Pro-open borders reading list

Below is a reading list of materials that make the case for open borders. Some of these make the case for moderately more open borders, rather than complete open borders. Others take a more radical stance. The items in the reading list are arranged in (roughly) increasing order of length, complexity, and thoroughness. Each tries to make the overall case for immigration as a stand-alone piece.

Quick Internet reads: ideal for the busy and lazy

If you’re a more visual type of person, check out the short video section instead.

Name and link Author Publication information More details
A world without borders makes economic sense: Allowing workers to change location significantly enriches the world economy. So why do we erect barriers to human mobility? Michael Clemens The Guardian, Monday, September 5, 2011. written shortly after his double world GDP paper, explores the implications of his research.
Why Ruin the World’s Best Anti-Poverty Program? Alex Tabarrok The website of The Independent Institute, May 25, 2006 talks about the economist consensus in favor of expanded immigration and explains what he thinks of as the reasons behind this consensus.
Economic and Moral Factors in Favor of Open Immigration Alex Tabarrok The website of The Independent Institute, September 14, 2000
An Economic Case for Immigration Benjamin Powell Monthly featured column for EconLib, June 2010. combines economic and moral arguments for immigration.
The Case for Open Immigration: A Q&A With Philippe Legrain Philippe Legrain (being interviewed) Freakonomics blog, October 17, 2007.
The Case for Unilateral Free Trade and Open Immigration Jacob G. Hornberger Future of Freedom Foundation website, November 1, 1994. makes the analogy between immigration and trade and argues for unilaterally freeing both, regardless of whether other countries follow suit.
Open Borders Work (Part 1, Part 2) Philippe Legrain Future of Freedom Foundation website March 1 and April 1, 2008
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” John Lee The Open Borders blog, October 11, 2012 John Lee combines economic and moral arguments to make the case for open borders.
Smash the New Aristocracy Eli Dourado On his personal blog, June 25, 2011 This blog post converted a number of people, including John S. and Adam Gurri, to the cause of open borders.
Why Open Immigration? Ken Schoolland a speech delivered at the world conference of the International Society for Individual Liberty (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – July 29, 2002).
The Case for Open Borders Hogeye Bill Strike The Root, June 28, 2007
The Ethical Case for an Open Immigration Policy Jacob M. Appel Opposing Views, May 4, 2009
Treating Immigrants like Strangers Bryan Caplan  Hoover Institution, May 28, 2013 Compares how we treat immigrants to how we treat strangers and why this creates a presumption for open borders.
Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere: opening statement and closing statement Bryan Caplan Intelligence Squared jobs debate, October 30 (statements published in blog posts November 2 and 4) Opening and closing statements in a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared on the radical theme of free migration for people with job offers.
Halima Needed a More Humane Immigration Policy: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Scott McPherson Portsmouth Patch, December 2-4, 2013  Begins with the personal experience of a victim of human trafficking and zooms out from there to the general issue of how closed borders make people easy prey to unscrupulous traffickers.


Articles and research papers (10+ pages in length)

Philosophical/ethical arguments:

Title Author Available versions online Publication information More details
The Ethics of Open Borders Phillip Cole full transcript Delivered as a speech for the Conway Hall Ethical Society, December 9, 2012 The piece makes an argument from a broadly liberal perspective (appealing to both classical and left liberals) and takes examples specific to the UK and EU when engaging with the empirics.
Is There A Right to Immigrate? Michael Huemer HTML on Huemer’s page, published version (gated) Social Theory and Practice, Volume 36, Issue 3, July 2010, Pages 429-461 Much of the content of the paper is discussed on the starving Marvin page.
Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders Joseph Carens ungated PDF version, JSTOR version (subscription needed), original gated PDF (23 pages, subscription/purchase needed) The Review of Politics, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Spring, 1987), Page 251-273 The paper argues for open borders from three perspectives: Nozickean (roughly, the libertarian/natural rights perspective), Rawlsian (roughly, the egalitarian perspective), and utilitarian.
A Libertarian Case For Free Immigration Walter Block PDF, 20 pages part of a special issue on immigration by the Journal of Libertarian Studies
A Libertarian Theory of Free Immigration Jesus Huerta de Soto PDF, 11 pages
Immigration, Ethics, and the Capability Approach Matthias Risse available here Human Development Research Paper 2009/34.
The Case for Open Immigration Chandran Kukathas available here Chapter 14 of Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader edited by Colin Farrelly (Amazon paperback). Quoted and referenced in the blog post A Somali-Swede’s reflections on open borders by Ladan Weheliye.
Editorial: Why No Borders? Bridget Anderson, Nandita Sharma, and Cynthia Wright available here Introduction to Refuge, Vol. 26, No. 2

Practical, mostly economic, arguments, with some philosophical/ethical background:

Title Author Available versions online Publication information More details
Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk? Michael Clemens PDF, 24 pages, ungated (official version)(if the link doesn’t work, you can try this link for an archived copy on the CGD website) Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 25, Number 3—Summer 2011—Pages 83–106 The paper provides an excellent review of the literature and suggests a more ambitious research agenda on the relation between migration and development. It is referred to on multiple pages of this website: Double world GDP, suppression of wages of natives, remittances, and incentives for human capital development.
Why Should We Restrict Immigration? Bryan Caplan PDF, 20 pages, ungated (if the link doesn’t work, you can try the mirrored copy on the author’s website) part of Cato Journal Winter 2012 Related material on this website: keyhole solutions
Open Borders with Migration Taxes are the Optimal Policy Nathanael Smith available on SSRN, abstract with link to PDF, 25 pages Made available March 15, 2012 on SSRN discussed in this blog post by Smith.
Open Borders John Kennan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison ungated PDF
Immigration Policy: An Argument for Opening America’s Borders Shikha Dalmia HTML landing page, PDF (17 pages) For Reason Papers

Syntheses of moral and practical argumentation:

Title Author Available versions online Publication information More details
A Radical Case for Open Borders Bryan Caplan, Vipul Naik PDF (41 pages) on Free Market Institute website, archived copy by Vipul Naik One chapter in a book project edited by Benjamin Powell and sponsored by the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. More on the book project here.


Books making a full case for radically more open borders:

Book name Author Book website (if it exists) and purchase links More details
Borderless Economics: Chinese Sea Turtles, Indian Fridges, and the New Fruits of Global Capitalism Robert Guest (business editor of The Economist) Amazon ebook Related links: video about the themes of the book, one world.
Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility Lant Pritchett free PDF chapters, Amazon paperback Quoted on the following pages on this site: keyhole solutions, cheap labor leading to a technological slowdown
Let Them In: The Case For Open Borders Jason Riley Amazon ebook See Open Borders blog posts tagged for this book
Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them Philippe Legrain book page
Principles of a Free Society Nathanael Smith Amazon ebook Chapter 9 of the book is devoted to immigration, while previous chapters lay the moral framework that is used in this chapter. The full text of Chapter 9 can be downloaded as a Word Document or as a PDF.

Books making more specialized cases.

Book name Author Book website (if it exists) and purchase links More details
Opening the Floodgates Kevin Johnson Amazon Argues that the current immigration system in the United States is flawed, and makes a case for freer migration and some form of keyhole solutions to the suppression of wages of natives. Reviewed by George C. Leef here for the FEE.
States without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals Jacqueline Stevens Amazon — available as hardcover, paperback, ebook Stevens argues for citizenship based on current residency rather than birthplace, and free movement between nations similar to the free movement between US states.
The Ethics of Immigration Joseph Carens Amazon — available as hardcover, ebook Although Carens advocates open borders, the majority of the book argues for how, even assuming considerable discretionary control over immigration by nation-states, a strong case can be made for various immigrant rights and a liberal migration policy. The last few chapters describe Carens’ radical open borders position.
Immigrants and the Right to Stay Joseph Carens Amazon — available as hardcover and ebook Carens argues that people who have immigrated a long while back (legally or illegally) should have a right to stay. Carens has elsewhere argued for open borders, but the purpose of this book is to sell a weaker proposition to a larger audience that may not agree with the hardcore open borders prescription.
Lockout Michele Wucker Amazon — available in hard or soft cover Makes a case for keyhole solutions while demonstrating the extreme harms arising from closed borders. John Lee reviewed the book here.

Books that make a case for open borders which is quite different from, and possibly inconsistent with, the case made on this website. These are included for completeness’ sake, but the arguments presented in these books may occasionally contradict the arguments presented on this website.

Book name Author Book website (if it exists) and purchase links More details
They Take Our Jobs: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration Aviva Chomsky Amazon — ebook and paperback available See Open Borders blog posts tagged Aviva Chomsky
Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls Teresa Hayter Amazon — hardcover and paperback

"The Efficient, Egalitarian, Libertarian, Utilitarian Way to Double World GDP" — Bryan Caplan