There’s a good discussion about H1B visas
going on in the comments of my last post, with some interesting
perspective provided by Jen, who actually hires programmers. But I
wanted to pick up on a different aspect of the discussion.
GoriGirl commented that I was
missing the point by focusing on inequality within the US — she
suggested that by employing workers from poorer countries, it would
reduce worldwide inequality. I’m not convinced that’s
necessarily true about the H1B visa program as currently implemented,
but I’m willing to concede the claim that I’m more concerned about the
displaced American workers than I am about the upwardly mobile workers
from other countries. And I’m not sure how there’s a moral basis for
that. I certainly can’t come up with one based on either utilitarianism or Rawls’ "Veil of Ignorance."
We’ve recently been having some mice in the kitchen, so I bought some
traps. The kind that bash their little mousie brains out. And within
the first 24 hours, we caught two mice. And I feel badly about it, and
sorry for the little pathetic things. On the other hand, I don’t feel
the least bit guilty or sorry about squashing mosquitoes. And, while I
could try to find an ethical basis for the distinction (the mosquitoes
I kill are generally in the act of biting me, while the mice are just
taking food), the truth is that I think I feel badly about killing the
mice because they’re cute and furry. Aesthetics, not ethics.
Last night I was reading a collection of short stories by Orson Scott
Card, and a few of them are set in Mormon communities, and so he
explains in a background essay a bit about the system of "wards" that
are an organizing structure of Mormon communal life. It made me think
about whether it’s an inherent part of human nature to value your
fellow citizens over citizens of another country. I think it’s natural
to value your family members, and your neighbors, but I’m not sure
about anything much larger than that. I do think that it’s part of American ideology to say that people have a claim on us because of fellow citizenship, rather than ethnic origin, or race, or religious.