Rights asymmetries were the rule in the ancient world. Hierarchies were caste hierarchies, with different rights and duties dependent on where you came from, who your parents were, etc. “My station and its duties,” as F. H. Bradley put it. The king had a divine right to rule, and it was the duty of others to obey. Case closed.

Modernity begins with a universalist attitudes towards rights. This yielded a belief in symmetrical rights assignment, to basic rights, human rights, “natural rights.” The idea?  Everyone — every person, every individual human being — was to possess the same basic rights set, and any hierarchies that evolved from there were to be based on action, chiefly, and seen as derivable from universal rights. That is, particular rights that we do not all share were dependent upon the basic rights that we do share.

The big issue of our time appears to be immigration. And here we stumble upon a rights asymmetry: 

It is almost umiversally believed that everyone has a right to leave one’s country. Only tyrannies hold their inhabitants within state-demarcating border lines. But the flip side of migration-out is migration-in: the right to emigrate would seem to entail a right to immigrate.

That is not today’s everyday reality: immigration controls are almost universal these days.

What good is a right to leave a country if one may not be accepted elsewhere?

The immigration debate sounds like excuse piled upon excuse. It is all based on fake rights, non-compossible rights.

One reason I occasionally worry about the current anti-immigration craze is memetic contagion: to resolve cognitive dissonance, emigration rights would also become widely opposed. And real, palpable tyranny would result.

  • Who has best dealt with this apparent antinomy? 
  • Can it be legitimized by appeal to universalizability? 
  • Is the émigré/immigrant asymmetry a representation of an underlying compossible rights set, something I cannot yet fathom?
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