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Estimates of the magnitude of the gains that the world could enjoy by liberalizing international migration indicate that even partial liberalization would not only produce substantial increases in the world’s real income but also improve its distribution. Although the economic effects of immigration on native workers and distributive justice among natives are often advanced as reasons to reduce immigration, these concerns do not provide a sound justification for our restrictive immigration laws. Instead, the appropriate response to concerns about the distribution of income among natives is to increase the progressivity of our tax system. Protectionist immigration policies are not only likely to be relatively costly as an instrument for redistribution but also perverse from the standpoint of global justice. I argue that liberal ideals require a global view of distributive justice and that recent attempts by some liberal theorists and philosophers to defend more limited conceptions of distributive justice that apply only within nations are all ultimately question-begging. Thus, I conclude that considerations of both economic efficiency and distributive justice militate in favor of liberalized immigration policies.


Moral and Political Philosophy, Law and the Global Community

Publication Title

Cornell International Law Journal

Publication Citation

41 Cornell Int'l L.J. 1 (2008)