Social Justice, Liberty

In Praise of Open Borders

March 16 was “Open Borders Day.” I’m celebrating a day late. Here is a relevant excerpt from Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know.

         Libertarians…advocate open borders and free immigration.

Libertarians advocate free immigration in part because immigration restrictions are highly inefficient. When economists try to measure the deadweight loss immigration restrictions cause, they typically estimate that eliminating all immigration restrictions would double world GDP. That is, we could add another $70 trillion to the world economy in a few years if only we liberalized immigration laws.

A good way to think about this: If you oppose open borders,  do a cost-benefit analysis. You need the expected costs to be around 70 trillion dollars. Otherwise, your CBA comes out in favor of something like open borders.

But let’s put CBA aside. There’s a strong prima facie deontological justification for open borders:

            Libertarians…believe that immigration restrictions are pernicious. Libertarians believe immigration restrictions impose poverty, suffering, pain, and death on some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Philosopher Michael Huemer explains this with a thought experiment: Imagine starving Marvin heads to the market looking for food. Marvin has little to trade. However, suppose there are people at the market willing to trade food for whatever Marvin has. Imagine that unless someone stops him, Marvin will successfully get to the market, make the trade, and eat. However, now imagine that you forcibly prevent Marvin from getting to the market. You post guards to keep him out. The guards continually capture Marvin and turn him away. Marvin can’t barter for food. He starves and dies.

In this situation, Huemer says, you have done something morally comparable to killing Marvin. His blood is on your hands.

In another version of the story, imagine Marvin is not starving, but is instead desperately poor. Imagine that if Marvin makes it to the market, he will make some trades and instantly become ten times richer. Imagine Marvin will be able to send large amounts of money back to his poor village to feed his entire extended family. However, again, you post guards, who turn Marvin away. In this case, you force Marvin to stay poor. It was not your fault Marvin was poor to begin with, but it is your fault he remains poor.

Huemer admonishes us: In these thought experiments, you do not simply fail to help Marvin. That is, you are not doing something equivalent to walking by a beggar without donating spare change. Instead, you actively hurt Marvin by using violence to prevent him from making a trade with a willing partner. It is as if you saw someone else offering a beggar $5 to wash a car window, but you scared the beggar and the driver away with your gun.

Libertarians believe immigration restrictions are morally equivalent to keeping Marvin from the market in the thought experiments above. Some people in rich countries want to hire poor foreigners. The foreigners want the jobs. These jobs make the difference between life and death or prosperity and poverty. Immigrants to the United States usually see their income rise by an order of magnitude or more—they go from desperately poor to relatively wealthy almost overnight. But the United States and other countries post armed sentries around their markets. They use violence to stop foreigners from making life-saving or life-changing trades with willing partners. This is morally equivalent to killing the foreigners or forcing them to stay poor.

If you aren’t in favor of open borders, it’s not clear you get to count as an advocate of social justice:

            Many on the left in American and European politics claim to care about the poor. But their hearts bleed for the American and European lower classes—that is, for people who are wealthy by world standards—not for the world’s poorest people. Most people on the progressive left actively try to restrain the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people from making life-saving and life-changing trades with willing employers. They thus condemn the world’s poor to death and misery. The progressive left is delighted with me when I donate money to the poor through OxFam. But the Left forbids me from hiring the poor to mow my lawn, even though that helps them more than an OxFam donation.

From the libertarian point of view, if you do not advocate open immigration, any claim to be concerned about social justice or the well being of the poor is mere pretense.

Strong words, but I mean it. I regard Rawls as a conservative critic of social justice.

How this relates to the sweatshop debate:

            Libertarians add: next time you see a person protesting sweatshops, ask the protestor what she thinks about immigration. She probably opposes allowing poor and unskilled immigrants to travel freely in search of work. But when we have an economic system in which everything—financial instruments, money, factories, services—can be globalized and move freely across borders, except poor, unskilled labor, what happens to the poor people who supply unskilled labor? They will not be able to travel in search of opportunities. They will instead be forced to sit and wait for opportunity to find them. It is thus no surprise that the only opportunities that find them involve low wages and sweaty conditions. In short, our immigration laws make the most vulnerable members of the world sitting ducks for exploitation.

What are the objections to open borders?

            Those who defend immigration restrictions might agree that such restrictions appear evil at first glance. However, they argue, the restrictions can be justified. They argue that

  1. Free immigration would disrupt and destroy native culture.
  2. Free immigration reduces the wages of native-born workers.
  3. Free immigration would cause high crime.
  4. Immigrants will consume too many welfare services.

Libertarians say that even if the first worry were true, it is not a strong enough concern to justify condemning the world’s poor to poverty, suffering, and death. Perhaps there is some value in maintaining a distinctive French culture and identity, but it is not valuable enough to justify forcing millions like Marvin to starve. Moreover, libertarians deny that immigrants destroy culture. First of all, immigrants add to culture. As economist Bryan Caplan points out, America’s cultural centers (such as New York City and Los Angeles) have high immigration. Its “cultural wastelands” (such as North and South Dakota, Alaska, and Alabama) have low immigration. The economist Tyler Cowen might add: most “native” cultures are themselves the product of past cultural synthesis. The native cultures we want to preserve arose from past movements of people and their ideas.

Libertarians respond to the second worry by pointing out that it flies against the consensus of professional economists who have studied the issue. Numerous economists have studied the effect immigration has on native wages. The most pessimistic of these studies tend to conclude that immigration only has a small (<5%) and short-term negative effect on the wages of low-skill native workers. These negative effects disappear after a few years. Other native workers’ wages increase. Immigrants do not usually replace native workers; instead, they bring in new skills and produce new jobs. Thus, even on the most pessimistic accounts, immigration helps most natives. It hurts only a small minority of natives, and it only hurts them a small amount for a small time. This is hardly enough to justify condemning the Marvins of the world to poverty, suffering, and death. Again, note that this is what the pessimistic studies say. In general, a majority of economists think that immigration increases wages for most people.

Libertarians respond to the third complaint by saying that the facts do not back it up. Sociologist Robert Samson found that first-generation Mexican immigrants are only about half as likely to commit violent crimes as third-generation Americans (of any nationality). The economists Kristin Butcher and Anne Piehl find that immigrants are incarcerated at only 1/5th the rate of the native born. Given that immigrants tend to be poor, we should expect them to commit more crime, yet they do not. Native-born working class white people—people who themselves tend to oppose free immigration—are much more likely to go to prison than the immigrants they blame for crime. Libertarians conclude: Immigration does not appear to increase crime. Yet, even if allowing free immigration did increase crime, it would have to increase crime dramatically before that would justify condemning the Marvins of the world to poverty, suffering, and death.

When I discuss this with my classes, I point out that while high immigrant areas tend to be high crime areas, this doesn’t imply that immigrants cause the crime. Instead, it could be that immigrants live in high crime areas because these places are cheaper to live in, and immigrants tend to be relatively poor.

            Libertarians have a simple response to the fourth objection: If we can’t afford to give immigrants welfare benefits, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let them immigrate. Instead, it means we should let them immigrate but deny them welfare benefits. However callous that may sound, it is far less callous than forbidding immigration. After all, in neither case do we pay them welfare benefits. Yet, when we allow them to immigrate, we greatly improve their welfare.

There’s a final objection, which I didn’t consider in the book: Open borders would cause massive political instability. Seems legit to me. After all, as we learned in high school, open borders caused the American civil war. But in all seriousness, I’ve seen this objection asserted, but rarely defended. So I don’t feel much need to refute it.

  • adrianratnapala

    Regarding this final objections, here is quote from the Wikipedia:

    The same year, Mexico enacted the General Colonization Law, which enabled all heads of household, regardless of race or immigrant status, to claim land in Mexico.[81]
    Mexico had neither manpower nor funds to protect settlers from
    near-constant Comanche raids and it hoped that getting more settlers
    into the area could control the raids. The government liberalized its
    immigration policies, allowing for settlers from the United States to
    immigrate to Texas.[82]

    That policy went well, didn’t it.

    • Jason Brennan

      If I recall correctly, the settlers split off from Mexico to form an independent republic. The Mexican government tried to stop them, thus violating the right of secession. And the American government fought them.

      I’m not in favor the Mexican-American War, but Mexico should have allowed the settlers in and it should have allowed them to secede.

      • adrianratnapala

        Your understanding is roughly correct (I had to check just now). But the Texas war of indepenence was proir to and distinct from the Mexican-American war. I would add that much of the reason for secession was that the settlers introduced slavery. Now I like the right of secession, but it’s hard to blame the Mexicans for getting into that sort of scrap.

        So the list results from Mexico’s open immigration policy:

        * De-facto legalisation of slavery within Texas.
        * Violent, pro-slavery rebellion in that province, the loss of Texas.
        * A weaker stratigic postion with respect to the northern rival.
        * Hence a war with said rival and the loss of California.

        Perhaps the last two would have happened anyway. I would define that as an example of “massive political instability” in anyone’s book.

        • Jameson Graber

          The reason your example doesn’t work is that in your case open borders happened because the government was already unstable. I would agree that instability can cause open borders, but I don’t know of an example of the converse.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Crimea voted to secede from the Ukraine, mostly because of massive immigration from ethnic Russians. Also, Israel rightfully concludes that if it allowed open immigration from Muslim nations there would soon be a massive genocide of Jews in Israel .

      .
      It is amazing to me how this idea has now taken on the proportions of a religion. The myriad objections are waved away with the greatest of ease, and an absolute natural right is proclaimed. I wonder about a right to go anyplace you will regardless of the wishes of the people already there. .
      .
      A person needs work and needs money to live, does that mean that I have a natural right to force any corporation I choose to give me a job? After all I am an individual and I have rights, but a corporation is not an individual and only they have rights. Besides I can make the utilitarian argument as well, Everyone would be better off if we all had jobs right?

      • M S

        “I wonder about a right to go anyplace you will regardless of the wishes of the people already there.”

        When you say, “the people already there,” who are you talking about? If I want to sell my house to a foreigner, but my neighbors would prefer that I didn’t, why do they get to make that choice instead of me? If I want to hire a foreigner to work in my store, but other people who want that job would prefer that I didn’t, why shouldn’t I be the “person already there” for purposes of the rights analysis? And if I sell the house, or hire the employee, against the wishes of those people, have I somehow violated their rights?

        I mean, I get the “less liberty in the long run” argument, and am sympathetic to it, even if I disagree with it. But to say that the free movement and exchange of labor is morally equivalent to forced appropriation of capital seems totally bizarre to me.

      • Sean II

        “Israel rightfully concludes that if it allowed open immigration from Muslim nations there would soon be a massive genocide of Jews in Israel.”

        That’s my new favorite example. If an open borders advocate can’t at least make an exception in that case, then I fell safe calling him crazy.

        And once that exception is granted, we can all move away from this moralistic posturing and start haggling over the price, like grown-ups.

        • judd

          Sure but a lot anti-Semitism flows from non-libertarian institutional arrangements: tyrannical statism of the worst sort using Jew hatred to keep itself alive. Don’t get me wrong: Muslims in North America aren’t going to donate to AIPAC anytime soon but they live in peace with Jews. So the problem here is a problem largely caused by the state.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            What Jews? There were quite substantial Jewish communities in many N. African nations pre-1948. Then they were all chased out by government harassment and persecution by the locals. In fact, just as many (if not more)Jews were post-1948 exiles from Arab and N. African nations as Palestinians were from Israel.

          • good_in_theory

            Judd wrote North American, not North African.

            But thanks again for noting how something specific happened in the mid 20th century which caused communities of Jews to flee places they had lived alongside Muslims for generations, almost as if specific historical events and state policies were instrumental in intensifyng and spreading Muslim anti-Semitism.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Yes, the state of Israel was formed, and then over the next decade hundreds of thousands of Jews were chased out of Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, etc. Obviously, these Jews bore no responsibility for the creation of Israel, or any of the actions of its government. You can only “spread and intensify” something that already exists, i.e. Muslim anti-Semitism. Is this your idea of an excuse? If not, your “point” completely escapes me. It’s like saying the Great Depression “intensified” pre-WW II German anti-Semitism. So?

          • good_in_theory

            The state of Israel was not formed in the passive voice. The British Empire and other European powers occupied the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, and political Zionists turned the ear of the new emperors to their favor and lobbied for the authority to set up an independent colony in the Levant, which they did successfully through a combination of state and non-state force arrayed against other inhabitants of the area.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            So much confusion and misinformation packed into such a tight space is daunting. So, the Jews “lobbied to set up an independent colony.” Independent? You mean the state of Israel? Then, Israel is a “colony” of what other country (or are you referring to the Elders of Zion)? If you mean the British Protectorate, then “independent” is incoherent. The Jews “set up” an independent colony; so there were no Jews already living there in 1917? Who set what up? What are you talking about: the Jews didn’t set up a state, or a government. This is just gibberish.

            The Balfour Declaration established a long-term goal of a Jewish homeland, but included the provision “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” So, “arrayed against other inhabitants” is also incoherent. In short, you really have no idea what you are talking about, but you really don’t like the idea of Jews living in what is now Israel, do you?

          • good_in_theory

            Not “the Jews.” Some political Zionists. “The Jews” were and are diverse in their political aspirations.

            Colony that would become independent, if you prefer. In any case “colonialism” and practices of “colonization” are broadly defined. Really not that hard to figure out if you’re not too busy being (intentionally? characteristically?) obtuse.

            Lobbying for the authority to have political control over something and actually exercising such control are different things. Perhaps you understand the difference? Perhaps you understand that snipping quotes without essential qualifying words results in completely inane and irrelevant responses.

            Political Zionists lobbied the British government to, within its system of colonies, set aside a colony in which Jewish settlement would be encouraged and facilitated towards the aim of establishing an independent state. A independent-to-be colony. Subject to the British metropole up until it was subject to its settler-colonists.

            Good to know that the political repression of popular rule in mandatory Palestine wasn’t actually a use of state force. Also good to know that the Irgun were actually non-forceful pacifists.

            I don’t like the idea of settler-colonialism. People ought to live wherever they want. They oughtn’t live and exercise exclusionary political authority wherever they want.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Gosh, your first statement is a textbook case of “obtuse.” I’m going to print it out in case I ever need a handy example. What part of your little jumble of confusion should I have quoted to make it clear? Funny, you don’t say. You continue the pattern of saying things that have no apparent reference. Neither here or in your previous comment do you assert one discernible fact. In case you are wondering, a fact is a concrete assertion about a particular thing in time space, etc. Such as when I quoted what the Balfour Declaration actually said. Like when I asserted that many Jews purchased land in Israel. Alleged facts are subject to dispute.

            On the other hand, statement like, “political repression of popular rule.” Don’t even purport to have factual content. To get there you need, you know, “who, how, when,” etc. Like the bit about settler-colonialism, which decides things a certain way without any supporting facts, argument or logic. Left unanswered in your fog of vague language: do you think Israel has a right to exist?

          • Sean II

            I don’t mean to offend, Judd, but you’re talking out of your ass.

            Israel was founded in 1947.

            The idea – so quaintly held among Muslim rustics and clerics alike – that Jews are abominable pig/ape hybrids despised by god goes back…oh, I dunno…1,000 years before that.

            So please, tell me how the later event caused the earlier one. Please, tell me how it’s mostly the Jews fault that anti-Semitism exists. And while you’re doing that, go f….well, you know.

          • Sean II

            I don’t mean to offend, Judd, but you’re talking out of your ass.

            Israel was founded in 1947.

            The idea – so quaintly held among Muslim rustics and clerics alike – that Jews are abominable pig/ape hybrids despised by god goes back…oh, I dunno…1,000 years before that.

            So please, tell me how the later event caused the earlier one. Please, tell me how it’s mostly the Jews fault that anti-Semitism exists. And while you’re doing that, go f….well, you know.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Uh, Israel was founded in May 1948. No prizes for figuring out who is talking out of what in this particular conversation.

          • Sean II

            Yes, well, that changes everything.

            Now that we know Israel was founded a whole year later than I remembered, we can definitely start blaming the Jews for the centuries of hatred they faced before then.

            What’s your next trick? Searching for misspelled words?

          • Irfan Khawaja

            I’d think that it changes the course of about a year of history–the year that goes from, uh, 1947 to 1948, for example. A not-unimportant time in the history of the region, as it happens. Evidently, in the World According to Sean II, the founding of Israel took place during the year when the UN Partition Plan for Mandate Palestine was being debated, and in the same year as the partition of India and Pakistan. That’s certainly a novel revisionist interpretation, one possible only to a real master of the historiography–viz., one who announces his superior knowledge of the subject by telling other people that they’re talking out of their assholes, but hasn’t quite gotten the years of pivotal events straight.

            What it ought to change is your pretension to knowing what the fuck you’re talking about. But in the nature of the case, I doubt anything could change that.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            My next trick: pointing out that a dumb ass who ends up apologizing for misreading the original post isn’t really in a position to be complaining when his critic points out that he can’t get facts straight–since that’s exactly what he himself has ended up having to admit.

            Also pointing out that the Hebron Massacre took place in 1929, not 1927 (scroll down for that one). More recently in 1994.

            So what’s *your* next trick, Sean? How about a narrative history of the Five Day War of 1966? Wait, how many days was it, again? And what year?

          • Sean II

            Irfan, I’m beginning to suspect you’re upset in a way that goes far beyond a passion for the accurate recording of dates.

          • good_in_theory

            The fodder used for anti-semitism goes back hundreds of years, chiefly kept alive by Christians. Current Arab anti-semitism has quite a lot to do with the disintegration of the Ottoman empire, foreign rule, competing imperial, colonial, and hegemonic interventions, &, surprise surprise, the success of political Zionism within Arab territory in 1947. The intensity and prevalence of anti-semitism in the Arab world aren’t historical constants.

          • Sean II

            Thank you. Because in any case the important thing to establish here is that Jews are not, as Judd would have it, the inventors of anti-Semitism.

          • good_in_theory

            Where did Judd say anything about Jews being the inventors of anti-Semitism? He picked out “the state,” not, “the state of Israel.”

          • Sean II

            Yes, you’re right. I just apologized to Judd for misreading him so badly.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            I’m not upset. I just think you’re an asshole. I live in New Jersey, so encountering people like you no longer gets me upset–I’m used to it.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            “The fodder used for anti-semitism” goes back way further than hundreds of years, and certainly includes the Qur’an, which contains verses about killing the Jews wherever you find them, etc. Did you forget about that, or was it just inconvenient to mention it in your rush to blame Christians, who are TODAY (not hundreds of years ago), the subject of widespread, murderous attack by Muslims in many Muslim-majority countries. If you think Muslim anti-semitism started in 1948, you are delusional.

          • good_in_theory

            Last I checked, the 7th century is hundreds of years ago. Also, I’m pretty sure it would be inapt to have said “thousands of years ago,” since neither what the Amorites, Midians, Canannites, citizens of Jericho and Ai &etc thought of the Israelites while they were being slaughtered by them in the name of YHWH, nor the Greco-Roman and Egyptian view of the Jews, seem particularly relevant to modern anti-Semitism. It being 2014 anno domini, it’s a bit of a stretch to break out “thousands.” Maybe in 3014.

            You’d have to be an idiot to infer that I think Muslim anti-semitism started in 1948.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Right, and you failed to mention the obvious anti-Semitism in the Qur’an because…? Or that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was an enthusiastic ally of Hitler, because…? Or the 1927 Hebron massacre, because…? Yes, the key point was whether it was many hundreds or thousands of years ago; yes, that is the key point. Also, I am delighted to hear that you accept the Bible as an accurate record of historical events, re: the Armorites, etc. No doubt then that you also believe in the literal truth of the Adam and Eve story. I think that’s great.

          • good_in_theory

            Because “the intensity and prevalence of anti-semitism in the Arab world aren’t historical constants.”

            Concluding sentence of the post. Not too hard to pick out. Thanks for picking out some examples of causes and effects of this variability in the 20th century.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You are absolutely right, and amazingly astute, Muslim and Arab anti-Semitism have varied over the last hundreds of years: they have wavered between rabidly anti-Semitic (“kill them all”) to just very nasty kind, so that they get fed up and flee the country. I’m really glad you offered me this brilliant insight, ’cause I would have been confused otherwise.

            It brings to mind Kissinger’s quip from the 1970s. Something like: the Arabs are hopelessly divided about how to treat the Jews. Half want to kill them all now, and half want to make peace at this point, so they can kill them all later.

            Still no explanation of why in the unsupported laundry list of “the fodder of anti-Semitism,” there was no mention of the Qur’an or that this might be a feature of Islam. I guess it just slipped your mind.

          • good_in_theory

            If holy books determined destiny I’d expect you to be a bigoted, bloodthirsty chauvinist. Which typically seems about right, so maybe there’s something to your ‘but what about the Koran’ bleating.

            I did not make a “laundry list” of the fodder of anti-Semitism. I identified Christianity as a particularly pernicious source of anti-Semitism. Christians did, after all, make Jewish deicide more or less a matter of doctrine before Islam even existed. And then they expelled the Jews from Europe in a series of 19th and 20th century pogroms culminating in the Shoah, sending many Jewish people into the project of political Zionism and – par for that course – the Arab world during that stretch of time.

            Immigrants with the “wrong” kind of culture settling in Arab political communities: a-ok. Immigrants with the “wrong” kind of culture settling in Mark Friedman’s community: call up INS and Homeland Security, they’re politically motivated thugs. Community determination of borders for Mark Friedman in 2014, but not the Muslim Arabs in 1918. Mark Friedman gets to determine the community boarders then too: whatever the British Empire will give him.

            The only “laundry list” I offered was my view of important forces in the political and social development of the Arab world in the late 19th through the 20th century. “The Koran” was not a development of the 19th and 20th centuries.

            Your account of the range of Muslim anti-Semitism in the 20th century is not relevant to the claim that in the 20th century, Muslim anti-Semitism developed contingently in response to various form of political instability and foreign political intervention.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I really don’t think you even read my comments, since most of what you say is irrelevant to the points I have tried to make. For example, long ago I tried to turn your attention to the anti-Semitism of TODAY, which seems much more relevant than your amateurish historical analysis. But, when the conversation doesn’t go your way, it is apparently easier for you to resort to personal invective and name calling, so I’m not going to continue further. But when you start saying crazy things about people, it just makes you look like a clown and the clear loser in any debate you might be having.

          • good_in_theory

            Sean suggested, as he is wont to suggest, that anti-semitism is an unavoidable, congenital defect of Islam and Muslims. This belief, and his intent to communicate it, is confirmed both by his past comments and his most recent ones. I was responding to that claim.

            Accordingly, attempting to turn the topic to “the anti-Semitism of TODAY” is a distraction. So it’s pretty simple. I am not responding to where you are trying to turn the discussion because I have no interest in having that discussion.

            You are typically quite interested in turning any discussion of Islam into your own account of “the anti-Semitism of TODAY.” I’m not interested in indulging you on that matter (too late, I suppose. But that goes both ways.)

          • judd

            Dude you totally misread my post. I wasn’t blaming Jews at all. I have no idea where you got any of this. I was saying that Muslim anti-Semitism is, to a considerable extent, a product of statist tyrannical governments which use Jew hatred to distract people from their oppression.
            I then said look at Muslims in North America. They are hardly philo-Semitic but you don’t hear a lot of “Hitler had it right.” It’s a relatively peaceful relationship. I’m quite sympathetic to Israel so yeah… read the post again.

          • Sean II

            Okay, I apologize. It’s an oft-heard cliche in libertarian circles that Israeli statism is the real cause of genocidal bloodlust among Muslim and Arabs, etc.

            I though you were adding your voice to that, but clearly I was wrong.

            I’m sorry.

            For what it’s worth, I still disagree with your comment on similar grounds: I believe Muslim and Arab Jew hating goes so deep, and so far back, it can’t be blamed on the state.

            The way it looks to me, guys like Nasser, Hussein, etc, didn’t spend political capital to push anti-Semitism, they gained from playing to the anti-Semitism that was always there.

          • judd

            Oh no for sure. I agree that it goes far back and that it is a sad but unavoidable fact that there’s a fair bit of anti-Israel lunacy among libertarians. What I’m suggesting is that state power is a major factor in making things worse. Look at levels of Muslim anti-Semitism in dictatorships and levels of Muslim anti-Semitism in liberal democracies. You still see considerable levels in the liberal democracies but it’s much, much better so that suggests that factors other than the Islamic religion play an important role.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Wow, you really can’t get anything right on this subject, can you? Whatever you touch, you fuck up.

            If Muslim Jew hating “goes so deep and so far back,” the FARTHEST back it can go is the text of the Quran. But the Quranic texts that are adverse to the Jews are all in the Medinian verses, precisely because the Medinian verses concern…how to put this…state building. Muslim rancor for the Jews arises in the context of Jewish refusal to support the Muslims against the Meccans in the Muslim state-building enterprise.

            Come on, you remember that from Islamic History 101, right? Muhammad’s clash with the Jewish tribes around Medina? Sorry, I guess those are loaded questions, since I can’t expect you to remember what you never fucking well knew in the first place. I have to keep reminding myself: this isn’t Plato’s Meno. It’s BHL.

          • Sean II

            Wait, wait, wait…you think Plato wrote good dialogue? Now that really is crazy.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            As I said, whatever you touch, you fuck up.

      • good_in_theory

        “Israel rightfully concludes that if it allowed open immigration from Muslim nations there would soon be a massive genocide of Jews in Israel .”

        Sort of like how Arabs rightfully concluded that if they allowed open immigration of Zionists they would lose political control over and be forcibly expunged by military force from Southern Syria. Good thing the area was under the control of a colonial power and they weren’t able to exercise popular control over their borders during the third, fourth, and fifth Aliyah. But hey, better European Jews with closed borders than Arab Muslims. The latter aren’t the right kind of people to be granted state autonomy, n’est-ce pas? Better to just elect a new people.

        Though they made have had less to fear if the US hadn’t been engaged in one of its bouts of xenophobia, clamping down on Jewish immigration despite successive pogroms and persecutions in Europe.

        “I wonder about a right to go anyplace you will regardless of the wishes of the people already there”

        It’s almost as if political communities have some sort of popular right to determine and influence the social and institutional structures which they inhabit and experience in common, through a representative intermediary, like a state. What would one call that? State-ism? Uh oh.

      • judd

        I’m not sure how it’s taken on the “proportions of a religion.” Jason Brennan, as well as other bloggers, seem to be moral pluralists of one type or another, conceding that certain considerations could outweigh the presumption in favor of open borders. The post above deals with a number of objections and finds them unpersuasive. It doesn’t go “Whether the world burns or not it doesn’t matter. Open borders all the way.”
        Your analogy just doesn’t work. There’s a huge difference between forcing somebody to hire you and refraining from using force to prevent peaceful people from coming to work and live in a place of their choosing. The two are not similar at all.
        I’m not sure why you’re so dismissive of the utilitarian argument here. Libertarians make utilitarian arguments all the time. One of the reasons most of us tend to be for free markets is that such a system will lead to everybody or almost everybody who wants to work being able to do so.

  • Sean II

    “Libertarians say that even if the first worry were true, it is not a strong enough concern to justify condemning the world’s poor to poverty, suffering, and death….Moreover, libertarians deny that immigrants destroy culture. First of all, immigrants add to culture. As economist Bryan Caplan points out, America’s cultural centers (such as New York City and Los Angeles) have high immigration. Its “cultural wastelands” (such as North and South Dakota, Alaska, and Alabama) have low immigration.”

    You’re misstating the argument. Libertarians like me who have grave doubts about open borders say something more like this:

    Most of the world is ideologically more statist than the United States. Allowing open borders here will, pretty much by definition, make this country ideologically more statist. Statism is the world’s leading cause of poverty, suffering, and death. What shall it benefit all these immigrants in the long run if the United States eventually becomes even more statist, and thus turns into leader in the output of poverty, suffering, and death?

    Also…while it’s true that the dining is better in New York and Los Angeles, it is also true that the culture in those places is dramatically more statist. If what you care about is a culture that sustains economic freedom and individualism, L.A. is for more of a wasteland than is North Dakota.

    Personally, I love a good piece of Tataki Tuna…but I love that a lot less than the idea that I have certain inalienable rights.

    • Jameson Graber

      Immigration does not necessarily have to be coupled with citizenship or the right to vote. So why should the political views of immigrants be so important to the core of the argument?

      • Sean II

        That’s pure romanticism. The idea that we’re going to let in several million people and succeed, for any length of time, in barring them from the franchise is politically unrealistic…to put it politely.

        And besides, since when do we believe that voting is the only or even the best way to influence policy? There are plenty of other means at the disposal of what – I think everyone admits – might be a very large group

        • Les Kyle Nearhood

          Worse than that, it is a recipe for ethnic and class conflict. In fact that is another argument against open borders which I do not see addressed. That if it leads to massive immigration, it could very well lead to ethnic, sectarian, and other conflict.

          • Sean II

            Indeed. As if our national neuroticism about matters of race and racism needed another aggravating factor.

            For whatever complicated reason, our culture is not presently capable of dealing with group differences in a grown-up way.

            It’s not like we could absorb a big wave of, say, Haitian immigrants, and then soberly face the fact that their children aren’t getting into Berkeley at a proportional rate.

            It’s not like people are gonna keep listening to Bryan Caplan THEN, as he patiently explains how wonderful it is that all those Haitians ended up as county club waiters, hotel linen girls, etc.

            Nope, we’ll have to do more of what we’ve been doing: finding and blaming scapegoats for an inequality whose causes no one much cares to investigate.

    • Sergio Méndez

      “Most of the world is ideologically more statist than the United States.
      Allowing open borders here will, pretty much by definition, make this
      country ideologically more statist.”

      For starters, how do you know that most of the world ideology is more statist than in the US? Based on what criteria and what data? Second, how do you know most of the people who inmigrate to the US actually have an statist ideology or even care for it, and not for more pragmatic stuff (like getting a jobe and feed their families)?

      • Sean II

        “For starters, how do you know that most of the world ideology is more statist than in the US?”

        Because they never stop telling us, that’s how.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Ehhh…What?

        • Sergio Méndez

          It is funny how preople who demand closed borders dare to call other “statists”.

    • David

      There’s something richly ironic about justifying one of the most straightfowardly “statist” acts of coercion imaginable as a rear-guard effort against “statism.”

      • Sean II

        Oh, we’ve been through this all before…

        Nobody’s denying that closed borders are coercive, statist, and all that. Certainly not me.

        The question is: are closed borders perhaps a lesser evil, if the alternative, twenty years from now, is having a U.S. Bolivarian party with the power to swing upwards of 120 electoral votes?

        Personally, I’m not sure…but to pretend the question doesn’t exist is childish.

        Especially here, on the blog where everyone’s favorite pastime is finding exceptions to deontic libertarian principles.

        Non-aggression is defeasible. Property rights are defeasible. Now there’s even a dude here who thinks the right to purchase health services is defeasible before the necessity of single payer.

        But somehow when it comes to open borders, everyone reverts to sunday-school level, no-questions-asked, no-exceptions-granted Kantianism. How very cute.

        • Jameson Graber

          Sean, you’re the one mischaracterizing the argument. OpenBorders.info states, “The term “open borders” is used to describe a world where there is astrong presumption in favor of allowing people to migrate and where this presumption can be overridden or curtailed only under exceptional circumstances.” Exceptional circumstances exist, and we can argue about them.

          The problem I have with people who are against open borders (and don’t act like you’re not in the majority here) is that they’re unwilling to start by facing the present reality and how bad it is. Families literally get separated over immigration law enforcement. And it’s terribly inconsistent. There are stories of people living and working and paying taxes in the US for decades, and then finally getting caught. Considering how draconian our current laws are–and they are inevitably draconian when you set the limits on immigration so small compared to the demands of the market–I think it’s time to go back to first principles and ask why we think free immigration is so bad in the first place.

          • Sean II

            First off, J.G., the folks around here are talking about a radical concept of open borders, which goes far beyond a mere presumption in favor of immigration.

            Second, I’m not worried about “exceptional circumstances”. I’m worried about the cultural and political tumult we might see even under the normal circumstances arising from open borders.

            And third, OF COURSE I know about the horror stories that arise from immigration enforcement. For what it’s worth, when someone says the word “douchebag”, the first image that pops into my head is an ICE agent dressed up in those dystopian black cargo pants. Fuck those guys, and their tactics.

            But…having said that…having partially closed borders with a deliberately light and lazy touch on the enforcement side and a little amnesty now and again (all of which I favor) is NOT the same thing as having open borders on principle.

          • Jameson Graber

            “the folks around here are talking about a radical concept of open borders”
            What concept is that, exactly?

          • Sean II

            As I explained already…the argument Brennan is making, and the arguments Caplan makes which many authors here quote and link approvingly…is a very straightforward plea that open borders are a moral imperative.

            Now its true that everyone usually throws in a “besides”, as in “besides…all the practical objections to this moral argument are wrong anyway.” But that doesn’t change the flavor of the main argument, which smacks strongly of moral absolutism.

          • Jameson Graber

            Absolutists change things. Abolitionists didn’t ultimately sway public opinion by saying, “Besides, slavery actually inhibits economic growth anyway.”

          • Sean II

            Well, that’s a weirdly utilitarian argument for absolutism: “Moral absolutism is good because it helps bring about messy moral pragmatism.”

            In the present case, I don’t give a damn what open border absolutists may change or not change. My concern is to point out that there are clearly conditions under which they are wrong.

            (The anti-chattel slavery absolutists were not wrong, so I like them just fine. Although in one sense, they weren’t really absolutist either. I wonder how many opposed the draft, or thought clearly enough to recognize that a 50% income tax is a lot like half-slavery, etc. Somehow I doubt it…)

          • Jameson Graber

            Upon seeing your use of the word “absolutist” here, I think my alternative defense of Caplan and the like would be that they are not moral absolutists as you accuse. “Open borders” doesn’t mean no borders. Immigration is not completely free movement: you have to sign forms, pay fees, obtain pieces of identification, etc. And especially when you see Caplan’s bargains in every argument he makes for open borders (see my other response), it’s hard to call him a real absolutist.

            I guess the question is just how grave an error you think it really is to keep people from immigrating. I don’t think it’s as bad as chattel slavery, but it’s pretty bad.

          • Sean II

            “I guess the question is just how grave an error you think it really is to keep people from immigrating. I don’t think it’s as bad as chattel slavery, but it’s pretty bad.”

            NO! NO! NO! That is NOT the only question. Of course it’s horrible and heart-breaking in every individual case, when people are stopped from immigrating. That much is not in dispute…at least not with me.

            The question is: if we prevent all those individual horror stories by opening the borders, might we end up with a horror story big enough for all?

            And since you like empirics, one place to keep watch on is modern South Africa. Not technically a case of immigration across international borders, but clearly a case of massive social inflow with sticky inequality, culture clash, tension. If you want an honest idea of what I fear, it looks a bit like that…plus 10 years.

          • Jameson Graber

            Your arguments just don’t strike me as libertarian. Pragmatic, maybe. Conservative, I would say. We haven’t tried it yet, so what if it doesn’t work?

            To me, the foundation of libertarianism is justice based on holding *individuals* responsible for their behavior. All of your arguments boil down to fear of what might happen when different *groups* collide. I just can’t see how that jives with the individualist notion of justice. Each individual story seems to me to be what really counts.

            Maybe you’re ultimately right–we can’t just one day open the borders and expect everything to turn out fine. But I’ll still continue to press people as far in that direction as possible. If they think I’m crazy, that’s fine. But it’s like Hayek explained in The Intellectuals and Socialism: give people a new utopianism, and eventually what’s considered moderate and acceptable will be much closer to what you think is right.

          • Sean II

            “Your arguments….strike me as….Conservative.”

            There’s no need for that sort of name-calling.

            Honestly, I don’t understand your confusion: I’m afraid that the idea of liberty is fragile, and that it might well be shattered by the inflow of millions raised in a variety of aggressively non-libertarian cultures.

            How is that NOT a libertarian thing to worry about?

          • Jameson Graber

            I don’t know whether a theory of how ideas are preserved is really a part of libertarianism. I guess I’d never really thought about it, but I would think that a more libertarian view would be that the ideals of liberty can hold their own. That is, once people taste liberty, they will believe in it.

            That’s certainly what Jefferson seemed to believe when he wrote this:

            “I lay before you the result of the census lately taken of our inhabitants, to a conformity with which we are now to reduce the ensuing ration of representation and taxation. You will perceive that the increase of numbers during the last 10 years, proceeding in geometric ratio, promises a duplication in little more than 22 years. We contemplate this rapid growth and the prospect it holds up to us, not with a view to the injuries it may enable us to do others in some future day, but to the settlement of the extensive country still remaining vacant within our limits to the multiplication of men susceptible of happiness, educated in the love of order, habituated to self-government, and valuing its blessings above all price.” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29443)

          • Sean II

            Forgive me for asking such questions, because it’s not really you with whom I have a problem, but can I get a basic intellectual honesty check here, and ask that your side at least concede the following points:

            a) Libertarianism is unpopular everywhere.

            b) Even more so, outside of (Northern) North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc.

            c) More people live outside of those places than in them.

            d) Allowing more people to enter the United States most likely means allowing more people from the less libertarian parts of the world, because that’s where the most people are.

            Can we at least get that far together?

          • Jameson Graber

            Yeah, absolutely. I see d) as a good thing, but I guess you don’t.

          • Sean II

            Okay, hang on…d) is a good thing for some of the people who make the trip, especially the first wave or two. That is something I happily grant to you.

            But what about:

            e) If enough people lugging non-libertarian attitudes from the world’s least-libertarian places arrive here in a short enough span of time, isn’t it just possible that the United States will become more like those places, and even less like the place we wish it to be?

            Do you deny THAT?

          • Jameson Graber

            I think e) is possible, but I can think of several reasons why it wouldn’t happen. One is that people from non-libertarian societies don’t necessarily have non-libertarian attitudes. Like most people, they might not really be all that interested in politics. They might not even vote if they get the chance (this describes a large proportion of US citizens). Or, and this doesn’t seem so unlikely, they’re actually pretty libertarian (with or without knowing it), and they would gladly flee their own country to live in the US for that reason.

            A second reason is that attitudes can change based on cultural interaction. If immigrants are coming, it’s because they can get jobs. We’re the ones giving them the jobs. Living and working in a new place is not just a meaningless transaction. It has an impact on how people think and interact with society.

            Incidentally, I believe that the more accepting we are of newcomers, the more likely they are to be receptive to our ideas. True, I don’t have an empirical study to back that up, but there’s some common sense to that idea, no?

            Now, again, I think e) is possible, but it would really take an extremely massive and extremely *fast* influx. But I’m not so convinced that everyone would just come all at once. Most people need some really compelling reason to leave their homes. Even if you live in a pretty crappy place, you’ll stick it out until it’s really unbearable, and even then you’ll probably prefer going somewhere where you already have friends or family. And, by the way, people who already have friends or family in the US are for that reason more likely to adapt to the culture.

          • Sean II

            “Incidentally, I believe that the more accepting we are of newcomers, the more likely they are to be receptive to our ideas. True, I don’t have an empirical study to back that up, but there’s some common sense to that idea, no?”

            On the contrary, that’s actually a very strange idea, for it assumes tolerance, openness, and reciprocity are already among the newcomer’s values.

            Who ever said they are? What if the newcomers see tolerance as moral cowardice, openness as a depraved lack of standards, kindness as weakness, etc.

            Britain has more than a few young Muslim men who see it just that way…

          • Jameson Graber

            Here I’m in total disagreement. I think you’re using a minority to judge the whole, and I don’t think you can prove that it’s primarily a question of *prior* difference in values. France has similar issues to deal with concerning the Muslim population, and listening to discussions here reveals a lot of prejudice, fear, and nationalism. But the large majority of the Muslim population does want tolerance (and they would like to be tolerated in return).

            I think in general tolerance is learned and welcomed once it is learned. People who start with certain values may change (for better or for worse) as a function of the social dynamics surrounding them. In any case, keeping people out *surely* will not make them more tolerant. Letting them in will likely let them become more prosperous and therefore, if you believe certain social theories, make them more tolerant.

            I’m trying hard not to be outright disgusted by your comments here, but I really do find it unnerving the way arguments against immigration so quickly become overt attacks on certain racial groups or religions. It only reinforces my suspicion that anti-immigrant arguments are, at bottom, motivated by some of our baser instincts.

          • Sean II

            Let me spare you the effort of restraint: I am most definitely worried about certain ethnic and religious groups. I’ve been honest enough about that, haven’t I?

            It’s melodramatic as hell for you to call that “attacking” such groups, but have it as you like.

            I would gladly open the border completely to East Asian immigration. I’d do that tomorrow morning, if I could.

            Why that group and not others? Well, for one thing…East Asian religious fanatics are pretty hard to come by. What am I supposed to do, not notice that?

            You are a serious man, JG, but if you think it’s possible or even desirable to go through life without distinguishing between groups of people, and without inevitably liking the company of some groups more than others, I’m afraid that is a very unserious opinion.

            I, for example, generally prefer libertarians to conservatives, and in turn prefer conservatives to leftists…not without exception. I generally prefer atheists to religious believers of all stripes, and yet I strongly prefer Jews and Buddhists to Christians, and all three to Muslims…also not without exception.

            Does that disgust you? Why should it?

          • Jameson Graber

            Distinguishing different groups can happen on many different levels. In this case, it’s not melodramatic to call it “attacking” because immigration restrictions involve force. If you would open your borders to some groups but not others based on statistical differences, you’re not respecting individual rights, and you’re using violence to reinforce those differences.

            Yeah, that’s pretty disgusting.

          • Sean II

            Only if you assume what is in dispute. I’ve never claimed that immigration restrictions are not violent.

            I’ve always claimed, and never claimed more than this: that there may be cases where immigration restrictions are justified precisely because they prevent even greater violence in the long run.

            The State of Israel is my knock-down example, to prove at least that the concept is possible.

            If, in the name of preventing a second holocaust, that country can’t close its borders to a group of people filled with racial and religious hatred for Jews…then something has gone terribly wrong.

            Under that circumstance it is I who have grounds to be disgusted with you.

          • Jameson Graber

            But “open borders” doesn’t even mean the same thing in that context. Building walls to prevent invasion is one thing. Denying immigration applications is something different. Israel wanting to prevent terrorists from hopping across the border and attacking is perfectly understandable. But I don’t think Israel would be justified in turning down an immigration application just because someone is named Mohammed.

          • Sean II

            “But I don’t think Israel would be justified in turning down an immigration application just because someone is named Mohammed.”

            I do. A couple million Mohammeds here, a couple million Mohammedans there, pretty soon we’re talking real Jew-icide. Again.

            Many things, including some not nice things, are justified in order to prevent that.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Really? I certainly do. For thousands of years Jews have been persecuted and murdered for the “crime” of being Jewish. Not for having dissenting political views or looking different, but for being Jewish. The raison d’etre for the state of Israel is to provide one tiny little place on the face of the globe where this won’t happen. And, to provide a safe haven if persecution gets too intense elsewhere. Open borders would obliterate this purpose. You are a smart fellow, so it amazes me that you miss this obvious point.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            JG:
            You say: “But the large majority of the Muslim population does want tolerance (and they would like to be tolerated in return).” This is something about which we actually have useful data. The Pew Research Center did face to face polling of 38,000 Muslims around the world. The results are presented here: Pew Research Center, “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” April 30, 2013,
            http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/.

            You are a smart guy, and can analyze the data, and reach your own conclusions. However, I daresay it does not support your rather optimistic conclusion. For example, there is majority support for sharia law as the law of the land, and a substantial amount of support (although a minority) for imposing sharia on non-Muslims. There is also quite substantial support for executing those who leave Islam (in some countries a majority of the population).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            JG:
            You say: “But the large majority of the Muslim population does want tolerance (and they would like to be tolerated in return).” This is something about which we actually have useful data. The Pew Research Center did face to face polling of 38,000 Muslims around the world. The results are presented here: Pew Research Center, “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” April 30, 2013,
            http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/.

            You are a smart guy, and can analyze the data, and reach your own conclusions. However, I daresay it does not support your rather optimistic conclusion. For example, there is majority support for sharia law as the law of the land, and a substantial amount of support (although a minority) for imposing sharia on non-Muslims. There is also quite substantial support for executing those who leave Islam (in some countries a majority of the population).

          • Jameson Graber

            I don’t see why cultural and political tumult would be so much worse under open borders now than it was when we first had (mostly) open borders. Most immigrants who would actually want to leave their countries to come to the US would probably adapt just fine, because they’re not much different from the immigrants who already *do* come (and are lucky enough not to have to go back). And I honestly don’t even understand the argument that immigrants would have so much political influence that they would change our country to a statist regime on the order of…well, what exactly?

            Most people who live under harsh regimes don’t have any influence over that regime to begin with, which is part of the reason why it’s so harsh. So I fail to see why, coming to the US, they would try to remake the country in the image of their own.

          • Sean II

            “I don’t see why cultural and political tumult would be so much worse under open borders now than it was when we first had (mostly) open borders.”

            A reasonable point, which occurred to me yesterday. My answer may strike you as grotesque, but here it is: in 1890 the inflow came from different groups, and hence there is at least a prima facie case for expecting different results if we tried it again today.

            That, plus the oft-noted minor point that in 1890 we didn’t have a welfare state, and so put off a very different incentive than the one which exists today.

            If we had to recarve the inscription now, it would say “give me your huddled masses…yearning for an informal guarantee of proportional representation in state and local government sinecures!”

          • Jameson Graber

            These are concerns about empirical behavior that Caplan has addressed directly. Surely you’re not so put off by his moral absolutism that you dismiss those arguments.

            But notice that Caplan also makes the bargaining plea at each of these objections: surely there is a less severe measure than forbidding immigration that would solve the problem suggested. That’s part of the deal: an open borders advocate is also implicitly trying to put welfare in perspective, and prove to Westerners that their devotion to the welfare state isn’t as righteous as they pretend.

          • Sean II

            Forgive me if I repeat myself from elsewhere in this thread:

            1) Caplan uses data derived from present immigration to predict what would happen in an open borders scenario. Bullshit. The whole point of open borders is that it would massively change immigration. Thus, the data we have today under closed borders is not terribly useful for telling what the data would look like tomorrow, under open ones.

            What if I said to you “We’ve been giving this patient X quantity of ephedrine and look, he’s NEVER had a stroke. Ergo, it follows that we can give him ANY quantity of ephedrine and he won’t have a stroke.” Would you have any trouble recognizing the flaw in that argument, JG? Okay, good…now please be fair and extend the same rigor to Bryan Caplan’s identically structured argument.

            2) It is politically unrealistic to imagine that our culture could tolerate a big disenfranchised underclass for any length of time. Such classes are a reliable cause of instability in politics, perhaps all the more so when they can’t vote.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            It is amazing how many people loose sight of the point you make in the first para. Having a large infrastructure of emigrant cultural institutions already in place in the destination country will make a huge differencde in the willingness to assimilate a new cultrual perspective. When the massive Jewish immigrant wave came here at the end of the 19th century, there was no Orthodox infrsatructure in place, so in one or two generations, everyone became Conservative, Reform or unaffiliated.

          • Sean II

            Hence the old joke…

            Q: How did the Rabbi get rid of that homeless man who kept breaking in at night to sleep under the bima?

            A: He used a proven strategy for keeping people away from the synagogue. He threw the bum a bar mitzvah, and whaddya know, we never saw him again.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I have indeed heard that joke, but in the guise of how the Rabbi got rid of a mice infestation. You guessed it, he bar mitzvahed them.

    • judd

      Statism to fight statism… oh that doesn’t go down well at all. Placing millions of innocents in a prison of poverty, arresting peaceful people who just want to work, separating families, all of it backed by organized state violence strikes me as a far worse sort of statism than LA and NY’s high tax rates. Given all of this, there are good rights based and consequentialist reasons for favoring open borders despite the risk that become more statist in some areas.
      I would also note that some pretty statist states don’t have many immigrants at all whereas somewhat less statist ones, on economics anyway, do (Texas anybody?). That brings me one to one last point: last time I checked we libertarians are supposed to care about both economic and personal freedom yet, in praising North Dakota, you only mention economic freedom. Good thing since according to Mercatus’ Freedom in the 50 states it is ranked 20 on personal freedom and that’s a highly, highly conservative leaning ranking which does not include reproductive freedom and weights the measures of personal freedom heavily towards issues we agree with the Right on like gun rights.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Is funny how people like Sean call inmigrants, without proof or evidence, statists, while at the same time the locals in the US have proven how statists they actually are, voting over and over democrat or republican in every election, supporting and tolerating all sorts of statists policies, from welfare to state survelleince of the populace in the name of “security”, from having the larger military on earth (spread around all the continents in the glove and continiously invading other countries) to the growing police state inside the US. They got some nerve!

        • judd

          Amen.

        • good_in_theory

          What else can you expect from a ‘nation of immigrants?’

          • Sean II

            Funny.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Right….native Americans didn´t have states, after all. All anglo saxons and europeans should be shipped back ASAP!

          • Sergio Méndez

            Right….native Americans didn´t have states, after all. All anglo saxons and europeans should be shipped back ASAP!

      • Sean II

        Let me save you the trouble:

        Yes, you’re godamn right, I am suggesting that one statist measure – partially closed borders – may be necessary to prevent a general rise in statism.

        If you think that’s all it takes to answer me, then please…enjoy the bliss which so famously comes of that condition.

        • Michael J. Green

          Sure, it may be necessary. And how are we to get to a more definite position? How can we know, or feel confident enough in our probabilities to make a decision either way? Is our only option to keep the borders closed as we talk forever and ever about what may happen? How seriously do you take this objection when it’s offered by drug warriors, conservatives against prostitution, neoconservatives who want to maintain an active military presence around the world, etc?

          I agree that it’s disingenuous to just wave these objections away. Of course there’s the risk that there will be massive immigration and change in culture to cause an even greater loss in liberty. But the holes in this objection – how reminiscent it is of 19th century concerns that did not bear significant fruit, how statist Americans are themselves, the relevant demographics of the US today (we’re not Israel or South Africa), the opportunities for assimilation, the possible self-selection bias of liberty-loving immigrants over authoritarian ones – are large enough that it is tempting to shrug it off. Because again, what is the alternative? I don’t know if the discourse can substantively rise above, “Pfft, nuh-uh.”

          • Sean II

            “I agree that it’s disingenuous to just wave these objections away. Of course there’s the risk that there will be massive immigration and change in culture to cause an even greater loss in liberty.”

            There…you’ve said the most important thing, really the one thing I think it fair to absolutely demand from my opponents.

            So I think it’s more likely, you think it’s less likely…okay. But at least neither of us is pretending it just completely impossible, or that it doesn’t matter.

            And perhaps you’d go a step further: perhaps you’d admit that if the evidence became available after, say, a year of open borders, you’d be willing to tolerate some restrictions?

            Because if you just admit that, it puts you well ahead of everyone else who nows runs around implying they would leave the border open on deductive moral logic, come what may.

        • judd

          But I did address this argument. I put forth the view that immigration restrictions, in terms of there scope and severity, are a lot more liberty constraining than any likely increase in statism brought about threw open borders.
          Seems to me that having government agents bust into your home and throw you in cell for the horrible crime of engaging in mutually beneficial trade, or preventing you from coming in the first place, is worse than California’s tax rates.

          • Sean II

            Give California a little time, and we’ll see what’s worse than its tax rates. You may be surprised.

            In any case you’re not balancing the scales properly.

            On one side is all the people who want to come here but cannot because of a coercive statist border. That’s a big moral sum, no doubt.

            But on the other side is the possibility that the idea of liberty itself might become homeless. That’s an even bigger sum, by my count.

            I’m not trying to sound romantic here, but the fact remains: the U.S. is planet earth’s version of New Hampshire. This is the place where the most libertarians are, and this is the place with the highest percentage of libertarians.

          • judd

            I’m second to none in favoring low taxes but I do think we sometimes overstate their adverse effects. The reality is that CA is still many people’s dream state even though states like North Dakota have a far superior tax and regulatory climate. What CA shows is that liberals are actually right when they say tax rates are far from everything and that people will put up with high taxes given other factors (warm weather, beautiful beaches, great food and cultural offerings). In other words: positive liberty matters. Now of course CA can cut taxes dramatically and be even better off but it’s not like high tax rates have turned it into hell.
            Ah I don’t know about that on two levels (a) just because people come here as statists does not mean they will stay statist. (b) I really wonder if we really have that many libertarians. From mass surveillance to rampant corporatism to Medicare we sure seem to be a land filled with statists. We do spend less on social services but there’s compelling evidence that this is largely attributable to the fact that we have large minority populations. On drugs, reproductive choice, and gay rights, other countries are quite a bit more libertarian. So it’s not so clear cut.

          • Sean II

            I never said, and would never say, that we have the most libertarian policy environment…or to be more concise, the most liberty.

            But we do have the most libertarians. That’s one of those thing that’s so obvious – look at the nationality distribution on this and every other libertarian board – I will not stoop to try and prove it.

            As to your contention that the U.S. is not a Swedish welfare state only, you know, BECAUSE RACISM!…I urge you to rethink. One of the things I like about Americans – in their crude, nuance-free way, of course – is the fact that they are unabashedly judgmental of able-bodied men on the dole.

            You can see this captured in that most American of epithets: loser. That term clearly suggests that, even after taking luck and other things into account, people should generally be held responsible for their condition in life. It has nothing to do with race.

          • judd

            I really don’t know about that. Look at the success of a party like the Free Democrats in Germany. In the UK, there’s a lot more fiscally conservative and socially liberal figures in the Conservative Party than in the Republican Party here. The Liberal Democrats also have a number of libertarian leaning party members.
            That’s a pretty wild simplification of what I said. I said “largely attributable.” I didn’t say “because racism.”
            This narrative of “we just value hard work and hate indolence more” is really quite wishful thinking, for the most part that is as I do think there is some truth to what you say but looking at the history of welfare in this country and saying race is a minor or non-existent factor in attitudes is spectacularly unpersuasive, even more unpersuasive than the whole Krugman narrative of “the only reason we don’t have the policies I want is because of racists.”

          • good_in_theory

            When has Krugman ever said the sole obstacle to his policy preferences are racists?

          • Sean II

            Okay, the FDP is a decent example, but I can’t accept the Tories.

            But just for fun, let’s say you won that argument. Let’s say you convinced me that Germany and the UK and the US are all about equally libertarian. Cool.

            But guess what? They’re all still more libertarian than Turkey, Pakistan, and Mexico…so the idea of blending populations, respectively, still runs the risk of making the more libertarian places on earth less so. Since that is my whole worry here, I don’t feel any better about open borders than I did five minutes ago.

            As to the other point, I say the burden of proof is yours: find me a time when Americans broadly supported a dole for able-bodied men. Feel free to search only in the whitest corners, so as to control for racism.

  • Jameson Graber

    Thanks for this post. I am totally with you on the deontological argument, and I think this is one of the major moral issues of our time.

    On the cost-benefit analysis, I’m hesitant about the line, “You need the expected costs to be around 70 trillion dollars.” Doesn’t that estimate come from a hypothetical world in which *all* nations (at least developed ones) opened up their borders? So that means if one nation, say the US, opens up its borders, you could have a free rider problem: the world benefits, but the US suffers more consequences proportionally than others. I’m not sure if anyone has looked at this as a prisoner’s dilemma, but that may be how it’s perceived on the level of national governments.

    I doubt it really is a prisoner’s dilemma, because I think if the US opened its borders, even if no one else did, we would still have a net benefit. After all, we have already had practically open borders. That’s what’s so frustrating about US opposition to open borders. We’re the world’s greatest example of why free immigration is awesome, yet we oppose it.

    • Al Bundy

      I always thought a good way for a country to push for open borders worldwide would be a quid pro quo system:

      Libertopia hereby announces that we will allow the free immigration of citizens of any country that does the same for our own. Spain will let Libertopians live and work there freely? Great, the Spanish are welcome here. Portugal won’t? Sorry, no Portuguese (by citizenship, not blood) allowed.

      Of course, that sucks for the Portuguese. But it’s an impetus for those that want to emmigrate to Libertopia (or want Libertopians to come to Portugal) to fight for policy change at home.

      • Michael J. Green

        What does this benefit the governments? Why would Spain be willing to open its borders to the US, if it anticipates losing a bunch of young tax payers?

  • Irfan Khawaja

    “Open borders would cause massive political instability. Seems legit to me. After all, as we learned in high school, open borders caused the American civil war. But in all seriousness, I’ve seen this objection asserted, but rarely defended. So I don’t feel much need to refute it.”

    The objection is that open borders could cause instability under certain conditions, not that they invariably would do so under any and all conditions. So the objection is that the relevant instability-causing conditions are a defeater for open borders.

    It’s not clear what part of the objection you’re disputing–the causal question of whether open borders could in fact cause massive instability, or the normative question of whether or not causing it is a defeater for an open border policy.

    As a methodological point, it’s also not clear why an objection should need to be “defended” in order to be taken seriously or require a response. Imagine that you’re giving a paper at a conference and someone raises an objection in the Q&A. Special cases aside, it wouldn’t be legitimate to demand that the questioner offer a full-blown “defense” of his question before you agreed to answer it.

    Brennan: So I conclude that p is the case.
    Questioner: But isn’t q an objection to p?
    Brennan: I can’t take that question seriously. You haven’t demonstrated that q. So I’m afraid I don’t feel much of a need to respond to you.
    Questioner: How did I assume the burden of proof when you’re the one giving the paper?

    If I were moderating the session, I’d think it more obvious to ask the presenter for a defense of his procedure than the questioner for a defense of his question.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    I have previously outlined what I believe is a reasonable rights-based case against open borders, so I will deal here only with the $70 trillion alleged benefit. The basic economic logic of this claim is that you take the existing political economies of advanced nations add to it a ton of really cheap labor, and you can thereby produce really cheap stuff. This advantages all in the manner of free trade. But the basic assumption is shaky, that is that adding the ton of cheap third-world labor leaves the existing political economies in place.

    I would think it relatively uncontroversial among libertarians that the main reason the first world is rich compared to the third is that we have to a greater extent embraced the rule of law, including property rights. Would this survive a massive influx of workers with a much different cultural background. Well, I don’t know, but I do know that according to the Michael Clemens 2011 paper that I believe everyone is relying on (in the Journal of Economic Perspectives), the $70 trillion benefit only exists if at least half of the population of the world’s poor nations migrate:

    In the studies of Table 1, the gains from complete elimination of migration barriers are only realized with epic movements of people—at least half the population of poor countries would need to move to rich countries.
    http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.25.3.83

    Would the U.S. or German political economy remain the same if our populations doubled in relatively short order? Call me crazy, but I think reasonable people can doubt it.

  • David

    As a non-libertarian who imagines himself concerned about social justice, I wholeheartedly agree with this:

    If you aren’t in favor of open borders, it’s not clear you get to count as an advocate of social justice

    I do think the 4th objection is a bit stronger, and requires more by way of response than you offer, but it’s nowhere near strong enough to tilt the scales. That Huemer essay, along with some chapters from Carens’ new book, were instrumental in my getting my students to take the open borders position seriously, or at least more seriously than any of my previous attempts to do so.

  • Paul Crider

    In my view, the strongest argument against open borders related to political instability is the so-called “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” problem, and specifically, the version of the argument that is concerned with different cultural characteristics of different groups. I discuss it here: http://openborders.info/blog/grappling-with-the-goose/

  • Paul Crider

    In my view, the strongest argument against open borders related to political instability is the so-called “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” problem, and specifically, the version of the argument that is concerned with different cultural characteristics of different groups. I discuss it here: http://openborders.info/blog/grappling-with-the-goose/

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    “If you aren’t in favor of open borders, it’s not clear you get to count as an advocate of social justice.” I consider this a feature and not a bug of being against open borders.

  • J-Lib

    I understand the visceral attraction to open borderIsm and I agree with some of the arguments, but with caveats. I think it’s a misplaced priority (many things should occur before throwing open the borders) and that it lends itself to use by disingenuous interests — and indeed must, until we get some fundamental economic policy issues worked out.

    I also don’t equate open borders with liberty; it could be argued that where a culture of liberty exists, a border is an essential part of protecting it.  You can’t preserve freedom while importing millions of people who have no idea what freedom even means. (we have enough such people among the native-born population as it is.)

    Back to mixed-up priorities. How are you going to abolish an allegedly oppressive law for noncitizens, but not for me, a born citizen? 

    How are you going to let Mexicans and others come in and be essentially impervious to law while I get busted for walking crooked down the street or for not carrying MY papers as I travel in my motorized conveyance?

    Either abolish government for every one or for no one. Don’t set up privileged groups.

    Either throw open the door to every one from everywhere, or close it to every one from everywhere. (or at least, if restrictions are to continue, use a lottery system.)

    No partiality. No selective anarchism. No open borders, driver’s licenses, “sanctuaries” and other privileges for some simply because they enter via a contiguous land border with the States (and are numerically powerful and well organized and protected by a powerful religious organization to boot) while rigorous restrictions remain in place for others simply because they are separated from us by an ocean. 

    Latin Americans do well not only due to geography but because they are 1) seen as prospective Democratic voters, and 2) the majority are adherents to a powerful “religious” org that is also a foreign state, which has no problem selectively abrogating duly enacted civil law for the benefit of its own.
    That org in the US is circling the drain — helped along by its rampant pedophilia and corrupt and illegal cover-up of same — and needs a constant  infusion of new bodies to retain its clout. Hence, the head-scratcher of such alleged opponents as Paul Ryan and Lawless Luis Guitierrez teaming up together for their version of “reform.”.

    The mania for open borders also serves as a distraction from policies that could actually help Mexicans and Guatemalans stay in Mexico and Guatemala, as the vast majority of them would rather do but for the messed-up situation at home.

    • J-Lib

      And I’d definitely like to help Canadians stay in Canada.

  • tom

    One of the issues is that there is a big push to make the newcomers citizens and vote Democrat, disrupting our political system. Similarly it will cause rents to rise. Likewise younger people won’t get access to the types of starter jobs that many start out with.

    Plus this whole idea it won’t depress wages sound spurious. As example in California most of the building industry at the labor level is done by Hispanics. White people largely got pushed out of the field a number of years ago.

    Issue with smaller countries like Greece is that Turkey will just load up the Greek islands with Turks and then ethnically cleanse the Greeks. So much for being nice. Some could say that the interests of the Greeks don’t matter. But certainly they do matter to the Greeks.

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