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Progressives and liberals in the US (myself included) typically support two ideas:

  • That immigration should be open so that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and provided a so-called "path to citizenship".
  • That at least some form of state welfare (Universal health care, unemployment income or guaranteed universal income, pensions and retirement income, free public education and university education, etc...) are good and necessary for the well being of society as a whole.

But it struck me recently that these two objectives might be contradictory: If a society (through its state) guarantees a certain amount of welfare to its members, doesn't it have to have some sort of membership criteria? It can't simply provide this welfare to anyone who asks for it. Consider this analogy with the adult in a family: I am responsible for providing for my own biological children, and for my adopted children, and eventually for my nieces and nephews or grandchildren, and maybe for my neighbor's children and those of my very good friend who is unable to provide for his children, etc....but I shouldn't be expected to provide for each and every child around, it would be impossible to do so. At some point some criteria for my responsibility over children has to be established, otherwise I would be stretched too thin.

In the same way, a state can't indefinitely commit to providing welfare to anyone who needs it, at some point it has to establish a boundary between those it is responsible for and those it isn't responsible for. But if we have an open immigration policy were anyone who arrives in the country can stay and benefit from the services of the country, doesn't that abolish that boundary?

How can one reconcile the goal of welfare states with an open immigration policy?

Is this the reason that Marx made communism an international movement?

  • The pragmatic answer in effect today is that 1) the 'path' can become longer and more arduous as needed, (it has sometimes, historically, been a vertical slope, scalable only by the highly intelligent or very well supported) and 2) immigrants get second-call on public services and get excluded from underfunded programs (even in Democratic bastions like Chicago.) During periods of relative hardship, this dissuades immigrants, and they go home (as Hispanics did in large numbers during the recent recession). Deportation has never been our primary way of reducing illegal immigration. – jobermark Aug 31 '16 at 21:55
  • The right to emigrate is usually not a problem (but see Soviet era Russia), its the right to immigrate that usually is; Kant suggested that states should be hospitable to each other, so a 'stranger should not be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another'. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 31 '16 at 22:00
  • So in theory they conflict, but with the modifiers you already include, they really don't have to. But that reduces this from a philosophy question to one of history. – jobermark Aug 31 '16 at 22:01
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    I think you hint at the right answer in your last sentence. There is a third idea many liberally minded people are sympathetic to, although they might be careful in defending it for tactical and practical reasons. And it reconciles the first two perfectly: no borders and global welfare state. In the end, what can the separation into nation-states be than a residual of our tribal past, etc, etc. An interesting question that remains is how, given the practical remoteness of the ideal solution, should a progressive prioritize in current conditions. But that's more tactics than philosophy. – Conifold Sep 1 '16 at 0:50
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    the following article by the SEP might prove useful - particularly the section on state benefits, and on open borders; they allude to your argument in the preamble. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 1 '16 at 2:07
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Of course it depends on what framework you are asking about.

For Marxists, the proletariat is an international entity, so its struggle with the bourgeoisie is likewise.

Equally, you can google your favourte liberal philosopher's take on nationality.

It seems to me though that you are trying to derive your political philosophy from ethical principles. The fact that something is practically impossible surely doesn't mean we have absolutely no duty toward it. Isn't that the nature of Kant's imperfect duties, that they cannot be entirely fulfilled?

Liekwise, moral dilemmas admit of the messiness of practical morality.

Ethicists as diverse as Kant (1971/1797), Mill (1979/1861), and Ross (1930, 1939) have assumed that an adequate moral theory should not allow for the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. Only recently—in the last sixty years or so—have philosophers begun to challenge that assumption. And the challenge can take at least two different forms. Some will argue that it is not possible to preclude genuine moral dilemmas. Others will argue that even if it were possible, it is not desirable to do so.

In conclusion: the difficulty of the issue in the question surely won't imply, on its own, anything about what is morally right.

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Great question!

No. A welfare system and an open immigration system are not necessarily contradictory, though you touch on an excellent issue, i.e. limits in the availability of resources. It is all a matter of the specific designs each program adopts. Adopting either policy does not require a full, unregulated implementation. Thresholds, qualifying events and/or circumstances, and even bureaucracy are all methods to control dispensation.

Hence, you can have a path to citizenship that takes several years to complete and a welfare state that has certain economic or special event criteria requirements; minimum wage, social security, unemployment and Medicaid - all of which have separate criteria that an individual person has to meet before receiving benefits.

Currently, however, welfare is not provided strictly domestically. There are numerous events where foreign governments provide aid to other countries. This is in the form of government and economic protectorate policies, foreign disaster aid, etc. There are also less humanitarian endeavors such as military aid and armament. Pair these two and add in the international web of trade and finance and you see that the expectation of a government to only provide for it's own people becomes more difficult to stick to.

To address your question of the International Communist Movement, I interpret this - in Marx's argument - as more a necessity to liberate the Proletariat, who exists in all societies. The need for this has multiple reasons:

  • Communism is a populous movement brought about the collective power that exists in the mass size of the Proletariat work force. By them binding together to reclaim the value of their labor, they can lift themselves out of their limited and exploited situation.

  • Communism requires a unified front. The Proletariat do not own the "Means of Production". If the Proletariats aren't unified, then the Capitalist can replace their labor with new workers.

  • Marx believed their was a certain need for communism to advance society forward. Marx and other "Young Hegelians" believed that the purpose of life was progress towards perfection and to epitomize "Reason" and "Freedom". And that these prevailing goals would cause radical changes to society as a whole. Therefore, the communist movements should be widely implemented across all of the civilized world as a step forward.

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