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January 26, 2005



Fascinating topic and great post.

Don't forget the literature inspired by Easterly and Levine's 1997 paper that suggested ethnic fractionalization reduces the government's incentive to provide public goods (whether income redistribution is a public good is of course debatable).

There is a review of the literature here:


This paper shows a negative correlation between ethnic fractionalization and social spending and welfare policies.


I'm working on a post of my own.


Hmmm.... some more hopefully as-challenging points:

1. In effect, you're granting the point about the political problems of open borders and redistribution, so that for you the libertarian good (open borders) is more important than the egalitarian good (redistribution). Equality is something to strive for, but... but...

2. Ethnic enmity might well be part of the problem, and that's hardly a good prospect - but I think there's also cultural tension to contend with. This is especially so in today's liberal societies, which have difficulties with notions of integrating migrants within a common culture. This is where that community spirit comes in - methodological individualists might dislike its intangible nature, but then quite a few of them might not be to keen on State redistribution for the same reason!

3. Re that 'community spirit' - the problem with methodological individualism and with a lot of contemporary liberal thought (esp since Rawls) is that assumes as given what all classic and early modern political theory thought the most problematic: how to hold a society together, avoiding the Hobbesian war - let alone building liberal tolerance or egalitarian solidarity.

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