Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stumbling and Mumbling on the Undeserving Poor

Stumbling and Mumbling has stumbled across Celebrity Big Brother and is so alarmed by the insult to Darwin that is Jackiey Budden that he's calling for global redistribution. After all, none of us 'earned' being English so why do we deserve the wealth that comes with it? From reading his account she does sound a truly awful woman but that doesn't necessarily create a case for redistribution.

This is an application of the principle of moral luck which avoids the thorny question of free will. However, it still has to answer to the question of whether the proposed redistribution can be justified on efficiency grounds. International redistribution is sometimes effective but often desperately ineffective or actively counterproductive. Spending within our own borders is far easier to control and direct. Bauer's criticisms of the effects of foreign aid imply that there are limits on the extent to which our money can improve the lives of those in foreign countries. Would we be just as likely to waste our money encouraging Third World corruption as we would looking after people like Jackiey Budden?

We then return to the idea of the state as a social contract. For all Jackiey Budden's awfulness she is a party to that contract and is subject to the accompanying laws. If her awfulness manifests itself as something beyond the pale, something criminal, she can be punished. In return for setting people these basic standards we guarantee them a material standard of living. As such a contract cannot be enforced on those living abroad they may be less deserving despite being better people.

I think that the problem of Jackiey Budden is better solved via the idea floated by Dwight Lee on TCS Daily. Allow people to sell their citizenship and it seems close to certain that someone who is so underutilising the advantages of being British will wind up selling in a fit of shallowness. We could trade her for a more productive foreigner.

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