Site story: why and how this website was created
This is written in first person by Vipul Naik, the main creator of this website. Please also see the authors section for more information on authors and contributors.
The idea for a website advocating open borders came to me in February 2012. I had been a regular follower of EconLog and EconLog blogger Bryan Caplan‘s arguments in favor of open borders had convinced me over the previous two years. I’d never been much of a restrictionist before that, but had largely been apathetic and agnostic about the matter until Caplan’s blog posts brought it to my attention.
While Caplan’s posts were individually very well written, it was hard to get a comprehensive picture of exactly where the debate on open borders stood by reading any individual post. I wanted a website where all the arguments for and against open borders were presented systematically in an easy-to-browse fashion, so that people could readily switch back and forth between the big picture and individual details. The goal would not be (at least at the outset) to make path-breaking new contributions, but simply to collate the wealth of information already out there. The timing was quite good. Just a couple years ago, many of the references in the pro-open borders reading list hadn’t been written.
In February 2012, I started digging around to see whether there existed any website that offered the kind of thing I wanted to create. There wasn’t. While there were some websites (like that of the Immigration Policy Center) that advocated for more immigration, there wasn’t any that tied together all the moral/ethical/philosophical arguments with the many practical arguments. Likewise, there was no website that comprehensively addressed the wide range of objections raised by restrictionists.
On March 9, 2012, I registered the openborders.info domain, installed the WordPress software, and started creating the website. On March 15, I emailed Bryan Caplan telling him that the site was ready for publicity. On March 16, he blogged about it. The site was tweeted quite a bit that day and got 700 visits and about 2000 pageviews that day. The visit count dropped after the initial publicity blitz faded out, but I was able to make contact with Nathan Smith and Alex Nowrasteh, who’ve both contributed blog posts and provided site suggestions.
|March 18, 2012||First blog post: Why was immigration freer in 19th century USA? by Vipul Naik|
|April 3, 2012||Nathan Smith joins the blog, with his first blog post Hong Kong: City of Immigrants.|
|April 25, 2012||Alex Nowrasteh joins the blog (as a venue for republishing posts written for other venues). His first blog post: Economic Judgment on Arizona’s Immigration Law.|
|October 11, 2012||John Lee joins the blog. Here’s a blog post by Vipul Naik introducing John Lee and here’s John Lee’s first post: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”.|
|November 2, 2012||Chris Hendrix joins the blog. Here’s a blog post by Vipul Naik introducing Chris Hendrix and here’s Chris Hendrix’s first post: The Native Americans and Open Borders.|
|January 24, 2013||Joel Newman joins the blog. Here’s a blog post by Vipul Naik introducing Joel Newman and here’s Joel Newman’s first post: The Administration’s Deferred Action Policy: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?.|
|February 4, 2013||Adam Gurri joins the blog. Here’s a blog post by Vipul Naik introducing Adam Gurri and here’s Adam Gurri’s first post: The Case of Detroit.|
|February 19, 2013||Grieve Chelwa joins the blog. Here’s a blog post by Vipul Naik introducing Grieve Chelwa and here’s Grieve Chelwa’s first post: South Africa in the open borders debate.|
Charitable treatment of restrictionist arguments
Caplan was influential not only in terms of the content of pro-open borders arguments, but also in terms of style and tone. His “Christian” approach and his charitable and measured response to critics was something I sought to emulate. I tried to follow these key principles:
- Despite the obviously non-neutral nature of the website, I would try to describe the assertions of advocates, restrictionists, and others, in a neutral tone of voice.
- When stating a restrictionist argument, my first goal would be to summarize it as a restrictionist would, with the most charitable framing. Then, I would provide links and quote material from the best restrictionist formulations of the argument, without stating objections during the quoting process. Only after this (“after” both in terms of creation chronology and layout of the final page) would I list counter-arguments and objections, again looking for the best and fairest of these. If there were further counter-counter-arguments, I would list these too.
- I would follow a similar procedure when stating a pro-open borders argument.
- In cases where the restrictionist case was indeed strong, I would state so clearly, while pointing to the many other factor that this would need to be balanced again to judge the overall case for open borders.
- In no case would I use epithets or dismissive labels to dismiss any argument, pro- or anti-immigration.
Separating the moral/ethical aspects from the practical aspects
As mentioned above, most of the pro-immigation and anti-immigration websites are focused on the practical and factual aspects. The moral and ethical issues are typically mentioned only tangentially. Meta-ethical premises are often not clearly laid out. With the Open Borders website, I chose to give primacy to the moral case while at the same time trying to separate it from the nitty-gritties of the practical arguments.
Separating generic arguments from country-specific and era-specific arguments
Most websites dealing with migration issues do so from a very country-specific perspective. They are thus able to focus on the details of specific laws and concrete numbers. But it’s hard to separate out the country-specific aspects of their analysis from the generic arguments being made. With the Open Borders website, I’ve tried to separate out the generic arguments from the country-specific arguments. Since country-specific arguments already receive so much attention elsewhere, building the country-specific pages typically requires linking to existing resources. As of November 2012, all the country-specific pages are US-specific, but this may change with time as more content is added.
For examples of this distinction, see crime (generic) versus Hispanic crime and illegal immigration in the United States (US-specific). Or see suppression of wages of natives (generic) versus US-specific suppression of wages of natives (US-specific).