‘Shithole Countries,’ Moral Ambitiousness, and Economic Parallels - The Objective Standard

Although many countries may aptly be described as “shitholes” for being socialist, theocratic, anarchic, or the like, disparaging or maligning people who flee such holes to create a better life for themselves in America is grossly unjust and un-American.

A person who seeks to escape from a nightmare country in pursuit of the American dream deserves not scorn or disparagement but praise and encouragement. Such an effort is a sign of moral virtue. Specifically, it’s a sign of pride—the quality of character Aristotle called “the crown of the virtues” and Ayn Rand described as “moral ambitiousness.”1

On an objective conception of morality, to the extent that a person thinks and acts rationally to achieve a life of flourishing, he is acting morally.2 And to the extent that a person does so under conditions that make such action exceedingly difficult, he is acting heroically.

Tyler Cowen points out some related truths in the realm of economics. In his article “Africa Is Sending Us Its Best and Brightest,” Cowen explains why people who immigrate to America from wretched countries, such as several in Africa, tend to be or to become relatively well educated and successful.3 The operative principle here, writes Cowen, is that “the harder it is to get from one country to another, the more the immigration process selects for individuals who are especially ambitious and resourceful.” There’s that concept of “ambitiousness” again. And here it’s coupled with resourcefulness. Something good has to come of that. . . .


1 See Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: New American Library, 1964), 27, http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/pride.html.

2 See Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”; see also Craig Biddle, “Secular, Objective Morality: Look and See,” The Objective Standard, April 3, 2017, https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/2017/04/secular-objective-morality-look-and-see/.

3 Tyler Cowen, “Africa Is Sending Us Its Best and Brightest,” Bloomberg View, January 12, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-12/africa-is-sending-us-its-best-and-brightest.

4 Rani Molla, “Top U.S. Tech Companies Founded by Immigrants Are Worth Over $3 Trillion,” Recode, August 4, 2017, https://www.recode.net/2017/8/4/16097928/tech-companies-value-employment-founded-immigrants-immigration/; Ana Campoy, “216 Companies on the Fortune 500 Were Founded by Immigrants or Their Children,” Quartz, December 9, 2017, https://qz.com/1151689/216-companies-on-the-fortune-500-were-founded-by-immigrants-or-their-children/; Zoë Henry, “Immigrant Entrepreneurs From 'Shithole' Countries Respond to President Trump,” Inc., January 12, 2018, https://www.inc.com/zoe-henry/immigrant-entrepreneur-trump-shithole-countries.html.

5 Cowen, “Africa Is Sending Us Its Best and Brightest.”

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