Guest Worker Programs and Reasonable, Feasible Cosmopolitanism

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The presence of guest workers in affluent countries poses difficulties for social justice theories. Allowing badly off foreigners to enter and take temporary employment, even on harsh terms, seems morally desirable on grounds of benefits to the entrants. However such policies also seem to be exploitative and to make social relations within the affluent country less just. A noncosmopolitan theory of justice that imposes higher standards on the treatment of insiders than of outsiders will tend to oppose guest worker programs, as will a theory of justice that gives priority to relational equality. A cosmopolitan theory of justice gives equal weight to benefits achieved for anyone anywhere, whether the ones benefited are insiders or outsiders. Such a theory, especially one that tilts toward equality, might appear too readily accepting of guest worker programs and their expansion. This essay argues that the cosmopolitan egalitarian views strike the right balance.

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