Posts Tagged ‘Contract Society’

On Immigration…

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

I’m going to quote from Arnold Kling:

This difference between shame and guilt affects the way people treat strangers. In many clan societies, a household is expected to be a generous host to strangers, offering the household’s best food and sleeping quarters. Not to do so would bring shame upon the household and on the entire clan. However, in a commercial transaction with such a stranger, there is no sense of guilt from failing to live up to one’s bargain or from cheating the stranger.

In the West, the value system is reversed. We feel no obligation to show ultra-generous hospitality to strangers who come to our neighborhood. However, we would feel guilty about cheating a stranger in a commercial transaction.

Our complex economic system requires that strangers deal honestly with one another when they exchange goods and services. Such a system functions more naturally in a Society of Contract than in a Society of Status. In the former, commercial obligations are inherently binding, regardless of the identity of the party with which one deals. In the latter, there is little sense of obligation in dealing with members of a different kinship group.

The emphasis is mine. Please do go read the whole thing.

In light of the whole Jason Richwine flap, and posts like this one this one from Bryan Caplan. I find it somewhat amusing that Arnold put his essay on the Library of Economics and Liberty web site. Is this an intentional tweak of those bloggers?

So while I am generally on the side of complete liberty, I do not want people from Clan or Status Societies moving into my neighborhood. I have but one life and it won’t last the generations it will take these newcomers to adjust to being a member of a Contract Society. I will also say that I don’t really expect my government of doing a fair job of deciding whether or not any particular immigrant belongs to one type of society or the other. Government is, though, the only tool at my disposal. I do not have enough money to create one of Caplan’s bubbles to wall myself off from undesirable Status Society lowlifes. If you don’t believe these people exist, just tour part of the world outside the U.S. (probably should go outside Northern Europe, too).

Also, I do not intend to disparage any particular individual, I just know which way I’ll bet when it come to having immigrant neighbors from one particular country or another.