Moral philosophy, also known as ethics, is important to the evaluation of major changes to the global social, political, and economic order, such as open borders. This page provides an overview of the importance of philosophy and moral reasoning to understanding the arguments for and against open borders, and what various types of normative ethics have to say about open borders.
How can ethical reasoning shed light on open borders?
Ethical reasoning is needed to answer a number of questions related to open borders. Are countries morally obligated to open borders as much as feasible? Whose interests count when setting migration policy? How do we balance different people’s rights, interests, and preferences? What kinds of paths or compromises to open borders are morally acceptable? Ethics is also important for understanding individual obligations in response to migration policy. To what extent are people morally obligated to follow immigration law as potential migrants and friends, family members, and employers of migrants? Do we have a moral obligation to speak up against existing migration policies?
The case and the counter-case
- Moral case summarizes how different normative ethical approaches can be used to argue for open borders.
- Moral counter-case summarizes how different normative ethical approaches can be used to argue against open borders (not necessarily for completely closed borders, but against a strong presumption in favor of open borders).
Exploration of different normative ethics
See our open borders normative ethics summary. This page overlaps somewhat with the moral case and moral couter-case, but is structured differently.
- Moral versus practical arguments discusses the distinction between moral arguments and “practical” arguments that are focused on consequences.
- Philosophers, wonks, and entrepreneurs by Vipul Naik, Open Borders: The Case, November 18, 2014.