Open borders and the impending apocalypse

A common approach rebutting open borders is to argue that the costs of liberal immigration policies outweigh the benefits to humanity. I’ve never actually seen this belief explicitly expressed in a universalist manner — the argument is usually focused on how immigration will destroy the wealthy economies and liberal societies of the world. But I think this argument is a serious one, and I give it serious credit.

This does not always seem to be the case; one may sometimes feel that open borders advocates are a tad glib in dismissing concerns that open borders might “kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” To be blunt, this is because there is no empirical evidence supporting this claim.ChineseExclusionActHandbill[1]

If we look at the past, the same concerns people have today about Latin American, African, Arab, or South Asian immigrants used to be directed at East Asian, Southern European, and Eastern European immigrants. The same people today who vocally embrace “high-IQ” or “high-skilled” immigration of Jews, Europeans, and East Asians, would find that these very same groups of people used to be the “low-IQ” and “low-skilled” immigrants who were not so long ago literally treated as vermin in their countries. Fears that the unintelligent, criminal, brute Catholic Irishman or Italian, or the conniving and unintelligent Jew, might ruin civilisation turned out to be unfounded.

If current levels of immigration were a harbinger of impending doom, it would be quite easy to prove this. It’s fairly easy to point to anecdotes — but surely laying one’s finger on the data would be easy too. You’d show skyrocketing rates of crime, environmental collapse, or economic depression and clearly link them to immigration in some fashion. Yet no credible academic study I’m aware of has been able to do this. Restrictionist memes blame immigrants for the impending collapse of civilisation in Western Europe or California, yet the actual academic backing for these views is hard to find.

It’s surely not because academics are afraid of voicing politically incorrect views. A vast conspiracy of intellectuals to open the borders and silence such a devastating finding would be quite difficult to keep secret. And yes, one can find credible empiricists skeptical of immigration. Yet the most famous academics whose works actually credibly show negative impacts from immigration — George Borjas and Robert Putnam — both do nothing but disappoint.

Borjas finds that immigration to the US slightly reduces the incomes of the poorest American citizens — something that could easily be addressed through keyhole solutions which redistribute some of the gains from migration to poor natives. Putnam finds that social diversity reduces a theoretical measure of “social capital“, but even his credible result has been challenging for other researchers to replicate. If this is the worst we have to fear from immigration, I say bring it on.

The truth is, we don’t know very well what a world with open borders would look like. We know it would double world GDP — studies of the effects of  greater immigration on world GDP are remarkably consistent in predicting a massive boost to world income, regardless of their theoretical specifications or empirical approach. But given that far too few academics are seriously studying the impacts of immigration in an empirical fashion, we don’t have enough data to say with certainty that much of what we currently know to be true about immigration would still hold true in a world with massively looser immigration policies than today’s. We couldn’t guarantee that immigration would continue to be more or less neutral with respect to native incomes, and have a neutral to positive impact on crime.

But the precautionary principle only militates against immediate open borders. There is nothing stopping us from experimenting with a little more immigration. As the world’s population grows, as humanity grows richer, it makes absolutely no sense that our visa policies are held hostage by the immigration quotas of decades ago.

Open borders advocates actually aren’t asking for much. We simply believe in making the presumption that all who seek to move may do so — a presumption that can be overriden by a clear and pressing need, such as, say, the actual risk that your civilisation might collapse if you don’t shoot the next prospective immigrant in the face. As philosopher Phillip Cole puts it:

In effect all I’m proposing is that immigration should be brought under the same international legal framework as emigration. Immigration controls would become the exception rather than the rule, and would need to meet stringent tests in terms of evidence of national catastrophe that threatens the life of the nation, and so would be subject to international standards of fairness and legality.

I and I think other open borders advocates take concerns about global catastrophe quite seriously. Given that we typically come from universalist and sometimes even nationalist or citizenist moral starting points, we have every reason to be concerned that open borders might mean the end of the world as we know it, in a horrible way. But search the evidence, and you find no actual reason to be concerned about current immigration levels, and every reason to believe that open borders would immensely benefit us all. Even if you don’t find the evidence sufficiently compelling to tear down the border checkpoints right this moment, it’s compelling enough to demand more thorough research and compelling enough to demand experimentation with ever more liberal immigration policies.

John Lee is an administrator of the Open Borders website. Liberal immigration laws are a personal passion for him. See all blog posts by John.


8 thoughts on “Open borders and the impending apocalypse”

  1. Unfortunately, open borders aren’t working in Sweden in the past week. Their Muslim immigrants have rioted, burned, looted and blown up many sections of Stockholm. You can argue all your want for “multiculturalism” and the equality of ethnic groups, but you can’t mix incompatible cultures for very long. You guarantee violence and confrontation when you mix third world cultures with first world cultures. Sweden never, ever in its history has suffered such enormous bloodshed of rapes, robberies, educational failures and fracturing until it began importing Middle Eastern and African Muslim immigrants. Today, like UK, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, France and other heavily immigrated first world countries–cannot solve their problems. You may parade your theories on paper and they look good because we are all part of the family of humanity, but in reality, we are all ethnic tribes that demand identity and we all press for dominance when our tribe’s numbers grow into the majority. Emanuel Kant said, “The two great dividers are religion and language.” Open borders destroy host countries’ cultures and languages and ultimate leaves them in chaos. The USA in no different. We are as fractured today as ever. We cannot move forward because we suffer so many different cultures that we are losing the American Way of Life and culture. If Muslims gain power, they would use our Constitution to engage Sharia Law, which subjugates women to the level of a dog, female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, honor killings, beheadings, behandings, acid in the faces of women who act for themselves, killing of gays. BTW, that’s all happening in the USA today with our 7 million Muslim immigrants. If they gain power, women’s rights go into the toilet.

    This man said it best: “Immigrants devoted to their own cultures and religions are not influenced by the secular politically correct façade that dominates academia, news-media, entertainment, education, religious and political thinking today,” said James Walsh, former Associate General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. “They claim the right not to assimilate, and the day is coming when the question will be how can the United States regulate the defiantly unassimilated cultures, religions and mores of foreign lands? Such immigrants say their traditions trump the U.S. legal system. Balkanization of the United States has begun.”

  2. A few questions:

    1) I can’t think of any instance where immigration has done serious harm to the receiving nation. Of all historical examples, what comes closest? Sweden? As discussed in this paper, I don’t think immigration has caused harm to that country overall:

    2) Are there factors that would lead us to believe open borders would be different today than in the past? For example, maybe people are more mobile today so open immigration could lead to greater levels of migration. Or maybe the income disparity between countries is greater than it has been in the past, so more people would want to move.

    1. Mike,
      You are seriously out of touch with reality. I spent a month in Norway. Muslim immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are involved in 99 percent of the rapes. They command most of the welfare, assisted housing, food and medical care at great cost to Norwegians that work. They shoplift, rob and prowl the streets for for victims. My brother has lived in Bergen for 30 years to see the horrific impact of immigrants. Same in Norway. Same in Holland, so much so, they have shut their borders to further Muslim immigration. UK now suffers two London’s: Muslim section and British section. Belgium is being taken over and will soon make that country an Islamic state. The Japanese are so smart and fearful of Muslim immigrants that they won’t allow even a consulate from any Muslim state nor do they send ambassadors to Muslim countries. Again, you are seriously out of touch with reality if you don’t, won’t or can’t see what’s happening to Western countries taking on cultural poverty, illiteracy and overpopulation problems via immigration. Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler

  3. Frosty,

    Your aggressive language makes me suspect that you are purposefully trolling, but your claim about rape in Norway deserves some attention.

    On the one hand, an increase in rape is a serious consequence and advocates of open borders should not sweep it under the rug.

    One the other hand, arguing that certain ethnic groups have a propensity to rape is a common tactic used by those who want to dehumanize certain groups and justify racism.

    In any case, we need to look at the facts and tread carefully. So what do we know?

    There was a report in 2010 which analyzed 152 cases of rape in Oslo, Norway. Of these cases, 6 were categorized as “assault rape”, meaning they were violent acts perpetrated by strangers. Of the 152 cases, 20% were done by immigrants from Africa or the Middle East. However, all 6 of the assault rapes were by men from these countries.

    Interviews with the victims indicated that some of the rapists stated that their actions were justified by their religion.

    So what do we make of these statistics? Rape is one of those areas where it is hard to do a cost benefit analysis because we can’t really put a number on how much trauma was caused. How much suffering should we permit to prevent X number of rapes from occurring in our community? Would these same men have committed rapes in their home countries?

    Another factor that should be considered is that there are other institutions, such as the US military, that are experiencing significant problems with sexual assault that have nothing to do with immigration. Should we reduce the size of the military because that environment leads to more sexual assault?

    I concede that immigration in Norway and Sweden has contributed to an increasing sexual assault problem in those countries, but I don’t concede that it is the primary contributing factor. When you control for socio-economic differences, the importance of ethnic origin is not significant. I think people who feel marginalized are more likely to commit violent crimes including rape, and allowing impoverished people into the country can increase economic disparities.

    Certainly the vast majority of immigrants would never engage in this type of behavior, but a small minority of people from disadvantaged backgrounds are psychologically damaged and are unable to assimilate into society.

    The increasing number of rapes in Oslo is a tragedy, but it really pales in comparison to the tragic circumstances that people in many unstable countries experience, including very high rape rates. The question is whether we will attempt to shield ourselves from the problem by implementing a type of quarantine. If we allow people from failed states into our country a small minority will engage in violent behavior. If we force them to stay, many of them will become victims. How do we do this moral calculus?

    1. Mike,
      My brother lives in Norway and he tells me exactly what is going on in that country. You’re an outsider with no way and no understanding of what’s going on in Norway. I spent a month in Norway to see it for myself. Sweden is burning right now because of its immigrants. I am a journalist and a world traveler. You can’t fool me and you cannot escape reality.

      Within America, Mexican illegal migrants have caused us to press “1” for Spanish and “2” for English, and now in Detroit, “3” for Arabic. The one sure way to destroy a country is to destroy its language and culture. Today in America, we see 12 to 20 million illegal aliens costing us $346 billion annually across 15 federal agencies to support them. They inundate our schools, lie on documents, forge documents, shoplift in waves, suck off our medical systems for free, birth anchor babies that we all pay for at a rate of 350,000 a year, force us to give ESL classes in our schools, downgrade our educational systems to fit them, steal and undermine American jobs to the tune of 8 million illegals work full time jobs, don’t pay income taxes and get paid in cash, and create more joblessness for our own citizens. Over 40 percent of African-American men do not have jobs. Throw out the 8 million illegals and give those jobs to America’s minorities at a living wage.

      You can dig up excuses and all sorts of other fluff, but the fact remains that mass immigration cannot be supported, cannot be environmentally supported, cannot be culturally supported and simply cannot be tolerated if Western countries expect to survive the 21st century intact.

      It’s obvious to me that you don’t get it or can’t get it or lack the intellectual horsepower to see the obvious. That’s no excuse. FW

  4. There’s plenty of food for thought in this new post. But I will focus on just one section of the post.

    At one point, this blog entry says, “Open borders advocates actually aren’t asking for much. We simply believe in making the presumption that all who seek to move may do so — a presumption that can be overriden by a clear and pressing need…”

    Wouldn’t that forbid experimenting with “keyhole” solutions? Also, that statement I just quoted seems to conflict with the paragraph preceding it.

    Maybe the writer meant to say, “We simply believe in making the presumption that all who seek to move may EVENTUALLY do so ONCE THE ‘experimenting with a little more immigration’ PHASE IS DONE TO EVERYONE’S SATISFACTION.” I’m totally guessing about that.

    Also, we must worry that “experimenting with a little more immigration” might fail to reveal problems that result from a larger critical mass of migrants. I hope that possibility gets addressed somewhere on this website.

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