Let Everyone Into America

Question: What is the most pressing ethical issue of our time?

Jacob Appel: I think it is, to phrase it bluntly, the rights of foreigners.  It is the arbitrary distinction that people have more or fewer rights because they were born on one side of the border of another side of a border.  Once you accept the premise that all human beings are endowed with equal rights and of equal value, then there’s no moral or ethical justification treating them differently simply they were born in different countries. 

We can’t grant everybody rights by invading all the countries in the world and forcing our values upon them.  What we can do is grant anybody who has the wherewithal or power to come within our borders the same set of rights that we grant the people that are already here. 

I should add that was the American tradition up until the 1920’s with the exception of Asian Americans, all other groups until the 1920’s who came here volitionally were granted a certain set of basic rights and the borders were open to them.  And that really was the fundamental difference between the United States and the countries of Europe.  You came to America, you had the opportunity to become a citizen, you had an opportunity to take part in “The American Dream.”  That’s what the Statute of Liberty is all about.  The people who waved their American flags and shout about patriotism and at the same time don’t want immigrants to come across our borders or are concerned about illegal immigrants have missed the entire point of America.

Question: Wouldn't such a massive influx of immigrants overtax government entitlement programs?

Jacob Appel: It’s not at all clear that having more immigrants coming to the country wouldn’t generate more revenue and make more revenue available to provide the entitlements that people seek.  Immigrants tend to be among the most productive members of our society.  And historically, people have studied this.  It’s second generation, third generation Americans, the children of immigrants who are the powerhouse to the American economy.  If you were really concerned about expenditures on entitlements, you would take people whose families have lived here for a very long time and weren’t being economically productive and you would deport them and then you have more money for entitlement programs or you would spend less on entitlements in relation to economic progress.  I think it’s a terrible idea, but I think it’s worth noting that many of those same people or of people who have waived their flags complaining about the criminality of illegal immigrants. 

Appel thinks the most pressing ethical issue of our time is "the arbitrary distinction that people have more or fewer rights because they were born on one side of the border of another side of a border."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less