Future Citizens of All Kinds

We here at Open Borders have made a bit of a history questioning the value of citizenism. This post is a contribution to the debate from a somewhat different focus: the problem of future citizens.

Citizenism advocates like Steve Sailer have been clear that citizenism is a philosophy for promoting the interests of current citizens. For instance, in his article on citizenism versus white nationalism, Sailer explicitly writes (emphasis added):

By “citizenism,” I mean that I believe Americans should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners.

Let me describe citizenism using a business analogy. When I was getting an MBA many years ago, I was the favorite of an acerbic old Corporate Finance professor because I could be counted on to blurt out in class all the stupid misconceptions to which students are prone.

One day he asked: “If you were running a publicly traded company, would it be acceptable for you to create new stock and sell it for less than it was worth?”

“Sure,” I confidently announced. “Our duty is to maximize our stockholders’ wealth, and while selling the stock for less than its worth would harm our current shareholders, it would benefit our new shareholders who buy the underpriced stock, so it all comes out in the wash. Right?”

“Wrong!” He thundered. “Your obligation is to your current stockholders, not to somebody who might buy the stock in the future.”

That same logic applies to the valuable right of being an American citizen and living in America.

Just as the managers of a public company have a fiduciary duty to the current stockholders not to diminish the value of their shares by selling new ones too cheaply to outsiders, our leaders have a duty to the current citizens and their descendants.

Leaving alone for the moment the argument that natives do in fact benefit from migrants, specifying current citizens is a necessary step for the citizenist position. For instance, Tino Sanandaji, in a blog post titled Open-Borders Daydreams, uses this citizenist logic to attack those arguing immigration benefits society:

Another amusing line of reasoning increasingly advanced by libertarian economists is that low-skilled immigration is good for “society”, as long as we redefine “society” to include the entire planet!

If the focus is not restricted to current citizens, then migrants might have to be considered future citizens, and therefore their gains would have to be considered in government actions. But this opens up a potential inconsistency: namely why include “descendants” under this system? If you want to include potential future citizens, why not also include migrants?

The reason Sailer includes descendants is not given in that article, but immigration advocates have noted the parallels between population expansion through child-birth and immigration. With his focus on current citizens, there appears to be no reason why posterity should not also be ignored. From a moral standpoint this leads to unpalatable conclusions. If only current citizens are to be considered what is to prevent the government from limiting births from groups that tend to receive more from society than give to it? Would that not be a moral necessity given the concern for current citizens? Or to take an argument to its logical end, if current citizens could be helped by ensuring that their as-of-yet not conceived children  live in a civilization that has reverted to complete barbarism, the government would have to implement that policy as the needs and desires of the future citizens should not be considered.

So what reasons might there be to include descendants in citizenism? There could be the position that those who are born to citizens are guaranteed citizenship, but aren’t migrants who follow the guidelines and requirements for naturalization guaranteed citizenship? And further more, what is to stop the state from guaranteeing citizenship to every immigrant? Only the benefit of current citizens. Thus what about the converse? What in this moral philosophy prevents the government  for removing the guarantee of citizenship to the posterity of current citizens? An argument might be made that citizens do not prefer immigration while the act of child-birth demonstrates a preference for children. But can this not be considered analogous to the right to invite? Just as in child-birth, citizens with a right to invite are demonstrating a preference for that new person to enter the society. If you argue that the right to invite needs to be balanced against the interests of fellow citizens, then the same should apply to the right to bear children.

But even setting this question aside, a preference for children is not the same as a preference for giving children equal citizenship rights. Say current citizens had a stronger desire for increasing their standard of living at their children’s expense than for preserving a good society for their children. To ensure that the government would be morally obligated to follow this course, they could declare all their children would no longer receive automatic citizenship, and hence would be outside the sphere of collective moral concern. Thereby the benefits current citizens receive would not have to be weighed against the costs of a policy on future children.

Some restrictionist advocates do nonetheless argue that this parallel is valid and that this supports a limited right to invite. Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, makes this argument in his book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal (pages 228-229):

The American people grant the right to their fellow citizens to decide, in their individual capacity and without any affirmative determination by the government, who will move to the United States. Some categories are, of course, numerically limited and the community retains the right to veto relatives considered undesirable, but the fact remains that these private decisions by individual citizens will determine the future makeup of the American people.

This is a profound responsibility that we devolve onto each other individually, as profound in its way as the decision to bear children. And because the consequences of such individual decisions are of such import, limited only to marriage to a foreign spouse or adoption of a foreign child. In other words, family based immigration should not be subject to any numerical cap but should include only the legitimate spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.

(emphasis mine)

The right to invite to Krikorian is viewed as important as giving birth to children and he asserts that society has a right to limit the right to invite. If society has a right to limit the right to invite why not the right to have children? Indeed, Krikorian’s argument does not rely on blood ties existing between the citizen and the invitees as he shows in the very next paragraph:

This means eliminating altogether today’s immigration categories for the adult siblings of citizens, the married and unmarried adult sons and daughters of citizens, the parents of adult citizens, and the adult sons and daughters of legal residents. These are grown people with their own lives, for whom “family reunification” is a misnomer.

Spouses however all also grown people and in societies with strong kinship ties having even extended families live together is the norm. The distinction between the spouse and a brother, mother, or cousin who has lived with the citizen his/her whole life seems arbitrary. Can not the emotional connection between siblings or parents and their children be as strong as the connection between spouses? And this still leads to the question that if, as Krikorian has accepted, giving birth and inviting immigrants are analogous, what limits are acceptable on child-birth? If no limits are acceptable why not?

Indeed it is particularly odd that Krikorian is against adult relatives being allowed into the country. Children are a large drain on society’s resources and will not start adding to society’s production for many years. Adult immigrants can begin adding economic benefits to society immediately. If the concern for citizenists is producing greater benefit for current citizens, then Krikorian should be more cautious about admitting minor children and more accepting of adult children.

What benefits current citizens does not always jibe with basic human rights or moral intuitions. This is especially the case when systems of voting encourage systematically biased beliefs. One may also conceive of situations where what benefits current citizens does not benefit those citizens’ children. A society following citizenist morals consistently could, with the complete blessing of that moral philosophy, be a one generation society.


Chris Hendrix is a Masters student in history in Atlanta, Georgia with an interest in the history of borders. See also:

Chris Hendrix’s personal statement
blog post introducing Chris Hendrix
all blog posts by Chris Hendrix

81 thoughts on “Future Citizens of All Kinds”

  1. If I were a citizenist, I would extend Sailer’s analogy with shareholders by arguing that when I speak of “citizens” I of course mean “current citizens and their heirs”. Presumably, even if their heirs aren’t citizens, today’s citizens derive some welfare from knowing their posterity will be cared for. This arguably reconciles citizenism with the argument you’re making, I think. Shareholders do not live forever in the real world, but firms maximise shareholder value with discounted present value over eternity, not a current lifespan, because when we speak of maximising shareholder value, we speak of maximising value for shareholders and their heirs.

    My ultimate beef with citizenism, besides its questionable moral underpinnings, is that I don’t really buy the citizens = shareholders argument. The analogy is a lot weaker than people give it credit for. Sanandaji argues a nation is like a firm and compares open borders to a firm giving away its assets, but that analogy is ludicrous. Citizens of a country do not relate to each other the way shareholders of a firm relate to each other, or employees of a firm relate to each other.

    I’m fine with these analogies as a rhetorical talking point, but making arguments that *rely* so deeply on them means one needs to interrogate deeply what these analogies imply. If citizens are shareholders, is it fine for me to launch a hostile takeover of my country’s government? Oh wait, citizenship and votes aren’t traded on an open market. Is my country in direct competition with the other ~200 countries in the world, competing for a share of the market in goods/services/STEM graduates? According to Paul Krugman and the rest of the economics profession, obviously not. Analogies are good rhetorical tools only when the logical premises of your arguments don’t hinge on the analogies being literally true.

    1. I don’t quite see how this addresses Chris’s objection, because of the analogy with the right to invite. In publicly traded companies, shareholders can give/sell their shares, while alive or through their wills when dead, to *anybody* (with possibly some legal restrictions), not just to their biological or adopted children. If Sailer is using that analogy, then he should concede completely the right to invite.

      For most structures of non-public companies, share selling requires the consent of all shareholders (in principle), in which case we are back to the conclusion of child-births requiring collective consent.

      1. Correct, I think this points out further why “citizenism from analogy” arguments don’t really work. Going down the rabbithole of the analogies’ implications leads to absurdity upon absurdity which citizenists need to caveat or somehow explain.

        My guess is Sailerist citizenists would discard the 1-to-1 analogy between citizenship and *public* shareholding at this point. They would argue that the right to invite is subject to collective consent. Alternately, they might double down on the analogy and argue that you’re free to invite a new citizen, as long as you give up your citizenship first (just as one who sells his stock no longer has any ownership of that stock).

        I don’t think Chris’s criticism is incorrect or weak, it just doesn’t directly point out the fundamental problem with citizenism: it tends to be derived from inappropriate analogies. When citizenists talk about the country as a firm, they talk about the public goods provided by a country (institutions, law and order, rights, economic climate) as if they have the attributes of private goods (company stock or assets). Citizenist analogies are nothing more than a figleaf for bad logic based on bad premises.

        1. It would be interesting to see them double down on that, though that analogy still doesn’t work as a person can have multiple shares in a stock. Nonetheless, I do think you’re right that citizenism’s flaws are even more fundamental than this. But it’s still worthwhile pointing out less fundamental flaws (if only to hopefully get people thinking).

      2. “because of the analogy with the right to invite. In publicly traded companies, shareholders can give/sell their shares, while alive or through their wills when dead, to *anybody*”

        But shareholders can’t have their cake and eat it, too. If you own one share of Apple and then sell or give it to somebody else, you are no longer a shareholder of Apple.

        So, if you want to propose an Open Borders system in which any American citizen can give away or sell his right to live in America to one foreigner in return for which the former citizen loses the right to live in America and to vote in American elections, well, that’s interesting. But is that really what you are proposing?

        As I’ve said before, the point of an analogy is not to build some kind of Ptolemaic mental model, it’s just to sharpen mental perceptions.

        1. It’s not what I (or any of us here) am/are proposing. But it seems to be a better fit for the shareholder analogy than automatic citizenship for all descendants of citizens. My point was to simply say that the fact that shareholders can sell or bequeath shares does not directly establish the case for including descendants while excluding invitees. As far as I’m aware, a person does not need to give up citizenship for his/her kids to acquire it. Nor are a parent’s citizenship benefits diluted by the number of kids.

          Yes, analogies are meant to sharpen mental perceptions, not be the final word, but if a crucial aspect of the analogy is being used to deduce something important, it’s worth looking at the analogy more closely, and either modifying or discarding it.

          1. “Nor are a parent’s citizenship benefits diluted by the number of kids.”

            Um, of course they are. The purpose of this particular kind of body politic is to extract monopoly level profits from political control of a piece of territory. A sane government/society enacts policies/cultural norms that try to maintain this.

    2. That’s what Sailer means too. It’s an old, standard idea. In the American context, this version of the citizenist principle is explicitly proclaimed in the constitution as the purpose of the American government:

      “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty to OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY do hereby ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”

      1. On the other hand, more advanced thinkers have pointed out the logical shortcomings of the Founding Fathers’ bigotry. For example:

        Imagine there’s no countries
        It isn’t hard to do
        Nothing to kill or die for
        And no religion too

        Imagine all the people living life in peace
        You, you may say
        I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
        I hope some day you’ll join us
        And the world will be as one

        Imagine no possessions
        I wonder if you can
        No need for greed or hunger
        A brotherhood of man

        Imagine all the people sharing all the world
        You, you may say
        I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
        I hope some day you’ll join us
        And the world will live as one

        You can’t argue against bullet=proof logic like this!

    3. I actually thought this web site was a parody, something akin to the Onion.

      Yes, let’s open the borders to millions of low IQ people that soak up government benefits, fill the schools with low IQ children and fill up our ERs with un-healthy foreigners. By all means.

      You people do realize that you are quite insane? I notice where you even advocate allowing more Hatians to come to the US??

      I still think you are kidding here.

  2. Every country’s laws and culture are tuned in some manner to its current population. If every government reasons in terms of optimizing welfare for descendants of current citizens, global outcomes will tend to be better than if they use assumptions about future migration when making all decisions. The primary reason is that you know your own needs better than you know others’: this principle of locality does not magically stop holding at the country level. But there are other reasons as well.

    As a general rule, it is far, far better to try to replicate a high-functioning system, than to grow it beyond its design parameters in a risky way. Poverty, not prosperity, has been the standard condition of humanity.

    1. I completely agree that outcomes will be superior if we rely on local rather than centralized knowledge. That makes a lot of sense. Which is why I’m for leaving these decisions at the most local level possible, the level of individual and groups of individuals contracting with one another. In that regard I would rather trust an employer and the worker s/he hires to make the decision whether an job offer is appropriate than a group of men and women pontificating about who can enter the fourth largest country on Earth in land area (and third in population). I kind of doubt that these politicians have an advantage on local knowledge over an employer, a landlord, or even a state or local government (though even there I prefer to devolve power to the individual or voluntary group).

      As for your precautionary principle, that would make sense, if the US hadn’t prospered and become the richest large nation on Earth while having more than a century of open or nearly open borders and high amounts of immigration. The precautionary principle you advocate made more sense in the 1920s when the US was deciding to tinker with a system that had produced far more wealth than any system in human history had managed.

      1. If it was just about the employer and the foreign worker getting together, the employer should set up business in the foreign country; there’s plenty of precedent for that. Most countries welcome significant investments. Any insistence on doing things the other way around implies that it’s not just about the employer and the worker contracting with each other, it’s fundamentally about interacting with the surrounding First World society as well. Thus, it’s correct for the society to formulate and enforce rules designed to ensure the society maintains its integrity.

        You’re right that politicians don’t do the best job with these rules. The citizens themselves consistently want better border enforcement than US and European politicians are generally willing to offer, and this is not due to innumeracy.

        As for the US’s relatively open borders in the past, I have no problem with such policies *when enough existing citizens consent*. When a country is sparsely populated, most of the prospective immigrants can’t be expected to leave descendants with significantly less social and human capital than the existing population, and any cultural incompatibility isn’t too serious, open borders can work out just fine. I just think it’s insane to elevate this to a universal principle, and almost everyone agrees with me on this.

        1. So by your logic, if an employer moves overseas it’s just about the employer and foreign worker getting together but if it’s the other way around that can’t be the case? Why is the employer the only one allowed to move his location? And beyond that what if an employer just wants a janitor, does it make any sense at all to move an entire business overseas in search of more cost-effective janitors? That employee may not interact with a single American who doesn’t want to interact with him. Some businesses will want to interact with the immigrant for his/her money while some landlords will want to for the same reason. The rest of American society doesn’t need to interact with the employee at all if we don’t want to.

          I’d also like to note that when it comes to (well most political issues), the American voters are acting more like central planners than people with local knowledge. They aren’t deciding whether they themselves are interacting with immigrants or not, but whether other people can do so. If the American people really cared that much in their day-to-day lives, then what you would expect are major businesses advertising that they don’t hire or serve anyone but American citizens. In doing so they would be able to charge higher rates if people really didn’t want to interact with immigrants. The reason Americans persist in anti-immigration as a political issue but not in their everyday lives is an example of rational irrationality. Their general beliefs on immigration have little-to-no cost (as their views are unlikely to be decisive) and it lets them indulge in a natural anti-foreign bias.

          Finally, what makes you think the US isn’t sparsely populated now? We are well below world population density averages so if the “sparsely populated” argument was good enough in the 19th century it should be good enough now. And remember, people under the democratic system aren’t “consenting” to have themselves interact with immigrants, they are saying whether other people they will never see, meet, or hear about can do so. People tend not to interact with natural born citizens they don’t care for, so why would we assume they would be forced to do so with immigrants?

          1. If the employer moves overseas, he/she will often be welcomed by the foreign country. When this is true, all parties with a stake in the transactions are happy to a first approximation, whereas if the worker moves, this is not true.

            As for your janitor hypothetical, Singaporean immigration law does allow for such guest workers, and effectively prevents them from gaining citizenship. However, I don’t think such an arrangement is palatable to Americans, and I think Americans have the right to prevent their society from becoming more like Singapore even though I personally like Singapore.

            Some level of anti-foreign “bias” is usually evolutionarily optimal. As a second-generation immigrant myself, I’m not particularly thrilled about this, but I realize that the likely primary consequence of eliminating anti-foreign bias in the US is the US’s decline and another, more “biased” culture’s rise. There are technologies that may eventually change this bleak reality, but they’re still many decades away, at minimum.

            As for population density, for much of the 19th century there was plenty of land that wasn’t designated for anything at all. Not being farmed or mined, not being enjoyed as state/national parkland, etc., because there simply weren’t enough people on the ground. This state of affairs ended right around the turn of the century, and guess what, that’s also when Americans really started to want to reduce immigration. Seems obvious to me that those Americans were being perfectly rational; and indeed, America was in fine shape in 1965 after four decades of mostly closed borders. I personally can be happy living in a high population density environment, but I recognize that this is not true of everyone.

          2. >”what if an employer just wants a janitor”

            What if an employer – say, a janitorial company – just wants ten thousand janitors?

            The problem is that janitors (and people in general) come with what are called “externalities”, and when those externalities are negative we ALL have to pay their cost.

            Thanks to the actions of many individual employers over the years, the US electorate is a lot different than it otherwise would have been. Because of that different electorate, Obama was able to get elected and then reelected. Because of that, my economic well-being, and that of a lot of other people, is being negatively affected. That’s an example of the negative costs associated with the “right to invite” being passed on to a lot of people who never did any inviting. Which is why we should all get a veto over your “right” to hire a janitor from wherever you like.

            If an American employer just wants a janitor he should do what he’s supposed to do legally and morally – pay the market rate for an American janitor.

          3. There are many US citizens who are able janitors, your fictional employer could hire, but you’re not talking about merely hiring a janitor, what you mean is, an employer who wants to hire cheap foreign labor in the US, that he or she could pay such low wages, the employee couldn’t afford to keep a roof over his or her head, or food on the table, let alone pay for utilities. Your employer wants to hire cheap foreign labor, who the taxpayer will be forced to subsidize, lest the taxpayer be called “racist” for refusing to subsidize, pay to enable the cheap foreign labor to take a job that doesn’t afford it to survive. You’re whinging because you want the taxpayer to subsidize your business expenses, corporate welfare. We say, no way, get stuffed.

  3. “As for population density, for much of the 19th century there was plenty of land that wasn’t designated for anything at all. Not being farmed or mined, not being enjoyed as state/national parkland, etc., because there simply weren’t enough people on the ground. This state of affairs ended right around the turn of the century, and guess what, that’s also when Americans really started to want to reduce immigration.”

    Are there empirics for this? The point Chris is making that right now there still *is* plenty of land not being used for anything at all (in fact this is a sticking point with some libertarians and policy wonks, who want the federal government to sell off a lot of its land holdings that aren’t being used for anything, and allow them to be used for private purposes).

    Note that Australian and Canadian anti-immigration policies date to the exact same period, and both countries remain significantly underpopulated relative to their land area today. The common thread uniting advocacy for anti-immigration laws in all 3 countries at the turn of the century was racism, especially against Asians — not overcrowding. Maybe overcrowding was in the back of people’s minds, but that seems unlikely. Overcrowding is a just-so story that, far as I can tell, doesn’t fit what contemporary people were actually saying about immigration policy.

    1. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed in 1882, while the real closing of the US border did not occur until 1924. So, while racism against Asians obviously did exist, that was already accounted for in public policy before the American majority (as opposed to lower-class minority movements like the 1850s Know Nothings) really pushed hard for slowing down immigration in general. It does not make sense to attribute 1924 to generic racism, something which had always existed in America, instead of the closing of the frontier (which had the side effect of forcing different groups of people to interact with each other more).

      Australia has huge amounts of desert; I have seen estimates that with current technologies, it cannot reasonably support more than ~70 million people despite its large land area. I am not an expert on this subject, but it certainly seems plausible to me that fully opening Australia’s borders would lead to a predictable ecological disaster, knowing how tragedies of the commons have played out in other contexts.

      The US government may have some land holdings in flyover country, but the neighboring areas are not where recent actual immigrants to the US have flocked to. Instead, you can find large numbers of them in very crowded places like Los Angeles. Irrational behavior? Perhaps, but it’s not a pattern that can be expected to change soon.

      1. A few points about overcrowding. The idea that cities are “overcrowded” seems more complained about than acted upon by individuals. The easy answer to an “overcrowded” city is to move somewhere else. As crowding increasing, if this is a major problem for most people, then other people will leave for less crowded pastures (of which there are plenty). But cities remain persistently densely populated. Why? Because in many ways the crowds are a feature not a bug. For this argument allow me to quote Bryan Caplan here:

        Despite constant complaints about cities’ crowds and congestion, city folk gladly pay higher urban rents. Even introverts and outright misanthropes shell out massive premiums to live near millions of strangers. What are they after? The obvious answer is choices—choices about where to work, what to buy, how to play, and who to meet. These choices, like ideas, come from people—suppliers who offer them, and demanders who sustain them. When population goes up, everyone gets extra choices.

        So it’s not exactly clear that crowding is a bad thing. The best way to determine that though is to give people the right to crowd in certain areas or not. Those for whom crowding is a problem will tend to leave to less crowded areas and those who like the extra choices will tend to stay. Banning people from moving into an area artificially helps those who like less crowding while artificially hurting those who like more.

        But beyond that, one can even question the premise that American cities are that crowded. Check out this list of population density for significant world cities. The United States manages to get one, and only one, city in the top 49 and it’s at 38. By world standards even our dense cities are not very densely populated. So once again, it’s tough to say that the US is in particular danger of an overcrowding crisis.

        1. Different people have different preferences regarding the environment they live in. As I mentioned earlier, I personally have no problem with high population density (as long as I don’t have to deal with too much noise, anyway), but I have plenty of friends who are obviously wired differently than me on this count. I have basic empathy for my friends, and prefer to let them preserve spaces that they like, regardless of where they might sit on some world ranking on some dimension or other. You have the right to try to convince them with your statistics, but you will fail, and this is not because they are innumerate.

  4. This is far and away the spergiest discussion among the usual libertarian spergmeisters. Of course people react to overcrowding around them–typically in cities–regardless of whether there is a giant desert available somewhere else (and where they would prefer these immigrants to go and die in).

    And so it is possible to have overcrowding in cities while there is “plenty of land” (I understand that spergy libertarians see no point to land other than paving it over and erecting a business park.)

    Why do we favor descendents, asks the chief sperg? Because they are genetically related, which is the basis for most social behavior and cultural development. (Which is why our off-the-rails society is in a state of pre-collapse, using Tainter’s definition of collapse.) All social animals are nepotists. This isn’t “curable” because it isn’t an illness, it is the normal functioning of animals. We are animals, not replicas of Data from Star Trek, which is how most of you faggots come off.

    1. Dr. Krune,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this vital issue. We really appreciate it. We plan to address the genetic/evolutionary argument in considerable detail in future posts, but for now, you might enjoy reading the last few paras of this post by co-blogger Nathan.

    2. We should reference the behavorial sink concept, but with a key modification being that instead of breeding, a source of population growth is due to the influx of external parties, i.e. immigration.

      Result remains the same: societal collapse. No difference.

  5. I think you’re actually downplaying the significance of the Know Nothings. Nativism has always existed in the US, as in other countries, but the Know Nothings were on the verge of becoming the 2nd party of the 2 party system prior to the unexpected rise of the Republicans. That’s the closest the US has ever come to having nativism dominate the political scene.

    The Immigration Act of 1924 explicitly targeted Southern Europeans and Jews because previous turn of the century immigration laws already prohibited most Asian immigration (though US policymakers couldn’t resist tightening restrictions on immigration from those groups too): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1924

    Re Australia, considering that post-WWII Australian policy explicitly was “populate or perish”, and invited large numbers of white immigrants (the “White Australia” policy) by opening its borders to most of the Commonwealth and parts of Europe, there is no clear, sound reason why overpopulation should have been the driver of late 19th/early 20th century anti-immigration policies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Australia#Post-WWII_immigration

    1. Yes, if effective immigration restrictions that the majority is happy with are already in place, there is no need for the subject to dominate the political scene any longer. The Know Nothings were still multiple counterfactuals away from actually gaining majority support and closing the doors while the frontier was still open.

      I acknowledge that Australia had somewhat different dynamics; with a smaller, more homogeneous population, its politics was less driven by brute statistical forces. That doesn’t negate my broader point that it’s appropriate for governments to enforce whatever immigration policy they want, as long as it’s aligned with the wishes of the citizens, however fickle they may be. (It’s prevention of exit that is immoral.)

      As plenty of other people have been saying, this does not kill the case for open borders; it just means that you have to figure out when it actually benefits the natives, and focus on those cases instead of using Caplan’s utility function which has openly acknowledged contempt for natives built in.

  6. I appreciate all the intense reasoning devoted to this, but my purpose in recounting the anecdote in which my corporate finance professor exposed the shoddiness of my assumption that the welfare of potential shareholders could be equated with the welfare of current shareholders


    was not to erect a perfected Ptolemaic system of reasoning about immigration, but merely to point out a distinction between current and potential that is important but not widely understood.

    1. Steve Sailer,

      It’s really an honor to have you join the commentariat here at Open Borders. We have generally had a very high quality of comments, both supportive and critical, and I’m sure you will add further to the quality of the discussion here.

      I’m not sure what you’re trying to convey by this comment, but I see two possibilities:

      (1) You may be saying that we here at the Open Borders blog don’t understand the distinction you are making between current and future citizens. I think that we do understand the basic point you’re making (though we may have missed on some of the subtleties). In fact, this very post that you’re commenting on is very specifically about the distinction between current and (potential) future citizens, and the reasoning behind the inclusion of descendants of current citizens in the category of people within the sphere of moral concern. In other words, I would say we understand your basic point, but question the validity of some of your analogies and the conclusions you draw. Perhaps I’m just being biased here, and I look forward to being corrected.

      The citizenism page on this site clearly states that citizenism refers to current citizens. I have also noted on the page that citizenism is immune from some of the compositional effects paradoxes that plague “maximize the average” thinkers. For instance, if an immigrant were to lower the national average income while raising the income of all citizens because the immigrant’s own income was lower than average, then the citizenist would support such income, whereas the “maximize the national average” person would oppose it. I would hasten to add that you likely consider such a scenario completely implausible, but at least in principle there are Pareto improvements that citizenists could sign on to and “maximize the average” nationalists would have trouble signing on to. I also quote in detail from the book Alien Nation by your colleague Peter Brimelow of VDARE in a generally positive critique of the book, where he distinguishes between the “maximize the total,” “maximize the average,” and citizenist positions. Co-blogger Nathan also praises citizenism because “it promotes clear thinking” as he puts it in a blog post.

      If there is some aspect of your point that you think we fail to understand, please feel free to elaborate. My apologies in advance for any misrepresentation of your position we may have inadvertently been responsible for.

      (2) You may be saying that people at large fail to grasp the distinction that you are making, which is why you needed to make it. This is plausible. But I would be glad if you could point to evidence of people failing to understand your point, as opposed to disagreeing with your point. Just as your disagreeing with Caplan doesn’t mean you fail to understand him, Caplan’s disagreeing with you doesn’t mean he fails to understand you. Citizenism is a rich and complex theory and can be critiqued from a wide variety of angles. The fact that a particular critique does not focus on the current versus future angle does not mean prima facie that the critic has failed to grasp this nuance of your theory.

      Thank you once again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  7. This is all very interesting but would it be ok to run the country as though current Americans have the right of national self-determination until such time as the open-borders people convince the rest of us? That is, as opposed to the other way around?

  8. Why are libertarian blogs so remarkably hostile to the free flow of ideas? Of all the political web sites on the net, the ones most prone to banning/deleting opinion that they dislike are the “libertarian” ones.

    1. Severn, if you are referring to your own comments, the only reason they were not published is because the EconLog moderator was not able to validate your email address. It may be the case that you filled in an incorrect email address, or perhaps there was some other technical glitch. See her comment here. She explicitly writes:

      Severn, we have tried to reach you several times via email, but we have not heard back from you. All your comments were publishable here. I have combed through our spam folder as well as rechecking all of our email and have still not found an email from you. If you believe you have sent an email, could you resend it to us?

      If you are referring to the other comments that were deleted — well, take a look here and get back to me on whether you think these comments were in violation of EconLog’s stated policy.

      1. >” if you are referring to your own comments, the only reason they were not published is because the EconLog moderator was not able to validate your email address.”

        That is what people who care about morality call a “lie”. Lauren sent me one (1) email. I responded to it numerous times. None of my responses bounced back to me.

        1. I got my comment rights revoked at EconLog for making a mild joke. They promised to restore my rights after I requested it, but that never happened. They have banned several high-value commenters such as TGGP and Tino Sanandaji. They really do not like the free flow of ideas there.

          1. Perhaps I could get the right to comment there by begging for it, but I don’t really care that much. The problem with EconLog’s prissy comment policy is that it hampers discussion. Forcing commenters to walk on eggshells is not conducive to good debate.

        2. Severn:

          I apologize deeply to you for not finding your email validations in a timely manner. They were thrown into a spam folder, and for various reasons for which I take responsibility, I was unable to find them even when searching the spam folder.

          I am very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration I have caused you. I also regret the loss of any good conversation that a timely posting of your comments might have engendered. It was a low moment for me and for EconLog.

          I will be thinking about ways to avoid a recurrence of such a problem in the future. There are several ways to avoid the particular problem that happened for you happening to other commenters. I’ve already implemented some; more will come.


  9. >” From a moral standpoint this leads to unpalatable conclusions. If only current citizens are to be considered what is to prevent the government from limiting births from groups that tend to receive more from society than give to it?”

    Setting aside for the moment the mind-bending sight of libertarians(!) giving us finger-wagging lectures on morality, what prevents the government from doing this is what prevents the government from currently stripping large groups of existing citizens of their citizenship. That is (1) the fact that the current citizens in question are not likely to go along with such a thing (2) the political realities of our world make such a thing impossible even if a majority of Congress wished to do it (3) the courts would of course discover some penumbra in the Constitution which would prohibit such a course of action.

    If you insist on wading into the unfamiliar (for libertarian) waters of morality, you should be aware that there is a large moral distinction to be made between taking something of value from someone on the one hand, and not giving something of value to someone on the other.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, your “moral argument” says that we cannot scrap, or even reduce, the welfare system. Because doing so would be morally identical to stealing money from welfare beneficiaries.

    1. Of course, given the libertarian opposition to Prop 187, it’s entirely possible that libertarians DO think that it is morally impermissible to end welfare.

    2. Thanks for the comment, Severn.

      I appreciate your effort to educate libertarians on morality. While I question the premise that libertarians are unconcerned about morality, it’s definitely very generous of you to devote effort to correct the perceived shortcoming.

      Regarding the point you make, the argument isn’t whether to have or not to have welfare. The argument is whether the existence of a welfare state gives the state the moral authority to restrict or limit births of people on the grounds that the children may consume welfare. So the “logical conclusion” isn’t really, as far as I can make out, a conclusion that would follow from the specific argument being made.

      You write: “there is a large moral distinction to be made between taking something of value from someone on the one hand” — this is similar to the killing versus letting die distinction, which libertarians appreciate more than most people do. What we question is not the existence of the distinction, but the specific place where you’re drawing that line. Getting to the issue of births, future children are not yet things that “people have” — so denying people the right to have children in the future is not “taking something of value” from them in a literal sense. It is so only in a metaphorical sense — once we concede that people have a right to make their own reproductive choices, with any constraint placed on such rights requiring strong justification. What open borders advocates argue is that the right to migrate is similar — it is a presumptive right and overriding it requires overcoming a strong presumption.

      1. >”denying people the right to have children in the future is not “taking something of value” from them in a literal sense.”

        I’m sorry to have to be blunt, but you’re not an intelligent person. The only thing you will ever do in your life which will have any lasting value is have children. But please, don’t take my word for it. .. call your parents, right now before you ban me .. and ask them if a law preventing them from having children when they were young would have taken anything of value from them “in a literal sense”.

        1. My apologies, this comment was caught in the automatic spam filter for some reason. I have no idea why. I’ve un-spammed it.

      2. >”The argument is whether the existence of a welfare state gives the state the moral authority to restrict or limit births of people on the grounds that the children may consume welfare.”

        There is no “argument”. It cannot do such a thing. If you really require it I can explain to you why it cannot.

  10. >” what reasons might there be to include descendants in citizenism? There could be the position that those who are born to citizens are guaranteed citizenship, but aren’t migrants who follow the guidelines and requirements for naturalization guaranteed citizenship?”

    I can’t believe I even need to point this out, but your “migrants” only become citizens via a large amount of positive government action. This can include government action to bring them into the country in the first place, government action to encourage them to stay, and government action to grant them citizenship. By contrast, those “descendants” are citizens by definition. By government definition, by Constitutional definition, and by moral law definition. They are the “We the people” who create the state and give it whatever legitimacy it has.

    1. Severn, I think that we are talking a bit at cross purposes here, but the point is that both descendants and migrants become citizens through a specific government action of granting them citizenship. Citizenship is definitionally something granted by a government, not existing by any natural or moral law.

      You write “government action to bring them into the country in the first place, government action to encourage them to stay, and government action to grant them citizenship.” What government action are you referring to here? As far as I can make out, government is not providing funding or subsidies for the plane ticket or ship for the migrant to enter the country. Government isn’t even booking the ticket. The only role the government plays is in granting the visa, which is a role played because the government wants to reserve the right to refuse the person, not something that is per se necessary for the person to enter the country. Nor am I sure what you mean by “government action to encourage them to stay” — in all cases, it is the migrant or prospective migrant who needs to take the proactive action in order to stay, not the government that goes out of its way to reach out to the migrant requesting him/her to stay.

      And if we’re counting all government actions, the same logic would apply to citizens and their descendants. Government action may have partly funded and/or offered degree recognition for the school and/or college where the descendant’s father and mother may have met. Government action allowed the descendant’s parents to tie the knot. Government action allowed them to take a mortgage on a house where they could raise a child (and perhaps even offered a subsidy). Government action allowed the descendant’s birth certificate to be registered, resulting in that person’s citizenship to be officially recognized. If you want to see government action, you can see it practically anywhere in today’s world.

      1. >” the point is that both descendants and migrants become citizens through a specific government action of granting them citizenship.”

        That is not a :”point”. That is your assertion. It is a mistaken assertion.

        1. Hm I must have missed the part of biology class in school where it was explained how citizenship is transmitted genetically, as opposed to by force of law.

  11. >”An argument might be made that citizens do not prefer immigration while the act of child-birth demonstrates a preference for children. But can this not be considered analogous to the right to invite?”

    Sure. Apart from the minor detail that the right to have children predates the existence of the modern state and indeed is a prerequisite for the the existence of ANY state, while the “right to invite” is something you guys postulated last month and is the negation of any and all states, they’re exactly analogous!

    1. Actually, a right to invite is a necessary corollary of a right to property which is derived from self-ownership rights. Indeed, I would argue that in fact all rights are an extension of self-ownership and thus all began from a pre-state condition (similar to how law has been developed in non-state contexts). Thus even if we are the first to suggest a “right to invite” that does not mean such a right has not existed. In fact, when you invite a person into your home you are exercising such a right. When you hire someone to do a job for you, you are also exercising a right to associate. When you buy something from someone you are exercising a right to trade. “Right to invite” is simply our convenient catch-all term for the fact that those rights do not disappear based upon someone being born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line.

      1. Why don’t you tell Australia, commie China, why don’t you tell corrupt socialist India that Pakistan has the right to stream over it’s borders and take it over. You won’t because what you mean is, that the rest of the world has the right to violate US sovereignty, no it doesn’t. The US is a sovereign nation, it’s not a cesspit for slumdogs to fill.

        1. Vipul writes: It’s also worth noting that, de facto, the right to invite, and the right to migrate, predate nation-states. Border controls are a relatively recent innovation.

          A world population of 7 billion people is a relatively recent innovation as well, as is relatively cheap and fast mass transportation. And Mary is correct, although her words are inelegantly expressed: how come we never hear the open borders crowd agitating for the “benefits” of a mass immigration free-for-all for China, India, Africa, South America?

          Vipul might have more takers for his position if he argued vociferously for open borders for India, for example. Of course, then he’d have to face the RSS and the rest of the Hindu nationalist crowd, who sometimes aren’t very nice, to put it mildly.

          And before you point out that India is too crowded, polluted and overpopulated to allow open borders and indiscriminate immigration–why should people who squat out baby after baby with no thought to how they will be fed and housed, and who voluntarily pollute their nation excessively, be the only people who are allowed to have national sovereignty?

          Are you then saying that people who stewarded their lands properly, and reproduced responsibly–i.e. us Westerners–are the only people in the world who don’t have the right to national sovereignty?

          If so, then it’s the case of the good being punished and the bad being rewarded.

          1. Caroline, thanks for your comment. You raise two very interesting issues that I hope to respond to in future blog posts, so I’ll provide a very brief response here:

            (1) Do open borders apply only to the US and/or the West?

            My answer is no. The moral case for open borders is universal, though the specific keyhole solutions that may need to be devised will depend on local realities. This website has, right from day one, made the case for open borders as a general moral proposition. See the last few paras on the site story page: we very clearly separate out general arguments from country-specific data and arguments on this site. Several months ago, in a positive review of Peter Brimelow’s book Alien Nation, I very clearly agreed with Brimelow’s assertion that the moral case for open borders is universal, not limited only to the US or the West, though I also wrote in a follow-up post that there is a case for each country to open its borders even if other countries don’t. To the extent possible, we distinguish between generic arguments and country-specific empirics and arguments. This blog post you are commenting on, for instance, is a discussion of a general moral question. Of the three restrictionists quoted in this post, two are arguing from a US perspective. The third is arguing about immigration to Sweden. John Lee’s blog post is critical of how Iran treats Afghan immigrants. In his first blog post, he called out Malaysia, his home country.

            It’s still true that, in so far as we do get into country-specific empirics, we concentrate mostly on the US. This US-centric perspective is partly justified by the fact that a lot of the migration flows that might occur under open borders would happen to the US. It simply wouldn’t make sense to devote equal time to Afghanistan’s immigration policy. But our focus on the US is disproportionately high even considering this, and the reason is mainly the knowledge base of the bloggers on the site, the information that we can locate online, as well as the people we have managed to make contact with. That said, I have recently made contact with people in the UK and South Africa, and we will discuss more about immigration in Africa, Europe, and possibly Australia/New Zealand, India, Israel, and many other parts of the world.

            (2) Since you single out India, I will try to address this. I don’t think India is overpopulated, definitely not so much that this would constitute grounds for immigration restrictions. Definitely, India has a higher population density than the US, but that’s not saying much. I do favor open borders for India (as for every other country) with one caveat: immigration from Pakistan would likely need to be restricted with a stronger burden of proof on such immigrants to indicate that they don’t have hostile intentions or terrorist connections. The hostility between India and Pakistan is itself largely due to bad policies by both governments (often with popular support, though not my support) but in the short run, the threat of terrorism is something to worry about for India. Incidentally, I discuss more about the issue of immigration restrictions of this sort in this blog post. That said, I don’t see any strong reasons why India couldn’t have open borders with Africa, Europe, most other Islamic countries, and the rest of the world.

            However, I don’t know the answer to the empirical question: “How hard is it to migrate to India?” (Brimelow’s experiment of phoning up the Indian embassy, quoted in the linked post above, is interesting, but only a first pass, and I think it isn’t a good measure for various reasons that I won’t elaborate on here). As an Indian citizen, I cannot answer this question since I’ve never had to migrate to India. If my co-blogger Nathan’s dream of a border openness index were to come true, then we could probably get a more objective answer to the question, not just for India, but for every country. If you have any light to shed on this issue, I’d be glad if you could shed some light.

            It is already the case that there is some “illegal immigration” to India from its poorer neighbor Bangladesh. To my knowledge, this hasn’t been a big political issue in India. Part of the reason is that most Indian “citizens” are undocumented as well, in the sense of not having any documents to prove their citizenship, and it really is hard to distinguish between natives and immigrants. Differences within India are often larger and more salient than differences between Bangladesh and the part of India the Bangladeshis tend to migrate to. I don’t know a lot about this issue (though I’ve been trying to find out) which is why I haven’t blogged it yet.

            Politically, it seems to me that the bigger issue in India is intranational migration. This is what various regional (state-level) political parties have usually railed against. Like the USA and unlike China, there are no restrictions in India on intranational travel and settlement, so there is no question of it being “illegal” — but the usual concerns about migrants from one state taking away the jobs of people from another state are regularly voiced in state-level elections, although of course not much can be done about it legally. Extra-state measures like violence and riots have occasionally been engineered to give voice to hostility to regional migrants, occasionally with complicit state support (police looking the other way). Just in case you didn’t guess, I oppose all this. Still, it’s hard to see how this opposition could fit in with an open borders agenda, any more than crusading against racial/ethnic prejudice in the US (in so far as it exists and you consider it a problem) should.

            (3) I will make one final point, which is that realistically, I don’t expect this blog to influence any country’s policy. So, if you’re concerned about practical effects rather than the theoretical case, you can probably be rest assured that it’s very unlikely that this blog will impact only the West and not the rest of the world.

            Thanks once again for your thoughtful comment.

          2. As the philosopher Jeremy Bentham once said “any notion of ‘natural rights’ is nonsense upon stilts”.
            Hence any notion of a ‘moral right’ to migrate is nonsense upon stilts – it’s just a notion that is personal to your belief system (due to self-interested reasons – and absolutely nothing else), and is no different from the ‘right’ of citizens to keep migrants OUT, in that respect which is equally, if not more valid.
            So please stop playing this card of thinking yourself as ‘more moral’ than the restrictionists, because plainly and truthfully YOU ARE NOT.
            – Formulate a better argument.

      2. Yup.
        That’s why the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, or the Chinese built their Great Wall.
        Historically – and prehisorically, nations have always resisted aggressive and unwelcome invasion, the whole history of warfare, which is the history of the human race, by the way, tells us that.
        The sheer scale of movement to today’s western world simply CANNOT be described as ‘immigration’ any longer.
        A more honest description is ‘invasion’ or ‘colonization’.

  12. >”denying people the right to have children in the future is not “taking something of value” from them in a literal sense.”

    That’s a remarkably ignorant thing to say. I suggest you ask your parents if a law preventing them from having you would have taken something of value from them “in a literal sense”.

  13. I’m reminded of the opening passage of Julian Simon’s “The Economic Consequences of Immigration into the United States”.

    “Consider an idealized farming “nation” composed of a hundred identical farmers, each with the same amount and quality of farmland, each working the same hours and producing the same output. Along comes a foreigner who offers himself as a hired laborer to the first farmer he meets. (For now this is entirely a male community, with no other family members.)”

    Libertarian theory comes completely unglued over the fact that humans can reproduce. In the perfect libertarian world, NOBODY in the United States would reproduce. Libertarian theory requires the assumption that there exists some outside source of people – the desired migrants have to come from somewhere, after all. But the self-described “idealized” libertarian “nation” features no wasted time and effort on reproduction. After all, it results in nothing of value, as libertarians understand value.

    Adults have value, in the libertarian scheme of things. Workers have value. If the US can outsource the business of having and raising children to other countries, that’s a net gain to the US.

    In the libertarian scheme of things.

  14. Imagine the existence of the country of Somewherestan. It’s current population is 500,000. Not being Simon’s idealized libertarian nation, it contains both men and women.

    Somewherestan thus has the ability to create as many people as it likes or needs, entirely from within its own resources. If a population of one million is desired by the Somewherestantians, they can accomplish this. If they want a population of five million, or ten million, or one hundred million, or one billion, they can achieve all of this entirely without resorting to any in-migration at all. Which is why reproduction is so confounding for the open borders position.

    Of course the true position of the open borders crowd is this: The correct population of the US ought not be a function of the decisions made by the American people with respect to having children – rather, the correct population of the US ought be decided by a panel of libertarian experts who will “invite” the appropriate number of outsiders into the country.

    Understand this and you’ll understand that libertarianism is just another variant of socialism – the belief in the rule of the elite.

    1. Hm as far as I know nobody really decides whether to have children based on a target population for their country. In fact, most countries don’t even have explicit population targets, so your hypothetical is about as meaningful as pondering the optimisation of the number of trash cans in a country. Few, if any, governments have explicit targets for number of trash cans; their people are free to make more or fewer trash cans as desired. It used to be that governments prevented their people from buying trash cans from overseas, but nowadays that’s less of a problem.

      Arguing that countries have targets for ideal population, and that the appropriate policy is to allow citizens to breed as much or as little as they want, while totally excluding all non-citizens from entry, is about as logical as suggesting a country has a target number of trash cans, and should allow its citizens to produce as many or as little as they want, while forbidding the importation of any trash cans altogether.

      1. >”most countries don’t even have explicit population targets”

        You need to work on that reading comprehension thing.

  15. There’s a name for the sort of entity which the writers on this website want, the sort of entity where you can “invite” people to join. And, by implication, kick them out. The sort of entity which desires only productive adult workers. The sort of entity which is concerned first and last with the bottom line.

    That entity is called a “corporation”.

    There’s nothing wrong with corporations, within their proper sphere of activity. But a country is not and cannot be a corporation, and those who try to make it one can only end up destroying both the country and the corporations which depend on it for existence.

  16. ***Leaving alone for the moment the argument that natives do in fact benefit from migrants, ***

    1.Not in the case of low skilled immigrants. In fact, as Tino Sanandaji noted a few years ago:

    The most reliable estimate of the fiscal impacts of immigration was done by the prestigious National Research Council, NAC (the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, NAS).

    Low skilled immigrants earn less than the average, pay less in taxes and receive more in public services such as health care, public housing, income aid etc. The NAC estimate is that the total net cost of each low-skilled immigrant for the US. State is $120,000 in 2009 dollars. (High skilled immigrants in contrast are a net fiscal benefit for the U.S).

    These figures may underestimate the costs. Since this study was made the costs of welfare services to lower income people has further expanded, especially Medicaid and S-CHIP, and may go further yet..

    2. Groups differ in assimilation outcomes. In the case of Hispanic groups, who are the largest, there is a clear issue with lack of intergenerational progress. As David Frum has noted:

    “Stephen Trejo and Jeffrey Groger studied the intergenerational progress of Mexican-American immigrants in their scholarly work, “Falling Behind or Moving Up?”

    They discovered that third-generation Mexican-Americans were no more likely to finish high school than second-generation Mexican-Americans. Fourth-generation Mexican-Americans did no better than third.

    If these results continue to hold, the low skills of yesterday’s illegal immigrant will negatively shape the U.S. work force into the 22nd century.
    The failure to enforce the immigration laws in the 1990s and 2000s means that the U.S. today has more poorly skilled workers, more poverty and more workers without health insurance than it would have generated by itself.

    (Frum ‘The Future Costs of Today’s Cheap Labor’ May 3rd, 2010)

    3. That is a major problem as witness in California.

    California currently ranks 40th among the 50 states in college-attendance rates, and it already faces a significant shortage of college graduates. Studies have shown that the economy will need 40 percent of its workers to be college-educated by 2020, compared with today’s 32 percent. Given the aging white population (average age, 42), many of these new graduates will have to come from the burgeoning Latino immigrant population (average age, 26). By one estimate, this would require tripling of the number of college-educated immigrants, an impossibility if current trends hold. The state’s inability to improve the educational attainment of its residents will result in a “substantial decline in per capita income” and “place California last among the 50 states” by 2020, according to a study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.


    1. Here is the Tino post, showing that the net costs of US govt services to Haitian migrants greatly exceed the value of remittances they send home.


      “Generously using the figure for the merely low educated (whereas many Haitian have no education), we are trading of a $120,000 cost for the U.S taxpayer per Haitian immigrant for yearly remittances of $1,300 dollars.

      It would be cheaper for the American taxpayer to directly increase aid to Haiti, even put $120 billion in a bank account and give the interest to Haiti, rather than to take in another million Haitian immigrants and bear the inescapable fiscal burden of a low-skilled group.

      Even if we absurdly assume each Haitian lives forever and sends remittances home forever, discounted at a 5% interest rate $1,300 per year is worth only $26,000 compared to a cost for the U.S taxpayer of $120,000.”

      And the $120,000 cost is probably a big underestimate for a mass acceptance of Haitian refugees, since they have tended to underperform other low-skilled migrants, and the Haitian-American community is associated with high crime (not reflected in the estimate).

      Of course, one could have a system which would not give those costly benefits, and would deport those who imposed large costs, but the current political system is not set up to do that, and powerful immigrants’ rights groups would be likely to overturn the system or the enforcement measures.

      1. BK, I’ve seen that Tino post (somebody tweeted it to me). I have to look at it more carefully. I couldn’t make out from a quick reading, though, if Tino (or the research he is referring) was looking only at the direct fiscal effect or accounting for the economic effect. I will reserve judgment until I get more time to look at this.

        I think we both agree that “we have a generous welfare state, so we will not let you in” is, on balance, a bad idea. Reminds me of the starving Marvin hypothetical quoted at the welfare state/fiscal burden objection page. I think that anybody who reflects on the humaneness of denying immigrants entry because of a welfare state that people have “generously” provided can come to the same conclusion that we both do. The practical problem of how to actually achieve an appropriate keyhole solution, like a large-scale guest worker program, is the hard question where I hope we will make progress in the future.

        1. You don’t need a generous welfare state to have high immigration levels. Just a properly functioning society that is relatively more wealthy/prosperous would do it. Example: Singapore.

          Note that in Singapore, xenophobia is also rising in correlation with increasing numbers of non-citizens. As of right now, only about 60% of Singapore’s population are citizens. Many citizens are feeling disenfranchised or outbid by cheaper foreigners.

          Even a large-scale guest worker program, as Vipul suggests, can still engender severe backlash and hostility, and the resulting inequality between the elites and the middle class may be a source of societal tensions that could erupt into violence if not addressed. Example: Singapore, again.

          I’m trying to improve the scope and tenor of discussion on immigration in Singapore, but feelings and emotions run high. Here is one particular website that is notorious for this.

  17. I live in Miami. When the riots came or Hurricane andrew wiped out civilization, it was not the Brotherhood of man that kept us safe, it was the National Guard and my pistol.

  18. I’d like to hear Vipul blog on the case for open borders for India. Surely India can use 100 million African imports? And what’s the justification for closed borders with China, Pakistan and Bangladesh?

    Why should we Westerners have all the fun?

  19. Vipul, there is no way for me to answer your reply to my post above, so I am addressing it here:

    1.) I know about the illegal immigration from Bangladesh into India. I know that India is building (or has built) a militarized border to keep them out. I also know that your assertion that it’s not a big political issue is not wholly correct–only a few months ago, 45 illegal Bangladeshis were massacred by local tribesman for “migrating” into their locality.

    2.) If you accept the case that India has the right to keep Pakistanis out because Pakistan is a terrorist threat to India, why wouldn’t you accept the right that other peoples have the right to exclude people they think is a threat to their way of life, their resources, etc.?

    3.) Are you familiar with the old Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper? You seem to think that the grasshopper has the moral right to the ant’s labors and careful stewardship of his resources. You seem to think that the grasshopper is the moral actor in the story, not the ant. Why should people (i.e. ants) who worked hard to steward their resources, reproduce responsibly, plan carefully so that every citizen should have access to clean drinking water, clean air and other necessities etc.–why should those “ants” be forced to share the fruits of their labors with “grasshoppers” who did not do those things?

    That is not libertarianism; that is, quite simply, communism. You are arguing that the prudent and the productive have the “moral obligation” to share the fruits of their labors with the non-prudent and the less productive.

    As an “ant”, I beg to differ.

    1. Thanks for your follow-up, Caroline. I’m sorry about the technical limitations regarding thread replies — when I set up comments on this site, I hadn’t been anticipating this volume of threaded comments. I’ll change my settings to facilitate more discussion.

      On (1), thanks for the pointer. I will definitely write about this issue. If you have links and news items to share, please do so. And while the actions of a local tribe in India aren’t directly reflective of government policy, if such action goes unpunished, that is a problem with the wider society. It’s something that I would be happy to address and shed light on.

      On (2), I do understand that governments can play some role in stopping known terrorist threats. But even with Pakistani immigration to India, as I said earlier, I think that the government of India should be obliged to offer a strong rationale for every candidate it rejects. All I said was that such candidates should probably be given additional scrutiny because of the possibility of terrorist attacks.

      Domestically, many of us accept government authority in some extreme cases. We accept that the police has the authority to search a vehicle suspected of carrying a bomb. We would be less accepting of the police arbitrarily stopping vehicles on the street because the police officer thought that the vehicle didn’t match the color scheme of the rest of the traffic. That we accept some delegation of authority to governments is not quite the same as saying that we think the government can arbitrarily do whatever it pleases.

      On (3), I am familiar with the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, but I consider this quite orthogonal to the story of immigration. Perhaps I will address this in a subsequent post.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts, despite our obvious differences of worldview.

  20. I would like to address your third point, Caroline. I think Vipul handled 1 and 2 adequately.

    One of the main arguments made at Open Borders is that the inhabitants of third world countries are poor, not because they are “grasshoppers,” but rather that they are “ants” who live in an area with terrible institutions for enabling people to create wealth.

    To translate the grasshopper/ant analogy into an immigration context, imagine their are two colonies of ants in different areas. Both colonies work very hard. However, one colony lives in an area of the world with poor soil and rainfall, so in spite of their efforts, they cannot produce much.

    The colony in the poor area wishes to move into the area where the other, wealthier colony lives. There is plenty of extra land, and there are many native ants who are willing to sell or rent plots of land for the poor ants to work on. So the original colony will still be able to produce the same amount of wealth for itself that it did in the past.

    In other words, open borders advocates do not advocate sharing wealth with immigrants in some socialist fashion. We advocate allowing immigrants to move to wealthy countries because we believe that the institutions (and perhaps some other properties) of the wealthy countries cause people to be able to produce more wealth. Institutions are non-rival goods, so allowing other people to use them won’t make the existing users poorer (it’s like how reading a public-domain book won’t make the other readers poorer).

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