The Moral Case For Open Borders

by Jonah Shepp

Marking Open Borders Day yesterday, Ilya Somin argues for liberalizing immigration policy:

Hundreds of millions of people live in countries where their probable fate is a life of poverty and oppression. Many of them could escape that terrible fate if only First World governments would allow them to immigrate. Economist Michael Clemens estimates that the economic gains from worldwide open borders are large enough to double world GDP. Enormous numbers of people currently live in poverty not because they are unable to be productive workers, but merely because they are forcibly prevented from working for First World employers who would be willing to hire them. In addition to harming potential migrants, these restrictions also inflict losses on First world employers, landlords, and consumers who would like to hire immigrants, rent to them, or purchase goods and services they produce.

But the benefits of open borders go far beyond purely material gains, great as they are.

Many potential migrants are also trapped in societies where they are denied basic human rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and private property. Many of the women among them reside in societies with severe gender-based oppression and discrimination. For hundreds of millions of people living in undemocratic societies, emigration is their only realistically feasible way to exercise political freedom – the right to choose what kind of government they wish to live under.

Bryan Caplan takes a critical look at the arguments against immigration:

Most arguments for immigration restriction are equally good arguments for government regulation of natives’ fertility.  But I see that almost everyone favors immigration restrictions, and almost no one favors fertility restrictions.

I see that almost everything immigrants do makes their critics angry.  The critics are angry when immigrants work, and angry when they’re on welfare.  The critics are angry if immigrants are visible, and angry if immigrants keep to themselves.  The critics are angry if immigrants increase housing prices and angry if immigrants reduce housing prices.