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You are now free to move about the world

Via David Forbes, I found this post by John Haffner. It’s a strictly philosophical (read: Kant gets name-checked) discussion of rights and freedoms as they pertain to immigration, a summary of a panel on the subject held at Sophia University in Japan. Japan’s stance on migration is problematic to say the least: for a variety of reasons, it has always resisted granting citizenship to foreigners. Instead, it relegates them to a labyrinthine system of visas and second-class rights. However, the population of Japan is declining as the economy dies out (Roland Kelts describes that phenomenon here) and as feminism gains a stronger foothold*, leaving a rapidly aging population with a shaky tax base to support them and only temporary workers to care for them. Naturally, this has brought up discussion of immigration as a means to solve the problem.

The first obstacle, as pointed out by philosopher Mathias Risse, is that historically the right to international migration has been largely defined as a right to leave one’s own country. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to leave or return to their country, and a right to movement within their country, but there is no established right to settle outside one’s country. As such, Risse pointed out, the right to move—as it exists now—is more akin to other liberty rights, such as the right to marriage, than to claim rights, such as a right to emergency medical attention. Just as people have a right to marry, but no right to demand that any given person marry, individuals now are widely recognized to have a right to leave their own country, but no right to demand to be let in somewhere else. They must first find a partner willing to accept their claim.

It’s an interesting discussion that might be of interest to anyone who enjoys learning about Japan’s position internationally or about the migration discourse in general.

*Note: I don’t want you to think that I’m blaming feminism for lower populations, because I don’t think there’s anything blameworthy with lower populations whatsoever. Our planet is over-crowded, and in all likelihood, you could probably be doing lots more to contribute to the greater well-being of your fellow humans than simply making another one. I mention feminism here because statistically, better-educated women have fewer children, and career women have children later in life. Since educational and workplace equality are goals of feminism, ones which are being accomplished in Japan, I felt clear to bring it up.

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  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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