Monday, March 11, 2013

I say goodbye, you say Helot

By Robert H.

Matt Yglesias has a post in which he off-handily says that the "legalize but don't give a path to citizenship" approach to existing illegal immigrants, seen in Jeb Bush's book, for example, threatens to create a new Helot class.  This is unfair but, more importantly, bad classics.

Laconia had three broad classes in classical antiquity: helots, who were basically slaves; perioeci, who were basically free people with relative economic liberty and the ability to serve in the army, but who were not citizens; and spartiates, who were citizens and could vote and kick people down wells and stuff.  Obviously Bush wants to create more of a perioeci class than a helot class, since he doesn't want immigrants to be serfs or murdered by children or anything.

But we can do better!  Classical Hellas actually had a word for the class of people made up of resident aliens (usually) unable to acquire citizenship and (often) made to pay a fine (tax).  What Jeb Bush wants is a Metic class.

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