Social Safety Nets and Tribalism

Over at the Daily Beast, Elizabeth Picciuto writes:

If Trump wins, we could always up and move to Canada. Right?

Well, maybe you can. My family can’t. At least, not if we want to bring my son. My son has Cri du Chat Syndrome, a genetic disorder with developmental and physical disabilities.

Canada, it turns out, has something of a habit of unwelcoming immigrant families with children with disabilities.

The rationale here is that admitting people with known genetic disorders tends to weigh down a society with a single-payer healthcare system:

David Baker, a Canadian disability rights lawyer… agrees in a debate had at the offices of Christopher Ligori & Associates, that Canadian prospects are bleak for my family.

He says that according to Canadian law, preventing disabled children from entering the country is not considered discrimination. Rather, it’s a question of preventing excessive demand on resources.

That’s a fairly ad hoc definition of “discrimination,” is it not? Of course it’s discrimination whenever we treat two different groups differently. That’s just what the word means.

The question is, rather, whether the discrimination is justified. Perhaps it can be justified, though not necessarily, with reference to an increased demand on resources.

It remains for Canadians to decide what Canadians can afford, but it does somewhat beggar belief that the Canadian system of single-payer healthcare will sink or swim on this particular margin. The ungenerosity is rather stunning, even for me, and I get called a crypto-plutocrat all the time.

On that note, I can’t help but observe that publicly provided healthcare makes people go funny in the head in all kinds of closely related ways. Admitting immigrants with genetic disorders seems of a kind with a host of other policies: Much like government controls on smoking and the mandating of motorcycle helmets, there is a horse sense to this policy that begins with single-payer healthcare and winds up in restrictions on individual behavior, in the name of taxpayer savings.

Perhaps, though, these are precipitous moves, unsupported by the actuarial math. In the case of smoking, it’s a well-documented fact that seemingly bad behavior actually improves the government’s overall financial position: Grimly, what it loses in up-front healthcare costs, it recoups in long-term pension savings. The dead collect few pensions.

Still, the impulse to collectively police behavior seems to grow stronger in the presence of a collectively provided social safety net, regardless of how the math shakes out. I suspect that a disposition is being unleashed here that has nothing to do with numbers, and everything to do with symbolic affiliation and tribalism writ large. Single-payer to some degree makes us pennypinching, pound-foolish busybodies.

Such a disposition likely has more to do with our evolved monkey brains than it does with modern demographic measurements. Thousands of years ago, the reckoning of resources was simple, the groups were small, and the inputs and outputs of all economic activity were easy to understand. Another mouth to feed would have to justify itself if it were ever to be admitted to the tribe. The instinct seems to have evolved to play it safe, and to reject in all cases of doubt. From here we also get the closed-border policies that are weighing down the world economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, because the globalized economy just doesn’t work the same way as a band of hunter-gatherers.

Finally, and as much as I might be inclined to argue the contrary, this disposition is not obviously a sufficient argument against the public provision of a social safety net. It does however suggest that any such safety net must be designed with the likelihood of a tribalist failing in mind. Safety nets cause us to circle the wagons, and to exclude both behaviors and people whom we might otherwise tolerate, or even welcome. They incline us, in short, to a kind of illiberalism.


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Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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123 thoughts on “Social Safety Nets and Tribalism

    • If I ever need/want to move north and I’m asked whether I’ve met my obligations to Canada, I will proudly tell the immigration authorities that I have purchased their flavorless hothouse tomatoes for years and the New Pornographers’ Electric Version was one of the last albums I actually paid for. I’ve also never had a bad word to say about curling.

      If that doesn’t meet my obligations to Canada as a foreigner, I don’t know what will.

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      • It seems so silly to say (or even *IMPLY*) that we have obligations to Canada, isn’t it?

        Yet if Canada says “if you become a citizen, we will have obligations to you” we all nod our heads and say “YES THAT’S WHY WE WANT TO BECOME CITIZENS!”

        If Canada, however, says “we don’t want to meet those obligations to you, though… therefore, we aren’t going to let you become a citizen”, suddenly… what?

        My intuition is to say that our intuition is to say that Canada is being a real dillweed… but it isn’t obvious to me that Canada is not meeting its obligations to its citizens by saying “we’re not going to just let people in here all kittywumpus.”

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        • And I’m thinking of restrictions on immigration for those with criminal records.
          It seems to be based on the notion that the prior offender will re-offend. Terribly presumptive, if you ask me.
          But it goes against the grain of Jason’s main point, that expansion of services instills a hard eye toward costs (i.e., no apparent presumption of increased costs for heightened law enforcement activity and incarceration expenditures); and leans more toward your view that foreign nations really have no obligations to the citizens of the U.S.
          I seem to remember free movement within one’s own nation as being a fundamental human right, but I don’t remember hearing anything of the sort concerning immigration.
          As much as I might like to think that I have a right to the beaches of Punta del Este, the shores of the Atlantic sing a different tune.

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        • Apparently, the argument is that while prospective and current non-Canadian citizens have no obligations to Canada, Canada has an obligation to them to refrain from exercising judgment regarding the types of citizens it will accept. Or perhaps the argument is more narrow: that discriminating wrt likely economic contribution to society amongst the able-bodied is OK but discriminating wrt disability isn’t, even tho the same calculus applies to both.

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  1. Is it ‘tribal ownership’ of safety nets or artificial scarcity of resources that makes us circle the wagons? What would occur if these things weren’t scarce?

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  2. Critics of the social safety net have been arguing for years that the social safety net is most possible in homogeneous cultures where the majority are seen as members of the in-group. Under this line of thought, the Nordics could have a social safety net because they are a giant in-group. There are some wholes to this theory. South Korea and Japan are nearly as ethnically homogeneous as the Nordic countries but do not have the same social safety net. This suggests that politics are also a consideration. You need to have the right politically environment. There does still seem to be an element of truth to the homogenous critique because as the Scandinavian countries get more diverse, tribalism seems to increase.

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    • There does still seem to be an element of truth to the homogenous critique because as the Scandinavian countries get more diverse, tribalism seems to increase.

      I find myself wondering what will happen to Europe’s robust Social Safety net over the next few years.

      I suspect that they’re going to be accused of robust bigotry at some point in the process.

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    • There is something to the homogeneity idea but it is overstated. Who is part of the In Tribe changes and grows. See America, US of, for an example. In a lot of the western demo’s immigrants can get all the typical benefits of long standing citizens. It really does happen all the time. The issue is whether the group, as a stereotype, is seen as a burden which is where the tribalism comes in. The Euro countries have struggled more with immigration because they have a more inherited, essentialist idea of what a Swede or German or etc is. We have been mostly free of that although the immigration critics and some on the right are pushing for us to go down the road of who is Real American.

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      • If you see homogeneity as an imperfect proxy that is recognized as an imperfect proxy for tribal membership, it gets a little less messy.

        I’ve come to realize that one of the important roles that religion plays is to hammer stuff like “YOU HAVE TO MEET YOUR OBLIGATIONS!!!!” to people who have “enough” to be able to spare a little to give to people who can’t meet their obligations without help.

        The problem, of course, is that religions tend to have all sorts of old baggage from people who did not realize that, someday, we would be able to say “It Is 2016” and so include sex taboos that we totally know are stupid and meaningless and include food taboos that are even stupider and meaninglesser (or vice versa).

        Part of the problem is that in dismantling these stupid, meaningless taboos in the service of a much more radical individualism, we’ve sort of also maybe kind of dismantled some, not all, but some of the whole emphasis on tribal membership that involves the importance of meeting obligations to other members of the tribe.

        And, hurray! We’re more Libertarian in a lot of very, very important ways! What you do is *NOT* my business!

        The downside to that is what you do is not my business.

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        • Not all that long ago people lived entirely with people of their own tribe ( religious, ethnic, etc) Sure sometimes they met and interacted with people of other groups. Sometimes they had some mild genocide and sometimes they got along great.

          Welcome to the modern world where we mix peoples like …umm…something that mixes up a lot of stuff really good. Except for a very tiny number there isn’t’ any going back so we got our selves a more libertarian and more liberal world with a lot fewer rules and guidelines. Ambiguity makes people nervous.

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        • Radical individualism is something of a bogeyman for the welfare state. The entire idea of the welfare state is that we are all in together and should help each other. Radical individualism contradicts this and says that people should care for themselves above others. Although Swedish Social Democrats see the welfare state as advancing radical individualism because it enables to people to live alone without relying on potentially coercive and patriarchal insular communities if they need help. We had a discussion about this in one of Jason’s past threads on whether the state enables individualism or is the enemy of it. The Swedish Social Democrats would say the state is an ally of individualism even though Americans would see that as dumb.

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      • I think its a combination of homogeneity and having the right type of politics and society. The Nordic countries implemented social democracy when similarly homogenous societies did not because the Nordic countries had a more rigorous democratic political system with a tradition of different class groups fighting for their rights. South Korea and Japan were less democratic and a less of a tradition of rights agitation, which is why feminism and LGBT rights are also lagging in those countries compared to the rest of the developed world.

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  3. Jason,
    ” Much like government controls on smoking and the mandating of motorcycle helmets, there is a horse sense to this policy that begins with single-payer healthcare and winds up in restrictions on individual behavior, in the name of taxpayer savings.”

    Follow the money. Follow the money. Follow the money.

    Motorcycle helmets, anti-smoking policies, “don’t drive while texting” — that’s all corporatism, specifically the insurance companies getting the government to do their work for them. Where necessary, they were footing the bill for entire movements.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with single payer, and in fact might actually be less prevalent in a single payer environment. If so, it would be more likely to be because of bureaucratic tape and benign incompetence.

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    • Agreed, with the exception of the single payer comments.

      It’s not the single payer that’s the issue, it’s that the gov’t is paying, and thus tries to use the claim that behavior is causing more in expenditures/taxes to the rest of us. Society is foolish to believe that behavioral changes will reduce gov’t expenditures over all.

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    • Anti-smoking policies are motivated by a desire to enrich insurance companies?

      Why should the government favor insurance companies over tobacco product suppliers? It’s not as if either form of big corporation lacks lobbyists and money with which to grease lawmaker palms. To shift policy from quietly encouraging tobacco use to overtly discouraging it seems to be simply exchanging one set of masters for another. The slave who can change masters is engaged in a rather strange form of slavery: particularly so if, as seems assumed to the be case here, the government picks winners and losers.

      Given that there are corruption influences in both directions, a decision by the government to favor one policy over the other might just be motivated by something other than a desire to please one’s corporate masters, even if I were to stipulate that the means to accomplish this goal is to change the masters to whom one reports. Even that indicate a motive beyond subservience to the faceless corruption of Wall Street.

      So what other motive might there be? Reducing the strain on the public fisc? (As Jason points out, this may be a miscalculation, but might still, irrationally, be a motive.) Improving the public health?

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      • Burt,
        The insurance companies understood the lawmakers’ motivations better than the tobacco companies did (and they went for a far broader target). To whit: they funded (behind the scenes) a lot of “Public Involvement” by the ittie bittie people. Get enough ittie bittie people together and stampeding one way, and you can generally pull most politicians to do things that aren’t manifestly stupid or completely counter to their self-interest.

        The support of the tobacco companies was a do-or-die thing for some of the Southern legislators, but most of the rest of the supporters were relatively elastic. Give them a compelling reason to change, and the politicos flip.

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      • The slave who can change masters is engaged in a rather strange form of slavery: particularly so if, as seems assumed to the be case here, the government picks winners and losers.

        That’s a fair point, but it’s notable that the act of rent-seeking is longitudinal and thus the master-slave analogy has some trouble along the edges.

        Given that there are corruption influences in both directions, a decision by the government to favor one policy over the other might just be motivated by something other than a desire to please one’s corporate masters

        Oh, yes, absolutely.

        On the other hand, paying off favors by throwing some rent around is something that happens, after all.

        I think it’s important to look at rent-seeking behavior in time lapse.

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  4. I get your larger point, and it is almost certainly a correct one with certain caveats (about how money works in the system at large, e.g.), but I have an only slightly related question: to what extent would Canada be likely to prohibit (or seriously limit) immigration by individuals with disabilities if the surrounding societies had systems that also covered most or all of the cost of their care. I think the worry (and I’m not justifying it, just identifying it) is that people from the U.S., or other countries from which a lot of people emigrate to Canada, will move there precisely because coverage is free. If that weren’t a worry, would they still feel the need to regulate it?

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        • It’s intended to imply that Canada has undefined obligations to a large amorphous group (the world or something) that it isn’t meeting and, because it’s not meeting these obligations, that it is therefore obliged to meet somewhat more specific obligations to individuals who might benefit from things that it can offer.

          Essentially, it’s arguing that the fact that the US doesn’t have a Health Care System similar to Canada’s is Canada’s fault… and, to make up for that, it should give us free health care.

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          • Ah yeah, I’m still confused.

            Obviously I’m not implying that Canada is in any way responsible for anyone else’s health care system, but instead that Canada’s behavior takes place in an international context, and in particular in a context that includes relevant facts about its large and nearest neighbor (where health care is very, very expensive for individuals/families).

            Are you in turn making a point about Elizabeth’s article, or are you making a larger point about states, or… really, I don’t want to speculate too much. Perhaps I can’t see through the snark, or detect precisely which parts are snark.

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            • You’ve not had arguments that explain that the only reason that Undocumented Dreamers keep coming to the US is because the US has done so much harm to Mexico? That if the US did a better job meeting its obligations to the world that maybe people wouldn’t be trying so very hard to get here? That the US has *CREATED* the context in which it is complaining about Undocumented Dreamers who only want to make a better life for themselves and their children?

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              • Ah, now I get you.

                Two points in response:

                1) In this case, it’s not the Canadians, but the would-be Dreamers complaining.

                2) Whereas most Dreamers come from places that are substantially worse on multiple economic and perhaps social dimensions than the U.S., because they can’t afford to be better, the U.S. can afford to have a better health care system, but chooses not to.

                None of these things are Canada’s fault, however, though the last part certainly makes Canada’s behavior comprehensible, even if it is ethically problematic.

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              • Well, yes, that’s true. NAFTA (in combination with US corn subsidies) devastated Mexican farmers because they were being undersold by US producers. Lots of farmers stop being able to make a living. Lacking employment in Mexico, they move north.

                Champion free trade if you will. Champion border security if you will. But free trade without open borders is nothing more than stacking the deck in favour of the rich: capital can move freely, labour cannot.

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  5. Canada has a immigration system that is, with the large exception to refugees of violence and political persecution, quite hard bitten and tough (though proponents call it pragmatic) for prospective immigrants. I can understand libertarians, with their general disdain of nation state restrictions on the movement of capital or labor, objecting to this. I don’t think, however, it says much at all about single payer either way.

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    • I am not especially proud of my country’s immigration practices. Not deeply angry or ashamed necessarily, but not especially proud.

      The exclusion of people on health grounds when they are in another country applying to immigrate, is unfortunate but predictable.

      The treatment of those who enter the country on a work visa and are seriously injured on the job they came to Canada to do though – there have been some truly shameful cases there.

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  6. It does however suggest that any such safety net must be designed with the likelihood of a tribalist failing in mind.

    Perhaps it would be more practical for Canada to simply change that provision of their immigration policy rather than completely redesigning their health care system around some supposed “tribalist failing.”

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      • I have yet to see a cogent argument as to why Canada should accept the burden of disabled children upon it’s society. All I have seen is the standard liberal argument that it’s unfair and mean.

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        • Circling those wagons, I see.

          Put it this way: Are you an American? If so, why should YOU accept the burden of disabled children? The argument you make for the rightness of accepting the burden seems unlikely to recognize national boundaries. So if it’s obligatory for you to accept that burden, why is it not obligatory for Canada?

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            • What about a rich country that can easily afford it, like Canada?

              And if it’s not obligatory to accept immigrants who are a net cost, why is it obligatory to keep citizens who are a net cost? Why not expel them?

              In short: What’s so morally special about citizenship, such that it either instantiates or erases moral burdens that ought to apply not by accident of birth, but by right of personhood?

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              • Some “people” come with severe moral costs (be it failure to understand immorality, or actively seeking to harm others).
                I contend those people ought to be judged differently than those who simply come with fiscal costs.

                It’s not a citizenship question, it’s a sovereignty question, strangely enough. Nobody’s saying that Canada isn’t morally responsible for non-citizens on their soil (We’ll go right ahead and grant the Nixonian “help in an emergency” level of moral responsibility). But they do have the right to bar people from coming.

                Thinking of it as a sovereignty issue is more difficult… It cries out for us to examine whether sovereignty is a good in of itself…

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                • Some “people” come with severe moral costs . . . I contend those people ought to be judged differently than those who simply come with fiscal costs.

                  I find this interesting.

                  Q: Is it inappropriate for money to serve as a medium of exchange in instances of moral costs?
                  I’m thinking of fines here, and forfeitures more generally.

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                  • Will,
                    Depends.

                    The person who habitually and compulsively commits rape (and fails to understand the concept of informed consent in general) should not be fined for it. They should go to jail, or otherwise in some sort of lock-up for those with mental difficulties.

                    The person committing property crimes could be disincentivized relatively easily via fines. (If one has a variant of Tourette’s Syndrome, in which one has the compulsion to paint blue words on buildings… a fine is perfectly appropriate to ameliorate the moral costs).

                    [Please note the framing here: we’re talking people who have relatively little control/understanding of their actions]

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                    • Let’s say that the system of fines originated with the vikings (it did).
                      Vikings had a system of fines where the penalty for harming a lap dog was five or ten times as much as the same offense against another’s hunting dog (it was).
                      And let’s say that this same system has evolved to where, in the State of Wisconsin, a forfeiture offense is an offense punishable only by a fine, and lower than a misdemeanor (a petty offense in Illinois).
                      Wis. Ann. Stat. § 939.52

                      EDIT: I would add these are typically tried by an abbreviated procedure. /edit

                      Note the instances you cite:
                      Rape: No civil penalty, though restitution to the victim is still an open question.
                      Theft (as opposed to robbery, which is a crime against the person): Civil penalty, and again restitution is unclear.

                      These are simply too outrageous to be informative; e.g., Q: What does it mean for a thing to be “loud?” A: A nuclear warhead is loud when it detonates.

                      Not very illuminating.

                      Can we try again?

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      • I think, technically, I might be the first person to have said that.

        Though I was much more circumspect.

        I’m not seeing how Canada is acting particularly unethically here. (At worst we might be able to say that it’s not acting particularly ethically… but there is a lot of room between acting angelic and acting demonic.)

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      • No, as I thought I made clear, I’m suggesting Canada change its exclusionary immigration policy.

        What’s extraordinary is that you think a flaw in their immigration policy is a reason to gut their health care system.

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        • My, do you ever have an active imagination.

          If you’d read my post, you would know that I explicitly disavowed that what I’d offered amounted to a reason to gut their health care system.

          Final paragraph. I’ll take the apology whenever you get the chance.

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          • I quoted the relevant bit in my first comment. You think the system “must be designed with the likelihood of a tribalist failing in mind.” I’d like to hear how that can be done. I imagine you can do so without using the word “gut,” but it will nevertheless amount to gutting their health care system.

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            • As I said, you have an active imagination. And, I may now add, a remarkable talent for post-hoc rationalization.

              In short: You were just plain wrong, and you would do well to find the grace to admit it.

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              • Are you that dense? My point hasn’t changed a bit from my first comment.

                Here, I will quote you a third time: “any such safety net must be designed with the likelihood of a tribalist failing in mind.”

                My question, which you haven’t even acknowledged, much less attempted to address, is how one can design such a system without gutting the current one.

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      • And yet, that argument bears little difference from the entirety of Canada’s immigration system. Exclude poor people because they’re poor. Exclude low-education people (which tends to go hand in hand with poverty) because they’re low-education. Exclude anyone who is in need (aside from some refugees), and select only the professionals, the highly-educated, the entrepreneurs – the people who developing nations desperately need to help build their economies. Import India’s engineers and make them work as taxi drivers because we don’t recognize their credentials.

        The objective of Canada’s immigration policies is very clear: bring in people who are well-educated and have a strong chance of doing fairly well economically; exclude anyone who we’re concerned will be a burden on the system. And then sneer at the United States for its anti-immigrant sentiments, sentiments we have avoided by being – very wisely and meritoriously – located somewhere that isn’t adjacent to any low-income countries.

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        • Also by being significantly poorer than America, and being (somewhat) less diverse.

          We’ve stopped (mostly) getting immigrants from Mexico — a lot of people are being shipped a considerable distance (Ireland, China, Costa Rica)… there’s no a priori reason if they made it to America, they couldn’t make it to Canada.

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  7. I don’t think migrating to Canada or any other country for the most part is ever that easy unless someone has lots of money and/or some other status that makes it easy for them to move. The only country I think it is relatively easy for me to migrate to is Israel because of the right of return. There might be a backdoor way for me to get Spanish citizenship because I am partially of Spanish Jewish origin but I have not looked into it.

    IIRC there was an essay on the Internet from a few years ago about a perfectly healthy American who moved up to Canada and ended up in a rock and a hard place. Like North, I don’t think this has to do with single-payer but generally that most people are suspicious of open borders and open border advocates have not been able to convince the majority otherwise.

    It is worth pointing out that the book about Canada’s response to the Holocaust was called “None is too many” and this was a direct line from a Government minister about how many Jews should live in Canada. So Justin Truedeau not withstanding, Canada has not always been the most welcoming place to outsiders.

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    • Most people really do not open borders because people have a need to feel solidarity with a group bigger than kith, kin, or neighborhood but smaller than the entire world. Tribal identities might be entirely human constructs with no bearing in the natural world but they are very powerful human constructs.

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    • Yes. This actually is a good reason to be skeptical of the idea that open borders will bring massive social change. Pollsters might find that millions of people in Zimbabwe want to move to Canada, but as a practical matter, they can’t.

      I remain of the opinion that open immigration will be a large net benefit, but some of the claims in this area may be exaggerated… on both sides.

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      • At the same time we know that hundreds of thousands or millions of people will make the move if allowed to. We had the mass immigration of tens of millions of Europeans to the New World and Oceania before 1914 and the current migration from the non-developed world to the developed world during the 1960s to the present. How many more would immigrate if immigration was conducted on the level of show up and pass a health examination and some brief questioning? It won’t be everybody who immigrates but I think it would be substantially more.

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      • Immigration seems to be the last thing countries want to do to increase population. Japan knows it has a population problem and they need to increase their birthrate. They are trying everything but immigration. Kind of like employers try everything but higher wages to get an increase in applicants even if they know they are not getting the number or kind of applicants that they want or need.

        In general, I think a lot of wonky types have good points about the benefits of free trade and open boarders but they tend to be horrible advocates for their own positions. I can’t deny that the free traders are right that tens if not hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in Bangladesh and China and other countries because of outsourcing and globalization. Yet the free trade advocates seem completely blind-sided about the anger that is coming from Western workers whose well-paid with benefit manufacturing jobs have been sent abroad. I don’t think it is so surprising that people would be angry about going from 25 dollars an hour with benefits to 8 dollars an hour with no benefits.

        The problem is that a lot of wonky types are well-educated white-collar workers whose jobs will probably not be outsourced or lost because of increased immigration. They also don’t really know anyone who would be hurt by the policies they advocate. Plus education that spends a large amounts of time pushing for analysis over emotion.

        A lot of the globalization advocates seem completely blind-sided by the rise of Trump and Sanders to a lesser extent but they really shouldn’t be. If the spoils of policies are going to a few or perceived as going to a few, people are going to be angry. Now Democratic types (including Sanders supporters) are still more supportive of free trade according to polls. Trump fans are the real discontents when it comes to free trade. My guess is that the ire of Sanders fans is because they perceive finance as taking too much of the economic prize and finance operates with smallish numbers of people. Goldman Sachs might employee a lot of people but only a small number receive the high salaries and only a few have access to those positions.

        Matt Y can talk about how free trade is cool and how it results in cheaper consumer goods because he knows no blue-collar workers and will reap all of the benefits of open borders and free trade with none of the down sides.

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        • Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it Saul?
          If you think that living in Japan a few years ago makes you an authority on their current fascistic government (I’ll note that I’m not capitalizing Fascism and am not using it in the technical term’s sense, but rather the more colloquial), I suggest you reacquaint yourself with Japan.
          http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21644496-japan-considers-welcoming-more-foreign-workers-its-shores-bestselling-author-calls-their

          You don’t know much about H1B employees do you?

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        • They are trying everything but immigration.

          I’d argue this has more to do with (unexpressed?) concerns over assimilation than employment.

          A trickle of immigrants will assimilate because of the dominance of the pre-existing culture (even if it starts in a ghetto, within a generation or two it will largely assimilate). A flood will at best require more time to assimilate, with all the problems of multigenerational ghettos, or at worst it will force a significant cultural shift in a way the current population is not comfortable with. E.g. Press 2 for Spanish…

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          • The Japanese seem pretty adapt at expressing their concerns over assimilation. Japanese identity is a pretty complete package that includes practically everything. I can see how the Japanese would be dubious of non-Japanese assimilating slightly.

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          • “Assimilation” just doesn’t mean the same thing in Japan. In a number of ways, it’s not even a meaningful term. If you do not tick all the boxes, certain doors will never be open. Homogeneity is informally enforced by never, ever, allowing expansion of what it means to be in the ingroup. You can be valued, you can be honored, you can even be befriended – but most will never be assimilated.

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          • It would be curious to see that happen in Japan but it won’t happen as points out. There are lots of places that won’t serve people who are non-Japanese. When I was in Japan, there was a guy, white American, who went through the pains of getting Japanese citizenship (getting American citizenship in comparison is like ordering an ice cream cone.) He was still denied entry to Japanese establishments.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debito_Arudou

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  8. I’m about as big a proponent of incremental moves in the direction of open borders as anyone, but it’s hard for me to ignore the background of… I can’t think of a better word than entitlement.

    There are about 7 billion people on this planet. What percentage of them would love the opportunity to immigrate to Canada? What percentage of that percentage has any reasonable opportunity to do so? And the complaint is that Picciuto can’t just pick up her whole family and immigrate to Canada because she thinks that their head of government is cuter and has better Facebook memes?

    We are really through the rabbit hole.

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      • I’m not questioning her motives. I’m questioning the mode in which the OP approaches the issue. Thinking this through, I may well get to the same conclusions as Picciuto.

        I get that this is a tongue in cheek post, so my tone probably sounds harsh. And maybe political conversations could use a little more levity, but for me this is uncanny valley territory. Meaning that it comes so close to the increasingly dysfunctional way that political conversations take place that my initial reaction is a slight unease.

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        • I think you have it right as “entitlement.” I’ve seen and read some of her tweets on the twitter feed here and “entitlement” seems like a good description.

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    • I believe she was using the “I’m moving to Canada” thing to a.) highlight a disability issue and b.) at the same time point to the privilege of the “I’m moving to Canada” thing.

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    • Whoa, whoa, whoa. Trump has many flaws, as do his followers. But their memes are beyond reproach. You can’t outmeme the…Trump…team?

      This is exactly what I mean. See how bad I am at this? It’s because I’m not one of them.

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  9. There is the issue of identifying a control group big enough to be statistically significant – first world countries without socialized healthcare. You really can’t pluralize “countries” there, because the control group only has one member.

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    • The control group is zero. The US had socialized healthcare prior to the ACA, just a horribly distorted one. Hospitals were and are required to treat you for life threatening issues before inquiring into your ability to pay.

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      • That is so distorted I don’t know I’d call it socialized healthcare at all.

        If it’s only for people arriving at the emergency department (often with a condition that could have been treated far more cheaply had it been seen to before it deteriorated to emergency levels), I wouldn’t call that socialized healthcare. Particularly if then the hospital will send bill collectors to repossess your worldly goods, ensuring that your “convalescence” such as it is takes place under conditions of homelessness and penury, that’s not much of a socialized anything.

        And the ACA really isn’t socialized healthcare either is it? You still have to pay out of pocket, to a private insurance firm, for health insurance, right?

        Then again maybe I suffer under a distortion of the reality of US healthcare that is a mirror image of the Americans who think there are ‘death panels’ up here.

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        • Well it depends on the term socialized really. If the hospital can’t get the price of treating you for your life threatening illness/injury out of you (and most of the time they can’t) then yes they wreck your life and then socialize the cost by applying it to all their other customers. Your cost of care is thus socialized. Was it a distortionary, cruel and horribly inefficient system? Yes! I agree 100% but the medical care is still being socialized.
          Now under the ACA yes you’re required to pay for your own insurance which pays for your care.. unless you’re old or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare then you get it for free and if you’re low income you get subsidies to help you pay. And the hospital -still- has to take you in if you show up needing care. You’re just much more likely to have insurance now. So the costs are still socialized, just somewhat more equitably, kindly and efficiently than before.

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  10. It isn’t just social safety nets.
    Any socialized endeavor has to balance payees and contributors.

    When a city grants a building permit, it also grants permission to connect to the physical infrastructure of sewer, water,gas and electricity in perpetuity.
    There are cities like Santa Barbara that limit the size and density of new projects on just these grounds, that they lack the ability to provide services.

    In other cases some cities declare moratorium on businesses like hourly motels and liquor stores on the same rationale, that they consume more in police services than is sustainable.

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  11. Would Canada be within its rights to ask for conditions? “Get the kid a vasectomy when he turns 18 and you can immigrate.”

    Is such a question unthinkably evil?

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    • 1) I think the immigration system’s issue is the cost of services for the kid, not the question of whether or not s/he has kids of their own.

      2) Yes, the question is evil, it’s called “eugenics”. Forcing sterilization on disabled people has a long and very nasty history. Which I’m sure you’d realized if you’d stop trying to be idly provocative and actually thought about what you were saying.

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      • Well, if Canada thinks something to the effect of “if you become a citizen, we will have obligations to you… since we don’t want to meet those obligations, you can’t become a citizen”, it seems to be a fairly straightforward calculus.

        I mean, it seems odd to argue “NO! YOU SHOULD MEET THOSE OBLIGATIONS TO ME!!!” Maybe we need to hammer out what Canada’s obligations actually are? What are they?

        Oh, I’m familiar with “eugenics”. I’m just wondering if “eugenics” is a greater evil than failure to allow immigrants into “their” country. What’s the counter argument? The child should be able to sire children when he reaches the age of majority. From my light googling, it seems that females with cri du chat are fertile, can gestate a child, and the child is similarly affected with cri du chat.

        I couldn’t find anything about whether males with cri du chat are fertile and whether their children will be similarly affected but since it affects the 5th chromosome and not the X chromosome, I’m guessing that the sex of the parent wouldn’t matter.

        If the argument is that if the child be allowed to go to Canada and, of course, Canada would have obligations to the child and then, once the child reaches the age of majority and enters into a relationship with a willing partner, Canada has equal obligations to the now-no-longer-a-child’s children, and so through the generations… I can see how if even asking such a question is unthinkably evil that Canada might just say “Nope. Sorry. Can’t become a citizen.”

        I understand why we might *WANT* Canada to be nice and all that… but I still can’t understand the foundational arguments here. Is it that Canada has an obligation to accept any and all who want to show up, no matter what? That seems to be a false premise on its face.

        If we then roll our eyes and say “No! That’s not the obligation that Canada has! That’s a strawman!” then we’re stuck saying “okay, if we agree that there are some conditions that are allowable… let’s haggle about them.”

        Which, of course, allows us to paint the people who want to ask questions about what is and is not an appropriate condition as engaging in an evil act.

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  12. I’m a proponent of the theory that Trump’s tribalism is in vogue now in part due to the ACA, but I’m confused by the examples that Jason presents out here. Smoking and helmets have been regulated in the US since well before socialized health-care, haven’t they? It also seems … odd to conclude that proponents of smoking bans must either be interested in lower costs (and incorrectly, at that) or be tribalists, and ignore the most obvious explanation: that they’re interested in improving public health.

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  13. Actually the idea of physical exams and conditions denying entry into the us date back well before the 1924 immigration law. Recall that for example folks were examined at Ellis Island and if they had TB or other contagious diseases. A link to an article about screening before the 1924 law: http://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/2008/04/mhst1-0804.html Note the differing screenings depending on how you came to the US (Ellis Island i.e. european, west coast i.e. asians and Brownsville i.e. latin americans.). Here is a piece of the article on reasons for rejection: The procedure was intimidating, and, indeed, between 1891 and 1930 nearly 80,000 immigrants were barred at the nation’s doors for diseases or defects. Yet the vast majority were allowed to enter the country—on average, fewer than 1 percent were ever turned back for medical reasons [11]. Of those who were denied entry, most were certified, not with “loathsome and dangerous contagious diseases,” but with conditions that limited their capacity to perform unskilled labor. Senility (old age), varicose veins, hernias, poor vision, and deformities of the limbs or spine were among the primary causes for exclusion. That so few of the more than 25 million arriving immigrants inspected by the PHS were excluded sets into bold relief the country’s almost insatiable industrial demand for cheap labor.”
    If you read this I suspect that downs syndrome or similar could have resulted in rejection back then.
    One of the grounds is very similar to Canada’s today likley to become a public charge.

    So nothing is new here I suspect if you went back to the rules for Canada during the period a similar set of conditions held.

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  14. This got long, so tl;dr: at the point where Canadians recognize people fleeing the US as having refugee status, which is the only point where I think “admit all comers” is an absolute ethical requirement, Elizabeth’s (justified) complaint will no longer apply; meanwhile, I and many other people would be kept out of immigrating to the US for medical reasons TODAY, and there is a long history in both Canada and the US of exclusionary immigration policies that have fish-all to do with healthcare costs and everything to do with our, as Jason puts it, monkey brains.

    Longer version:
    I somehow think Elizabeth Picciuto is aware of this, but neither @jason-kuznicki’s post nor most of the comments here seem to realize that the youngest Picciuto would be unlikely to be admitted to the US as an immigrant either. The US’s laws are less strict, but they are still strict enough that were I not here already, and were I honest about my own disabilities, I would almost certainly not be admitted – this despite the fact that I am not and am not likely to become a net cost for the state. Their calculus would reject me based on the risks involved. (I was not aware of my own physical disabilities BEING a thing, and not just life as usual for everyone, until well after I received permanent residence, THANK GOODNESS FOR DISSOCIATION.)

    Besides possibility of mental/physical harm to others or self (a hugely broad brush that most people with mental health issues could be tarred with), the US reserves the right to (and does) refuse immigrants on health grounds:

    “Under INA §212(a)(4), an applicant who is likely to become a public charge at any time is excludable. The INS looks at the totality of circumstances in making its determination including their age, capacity to earn a living, health, family circumstances, employment history and whether or not they have ever received public assistance. Most immigrants must submit an affidavit of support as evidence that they will not become a public charge. The affidavit is required of all family based immigrants. The affidavit of support creates an enforceable legal obligation and the US government can sue to recover any public benefits provided in the first five years of residence.” (from this site)

    Waivers are much more available than in the US, but once you’ve been refused a waiver, appeal is REALLY hard. And even without medical issues, the affidavit of not becoming a public charge is a huge part of the burden for US immigrants, I had to work my butt off, as did Jay and his mom, to provide sufficient evidence that I wouldn’t be. (Part of the problem, in retrospect, seems to have been that as a full-time student whose educational costs exceeded my income, in a country that heavily subsides education for pragmatic as well as idealistic reasons, I received “GST credits” which were an automatic tax thinger that resulted in the government sending me money once a year (whee, socialism), but which the US counted as “social assistance” *rolls eyes*).

    When you add this together with all the other tribalist immigration laws that are regular features of most homogeneous countries, including the 19th/early 20th century US which was FULL of quota systems, it makes no sense whatsoever to blame socialist policies. Tribalist thinking may or may not be an underlying feature of socialism, but it’s not a historical cause of it. It may be used in post-facto justifications for ethically questionable choices, for sure! That’s what Canada seems to be doing, as far as I can tell. But given that these types of laws predate the single-payer healthcare, the MOST you could claim is that they offer a continuing false excuse for them…

    In general my experiences with both Canada and the US around the immigration issue, drawing from mine and Jay’s own experiences and many others, is that the US doesn’t care who you are if you are white and will make plenty of money that they can then tax (and they don’t even REALLY care if you’re white, once you’re here and established, as evidenced by the slew of amnesties over the years – claims that they do care, or policies that result in major suckage, even deaths, are designed as political ploys, nothing else). Canada doesn’t care who you are if you are desperate – note that all refugees are exempt from disability blocks and thus if the US actually turned into a Trumpian nightmare, all the Picciutos would be welcome under normal refugee rules the minute Canada acknowledged the US’s decline – maybe faster than folks who didn’t normally face discrimination, if Trump took up against folks with disabilities and started passing weird laws… If you look at per capita numbers, excluding the present crisis’ Canadian “refugee boom” for the sake of historicity, Canada admits WAY more refugees than the US does. So many that from 2005-2007, Canada, with a population only about 1/10th of the US’s, admitted more than 1/2 as many refugees. That’s a pretty skewed ratio! (Open border advocates would probably argue that it’s immoral to admit fewer refugees than “all the refugees that can fit, but a) different argument, b) much of Canada is only marginally and expensively habitable by humans – or completely NOT – so Canadians have a lot less room than it looks like on the map.)

    When I was going through all my immigration stuff, and the Canadian laws made it so much harder for Jay to immigrate than for me to, my Canadian-biased refrain was “yes, but they do all this stuff in part BECAUSE they are so much more willing to be a refuge than the US is” and I think that’s a large part of what’s going on here as well. Another factor is no doubt that they’re afraid of becoming the US – for good and bad reasons, that’s been a huge part of Canadian policy since Confederation. Doesn’t make the law OK – if I were still living in Canada, I’d be voting for better laws. It does make it contextually understandable, and that context is why I still find Canadian immigration law preferable to US immigration law overall.

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    • “the MOST you could claim is that they offer a continuing false excuse for them…” – should obviously be “it [single-payer] offers a continuing false excuse for them [exclusionary policies]”. Dang typist is getting sent to Canada! :D

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    • P.P.S. I think the GST credits were quarterly, now that I’m in less pain than I was this afternoon and can reach my mind back better. In any case they added up to well under a grand a year. And were only the result of scholarships and federal student loans – ooh, maybe that was also “government assistance” – not being taxable, in the first place, for most FT undergraduates in Canada. Not exactly any kind of proof that I was going to be a burden…

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  15. It remains for Canadians to decide what Canadians can afford, but it does somewhat beggar belief that the Canadian system of single-payer healthcare will sink or swim on this particular margin. The ungenerosity is rather stunning, even for me, and I get called a crypto-plutocrat all the time.

    Oh, I don’t know. Canada probably rejects lots of applicants because of their skill set on the grounds that those folks won’t contribute more to the economy than they receive. Ie., they’re a net drain on the system, which presumably is a sufficient reason to reject certain types of able-bodied applicants. Why should that calculus be any different wrt decisions regarding disabled individuals who desire citizenship? I mean, it sounds ugly when phrased as a bare rejection of the disabled, as if those people are being singled out. But it’s the application of a broader principle, no?

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  16. For one reason or another, my thoughts went to the whole “Cultural Appropriation” argument.

    There’s a serious debate, for small values of “serious”, about stuff like “white people wearing dreadlocks”.

    Taking a piece from another culture and making it a member of one’s own sartorial repertoire.

    Compare this to someone saying “Oh, I’m going to move into your culture and I expect to receive all of the official benefits of group membership.”

    I know that, for me, “cultural appropriation” is silly and, personally, I put it in the same category as gay marriage. It doesn’t pick my pocket or break my leg, if you want to have stupid hair then let your freak flag fly. People who scream “BUT THAT IS OURS!” remind me of the people who opposed gay marriage. “They shouldn’t be holding hands! What if my kids see that! It makes me uncomfortable!”

    Yet I see the whole idea of jumping into another culture entirely and saying “great, you have obligations to me that you have to meet” strikes me as likely to get a response of “you know what, you don’t get to move here”… and doubly so if the attitude of “we all have responsibilities with and for and to each other and here are yours” gets an indignant response.

    Canada being stuck saying “well, we would rather have people who are a net benefit to us than a net cost” and being called bigots for doing so.

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    • Canada being stuck saying “well, we would rather have people who are a net benefit to us than a net cost” and being called bigots for doing so.

      Yeah, that’s how I think about it too. It’s sorta like affirmative action: when is the playing field level enough that quotas can be rejected? Or is AA the sort of thing that can never be rejected?

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        • That’s the thing, there isn’t a reasonable objective target.

          Or inversely, there are too many objective targets. One target might be to require that hiring practices (etc) fall along the statistical representation of blacks in the US population. Another target might be to end racially discriminatory practices by integrating black folks into the dominant white culture thereby defusing racial prejudices. The problem with the first is that it engenders resentment from white job applicants. The problem with the second is, as you say, there will (almost certainly, forever and always) be cases of whites discrimination against blacks.

          And on the third hand, you got yer identity politics, running roughshod over the whole sloppy mess.

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          • That is the problem with a target rich environment, if all you have is a bolt action rifle, you are going to be at it all day long.

            Doesn’t mean you don’t get busy taking shots, but chances are good you’ll miss more than a few times, and the ammo is limited, so you gotta be sure to pick/prioritize your targets.

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