are on sample tests – only 14% passed in one facebook survey. But why would you expect to be able to pass the test without any revision or preparation? The information you need to know to pass the test is clear enough, and if you learn it, the test is straightforward. I think you get 45 minutes to do the test – I only needed five. In terms of difficulty, the Life in the UK Test is about as hard as the driving theory test: if you take it seriously, it should only be a formality.

The big debate at the moment concerns the content of the test. In my opinion, the “stuff on rights” and “practical info” that the Home Office is so quick to impugn is the best bit of the test, the only information that seems genuinely worthwhile to learn, independent of just passing the test. I can totally see the point of making sure that new immigrants (or indeed any citizen) know their rights as workers, how to make use of the health service, how to buy a house, the law on things like drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, the bits of the test that I personally found most objectionable were the bits of trivia – like what proportion of the country is under 18, or how many Christians there are. With these sorts of facts and figures, the impression you get is that you are being made to jump through hoops, doing nothing more than showing that you are willing to make some sort of an effort to win citizenship.

The biggest concern I have with the process of applying for citizenship, one that doesn’t tend to get a lot of public attention is the sheer cost of the process. The naturalisation fee for a single adult is £851, plus an extra £80 to pay for a citizenship ceremony. Even with discounts, that means that an average family seeking citizenship will have to pay nearly £2500 for the privilege. This worries me because fees this high are likely to be beyond the reach of many people, or at least put many off. The idea that you need to be rich to be British is surely a troubling one. Then again, it’s a principle which seems to ground a number of elements of current immigration policy. 

As it happens, I wrote to the Home Office to give them some feedback, saying more or less what I’ve said here. To my concerns about the content of the test, they responded that the curriculum had been drawn up by “leading experts in the fields of English language testing, citizenship training, employment of migrants and community development and integration” (I wonder how that compares to the architects of Theresa May’s curriculum?). As for my complaints about the cost of the process, they admitted that fees are “set above cost recovery levels”, in part to contribute “to the cost of doubling our enforcement resources” (charging current immigrants to keep out future immigrants!). However, they also argued that because “British Nationality brings many benefits that applicant’s [sic] value very highly”, it is right to levy a high charge for this valuable service. In other words, they charge high fees because they can, because applicants are willing to pay them. If this is correct, I guess it addresses my worry that high fees put off applicants. However, there remains a question about whether citizenship should be such a money making exercise.

I should probably discuss my citizenship ‘ceremony’ too. None of the official ceremonies on offer were convenient for me, since they all took place while I was away at university. I couldn’t receive citizenship without taking the pledge of allegiance, so I had to pay a little extra and have a personal ceremony, one-on-one with the registrar. While politicians like to describe how moving and emotional these ceremonies are, mine was at best a formality, and at worst a bit farcical. Having vowed my loyalty to the country, we reached the stage of proceedings where they play the national anthem. Of course, the registrar’s office doesn’t typically have an orchestra, so we had to make do with a tinny CD player, trying to maintain solemnity and not look each other in the eye. I’m just glad he only insisted on the one verse.

If I’m honest, this last episode seems to me like an apt metaphor for my feelings towards the citizenship process, taking something that ought to be a formality, trying to inject it with some patriotic fervour, and creating something pompous, preposterous and a bit wearing.

…Please don’t deport me. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Should the old work more, or should the young work less?

Nat Wei, recognising the boredom and lack of meaningful occupation experienced by many retirees, has proposed a ‘National Retirement Service’, which would find socially and economically useful work for the retired. His recommendation comes in the context of a project examining how the government can help people to manage radical life transitions, like retirement.

Robert Skidelsky objects that this approach is fundamentally flawed: “We shouldn't be aiming to extend the domain of work into old age, but to extend the domain of non-work into young age”. His argument is motivated by Keynes’ belief that as the economic problem is solved, as we move towards a period of abundance and mechanisation, we should work fewer hours and enjoy more leisure. It has been calculated that the developed world passed the level of prosperity Keynes believed necessary to usher in such a leisure society in the 1980s.

Yet while Skidelsky presents himself in opposition to Wei, I’m not sure how much they really disagree. I think if you asked of each of them the question in the title of this post, they would be in agreement both that the old should work more and that the young should work less. And I think by examining this apparent disagreement we can better see the nuances that Skidelsky’s interpretation of Keynes needs to be an attractive proposal.

Wei’s recommendation is certainly inconsistent with a crude interpretation of Keynes, which sees work always as bad, and leisure always as good, once basic needs are met. On this view, people work far too much already, so any idea that anybody should work more is preposterous. Retirees have suffered enough, why burden them further?

But things are clearly not that simple. Leisure can be boring or aimless, while labour can be enjoyable, fulfilling and provide social interaction. Skidelsky seems to appreciate this: elsewhere, he has insisted that leisure is not idleness, but rather “activity without extrinsic end”. But surely this description applies to the proposed national retirement service, which clearly isn’t motivated primarily by economic considerations (the economic benefits of the scheme seem to be more a happy side effect). Crucially, Skidelsky himself proposes that the elderly should work three hours a week, suggesting that he accepts that such work can be beneficial.

So Skidelsky, unlike the crude neo-Keynesian is not against the old working longer. What, then ,is his disagreement with Wei? I can only imagine that he presumes Wei does not favour the radical shortening of the working hours of the young that he proposes alongside letting people work longer. There is no obvious reason for this presumption. Indeed, this idea of ‘smoothing’ work and leisure over our life cycles is entirely in the spirit of Wei’s insistence that we should make life transitions less sharp.

Even if this is the case, Skidelsky might object that it is mistaken or counterproductive to extend the working hours of the elderly without the complementary changes in the habits of the young. I see no obvious reason why the two proposals need to come as a package. We want the old to work more because they suffer the problem of too much idleness. We want the young to work less because they suffer the problem of too little leisure. Addressing one of these problems seems perfectly possible without addressing the other. Perhaps Skidelsky’s point is about priorities. The problem of too little leisure is worse than the problem of too much idleness. Even if this is true, it still gives us no reason to reject attempts to deal with the less acute problem. Though I’m sympathetic to Skidelsky’s overall project, Wei’s proposals do not seem to be a threat to it, and appear consistent with his desire to promote ‘leisure’ over idleness.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Philosophy and Public Engagement

Political philosophy, almost by its very nature, demands public engagement. There is something contradictory about a person who espouses a certain conception of social justice, or a vision of a good society, but is indifferent as to whether these are realised.[1] And for political philosophers to realise such goals, they will almost certainly need to engage non-philosophers. While it is more plausible for moral philosophy to be a solipsistic activity – I might only want to discover what is morally right so that I can put it into practice, and be indifferent as to the morality of your behaviour – it is still likely that moral philosophers will want to use their insight to influence non-philosophers.

Ingrid Robeyns and Jacob Williamson discuss the difficulties of such public engagement in a couple of recent blogposts. In so doing they rehearse many of the issues raised by Jonathan Wolff in his book Ethics and Public Policy, which recounts his experiences representing philosophy on various government advisory committees.[2]

The central problem is this: philosophers are regularly called upon to provide an ‘ethical perspective’’ on certain issues. But usually there is no settled wisdom, no accepted consensus that the philosopher can impart. They thus have two options. Either they can present their own view as though it were fact, which would seem to be an abuse of their position representing their discipline as a whole. Or they can present an overview of the different positions and arguments around the issue. But without providing any guidance on how to choose between the competing perspectives, the philosopher is liable to confuse more than they help.

The essential problem, as both Robeyns and Williamson recognise, is working out what exactly philosophers are good for. In a modern democratic society, philosophers are reluctant to proclaim themselves philosopher-kings with special access to moral truth. Even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be taken seriously. On the other hand, what is the point of consulting a philosopher if they are going to tell you that your opinion is as valid as theirs?

The answer they both alight on, and I think this is quite a standard response, is to say that the role of philosophers is to help others work out what they think – to be ‘philosopher-guides’ rather than philosopher-kings’. Presumably this involves things like pointing out inconsistencies, asking probing questions, and demonstrating challenging alternatives. Philosophy, this view would seem to imply, is something that anyone can do, coaxed on by skilled philosophers. The difference between philosophers and the general public, on this view, is just a matter of training and experience.

I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with this drawing of the role of philosophers, but I think that Robeyns and Williamson make it sound simpler than it really is. I think the major difficulty with their view is that they underestimate how much better philosophers are at philosophy than the general public (Which, if I am right, is a good thing for professional philosophy, but problematic for democracy). I don’t need to take a stand on whether this is because people who are ‘naturally’ better at philosophy are likely to become philosophers, or because becoming good at philosophy is not a quick and straightforward process, and requires a lot of training and practice. Either will do for my argument.

If philosophers enjoy a significant advantage over the laity in addressing the sort of questions they are consulted on, this presents two possible difficulties for the Robeyns/Williamson view. The first is that the philosopher-guide will find it hard to maintain the neutrality their role requires. I think a lot of people who have studied philosophy will relate to the experience of having an argument presented so convincingly that it seems impossible to argue against, even though it is really controversial. Given that this is what philosophers do this for a living, isn’t it possible that philosophers will bewitch their audiences without even intending to? After all, it is very difficult to present views you strongly agree and disagree with as if they were the same.

Just as worrying as the possibility that those who seek philosophers’ views will pay too much attention to their substantive positions is the danger that they will give them too little credence. Philosophy would be embarrassingly easy if dilettantes with only a few days’ consideration of an issue could form positions as plausible as professionals devoting their careers to it. If, as I presume, it is not, why should we pretend that the half-baked ideas of non-philosophers should carry as much weight as those of real philosophers? Why should philosophers continue to refine views that they will never have time to properly clean up (without turning their subjects into philosophers), when they have fully-formed ones to offer?

What I want to suggest here is that the role of the philosopher-guide is one that is extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible to carry out well. On the one hand, the philosopher risks putting forth their own ideas too strongly. On the other, there is the danger that they fail to provide the full benefit of their expertise. My worry is that the middle course between these two dangers is extremely narrow indeed.

[1] Although Adam Swift makes the valid point that at least one function of the political philosopher is ‘epistemological’: improving understanding of morality and justice, which does not require the philosopher to change the world.
[2] You can find my review of Wolff’s book here.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Do Men Even Want to 'Have It All'?

Anne-Marie Slaughter has attracted a lot of attention recently for her claim that women ‘still can’t have it all’. That is, that it is impossible for women to balance a family and a successful career without making significant sacrifices in one, the other, or both facets of their lives. Slaughter’s argument is an interesting one, and a fresh personal contribution to an old question. However, I think it is at least as interesting to ask why Slaughter’s argument was aimed at women, and indeed why this issue continues to be seen as one which overwhelmingly concerns women.

To oversimplify horribly, in the Bad Old Days, there was basically a division of labour whereby men did ‘men’s work’ (had an outside career, and provided for their families), while women did ‘women’s work’ (ran households and reared children).[1] Now the problem is that women are trying to do both men’s and women’s work, and failing to juggle the two. The question I am interested in is why the dilemma is focused on women, but not men. In other words, why does there appear to be so much less angst about men trying to maintain their traditional roles while taking on those that used to belong to women?

There are two big reasons to ask whether and why similar career-family dilemmas arise for men. The first is that if this is such a major concern for women, one which causes such distress and heartache, it is likely to be equally consequential for men. The second, as Slaughter rightly observes, is that any effort to improve the status quo is likely to be greatly strengthened if it can ‘enlist’ men who face the selfsame problems.

As I see it, there are three main possibilities as to how Slaughter’s argument relates to men. I do not want to argue for any one of these, but just to discuss their implications.

The first possibility is that men face an exactly symmetrical dilemma to women. They too, want to have it all, to be active parents and successful careerists, but struggle to balance the two. Indeed, the pressure on men might manifest itself in slightly different ways – instead of being expected to have both a career and manage a family, men might feel pressurised to play down the importance of their family life. This might explain why there is so little tension on the surface, since the problem is suppressed.. This is the view of Stephanie Coontz, who insists, “It’s tough formen and women

The second possibility is that men do not want it ‘all’. They may be perfectly content for women to be free to enter men’s world, but have no interest – or at least much less interest – in the conventional tasks of women. This view is implied by Slaughter when she says that “From years of conversations and observations, however, I’ve come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help”. That is to say, men, for whatever reason, feel no compulsion to take on certain responsibilities previously carried out by women, and so do not have to juggle as much as women do.

Most interesting, though, is the possibility that the dilemma does not arise for men because men do not know what they are missing. That is, they do not want to take on women’s work, but this is not because of some natural or mutually convenient difference between the two genders. Rather, men suffer from a kind of false consciousness, mistaking their true interests. Perhaps men think that running a household is tedious or unfulfilling, when in actual fact many men would have happier, more flourishing, more rounded lives if they took on some of the responsibilities that women do.

This is particularly intriguing because it raises the possibility that men might actually be worse off than women (I have to emphasise: in this, and only this, dimension). Perhaps the dilemma of balancing family and career arises only for those who experience and understand two important human goods, and that the choices are easy only for those too stunted to realise what is at stake. In that case, just to get men to the position where they appreciate that there are tough choices to be made might represent progress, and bring men back level with the women who have ploughed ahead.

[1] Take the inverted commas around ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ as read from now on.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Can Global Egalitarians Defend the Welfare State?

This article is adapted from my MPhil thesis, and focuses on the more practical and empirical side of the globel egalitarian's dilemma with respect to the welfare state


Egalitarians often see the welfare state as the obvious vehicle for their principles. But its beneficiaries are relatively affluent by international standards. For example, an average household in the bottom 5% of the French income distribution will be among the richest 28% of humanity.[1] From a global perspective, the welfare state redistributes from the super-rich to the upper middle class.
A number of egalitarians have spotted this potential tension in their thought without exploring it fully. For example, Stuart White believes that a “cluster of issues around global and intergenerational justice is likely to become as important as the classical debates between left and right on the justice of the welfare state”.[2] Similarly, Robert Goodin notes that “it is logically very difficult indeed not to be drawn ‘beyond the welfare state’ and extend similar protections to the needy worldwide”.[3]  Meanwhile, different political theorists have developed a strong defence of the idea that egalitarian concerns should not be limited to nation states. This view, known as global egalitarianism, holds that material inequalities between individuals in different nations are morally problematic.

This opportunity to discomfit egalitarians has not escaped the notice of those on the right. Sam Bowman, of the libertarian think tank The Adam Smith Institute, exploits it to bait his ideological opponents:

support for a welfare state in the UK is wrongheaded even if you believe that a welfare state is a good way of combating poverty. If throwing money at people improves their long-run living standards, the left should oppose a welfare state in Britain and want to direct all social spending to the developing world.[4]

Bowman goes too far in suggesting global egalitarians are committed to dismantling the entire welfare state – this would inevitably lead to people in places like the UK becoming impoverished even by global standards. The real question is whether global egalitarians can support more generous welfare provision in affluent countries (like the UK) than elsewhere. If not, this would certainly imply dramatic cuts to Western welfare states, such as Britain’s.

In this article, I want to argue that even if global inequality renders welfare states as generous as those of Western countries morally unjustifiable in principle, global egalitarians still have pragmatic reasons to defend them.[5] Given certain contingent facts about public opinion in developed countries, bigger welfare states are associated with support for measures that benefit the global poor. I take three measures in turn – aid, trade and migration – and explain (i) how each of these contributes to mitigating global inequality, and (ii) how each of these is associated with larger welfare states.


The question of whether foreign aid helps the global poor is so disputed that the study of aid effectiveness has become a field in itself within development economics. It is often hard for outsiders to make sense of the mutually contradictory findings that regularly emanate from it, [6] but there are a few general points that can be made against aid sceptics. Firstly, though many doubt whether aid has a positive influence, there is hardly any evidence that aid, taken as a whole, has been harmful.[7] Secondly, the aid effectiveness literature takes a particularly narrow view of success – economic growth is the most common metric. That aid has had a positive non-economic impact independent of its direct economic effects is relatively clear. Aid has financed successful health interventions, such as the eradication of smallpox.[8] It was instrumental in supporting the ‘green revolution’ and so feeding the world’s poorest. It has contributed to raising education levels.[9] Thirdly, though it remains controversial, there is reasonable evidence to suggest that aid has, in fact, produced economic growth.[10] This result is especially strong when we account for the fact that not all aid is intended to boost economic output.[11] Fourthly, there is the expectation that aid will become more effective as practitioners gain a better understanding of what does and does not work.[12] Thus while much of the evidence remains inconclusive, we should still expect global egalitarians to favour increased foreign aid.

A few political scientists have explored the connection between a country’s welfare state and its contribution to foreign aid. A common finding is that bigger welfare states tend to give more aid.[13] Yet this is insufficient to establish a causal connection – it does not show that countries give more aid because they have a bigger welfare state.

There are a number of ways this relationship might be explained. A third factor might cause both high welfare expenditure and high aid donation. For example, a strong commitment to egalitarianism would apply the same logic to domestic and international inequality. Confidence in the effectiveness of state intervention would also explain both. These underlying values may well be independent of existing institutions. However, it has also been suggested that political values are often conditioned by the norms embodied in existing institutions.[14] It could be that the welfare state develops an egalitarian ethos which spreads from the domestic sphere to the international.[15]

 These static background factors might help explain the relationship between the welfare state and foreign aid, but there may also be dynamic factors, brought into play by changes to welfare or aid spending. The idea that welfare and foreign aid spending could ‘crowd each other out’ is implausible – aid never constitutes more than a tiny proportion of government spending. Yet it is well established that citizens of rich countries vastly overestimate how much their governments spend on foreign aid.[16] If 25% of the US government’s budget really was spent on aid, as the average American thinks, then greater welfare spending would be much more likely to necessitate cuts to foreign aid. Thus cutting the welfare state may well make foreign aid seem more affordable, and therefore more popular.

At the same time, many people have the view that the government has obligations to look after its own people first and foremost, and that foreign aid is only acceptable once a basic standard of living is secured for all citizens. The global egalitarian may disagree violently with these values, and seek to change them, but if they are pragmatic, they must account for their existence. On this view, the less discontent there is with the adequacy of the state’s provision for its own citizens, the more support there will be for the state assisting foreigners.

The evidence offers most support for this last hypothesis. Using survey data, Noel and Therien find that support for international redistribution is strongest in those countries where there is least demand for further domestic redistribution i.e. where people are most satisfied with existing welfare institutions.[17] By contrast, the countries that most favoured more domestic redistribution tended to be against increasing foreign aid, and were often the countries with the least social protection. Noel and Therien suggest that this is because inequality is less of a concern in more equal countries with a great deal of state intervention in place.

The extreme cases of Denmark and France illustrate the point. Denmark, with the most generous welfare state and lowest inequality in the OECD, showed little appetite for further redistribution. Only 67% of respondents thought something should be done about Danish inequality – the lowest in the sample. At the same time, 89% of Danes thought more should be done to help the global poor. By contrast, those proportions were almost exactly reversed in France – 91% calling for greater domestic redistribution compared to 67% wanting more international redistribution.

The lesson that Noel and Therien draw from this is that mass publics “support international redistribution more strongly when principles of justice have been institutionalized domestically and when poverty has been tackled at home, and less strongly in the absence of such principles and achievements”.[18] Extensive domestic redistribution seems to be a popular precondition of increasing foreign aid. Global egalitarians therefore have good reason to defend the welfare state since it is necessary to maintaining public support for foreign aid.


The role of trade in poverty alleviation is another controversial issue, but most of the controversy relates to the question of whether poor countries ought to open their economies to world markets. However, this is not the relevant question for our purposes – we are concerned with the policies of rich countries. It is much less debatable that the protectionism of developed countries harms the global poor. Tariffs and subsidies keep the global poor out of lucrative markets. They depress world prices, and increase market volatility. Worse, agriculture and textiles, where poor countries have a comparative advantage, tend to be the most protected markets. Moreover, these are particularly significant sectors for employment – 70% of Africans are farmers.[19]

Various estimates have been made of the concrete cost of maintaining these barriers. Cline suggests that the removal of industrial country agricultural subsidies and protections could reduce global poverty by 8%.[20] It is estimated that a similar move for textiles would be worth $23.8 billion a year to developing countries.[21] Farmers of just one crop in one region – cotton growers in Francophone Africa – are believed to have lost $700 million as a result of artificially depressed prices caused by subsidies.[22] It has been suggested that “For every $3 that the EU gives Mozambique in aid, it takes back $1 through restrictions on access to its sugar market”.[23]

A few poor countries could be harmed by the removal of certain trade barriers, at least in the short run. For example, Mauritius benefits from its privileged access to the inflated prices of the EU sugar market.[24] Net importers of food might be squeezed by the higher prices resulting from the withdrawal of subsidies. However, those who stand to lose – those in cities and relatively industrialised economies - are vastly outnumbered by, and generally better off than, those who stand to gain.[25] It is fairly safe to say, then, that trade liberalisation in rich countries would help reduce global inequality.

Larger welfare states have been associated with trade liberalisation for three reasons.[26] Firstly, they stabilise expectations. The more dependent a person is on the market for their income – especially volatile global markets – the greater their potential losses from free trade are likely to be, and so the more risk averse they are likely to be. The safety net of the welfare state means that international trade is no longer seen as a fundamental danger to our standard of living, but as an opportunity. Secondly, the welfare state offers the possibility of compensating the ‘losers’ of globalisation. Those whose incomes fall can be assured of recouping some of their losses in the shape of state benefits. Moreover, they can also be sure of receiving support, like education and retraining. According to Peter Katzenstein, this was the conscious policy of many European countries: Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands sought to “complement their pursuit of liberalism in the international economy with a strategy of domestic compensation”.[27] Finally, the welfare state ensures a greater role in the economy for the government, allowing it to act as a counterweight to the vicissitudes of the market. In a turbulent open economy, the state sector might be seen as ‘safe’, a reliable source of employment and spending, which can step in should demand and employment fall in the rest of the economy.

Dani Rodrik offers empirical support for these theoretical claims.[28] He finds that more open economies have greater state expenditure, and that this relationship is robust, independent of income, region, size, political values and a number of other variables. Not only does the association hold cross-sectionally, it also holds over time: countries that were more open in 1960 were likely to have a bigger state sector in the next three decades. State spending is also related to the riskiness of trade: countries with more volatile terms of trade tend to have bigger welfare states. Rodrik also finds that while general government spending seemed to be the main tool in developing countries, variation in welfare spending explained most of the variation in openness among members of the OECD. According to his estimates, in the average country, a 10% increase in trade volume as a proportion of GDP is associated with an increase in welfare spending of 0.8% of GDP. There is also support for the theory that the government acts as a safe sector of the economy – a small increase in government spending tends to reduce income instability.

Rodrik only suggests that the direction of causation runs from trade openness to welfare spending, and not the other way around. In other words, he argues that more open countries are likely to develop bigger welfare states, but not necessarily that bigger welfare states are likely to become more open. However, this does not seem like an unreasonable extension of his argument and data – it is not contradicted by anything he says. The two processes certainly seem to occur close together. If welfare spending is seen as compensation for greater openness to trade, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that greater spending would leave people more willing to accept lower trade barriers, or that less spending would lead to demands to erect higher barriers. There is no reason why compensation cannot be provided in anticipation of openness. Indeed, this is sequence of events found in many countries surveyed by Molana et al: government growth precedes trade growth.[29]

There is good reason to suspect that a bigger welfare state encourages rich countries to lower the trade barriers, and so remove one of the major causes of global inequality. This gives global egalitarians further motivation to support the welfare state.


Migration can be expected to benefit the global poor in four ways. Firstly, there is the direct effect of allowing relatively poor individuals access to the opportunities of rich countries. Secondly, there are remittances - money earned by emigrants abroad and sent back to their country of origin. These have been estimated to be worth over $80 billion to developing countries, more than they received in aid.[30] Thirdly, developing economies benefit from the return of migrants, having developed skills abroad.[31] Finally, the prospect of emigration incentivises the acquisition of education and skills, even among some who will not eventually get to migrate.[32]

Against this, there is concern about ‘brain drain’ – the idea that migration leaves poor countries worse off because skilled professionals are lost at such a rate that it is impossible to replace them. Some commentators have expressed scepticism about the problem of brain drain. They argue that professionals only leave in large numbers because there is no capacity in the economy to absorb them - they cannot find jobs at home. Or that other factors, like religious persecution, motivate professionals to leave.[33]

Such a sanguine view underplays the genuine disruption caused in many countries by skilled migration. Carrington and Detragiache estimate that “the outflow of highly educated individuals reaches above 30 per cent in a number of countries in the Caribbean, Central America and Africa”.[34] Fortunately, such extreme levels of brain drain are relatively rare. Adams finds evidence that brain drain is a major problem in only a handful of Latin American countries: the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica and Mexico.[35] While the negative consequences of brain drain ought not to be underplayed, it is a serious problem for only a minority of poor countries, and so this effect should not be enough to outweigh the massive beneficial effects of migration for the global poor: in terms of the direct advantages conferred on the migrants, remittances and human capital formation.

Assuming then that greater migration is desirable from a global egalitarian standpoint, does the welfare state encourage or undermine the movement of people to rich countries? On the one hand, the welfare state offers a safety net to workers who might see their incomes compromised by foreign competition, and so encourages support for immigration. Another salient factor is that a generous welfare state might be seen as facilitating integration, making immigration more palatable. However, in more generous welfare states it is possible that people will be more worried about immigrants overburdening the system and bringing it down.

Escandell and Ceobanu have tested these hypotheses by studying the relationship between social protection and anti-immigrant sentiment.[36] Their findings suggest merit in both of them, but pro-migration attitudes seem the more powerful. For the unemployed, living in a larger welfare state is associated with greater antipathy towards immigrants. This might reflect the fact that the unemployed are uniquely vulnerable, and are most likely to view immigrants as competitors for their benefits. However, on aggregate countries with bigger welfare states tend to be more welcoming to immigrants. This result holds controlling for region, income and partisanship.

Migration is an important means of global redistribution. There is evidence that stronger welfare states encourage greater support for migration. Therefore, the global egalitarian has another reason to support the welfare state.


This article has sought to argue that global egalitarians have pragmatic reasons to defend the welfare state, given that public opinion seems to demand a large welfare state as a precondition of international redistribution. It should be emphasised that this is only a tactical position, while  support for global redistribution remains uncommon. All it suggests is that global egalitarians ought to pursue two simultaneous strategies: on the one hand, they should promote global redistribution; on the other, they should defend domestic redistribution. The practical difficulties of this fight on two fronts is a subject for another day. 

[1]               Milanovic, ‘Global Income Inequality: What it is and Why it Matters (World Bank Policy ResearchWorking Paper 3865), 17; see also Milanovic, ‘How Unequal Is Today’s World?’, in his The Haves and the Have-Nots (New York: Basic Books, 2011).
[2]               White, ‘Ethics’, in Castles (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 31.
[3]               Goodin, Protecting the Vulnerable: A Reanalysis of Our Social Responsibilities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 154. See also Arneson, ‘Luck Egalitarianism: A Primer’, in Knight and Stemplowska (eds.), Responsibility and Distributive Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 46-7.
[4]               Bowman, ‘Looking at global inequality’, Adam Smith Institute blog, June 1 2011: < >; see also Bowman, ‘Only nationalism can justify a welfare state’, Adam Smith Institute blog, May 6 2011: ; Rohac, Does Inequality Matter? (Adam Smith Institute Briefing Paper). Available at: <>.
[5]               I make no argument here either for the claim that global equality is valuable, or that global egalitarians have no principled basis to support the welfare state. On the former, See Caney, Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). On the latter see my MPhil Thesis, which this article is adapted from: Bhattacharya, ‘Can Global Egalitarians Defend the Welfare State?’ (MPhil Thesis, University of Oxford, 2012).
[6]               Roodman, ‘Macro Aid Effectiveness Research: A Guide for the Perplexed’ (Center for Global Development Working Paper Number 134).
[7]               Hansen and Tarp, ‘Aid Effectiveness Disputed’, Journal of International Development 12 (2000).
[8]               Levine and the What Works Working Group, Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health (Washington D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2004); Mishra and Newhouse, ‘Does health aid matter?’, Journal of Health Economics 28 (2009).
[9]               Dreher et al, ‘Does Aid for Education Educate Children? Evidence from Panel Data’, World Bank Economic Review 22 (2008).
[10]             Hansen and Tarp, op. cit.
[11]             Radelet et al, ‘Aid and Growth’, Finance and Development 42 (2005).
[12]             See, for example, Banerjee and Amsden, Making Aid Work (London: M.I.T. Press, 2007) and Collier and Dollar ‘Aid Allocation and Poverty Reduction’, European Economic Review 46 (2002).
[13]             Lumsdaine, Moral Vision in International Politics: The Foreign Aid Regime: 1949-89 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 121-2; Noel, and Therien, ‘From Domestic to International Justice: The Welfare State and Foreign Aid’, International Organization 49 (1995), 529-30; Rieger and Leibfried, Limits to Globalization: Welfare States and the World Economy (Oxford: Polity, 2003), 85.
[14]             Rothstein, Just Institutions Matter: the moral and political logic of the universal welfare state(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
[15]             Lumsdaine, op. cit.
[16]             World Public, ‘American Public Vastly Overestimates Amount of U.S. Foreign Aid’, Available at: <>.
[17]             Noel and Therien, ‘Public Opinion and Global Justice’, Comparative Political Studies 35 (2002).
[18]             Ibid., 649.
[19]             Moss and Bannon, ‘Africa and the Battle over Agricultural Protectionism’, World Policy Journal 21 (2004).
[20]             Cline, Trade Policy and Global Poverty (Washington D.C.: Center for Global Development/ Institute for International Economics, 2004), 157-68.
[21]             IMF and World Bank, Market Access for Developing Country Exports – Selected Issues (Washington: IMF, 2002), 43.
[22]             Moss and Bannon, op. cit., 58.
[23]             Oxfam, ‘Dumping on the World: How EU sugar policies hurt poor countries’, Oxfam Briefing Paper 61.
[24]             Hoekman et al, ‘Reducing Agricultural Tariffs versus Domestic Support: What’s More Important for Developing Countries’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2918.
[25]             Hoekman, op. cit.; Cline, op. cit., 273-5.
[26]             Rieger and Liebfried, op. cit.
[27]             Katzenstein, Small States in World Markets (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 47.
[28]             Rodrik, ‘Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?’, Journal of Political Economy 106 (1998).
[29]             Molana et al, ‘On the Causal Relationship between Trade-Openness and Government-Size: Evidence from OECD Countries’, International Journal of Public Policy 7 (2011).
[30]             Adams and Page, ‘International Migration, Remittances and Poverty in Developing Countries’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3179.
[31]             Constant and Massey, ‘Return Migration by German Guestworkers: Neoclassical versus New Economic Theories’, International Migration 40 (2002).
[32]             Stark et al, ‘A brain gain with a brain drain’, Economics Letters 45 (1997).
[33]             Dowty, Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement (London: Yale University Press, 1987).
[34]             Carrington and Detragiache, ‘How Big is the Brain Drain?’, IMF Working Paper 98/102.
[35]             Adams, ‘International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3069.
[36]             Escandell and Ceobanu, ‘Anti-Immigrant Sentiment and Welfare Regimes in Europe’, Centre for Comparative Immigration Studies Working Paper 178.

This article was originally published in the Oxford Left Review Issue 7