Tag Archives: universalism

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” »

A Meta-Ethics to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Post by Nathan Smith (regular blogger for the site, joined April 2012). See:

The relevance of this post to open borders will not be immediately obvious, but bear with me, I’ll get to it. “Meta-ethics” is a real word, as my sister, a professional philosopher, recently confirmed to me. I was afraid I had made it up, because it’s so useful in immigration debates. Meta-ethics is basically theorizing about where ethical rules or values come from. “Don’t steal” is ethics. “Seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number” is meta-ethics. Specifically, it’s a statement (a rather clumsy one) of utilitarian meta-ethics. People can have similar ethical views derived from quite different meta-ethical starting places. For example, a virtue ethicist might act bravely because courage is part of the good life for man, while a utilitarian acts bravely because he is convinced that the greatest happiness of the greatest number will be served, in a particular crisis, by his keeping cool while running terrible risks. People can also arrive at quite different views on a whole range of particular ethical questions starting from the same meta-ethical starting point: one utilitarian might believe in largely laissez-faire capitalism, while another is a Communist. If one wants to make a rational argument against a particular ethical rule (e.g., stay in the country you were born in unless some foreign government gives you permission to migrate there), I don’t see much possibility of doing this without appealing to one or more meta-ethical standards. On the other hand, one can argue against a meta-ethical position via a reductio ad absurdum showing that a consistent application of it would lead to monstrous moral positions. For example, one might attack utilitarianism by arguing that, under certain circumstances, consistent utilitarians should be willing to torture children to death. Anyway, in the course of many debates, I’ve found that a surprisingly satisfactory meta-ethics is comprised by the following two rules:

1. Universal altruism. Regard the welfare of every human being as equally important, and act accordingly. The ultimate end or standard of behavior should be to maximize the happiness of all mankind, with no special preference either for oneself or for any subset of humanity– family, tribe, nation, class, religious community, whatever– to which one happens to belong.

2. Division of labor. But as Adam Smith so lucidly explained, people are rendered more productive by specialization and division of labor, and we will do the task of caring for humanity much better if we split it up into many different tasks and assign most people, at least, a much smaller range of activity. Nature and circumstances gives us a kind of rough draft of how to arrange this division of labor, giving us all impulses to serve our families and those neighbors who evoke our pity or who have done us a good turn and earned our gratitude. Reason might urge us to modify this template somewhat, but not to discard it completely.

Continue reading “A Meta-Ethics to Keep in Your Back Pocket” »