John & Julio

I found the following thought experiment stimulating:

Suppose two men, John and Julio, are heading to a job interview. Julio tells John: “I need this job more than you do. Please drop out of the race so I get it.” It’s perfectly reasonable for John to reply: “No. You’re a stranger and I don’t owe you anything.”

But suppose instead that John handcuffs Julio to a tree to prevent him from going to the interview. Julio says “Let me go. I deserve a shot at this job too.” At this point, it’s ludicrous for John to reply, “No. You’re a stranger and I don’t owe you anything.” Julio isn’t demanding help; he’s just demanding that John leave him alone.

And if John were to object, “You’re not leaving me alone. That job is MINE, and you’re trying to steal it from me!” we’d have to answer, “The job isn’t yours. It’s up to the owner of the business to decide who he wants to employ.”

All of this is obvious to any upright 10-year-old. You’re under no obligation to give your toys away to less fortunate kids, but you’re certainly not allowed to steal toys from less fortunate kids.

Unfortunately, if the victims happen to be born in another country, most adults don’t have the moral sense of a 10-year-old.

From here. Also read this article by Bryan Caplan, a fierce advocate of open borders, on the same topic: Why Should We Restrict Immigration? (pdf link)

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4 responses to “John & Julio

  1. I know you’re going to start breathing fire in a minute, but I can’t help myself …

    You are dragging “absolutes” into play, if you want the argument to have any weight. Without reference to that which is absolutely and inherently good the argument reads a bit like an opinion piece. This obviously begs the question: Why should your opinion be valued more than anyone else’s?

    Personally I’m with you on this, but not because I think so, but because it has to be so :D

  2. >> Why should your opinion be valued more than anyone else’s?

    All I am doing is stating an opinion – without claiming to have any exclusive access to the Truth. Whether others agree with the opinion or not is totally up to them. It would be nice if others evaluated the stated opinion purely based on its own merit (e.g., reason and evidence), rather than based on whose opinion it is. Otherwise, it would be a case of ad hominem (albeit, a passive one).

    Instead of asking ‘Why should X’s opinion matter more than Y’s?’, why not ask ‘Does the opinion make sense?’. I think that’s a better question. But then again, that’s just my opinion, man! ;-)

  3. The analogy is fair, but it seems to me that it takes a very simplistic view of a complex issue like immigration. I don’t think unregulated immigration will do anyone any good. If we don’t keep the number of immigrants in check, it could lead to the same situations due to which they have migrated.

    • Hi Pranav,

      That’s what I used to think as well! For the past couple of years, I’ve been following Bryan Caplan’s posts on this topic (among others), and even if I am not 100% sold yet, his elaborate and fact-based reasoning has made me seriously reconsider my position on open immigration. Do check out that PDF link I provided in my post above. (I’ve tremendously enjoyed reading his two books as well: The Myth of Rational Voter, and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, by the way.)

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