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National Solidarity, Global Impartiality, and the Performance of Philosophical Theory. The Example of Migration Policy

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This paper explores the issue of whether an international system of nation-states can be defended from a global perspective of impartiality. At present, it seems as if the nation-state were the only suitable institutional location for the realization of effective systems of social justice. Provided that national politics is indeed disposed to promote the freedom and well-being of its citizens, a decentralized system of nation-states is likely to produce beneficial effects. Experience, however, teaches that national politics has in many instances had decidedly negative effects. For that reason, the existing system of nation-states cannot be defended from a global point of view. Hence, the question turns on whether a system of nation-states could conceivably find the support of rational persons if it incorporated substantive restrictions on national politics. This paper discusses the liberty to migrate as one of the many options potentially available for the correction of the existing international regime. As the closer inspection of the underlying philosophical question reveals, the problem can only be resolved with reference to a normatively relevant understanding of the kind of persons we take ourselves to be. From the conclusion that the freedom to migrate is to be understood as a fundamental liberty, the discussion then turns to the legitimate limitations that might be imposed by national immigration policies. It is argued that—in order to accommodate what is demanded by both global impartiality and national solidarity—open admission policies must not in effect place at a disadvantage those who are already relatively worse off under a present distribution, for this would violate basic conditions for the development and confirmation of socially acquired self-esteem
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Vienna, Institute for Philosophy and Theory of Law, Schottenbastei 10-16, A-1010 Vienna, Austria

Publication date: 1998-06-01

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