My Path to Open Borders

This is a guest post by Bryan Caplan, one of the most influential voices in the economics blogosphere supportive of open borders. Caplan was a major inspiration for the creation of the Open Borders site and his blog, EconLog, was also an important recruiting ground for like-minded open borders advocates. In this blog post, Caplan describes his personal journey towards open borders.

In the subculture of economics blogs, I’m well-known as a champion of open borders. If you want to hear my reasons, read my “Why Should We Restrict Immigration?” and philosopher Michael Huemer’s “Is There a Right to Immigrate?” If you want to discover how I personally came to embrace my contrarian position, though, read on.

Until I was seventeen, my views on immigration were completely conventional. In 11th grade, I wrote a paper defending the “moderate” view that (a) contemporary levels of immigration were good for America, but (b) immigrants should have to learn English. As far as I remember, I didn’t discuss illegal immigration one way or the other. If you asked me about illegal immigration, I probably would have reflexively said, “I’m against it,” perhaps adding, “Well, illegals do a lot of jobs that Americans won’t.”

Growing up in Northridge – a suburb of Los Angeles – I had a lot of casual contact with immigrants. Starting in 5th grade, busing brought many low-income kids to my schools. About 60% were black, 40% Hispanic. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but many of the Hispanic students’ parents – and probably quite a few of the Hispanic students themselves – were illegal immigrants. Starting in junior high, my schools also had a fairly high number of Korean and other Asian immigrants. Since I was in honors classes for grades 7-12, I had disproportionately low contact with Hispanic immigrants, and disproportionately high contact with Asian immigrants. Roughly half of my friends were Asian, the children or grandchildren of immigrants. The rest were white, with no living immigrant ancestors. (My own great-grandparents on both sides were immigrants from Ireland, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine).

My parents owned a few rental properties in Los Angeles, and they occasionally hired Hispanic day laborers to help with upkeep. As far as I remember, we all knew that these day laborers were illegal immigrants. But business was business; though they spoke little English, they worked hard. I vividly remember the day my dad hired a totally disappointing day laborer who spoke fluent English. Eventually my parents concluded that he was a U.S. citizen trying to pose as a hard-working illegal!

I changed my mind about proper immigration policy in my senior year of high school. The impetus, as usual for me, was not first-hand experience, but abstract argument. After reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, I became a vociferous libertarian. Given this orientation, I converted to open borders as soon as another libertarian pointed out that free immigration is just free trade applied to labor. If memory serves, Murray Rothbard’s Power and Market, chapter 3, section E was the pivotal discussion for me.

Still, I was too factually ignorant to grasp the enormity of the issue. I saw no reason to take immigration restrictions more seriously than, say, steel tariffs. I didn’t realize that immigration restrictions are far more onerous than trade barriers on steel. I falsely assumed that illegal immigration to the U.S. was pretty easy. I didn’t realize that the labor market is by far the largest market in the world – roughly 70% of national income. I didn’t realize that immigration restrictions trap hundreds of millions of people in Third World poverty.

The corollary, of course, is that I didn’t realize that open borders would drastically change every aspect of our society. Basic economics says that free immigration would drastically increase global wealth and drastically reduce global inequality. But basic psychology says that visibility of the remaining poverty and inequality would sharply rise. (The sobering implication is that even if open borders works as well as I expect, many First Worlders will angrily call it a disaster).

Given my ignorance, I was able to intellectually embrace open borders without taking the issue seriously. In high school and college, I spent far more time debating epistemology than immigration. When I tried to convert others to open borders, my main empirical argument was to point to America’s experience with virtually open borders in the 19th century. If free immigration was great then, why not now?

When critics pointed to the existence of the modern welfare state, I was dismissive: “Yet another reason to abolish the welfare state!” Murray Rothbard in particular inoculated me against all arguments of the form, “We can’t repeal X until we repeal Y.” He was outraged when Libertarian Party candidate Ed Clark opposed open borders during the 1980 presidential campaign:

[Clark] has already asserted that we can’t slash the welfare state until we have achieved “full employment”; he now adds that we can’t have free and open immigration until we eliminate the welfare state.  And so it goes; the “gradualists” lock us permanently into the status quo of statism.i

By the time I started my undergraduate education at UC Berkeley, then, I was a staunch yet shallow devotee of free immigration. I simply lacked the knowledge base to understand the magnitude of the issue. My subsequent coursework did nothing to alleviate my ignorance. I was however an avid reader. Slowly but surely, year after year, the study of economics taught me that immigration restrictions were not just one wealth-destroying regulation among many, but the most destructive regulation in the First World. Julian Simon’s pro-population The Ultimate Resource probably influenced my thinking more than any other book, but there was no “aha” moment when I suddenly grasped the overarching importance of open borders.

As an undergraduate philosophy minor, in contrast, I connected the normative dots more readily. Philosophers emphasize a menagerie of mutually incompatible competing moral theories: utilitarianism, Kantianism, Rawlsianism, egalitarianism, even libertarianism. On immigration, however, all serious moral theories appear to support open borders. If everyone’s utility counts equally (utilitarianism), if we should treat everyone as an end in himself (Kantianism), if social institutions should maximize the welfare of the worst-off group (Rawlsianism), if inequality is intrinsically bad (egalitarianism), if it’s wrong to ban capitalist acts between consenting adults (libertarianism), how can anyone justify prohibiting poor foreigners from selling their labor to willing domestic employers?

By the time I finished my undergraduate studies, I already saw the issue of immigration as a moral Rosetta stone. Immigration is the issue that shows that mainstream American political views are wrong on their own terms. Libertarians are cruel because they oppose involuntary redistribution from rich to poor? But what are immigration restrictions – supported by mainstream liberals and conservatives alike – if not involuntary redistribution from poor to rich? Libertarians are callous because they oppose laws against discrimination? But what are immigration restrictions if not laws that make discrimination mandatory?

Did personal experience have any effect on my views at the time? Only tangentially. My girlfriend (now wife) emigrated from Communist Romania when she was seven. My best friend at Berkeley was the son of immigrants from Columbia and Costa Rica. Still, I was probably more intellectually animated by Communist governments’ brutal repression of emigration, and the logical symmetry between immigration and emigration laws. Imagine the West built the Berlin Wall to keep East German immigrants out. Would such a policy have been any less wrong?

After finishing at Berkeley, I moved on to Princeton’s Ph.D. economics program. Although Princeton is known for its labor economics group, I learned virtually nothing about immigration from the Princeton faculty – or my fellow students. The budding labor economists were far more interested in estimating the effects of education on earnings than the effect of immigration restrictions on global prosperity. Fortunately, Princeton’s schedule left ample time for free reading. Perhaps more importantly, the Internet was taking off, providing plenty of chances to argue about immigration with a broader audience on listservs and such.

After I joined the faculty of George Mason University in 1997, I included immigration in most of my syllabi. My main pedagogical innovation: emphasizing “keyhole solutions” to putative drawbacks of immigration. If immigrants are a burden on the welfare state, for example, why not simply restrict immigrants’ benefit eligibility instead of restricting immigration itself? The idea may seem obvious, but as brilliant and freedom-loving a man as Milton Friedman was almost ninety years old before he even considered it.

My earliest research had nothing to do with immigration. By 1998, however, I was hard at work on the articles that eventually turned into The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. The motivating puzzle: Why do democracies almost always adopt price controls, protectionism, and other “populist” policies that most economists scorn? My general explanation is that voters have systematically biased beliefs about economics. They sincerely believe and vote on the basis of the fallacies that teachers of introductory economists strive to expose.

The Myth of the Rational Voter doesn’t single out immigration restrictions as uniquely destructive. But such policies are one of the book’s leading whipping boys. Why do economists favor markedly less restrictive immigration policies than the public? Largely because the public suffers from what I call “anti-foreign bias.” They systematically underestimate the economic benefits of dealing with foreigners. In fact, most voters probably have a zero-sum model of immigration: More jobs for immigrants automatically means fewer jobs – and lower living standards – for us. Economists, in contrast, know that these zero-sum intuitions are wrong. Specialization and trade are the keys to prosperity – and civilization itself.

In hindsight, I have to ask myself: Why didn’t I do more research on immigration specifically? The main reason, to be honest, is that I sensed little demand for the kinds of papers I wanted to write. Economics journals don’t reward “big think.” Neither do they reward novel ideas you can express in plain English. So why bother to write such pieces?

The blogosphere drastically changed this calculus. After I joined EconLog in 2005, I suddenly had an ideal forum to share my views on immigration. Many of my posts were based on my lectures or lunch table arguments with my colleagues. Take “How Everyone Can Get Richer As Per-Capita GDP Falls,” blogged in March, 2005. [Open Borders note: Arguments of this sort are discussed at the compositional effects page on this website]. If I sent this piece to an economics journal, I doubt the editor would even send it to referees. Why not? Because the argument is “obvious” and “informal.” Yet if I wrote this piece as an op-ed, I’d just as surely be rejected. Why? Because the argument is “abstract” and “academic.”

Once I became a blogger, I finally had a home for my previously transient thoughts. Given this creative outlet, I started having more and better thoughts. It was a virtuous spiral. I believed in open borders over a decade before I started blogging, but blogging made my open borders advocacy deeper and clearer. Thanks to my blogging, the Cato Journal eventually invited me to write the lead article for a special 2012 issue on immigration. The product was “Why Should We Restrict Immigration?,” the piece that distills everything I know and think about the topic.

At Princeton, virtually all the immigrants I encountered came from elite foreign families. U.S. immigration law therefore had little effect on their lives. Their student visas were easy to get, and they could realistically expect U.S. work permits after graduation. Aspiring academics were well-aware that the U.S. already has near-open borders for research faculty. Once I became a professor at George Mason, however, I came to personally know many victims of U.S. immigration law. None of this affected the substance of my views, but it probably increased the intensity. The United States really does have the effrontery to brand good people as criminals for performing honest labor without government permission.

I know that open borders won’t happen anytime soon. Indeed, the research underlying The Myth of the Rational Voter makes me skeptical that open borders will ever come to pass. The younger generation seems slightly less hostile to immigration, but in absolute terms, they remain staunch restrictionists. Such is politics.

Sometimes I worry that if I spend too much time thinking about immigration, I’ll become bitter. I really do consider existing First World societies to be morally comparable to the Jim Crow South. Worse, actually. Under Jim Crow, blacks couldn’t legally do some jobs or live in some places in the country. Under modern immigration law, illegal immigrants can’t legally do any job or live anywhere in the country. Only First World citizens’ complacency keeps them from seeing themselves as the gnat-straining camel swallowers that they are.

At heart, though, I’m not a bitter person. My life is peachy keen. Immigration laws make me poorer, but I’m not hurting for anything. I just think it’s unjust that everyone on earth doesn’t enjoy the same rights that I do – and tragic that First World countries could do the right thing at a cost of less than nothing. Still, when I think about immigration, I’m grateful for the simple fact that I can make my voice heard. If one victim of immigration restrictions feels better knowing that someone somewhere stands up for his basic human right to accept a job offer from a willing employer, I’m glad.

i In my Intellectual Autobiography, I recount my horror when Rothbard himself started making such arguments in favor of immigration restrictions!

Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan is an economics professor at George Mason University and a well-known libertarian blogger whose writing on open borders was an inspiration for the creation of Open Borders: The Case. See also:

Bryan Caplan’s personal webpage
Open Borders: The Case page on Bryan Caplan
EconLog, a group blog to which Caplan contributes

19 thoughts on “My Path to Open Borders”

  1. Great post. My favorite part:

    “On immigration, however, all serious moral theories appear to support open borders. If everyone’s utility counts equally (utilitarianism), if we should treat everyone as an end in himself (Kantianism), if social institutions should maximize the welfare of the worst-off group (Rawlsianism), if inequality is intrinsically bad (egalitarianism), if it’s wrong to ban capitalist acts between consenting adults (libertarianism), how can anyone justify prohibiting poor foreigners from selling their labor to willing domestic employers?”

    Very tight. It makes me wish there were more philosophers writing for or commenting at this site.

    Your story makes me think about my own path to open borders. It’s difficult to recall all of it, but I’ll try.

    First, in my freshman year of college, I considered myself a “pacifist-anarchist,” following Tolstoy in *The Kingdom of God is Within You* and some of the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. I was influenced, too, by the Sermon on the Mount. In a nutshell, this philosophy consisted in a complete repudiation of everything of coercion, including self-defense. I was aware of the surface political impracticality of this position. But I thought it was an illusion, that an individual who adopted it was guaranteed to make the world a better place. It was half political creed, half a religious conviction, only partly derived from Christianity. Whether I would have said Christianity implied pacifist-anarchism, I don’t know. Probably not– or not quite. I remember maintaining this position against twenty-some BYU students in the lobby of the 9th (or something) floor of the men’s dorm.

    Clearly, pacifist-anarchism implies open borders. I was aware of that, and I think I even attached some importance to it. I think a feeling of the injustice of coercive migration restrictions was one of the motives that pushed me to reject coercion in general. Later, after I became disillusioned with pacifist-anarchism (I think the phase lasted about two years, but I don’t remember whether the transition out of it was swift or slow, or what exactly happened along the way), I continued to believe migration restrictions were wrong. So maybe my path to open borders should be traced further back. But I can’t do so with any confidence. I remember a debate with the liberal blowhard in the local Mormon church, a good friend of our family (still is), in which I blamed illegal immigrants for something or other, crime rates or rates of illegitimacy for something, and I felt a bit dirty and unchivalrous afterwards. I never did it again. I was definitely conservative in those days, but I was not one for parroting the party line. I remember being a strong opponent of welfare, and having an early conviction that welfare dependency was morally damaging (an important truth) and fiscally disastrous (not really true).

    By the time I was 20, and studying abroad in Prague, I was definitely a full-fledged supporter of open borders. I remember a stormy debate at that time in which I argued that, whereas for most policies, there’s an equity vs. efficiency trade-off, in the case of open borders there isn’t: both equity and efficiency are on the side of open borders. (I can’t remember whether I used the terms “equity” and “efficiency,” or for that matter, “open borders,” but that was the substance of the argument.) I remember arguing for open borders as an undergraduate of 21 or 22, at Notre Dame. By the time I started studying international development at Harvard at age 23, I suppose my convictions were firmly established, but– an interesting piece of evidence here, for what it’s worth– my views didn’t seem to stand out there. All my classmates and I in the MPA/ID (Masters of Public Administration / International Development] program were firmly, ardently committed to alleviating poverty in the world. That more freedom of migration would help to do that was, it seems in hindsight, too obvious to be worth talking about. (But perhaps my classmates would disagree with that assessment.) That politics in rich countries would block more freedom of migration was equally obvious. We were all eager to promote more FOREIGN AID to poor countries (I think I was, too, though I was far more right-wing and free-marketeer than most of my classmates; and I’m still more favorable to foreign aid than most other forms of government spending) and advocacy for open borders might have seemed to us like a kind of special case of foreign aid advocacy.

    If (at the risk of sounding vain for the moment) an intellectual biographer were ever to try to trace my intellectual formative influences, they might notice that I studied under both Lant Pritchett and Bryan Caplan, two prominent supporters of open borders, and assume that these two must have helped to convince me to support open borders. In fact, neither had almost any influence. Lant never really talked about that in the classes I had with him. Bryan probably did– I can’t remember– but it wouldn’t have affected me because my mind was made up long before. For that matter, I don’t think the year I spent at the Cato Institute affected me in this respect, either. I learned a lot from the Cato Institute’s Tom Palmer. Interestingly, Tom Palmer’s teachings shaped my though more with a long lag than they did at the time. For example, I did not believe in natural rights while I was at the Cato Institute or for several years afterwards. I think I started drifting towards a belief in natural rights gradually, but it was the process of writing *Principles of a Free Society,* which I wrote in response to Arizona’s SB1070 law, though you wouldn’t know that from reading it, that turned me into a believer in natural rights. There is a causal link, to some extent, between my belief in natural rights and my belief in open borders, but it runs entirely from open borders to natural rights, not the other way around. Tom Palmer definitely influenced HOW I THOUGHT ABOUT open borders, without affecting my commitment to it. The same can doubtless be said for Lant Pritchett and Bryan Caplan. And perhaps I would have doubted myself more if I didn’t come across such obvious intelligent and idealistic fellow-travelers. But they didn’t affect my basic position. That sounds a little bit ungrateful somehow, such that I almost want to take it back. But it’s true, and probably interesting, so let it be.

    (Actually, come to think of it, a competent intellectual biographer probably wouldn’t think Caplan convinced me to support open borders, since I was writing in favor of open borders as early as 2005. I should mention that I am not sure whether Lant is a self-identified supporter of open borders, though some things he’s written strongly invite that interpretation.)

    The fact that I’ve believed in open borders so long makes me think it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever change my mind. I’m open to counter-arguments, but there are so many converging reasons to favor open borders, and such powerful ones, that it seems unlikely I’ll hear anything from the other side to change my mind. On the other hand, I do tend to make certain compromises, so that perhaps some would already deny that I’m a true open borders advocate. Bryan is probably more of an open borders purist than I am.

  2. “Philosophers emphasize a menagerie of mutually incompatible competing moral theories: utilitarianism, Kantianism, Rawlsianism, egalitarianism, even libertarianism. On immigration, however, all serious moral theories appear to support open borders.”

    Suspiciously wrong. Communitarianism is more popular than libertarianism among philosophers.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/communitarianism/

    http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

    Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?

    Other 382 / 931 (41.0%)
    Accept or lean toward: egalitarianism 324 / 931 (34.8%)
    Accept or lean toward: communitarianism 133 / 931 (14.3%)
    Accept or lean toward: libertarianism 92 / 931 (9.9%)

    1. And these are the numbers in the presence of a strong selection for pre-theoretic left-leaning political commitments by entering philosophers (relative to other high-IQ and educated people, as Bryan has discussed elsewhere) which depresses the communitarian score.

    2. Hi BK, glad to have you back at Open Borders comments! I think that Caplan’s exclusion of communitarianism does mean he overstated his case. That said, even with the existing list, libertarians + egalitarians outnumber communitarians by a huge margin, and if you include *other* (which probably includes many philosophies such as utilitarianism, that according to Caplan, and me, also support open borders), that’s a huge margin.

      I haven’t looked at communitarianism in the past (I vaguely know of a few communitarian philosophers such as Michael Sandel) but it might well be the exception to the general rule that “all ethical roads lead to open borders” — or at least, make a strong prima facie case for substantially more open borders.

      1. I would be wary of assuming that the views in the ‘other’ category obviously support open borders, and of underestimating the degree to which Western political philosophy is just offering a diversity of rationalizations for popular left-liberal academic American opinion, especially given the potentially harsh retaliation for being open about restrictionist views. See this study of psychologists, who are similar in their political skew, for survey evidence of widespread willingness to engage in such punishment:

        http://yoelinbar.net/papers/political_diversity.pdf

        American philosophers who call themselves Kantians or Aristotelians suspiciously find that the ‘true expression’ of all those philosophies looks just like what a generic left to left-leaning American humanities academic would support, even though the original exponents had radically different views of what their philosophies entailed, e.g. see this discussion of Kant’s now-unpopular views about the implications of his moral philosophy:

        http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2010/03/kant-on-killing-bastards-on.html

        Kant was OK with killing bastards, and offers a rationale he might easily extend to the comparatively merciful punishment of banishment for illegal immigration:

        “A child that comes into the world apart from marriage is born outside the law (for the law is marriage) and therefore outside the protection of the law. It has, as it were, stolen into the commonwealth (like contraband merchandise), so that the commonwealth can ignore its existence (since it rightly should not have come to exist in this way), and can therefore also ignore its annihilation (p. 336).”

        Aristotle supported polis-based citizenism (with slavery and totalitarian oligarchy of philosopher-kings) and nationalism as virtuous and conducive to community spirit.

        More recently, Marxist-Leninist ideas have been very popular within academia and supported strong restrictions on migration (to keep people from escaping the grip of the state, or to keep out groups seen as threatening the grip of Communist rulers). These still have wide currency.

        Early in the 20th century many intellectuals were interested in Progressivism, and there was intellectual support for selective migration policy for eugenic reasons.

        During the second half of the 20th century environmentalists and others very concerned with long-term sustainability and environmental impact (concerns also raised from a utilitarian stand-point) supported immigration restrictions to prevent migrants from increasing use of fossil fuels and resource depletion and increasing the human population more rapidly, to reduce the risk of future environmental degradation and catastrophe, and to preserve wild spaces.

    3. Communitarianism certainly leans against open borders, but even so it’s not terribly difficult to find communitarians sympathetic to significantly more open borders. This paper focuses on communitarian Michael Walzer’s support for relatively much more open borders (and he goes farther in advocating liberal naturalisation policies as well): http://www.ethical-perspectives.be/viewpic.php?LAN=E&TABLE=EP&ID=448

      “I cannot be obliged to take all kinds of needy foreigners into my home, and certainly not for the rest of my life. However, according to Walzer, the principle of mutual aid asks more from collectivities than from individuals. States are much more capable of benevolent action than individuals. Admission to one’s country does not entail the same intimacy as admittance to one’s home or family. Impersonal bureaucratic costs cannot be compared with personal sacrifices of time and space. On these grounds, Walzer is in favour of admitting much larger numbers of foreigners into the richer countries of the world than is presently the case. His proposals are all the more generous as he thinks that once admitted, new immigrants must be offered fairly quickly the opportunities of full citizenship.”

      Of course, as you say, it’s not improbable that whatever school one subscribes to, almost all roads in modern academic philosophy seem to lead to left liberalism. Walzer and communitarians who share his views may well fit that case. Their views nevertheless suggest that in practice communitarianism is far from incompatible with open borders (it sounds remarkably like “citizenism with moral side-constraints” which Nathan’s discussed before).

      An interesting point the paper (not Walzer himself) makes too is that emigration, especially on large scales, also seems fundamentally incompatible with communitarianism: “However, large scale emigration can be just as disruptive to local communities as large scale immigration. Game theory, for example, teaches us that when the exit-option is too readily accessible, cooperation will become more difficult to achieve.” But a right to emigrate is near-universally recognised (even codified in international law) in spite of this. Maybe that’s because communitarians are fundamentally outnumbered; maybe it’s also because communitarianism doesn’t really have clear conclusions about appropriate migration policy.

      Of course, the point remains that communitarianism doesn’t seem to fundamentally lead to support for open borders the way most other mainstream philosophies seem to. Certainly it seems to be the only one which could be marshalled in support of closed borders, in both directions!

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  4. I’m not sure whether a communitarian ethics really leans against open borders. I don’t know that much about communitarianism, but I am kind of a fan of Alasdair MacIntyre, who is sort of a communitarian. MacIntyre, as far as I remember, doesn’t say anything about immigration policy in *After Virtue* or a few other writings of his that I’ve read. As far as I know, he hasn’t thought about it much. But MacIntyre is a fierce critic of modernity, and it is in only in the 20th century that comprehensive migration control was invented.

    The trouble with a communitarian argument for migration restrictions is that migration restrictions invariably split up communities by force. Just about every deportation means forcing someone to part with places and people that they know and like. Sometimes the injury to community is much more grievous, with churches or even biological families separated by force. Surely a communitarian must regard such things as intolerable.

    A communitarian should presumably attach value to many different kinds of communities: the Catholic Church and other religious communities, peoples in diaspora like the Irish or the Jews, perhaps social classes, surely professions, families, and also, I hope, friends. All of these communities are often severed by migration restrictions. I am less clear on who the leading lights of communitarianism are, or their writings or principles, but I suspect that a communitarian case for open borders could be at least as strong as the Kantian, utilitarian, Christian, Rawlsian, etc.

    1. Wikipedia’s article lists 4 major communitarian philosophers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism#Philosophical_communitarianism

      One is Walzer, who is I would argue is more or less in the open borders camp. MacIntyre is there too, I don’t have a clear picture of where he stands. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor stresses the benefits of maintaining cultural identities, but otherwise seems very optimistic about the prospects of assimilating or amalgamating immigrants (he seems to lay particular stress on the possibility of an immigrant eventually identifying with an adopted culture, and a bit dismissive of cultural identification based on ethnic descent): http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/charles-taylor-philosopher-interview/

      Michael Sandel, the last of the four, is surprisingly hard to pin down. He’s engaged much more with the policy realm than the others, but his only easy-to-find statement on immigration was very critical of Gary Becker’s immigration tariff proposal — but on classic left liberal humanitarian grounds: “a market in refugees changes our view of who refugees are and how they should be treated. It encourages the participants — the buyers, the sellers and also those whose asylum is being haggled over — to think of refugees as burdens to be unloaded or as revenue sources rather than as human beings in peril.”

      Overall, although communitarianism’s premises in theory seem like they might be fertile ground for restrictionist conclusions, there doesn’t seem to be evidence of communitarian philosophers actually reaching such conclusions. In cases where they reach conclusions on immigration policy, they seem to lean in favour of borders that are more, not less, open compared to the status quo.

  5. On immigration, however, all serious moral theories appear to support open borders.

    All except those that are universalizable; in other words, all except those that recognize reciprocal rights like property.

    To cite utilitarianism is ludicrous because (1) utility can’t be measured and (2) theoretically, if we assumed each person’s valuation of utility to be the same, utility would be maximized by the adoption of a moral system that encourages productivity by allowing producers to keep what they produce.

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  8. I already see that my response is not going to resonate with the author, but as a working class individual with an education, I offer a separate dissent.

    The author notes the propensity of democracies to adopt protectionism. Examples of protectionism arguably very harmful to the working class, are those in housing and land use, which redistribute income upward from the working class (specifically, renters) to classes above them – specifically, homeowners (see #1) – while raising the bar for renters who would like to become homeowners and escape rent inflation.

    Open borders harm the working class in at least two ways; (1) the upward redistributive impact of land use and housing protectionism is exacerbated when demand for housing and developable land surge while supply remains relatively inelastic, clobbering the working class with necessarily skyrocketing rents, and (2) an increase – potentially vast – in the supply of low-skilled labor will cause the working class to experience wages which necessarily plummet. Minimum wage floors are bad enough for the working class, but vast immigration might be even worse for many of them.)

    #! Sowell, Markets and Minorities, Chapter 7

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