Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Nordic Journal of Migration Research

The Journal of Nordic Migration Research

4 Issues per year

Open Access
Online
ISSN
1799-649X
See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 1, Issue 1 (Aug 2011)

Issues

The Ethics of Immigration Policy

Nils Holtug
Published Online: 2011-08-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10202-011-0002-4

The Ethics of Immigration Policy

This article concerns the normative basis for immigration policy. In particular, I consider the implications of three fundamental liberal values, namely democracy, liberty and equality. First, I argue that democratic theory seriously questions the right to national self-determination when it comes to immigration. This is because potential immigrants may be coercively affected by immigration policy and, on a standard account of democratic legitimacy, this implies that potential immigrants should have democratic influence on such policies. In particular, I defend these claims against David Miller's defence of national self-determination. Second, I consider the importance of the right to freedom of movement and argue, again against Miller, that this right constitutes a weighty consideration in favour of allowing immigration in many cases. Third, I consider the importance of equality. In particular, I consider an argument for restrictive immigration policies, according to which immigration threatens to undermine social cohesion and so the basis for the welfare state. I challenge this argument in two respects. First, I point out that the empirical evidence for the claim that ethnic diversity undermines the welfare state is not as clear as some have assumed. Second, I point out that this argument for restrictive policies assumes that equality has domestic rather than global scope. Finally, I suggest that even if we are global egalitarians, we should aim for something less than (completely) open borders.

Keywords: Democratic legitimacy; freedom of movement; equality; David Miller; cosmopolitanism

  • Abizadeh, A 2008, ‘Democratic theory and border coercion: no right to unilaterally control your own borders’, Political Theory, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 37-65.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Abizadeh, A 2010, ‘Democratic legitimacy and state coercion: a reply to David Miller’, Political Theory, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 121-130.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Alesina, A & Glaeser, EL 2004, Fighting poverty in the US and Europe. A world of difference, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Blake, M 2003, ‘Immigration’, in A companion to applied ethics, eds RG Frey & CH Wellman, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, pp. 224-237.Google Scholar

  • Brock, G 2009, Global justice. A cosmopolitan account, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Caney, S 2005, Justice beyond borders. A global political theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Carens, J 1992, ‘Migration and morality: a liberal egalitarian perspective’, in Free movement. Ethical issues in the transnational migration of people and money, eds B Barry & RE Goodin, Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, pp. 25-47.Google Scholar

  • Carens, J 1995, ‘Aliens and citizens: the case for open borders’, in The rights of minority cultures, ed. W Kymlicka, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 331-349.Google Scholar

  • Castles, S & Miller, MJ 1998, The age of migration. International population movements in the modern world, 2nd edn, Macmillan Press, Basingstoke.Google Scholar

  • Cole, P 2000, Philosophies of exclusion. Liberal political theory and immigration, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.Google Scholar

  • Cole, P 2006, ‘Towards a symmetrical world: migration and international law,’ Ethics and Economics, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-7.Google Scholar

  • Gesthuizen, M, van der Meer, T & Scheepers, P 2009, ‘Ethnic diversity and social capital in Europe: test of Putnam's thesis in European countries’, Scandinavian Political Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 121-142.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Goodin, R 1988, ‘What is so special about our fellow countrymen?’ Ethics, vol. 98, no. 4, pp. 663-686.Google Scholar

  • Holtug, N 2006, ‘Prioritarianism’, in Egalitarianism. New essays on the nature and value of equality, eds N Holtug & K Lippert-Rasmussen, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 125-156.Google Scholar

  • Holtug, N 2010a, ‘Immigration: Er der en konflikt mellem frihed og lighed?’ [Immigration. Is there a conflict between liberty and equality?], in Kulturel diversitet: Muligheder og begrænsninger [Cultural diversity: possibilities and limitations], eds K Lippert-Rasmussen & N Holtug, Syddansk Universitetsforlag, Odense, pp. 263-281.Google Scholar

  • Holtug, N 2010b, ‘Immigration and the politics of social cohesion,’ Ethnicities, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 435-451.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Holtug, N 2010c, Persons, interests, and justice, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Holtug, N 2011, ‘The cosmopolitan strikes back. A critical discussion of Miller on nationality and global equality’, Ethics and Global Politics, forthcoming.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Hooghe, M, Reeskens, T, Stolle, D & Trappers, A 2009, ‘Ethnic diversity and generalized trust in Europe. A cross-national multilevel study’, Comparative Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 198-223.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Jespersen, K & Pittelkow, R 2005, De lykkelige danskere. En bog om sammenhængskraft [The happy Danes. A book on social cohesion], Gyldendal, Copenhagen.Google Scholar

  • Kærgård, N 2011, Etik og dilemmaer i indvandrerpolitikken [Ethics and dilemmas in immigration policy], in Grænser for solidaritet, eds JT Bak, M Bock & JH Schjørring, Anis, Frederiksberg, pp. 31-55.Google Scholar

  • Lægaard, S 2009, ‘Liberal nationalism on immigration’, in Nationalism and multiculturalism in a world of immigration, eds N Holtug, K Lippert-Rasmussen & S Lægaard, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 1-20.Google Scholar

  • Lægaard, S 2010, ‘What is the right to exclude immigrants?’ Res Publica, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 245-262.Google Scholar

  • Miller, D 2004, ‘Social justice in multicultural societies’, in Cultural diversity versus economic solidarity, ed. P van Parijs, De Boeck University Press, Brussels, pp. 13-31.Google Scholar

  • Miller, D 2007, National responsibility and global justice, Polity Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Miller, D 2010, ‘Why immigration controls are not coercive: a reply to Arash Abizadeh,’ Political Theory, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 111-120.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Myles, J & St-Arnaud, S 2006, ‘Population diversity, multiculturalism, and the welfare state: should welfare state theory be revised?’ in Multiculturalism and the welfare state. Recognition and redistribution in contemporary democracies, eds K Banting & W Kymlicka, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 339-354.Google Scholar

  • Nagel, T 2005, ‘The problem of global justice’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 113-147.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Pogge, T 1997, ‘Migration and poverty’, in Citizenship and exclusion, ed. V Bader, Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 12-27.Google Scholar

  • Pritchett, L 2006, Let their people come: breaking the gridlock on international labor mobility, Centre for Global Development, Washington, DC.Google Scholar

  • Putnam, RD 2007, ‘E Pluribus Unum: diversity and community in the twenty-first century’, Scandinavian Political Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 137-174.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Raz, J 1986, The morality of freedom, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Torpe, L & Lolle, H 2011, ‘Growing Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust in European Societies’, Comparative European Politics, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 191-216.Google Scholar

  • Trebilcock, MJ 1995, ‘The case for a liberal immigration policy’, in Justice in immigration, ed. WF Schwartz, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 219-246.Google Scholar

  • Tushnet, M 1995, ‘Immigration policy in liberal political theory’, in Justice in Immigration, ed. WF Schwartz, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 147-157.Google Scholar

  • UNDP 2009, Overcoming barriers: human mobility and development, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.Google Scholar

  • Uslaner, E 2010, ‘Segregation, mistrust, and minorities’, Ethnicities, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 415-434.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Walzer, M 1983, Spheres of justice: a defence of pluralism and equality, Martin Robertson, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • World Bank 2006, Global economic prospects: economic implications of remittances and migration, World Bank, Washington, DC.Google Scholar

About the article


Published Online: 2011-08-26

Published in Print: 2011-08-01


Citation Information: Nordic Journal of Migration Research, ISSN (Online) 1799-649X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10202-011-0002-4.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

[1]
Nils Holtug
Journal of Global Ethics, 2016, Volume 12, Number 3, Page 279

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in