Tag Archives: reciprocity

US-Canada open borders referendum bleg

I define “open borders between the US and Canada” as meaning that US and Canadian citizens are free to enter the other country not just for short-term visits but for long-term visits and can settle in the other country to live, work, marry, or do other stuff, without needing to go through any immigration bureaucracy. Border checkpoints may still exist. One might define open borders more expansively to include all permanent residents of either country. As co-blogger John Lee noted in this post, the US-Canada border is not completely open in this sense: while citizens and even permanent residents can move freely between the countries for short-term visits, they still need to go through a bureaucratic (and uncertain) process in order to take up a job or settle long-term.

My two bleg questions:

  • If the United States had a nationwide referendum among citizens (with simple nationwide vote-counting, unlike the complicated electoral college system used for presidential elections) on whether the US should have open borders with Canada, would the referendum pass, and by what margin? Feel free to provide probability distributions, and if necessary, indicate sensitivity to framing, timing, and contextual factors that affect the outcome. Note that “pass” here is based on a majority of those who vote, not based on a majority of the entire citizenry.
  • If Canada had an equivalent nationwide referendum, would it pass? Again feel free to provide probability distributions, and if necessary, indicate sensitivity to framing, timing, and contextual factors that affect the outcome. Note that “pass” here is based on a majority of those who vote, not based on a majority of the entire citizenry.

UPDATE: A friend on Facebook had pointed me a while back to Annexation movements of Canada.

The case for open borders is universal

I am indebted to commenter Caroline for asking a very important question in a comment:

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?

Another comment in a similar vein is from Mary:

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.

In later agreement with Mary, Caroline writes:

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.

In a blog post titled Parable of the Neighborhood Watch, Sonic Charmer makes a related point (although this is not the focus or thrust of his post):

All the Smart People in your Neighborhood Watch nod their heads. They can think of no counterargument, and certainly don’t want to appear selfish and chauvinistic. And so, before long, before you even really know what happened, your Neighborhood Watch – the one you set up and contributed your money and time to for the sole purpose of, well, watching your own neighborhood – is spending most of its time worrying about and patrolling Other Neighborhood, judging its success on the basis of whether crime is being reduced there.

The funny part is, Other Neighborhood already has its own neighborhood watch group, and they’re not at all swayed by these moral arguments. They focus solely on their own neighborhood and never give it a second thought.

How would you feel at that point? Tricked? Hoodwinked? Scammed? At best, if you had a great attitude and the means, you’d be like ‘oh well, I guess I have to start up a whole new Neighborhood Watch now’. One that actually serves the purpose for which you intended the other one.

Other commenters, including commenters on Steve Sailer’s blog, have made similar points.

Before proceeding, I want to thank Caroline, Mary, and Sonic Charmer for making the key point: the case for open borders does not solely apply to any one country. I enthusiastically agree. As I see it, there are two related points being made:

  1. Open borders advocates, in so far as they focus only on immigration to the United States, are applying a double standard, and/or being hypocritical.
  2. Even if open borders advocates intend to be even-handed in their treatment of nations, the de facto effect of their advocacy is disproportionately on the United States.

A limited self-defense

I don’t claim to speak for all open borders advocates. But I will try to address these critiques specifically in the context of this website. My blog post is largely an elaboration of point (1) in my reply comment to Caroline.

First, right from the inception of the site, I have been focused on making the case for open borders from a universal perspective. As I write on the site story page:

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).

In fact, I faced the very same frustration that Caroline probably did: the over-reliance of open borders advocates on one particular country (often, the US) rather than a discussion of how the case for open borders may be made universally.

Back in April, I wrote a positive review of Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation, where I indicated my agreement with

Brimelow’s critique of the restrictive immigration policies of countries other than the US, and his argument that the moral case for open borders should apply to all countries, not just the US (Page 251 onward, Chapter Doing The Right Thing? The Morality of Immigration)

followed by a lengthy quote from Brimelow’s book. Continue reading “The case for open borders is universal” »

Immigration, trade, and reciprocity

In a recent blog post titled What I like about “Alien Nation”, I highlighted some points where I agreed with Peter Brimelow’s book Alien Nation, which features on the anti-open borders reading list. In this blog post, I want to consider in more detail an interesting and valid point raised by Brimelow about reciprocity in immigration law. I’d mentioned this as one of my points of agreement with Brimelow, but now it’s time to voice some disagreement.

Here’s a small excerpt of his argument (about Page 251):

If immigration is such a moral imperative, why don’t the Mexicans/Chinese/Indians/Koreans/ Japanese (fill in any of the other recent top-ten suppliers of immigrants to the United States) allow it?

Don’t say: “These countries already have enough people.” The United States already has more than all of them except mainland China and India.

And don’t say: “They’re too poor.” As we have seen, the whole economic theory of immigration, as developed by immigration enthusiasts, is that immigration does not displace workers: it complements them. Well, it should work both ways.

In my previous blog post, I expressed agreement with Brimelow’s fundamental point that the moral case for open borders applies to all countries, not just the United States or the developed world.

Later in the book, as part of his list of proposals to deal with the perceived problems of immigration, Brimelow suggests (about Page 262):

No immigration should be permitted from countries that do not allow reciprocal emigration from the United States.

The way Brimelow frames the argument, it seems he is saying that allowing immigrants from a country is akin to doing that country a favor, and hence, such a favor should be done only if there is a reciprocal favor from the other country. Continue reading “Immigration, trade, and reciprocity” »