In his article “What’s Wrong with Ethnic Cleansing?” James Nickel defends a position that ethnic cleansing is possibly morally permissible. I would agree as long as such cleansing does not involve any type of coercion. If a government wants to economically incentivize certain people moving in or out of a country, it would be morally permissible to do so. Having beliefs about ethnic superiority isn’t bad in itself. It isn’t our jobs to police people’s thoughts and minds. However it becomes immoral once you start negatively affecting other people because of those beliefs. Economic incentives do not negatively affect the people moving, so it wouldn’t be morally reprehensible.
While in some, very limited situations it might be morally permissible to attempt to ethnically cleanse a nation, I don’t think it is ever beneficial. Nickel suggests that perhaps to prevent a civil war between hostile ethnic groups a government would want to relocate the people of one ethnic group. He says, “The third goal, which is to avoid further ethnic conflict or war by creating a more ethnically homogenous state, may be plausible in some circumstances. Ethnic tensions in Lebanon, Belgium, Canada, and Sri Lanka illustrate that it is often hard for two or more large ethnic groups to coexist amicably in a single country” (Nickel 471). Cleansing may solve the immediate conflict, but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem. First of all, if there are two warring ethnic groups, how does the government decide which one stays and which one goes? Presumably the government is controlled by one of the two ethnic groups so it would most likely want to kick out the other. Most likely the responsibility for the ethnic conflict is not entirely on one group or the other, so you couldn’t just ‘get rid’ of the problem. Relocating the minority population might be less costly, but would it be fair? Each ethnic group probably has traditional ties to the land that go back generations, if not much longer. Separating hostile ethnic groups may stop the violence for the time being, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the problem.
Instead of simply getting rid of people you disagree with, it is often much more profitable to have them around. While it may be difficult for ethnically diverse populations to get along with one another, it is beneficial for everyone involved if they can learn to live together. The plurality of ideas in such states would help the entire nation grow. Homogeny within a population isn’t a good goal to have. We may not like it, but we can get a lot out of living in close proximity to people who are different from us.