20 Jan 2012

Save the people

One of my favorite "deep reforms" for the liberation of individuals from their cruel overlords is quite simple: Give every person on the planet a second passport.*

Such a system will make it easier for people to vote with their feet, abandoning odious regimes (e.g., North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Somalia) for a different life.**

The Economist favors a version of this idea, but mine is based on some simple facts:
  • People with more choices will be able to improve their lives.
  • Odious regimes that lose slaves are more likely to reform (Ireland! Poland!).
  • Movement and communication across countries will make it easier to see good and bad ideas.
  • Mere awareness of one's "other country" will weaken nationalism and improve trans-national cooperation. (I've held for years that the Peace Corps is the best foreign policy program the US could have ever hoped for.)
Some people object to this idea because they fear an invasion of "foreigners trying to take our jobs and wreck our culture."

That fear is interesting when it comes from members of the "lucky sperm club" who did nothing to earn their rights. It's also easy to counter by, e.g., requiring that ALL citizens pay into welfare before they take advantage of it or by requiring all citizen-residents demonstrate a minimum level of cultural and linguistic knowledge.

OTOH, that fear is also based on a typical problem: how much are we willing to share to help others? And what if those others are not "like us"?

Based on my experience, people are not, in fact, very generous in welcoming strangers, but that's no reason to abandon an idea that could do a lot to improve the lives of so many people. Note that residents of rich countries benefit from new blood and new ideas, as anyone who's studied US history knows.

Bottom Line: The worst monopolies are government monopolies; we need a way of escaping them.

* FYI, I have two -- US and UK. I am VERY happy that I can live and work in any of 28 countries. Passports would be issued to others in proportion to the welcoming country's population
** I am also happy to be outside the US. I may be out for a long time, or not, but there are some things about my "home country" that drive me nuts.