Self-ownership versus state ownership
This is a libertarian response to some of the anti-open borders arguments that stem from concerns about the harms to immigrant-sending countries such as brain drain and delay of political reform. The claim is that, even if there are some harms to others due to an individual’s choice to migrate, these harms are not sufficient to overcome the right to migrate. This is because of the principle of self-ownership: each person is owned by himself/herself, not by the state where he/she happens to be born.
The argument has been made by many people, most notably Michael Clemens.
Some blog posts and articles that elaborate on this theme:
- People are not property: Please stop saying that countries “steal” doctors from Africa by Michael Clemens in a guest post for Chris Blattman’s blog.
- What Is Not Owned Cannot Be Stolen: Stop Dehumanizing African Health Workers by Michael Clemens for the blog of the Center for Global Development.
- Why open borders are the solution to brain drain by Nathan Smith for the Open Borders blog.
The limiting case of the anti-libertarian principle of state ownership has been seen in communist countries that forbid people from emigrating. For more on this, see emigration: escaping communism.