Humanity’s Collective Ownership of the Earth and Immigration

Journal of Practical Ethics 4 (2):31-66 (2016)
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Abstract
In my 2012 book On Global Justice, I argued that humanity’s collective ownership of the earth should be central to reflection on the permissibility of immigration. Other philosophers have recently offered accounts of immigration that do without the kind of global standpoint provided by collective ownership. I argue here that all these attempts fail. But once we see how humanity’s collective ownership of the earth can deliver a genuinely global standpoint on immigration, we must also consider two alternative ways of offering such a standpoint. First, some have argued that any given generation should be regarded as inheriting both the natural and the societal wealth of humanity. The second alternative invokes ethno-geographic communities characterized by particular land-use patterns. This approach would deliver a global standpoint on immigration by determining which community gets to select the land-use pattern for a given location. I argue that thinking about immigration from the standpoint of collective ownership of the earth is superior to both of those alternatives. While advancing a standpoint from which to think about questions of immigration/migration, this article also offers explanations to situate its themes in the current philosophical debate and cover quite a range of topics in the debate about immigration. No prior acquaintance with On Global Justice is presupposed here.
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