Thoughts on the idea of open borders?

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Futurist

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May 2014
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What are your thoughts on the idea of open borders? Personally, I am rather wary of this idea since it's far from clear that the newcomers are actually going to fully assimilate into the life of their new countries. In other words, it's possible that gaps in average IQ, political attitudes (such as in regards to economic freedom and/or the proper role of government), social attitudes, et cetera could exist/remain even for the second generation of immigrants or beyond.

However, this debate isn't completely clear-cut for me. After all, if it's permissible for countries to, say, prevent people with a low IQ from moving into certain countries, why is it not likewise acceptable for, say, low-IQ countries to impose emigration restrictions in order to prevent their relatively small number of high-IQ people from leaving these countries and moving to greener pastures? Indeed, why exactly are immigration restrictions viewed much more positively than emigration restrictions are viewed? For instance, here's another scenario. AFAIK, Israel considers it perfectly acceptable to prohibit people from moving there simply because they are not Jewish or lack close Jewish family ties. Israel justifies this policy by claiming that it needs to preserve its Jewish majority. However, Israelis would probably balk at a hypothetical Israeli policy that prohibited Israeli Jews from emigrating and moving to other countries even though the logic behind such a proposal would have been the same as for Israel's immigration restrictions--specifically, the need to preserve a Jewish majority in Israel. (After all, having Israeli Jews emigrate and move to other countries would mean that there would be less Jews in Israel than there would have otherwise been.) Why exactly is this the case? I mean, in both cases a national government uses coercive means (force) in order to achieve a desired policy goal of its.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this and on the distinction between these different cases?
 

Fox

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,937
Korea
However, this debate isn't completely clear-cut for me. After all, if it's permissible for countries to, say, prevent people with a low IQ from moving into certain countries, why is it not likewise acceptable for, say, low-IQ countries to impose emigration restrictions in order to prevent their relatively small number of high-IQ people from leaving these countries and moving to greener pastures? Indeed, why exactly are immigration restrictions viewed much more positively than emigration restrictions are viewed?
The former is the equivalent of refusing to let someone into your home. The latter is the equivalent of locking someone up in your home. Are those two things comparable in character? If not, then refusing to let a person immigrate to your country is also not comparable to refusing to let a person emigrate from your country.

As for open borders more generally, any country that wishes to open its borders is welcome to do so, and it will reap both the benefits and downsides of that policy in the long term. There will probably be some ostensible benefits (especially in terms of the introduction of cheap labor), there will probably be some ostensible downsides (decreased social cohesion), and in both cases, the benefits or downsides will apply unevenly (cheap labor, for example, might be a benefit to the broader economy while actually negatively impacting some members of the working class, and decreased social cohesion, while it might negatively impact the nation on a broad scale in socio-political terms, might offer some opportunities for people to pursue policy ends which they desired, but would never have been able to obtain in a more cohesive society). It would be interesting to watch such an experiment play out.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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The former is the equivalent of refusing to let someone into your home.
For what it's worth, this Ilya Somin article and the response to it by Steve Sailer might be of interest to you:

Ilya Somin on \

What are your thoughts on this?

The latter is the equivalent of locking someone up in your home.
Don't you mean in their home? As in, with it being comparable to house arrest?

Are those two things comparable in character? If not, then refusing to let a person immigrate to your country is also not comparable to refusing to let a person emigrate from your country.
Yeah, after writing that I've thought about this a bit more and concluded that preventing a person from immigrating someone closes off one potential destination for that person whereas preventing a person from emigrating closes off all potential destinations for that person. Thus, the latter is certainly much worse than the former is.

Of course, what about comparing restrictions to internal migration with restrictions on immigration? As in, not requiring people to stay in the part of the country that they currently live, but nevertheless making certain parts of the country (such as certain cities and metropolitan areas) inaccessible to them?

As for open borders more generally, any country that wishes to open its borders is welcome to do so, and it will reap both the benefits and downsides of that policy in the long term. There will probably be some ostensible benefits (especially in terms of the introduction of cheap labor), there will probably be some ostensible downsides (decreased social cohesion), and in both cases, the benefits or downsides will apply unevenly (cheap labor, for example, might be a benefit to the broader economy while actually negatively impacting some members of the working class, and decreased social cohesion, while it might negatively impact the nation on a broad scale in socio-political terms, might offer some opportunities for people to pursue policy ends which they desired, but would never have been able to obtain in a more cohesive society). It would be interesting to watch such an experiment play out.
Completely agreed with your analysis here. Also, open borders could delay/retard the development of labor-saving technologies, no? After all, if there will be a much larger labor force, then there will also be much less need to develop labor-saving technologies, no?
 

Fox

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,937
Korea
Don't you mean in their home? As in, with it being comparable to house arrest?
If you are preventing someone from leaving your country (an emigration ban), it is also your home. But yes, you could say "their home" and it would have the same meaning.

Of course, what about comparing restrictions to internal migration with restrictions on immigration? As in, not requiring people to stay in the part of the country that they currently live, but nevertheless making certain parts of the country (such as certain cities and metropolitan areas) inaccessible to them?
China essentially does this to some extent through their Hukou, do they not? It might make sense in high population countries or in highly-federated countries, where the local populace of a given region might be comparable to a "country" in its own right either in terms of scale or in terms of unique characteristics.

Completely agreed with your analysis here. Also, open borders could delay/retard the development of labor-saving technologies, no? After all, if there will be a much larger labor force, then there will also be much less need to develop labor-saving technologies, no?
It seems like that could be a possible outcome, yes. Likewise, open borders could have impacts on programs like welfare, public education, basic income, national pensions, and so forth, which to some extent rely on a sense of community to incentivize the wealth transfers. Moreover, if the country adopting open borders is a high emissions country, such as the United States of America, then incentivizing an influx of new residents through open borders could result in a net increase in global emissions, if one is concerned about climate change.
 
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Fox

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
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Korea
For what it's worth, this Ilya Somin article and the response to it by Steve Sailer might be of interest to you:

Ilya Somin on \

What are your thoughts on this?
Why a nation is not like a house or a club – and why the difference matters for debates over immigration
By Ilya Somin
August 6, 2017

If you follow debates over immigration, it is hard to avoid arguments for restrictionism that analogize a nation to a house or a club. Such claims are ubiquitous in public debate, and are sometimes advanced by professional political philosophers as well. The intuition behind these analogies is simple: As a homeowner, I generally have the right to exclude whoever I want from my property. I don’t even have to have a good justification for the exclusion. I can choose to bar you from my home for virtually any reason I want, or even just no reason at all. Similarly, a nation has the right to bar foreigners from its land for almost any reason it wants, or perhaps even for no reason at all. All it is doing is exercising its property rights, much like the homeowner who bars strangers from entering her house. In the words of a leading academic defender of this theory, “My right to freedom of movement does not entitle me to enter your house without your permission… so why think that this right gives me a valid claim to enter a foreign country without that country’s permission?”…

Many people find the house and club analogies to be intuitively appealing. But they quickly fall apart under scrutiny.

The house analogy appeals to the notion of property rights. But, as Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan points out, it actually ends up undermining private property rights rather than upholding them:

When we close borders, we aren’t doing the same thing as putting fences around our houses. Suppose there is a neighborhood made up of 10 landowners. 8 out of 10 of them vote to keep out all foreigners. 1 out of 10, Larry, votes to let them in because he wants to rent his house to them. 1 of them votes to let them in because he’s a decent human being, but he doesn’t himself plan to rent his house. When the 8 put up a fence around the neighborhood, they don’t merely keep immigrants off their own property. Rather, they keep the immigrants off Larry’s property, against his will.

Far from protecting property rights, immigration restrictions abrogate the rights of property owners who want to rent their property to the excluded migrants, associate with them, or employ them on their land. This is an interesting result, given that many immigration restrictionists are also conservatives who strongly support private property rights in other contexts.
Well, my first thought regarding what Mr. Somin has to say here is that my comparison was not intended to invoke property rights per se. Property rights are a model we use to grapple with certain distribution issues, but I want to suggest that our conception of "home" -- of a space in which an individual or family may safely reside with an expectation of isolation -- precedes the model of property rights, and moreover, precedes it so fundamentally that it is one of the factors we use to justify that model. When I suggest a place is my home, I am doing more than saying, "Well look, my name is on this deed, meaning legally, I own it." Rather, I am suggesting that I have a certain relationship with the place in question. We can see this is true by acknowledging that not all people have legal property rights over the place they consider to be their home. It seems to me that Mr. Somin is so wrapped up in being clever here that he's forgotten the fundaments of the matter. I do not blame him for this, because much of western civilization has done the same. When I suggest that a country can be likened to one's house, then (which I'm using interchangeably with "home" here, something I hope is clear), I'm less suggesting, "Property rights are some sort of fundamental truth," than, "A group of people which considers itself a nation asserts a relationship with a certain territory, much in the same way that an individual or family might assert such a relationship with a house, so we should not be surprised when they wish to treat the former similarly to the way in which they treat the latter." One might legitimately insist that any particular assertion of that sort is invalid -- territorial disputes do occur, after all, as does separatist sentiment -- but such an objection would have to take a more fundamental form.

Beyond that, Mr. Somin's case has a further problem: he has taken the comparison between a country and a home, and bastardized it into a comparison between a country and 10 homes. Even if one is predisposed to view the matter in terms of property rights (and again, I suggest that this can only lead to confusion ultimately), the problem here ought to be clear immediately. The comparison between a country and a home is intended to liken the citizens of a country to the family that resides in the home, and by substituting that family for 10 independent land owners, one is performing a slight of hand that actually destroys the entire comparison. Yes, if 8 home owners vote to put up a fence that encloses the homes of 2 other unwilling individuals, that might in some sense be said to violate their property rights, but in our original metaphor, there is only one home owner, which is analogous to the populace itself. By contrast, imagine I own a home and live there with my wife and two children. If I, as the home owner, allow my family to vote on whether to put up a fence around our home, and everyone except my son votes yes, leading me to construct the fence in question, are the "property rights" of my son being violated? Not in any obvious way, no. The governance structure of the "family" that lives in, for example, the United States of America is substantially more complex than this, but the underlying principle is still the same. His example is either a major blunder, or worse, consciously deceptive (I suspect the former, since as I continue to read the article, he seems to go on to suggest the "state as owner" model, which would mitigate the error). Yet again, though, I want to emphasize that I don't think the "property rights" model is optimal here.

And finally, I couldn't help but be struck by the phrase, "1 of them votes to let them in because he’s a decent human being..." The inclusion of that phrase is more than a little interesting. In what sense does refraining from building a fence around your house make you a "decent human being?" In what sense are the 8 who want to prevent trespassing by building a fence "indecent?"
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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Interesting points, @Fox. Anyway, I have a question--if a couple (or a group of people) jointly own a house, and one of the owners of this house wants to allow a person to rent a room in this house but the other owners of this house oppose this, could this owner override the will of the other owners and get away with doing this?
 

Fox

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Oct 2011
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Korea
Interesting points, @Fox. Anyway, I have a question--if a couple (or a group of people) jointly own a house, and one of the owners of this house wants to allow a person to rent a room in this house but the other owners of this house oppose this, could this owner override the will of the other owners and get away with doing this?
In at least some jurisdictions, my understanding is that the answer is, "Yes," but the income derived from the rental must be shared. Assuming, of course, no written agreements on the governance of the property exist. Evidently this at time causes no small amount of consternation when members of a family (for example) jointly inherit a property.
 
Jun 2017
547
maine
My specialty has been immigrant genealogy and I've thought a lot about this issue. It seems to me that--open or closed border--those who emigrate voluntarily are those with the mind-set to "get up and go": those who are willing to strike out from traditional backgrounds (usually in order to make more money). Those who remain are those who were already well-off and those who need this traditional background of friends, family and place. Most migration (whether internal or external) is "chain migration"--people go to places where they know someone; often they migrate in groups. In other words, IQ doesn't really have much to do with it but ambition does. Whether the borders are open or not probably doesn't have too much to do with the normal flow of people; unusual spikes in migration have more to do with the political moment.

An open exchange of people probably isn't a bad thing.
 
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Belgarion

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Jul 2011
6,757
Australia
As one who spent 16 years working for Customs and Border Protection in Australia I am very much against it. "Open Borders" means a one way flood of poorly skilled, poorly educated people with no intention of assimilation into the host culture, but who wish to recreate the society they left behind on the back of the benefits provided by the host country.
 
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