Libertarian case for open borders
- Right to migrate: The right to migrate is a natural right. Restrictions on this right are immoral. More moderate version: restrictions of the right to migrate are only moral if there is clear evidence of very bad consequences.
- Obligations to strangers: The government of a nation-state or region owes no obligations to potential immigrants. But it does not have the authority to arbitrarily restrict their entry. Thus, even if the harms to immigrant-receiving countries are serious, they do not overcome the presumption in favor of the right to migrate.
- Self-ownership versus state ownership: Even if the harms to immigrant-sending countries (such as brain drain and delay of political reform) are serious, they do not override the presumption in favor of the right to migrate. This is because people own themselves (the self-ownership principle) and are not owned by the state where they were born.
Hypotheticals to illuminate the libertarian case
- Starving Marvin, your daughter, and bread, a bunch of hypotheticals by Michael Huemer.
- Coming back from Haiti, facing ICE, a hypothetical by Bryan Caplan
See more hypotheticals here.
What is libertarianism?
Confused about what “libertarian” means? Check out What is Libertarianism? on the libertarianism.org website, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on libertarianism.
Significance of libertarian case for non-libertarians
The majority of people in the world are not libertarian. Nonetheless, the libertarian case is significant as a partial argument for open borders in so far as many people, including those who are not strict libertarians, believe in a presumption of liberty: it doesn’t make sense to violate people’s rights unless there are some definite benefits. The utilitarian and egalitarian arguments for open borders, which show that open borders on the whole are beneficial, thus complete the argument.
A number of objections have been raised to the libertarian case, both by libertarians (based on different interpretations of libertarian philosophy) and by non-libertarians (who reject libertarian tenets). For more, see objections to libertarian case.