Kenneth Rogoff: Inequality, Immigration, and Hypocrisy: “Europe’s migration crisis exposes a fundamental flaw, if not towering hypocrisy, in the ongoing debate about economic inequality…

And Kenneth Rogoff fakes right:

Wouldn’t a true progressive support equal opportunity for all people on the planet, rather than just for those of us lucky enough to have been born and raised in rich countries? Many thought leaders in advanced economies advocate an entitlement mentality. But the entitlement stops at the border: though they regard greater redistribution within individual countries as an absolute imperative, people who live in emerging markets or developing countries are left out…. The rhetoric of the inequality debate in rich countries betrays a moral certitude that conveniently ignores the billions of people elsewhere who are far worse off…. The middle class in rich countries remains an upper class from a global perspective…. Yes, higher taxes on the wealthy make sense as a way to alleviate inequality within a country. But that will not solve the problem of deep poverty in the developing world.

So it is clear what Rogoff’s point is: the same politicians who demand redistribution from rich-country rich to rich-country poor resist redistribution from rich-country poor to poor-country poor. Hence their argument isn’t a moral one to which the rich-country rich should accede but rather a simple “we want your stuff” that rich-country rich can deny without a bad conscience. The lesson appears to be that there is no urgent need to make the rich-country tax system more progressive…

But wait. Rather than settling on that conclusion, Rogoff takes the argument in a different direction:

Nor will it do to appeal to moral superiority to justify why someone born in the West enjoys so many advantages…. Europe’s long history of exploitative colonialism makes it hard to guess how Asian and African institutions would have evolved in a parallel universe where Europeans came only to trade, not to conquer…. By many measures, global inequality has been reduced significantly over the past three decades, implying that capitalism has succeeded spectacularly. Capitalism has perhaps eroded rents that workers in advanced countries enjoy by virtue of where they were born. But it has done even more to help the world’s true middle-income workers in Asia and emerging markets…. Workers from poor countries welcome the opportunity to work in advanced countries, even at what seem like rock-bottom wages. Unfortunately, most of the debate in rich countries today, on both the left and the right, centers on how to keep other people out. That may be practical, but it certainly is not morally defensible…

So is he now going left?

And migration pressure will increase markedly if global warming unfolds according to climatologists’ baseline predictions…. Shifting weather patterns could then fuel migration to richer countries at levels that make today’s immigration crisis seem trivial, particularly given that poor countries and emerging markets typically are closer to the equator and in more vulnerable climates…. Resentment against the advanced economies, which account for a vastly disproportionate share of global pollution and commodity consumption, could boil over…. Regrettably, however, the inequality debate has focused so intensely on domestic inequality that the far larger issue of global inequality has been overshadowed. That is a pity, because there are many ways rich countries can make a difference. They can provide free online medical and education support, more development aid, debt write-downs, market access, and greater contributions to global security. The arrival of desperate boat people on Europe’s shores is a symptom of their failure to do so…

Yes! He has gone left! Raise taxes on the rich-country rich via higher and more progressive taxes to fund “free online medical and education support, more development aid, debt write-downs, market access, and greater contributions to global security”!

And may I inquire whether the increased tax revenue should also be spent holding the rich-country middle- and working-classes harmless in the face of increased immigration and increased trade?

As I do not tire of saying, one of the very best investments we could make here in the North Atlantic in the global security and economic prosperity of our great-grandchildren would be for us to take major, concrete steps to demonstrate and to make it so that we seek and succeed not to retard but to accelerate the economic development of emerging markets, and thus the date at which we can say we live in a truly human world.