Bryan Caplan  

Open Borders Persuasion Bleg

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Immigration restrictions probably have bigger effects on the world's economy than all other regulations combined.  As far as I can tell, virtually every moral theory - utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Kantian, Christian, and Marxist for starters -  implies that these effects are very bad.  As a blogger, I've tried (though perhaps not hard enough) to make open borders my pet issue - to convince as many people as possible that the cause of free immigration is of overriding value.

My question for you: How persuasive have I been?  In particular, how persuasive have I been for you personally?  Yes, polling your own blog readers obviously courts a strong selective bias, but I still want to hear your answers.

HT: The tireless Vipul Naik of Open Borders.



COMMENTS (105 to date)
gwern writes:

For me, personally? Zero. I have yet to see a good reason why open borders would not simply destroy what made the rich countries rich and worth immigrating to in the first place, completely undoing any good intermediates results.

Just lots and lots of reiteration of how much value *1* immigrant now produces and so presumably how much value a *whole bunch* of immigrants would produce.

Vanya writes:

More or less the same sentiment as gwern.

But I'd be really happy to hear your thoughts on the effects of an abrupt opening of borders as they play out over time, preferably with some thick sociological/SciFi description of how cultures and institutions would adapt.

My initial intuition is that rates matter, as do the sorts of political factors that libertarian economists might wish away with the borders themselves.

Luke G. writes:

I've actually have moved to a broader, open-border view on immigration due to Bryan's blogging, and I've said so before in the comments here: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/05/group_affiliati.html

Vanya writes:

More or less the same sentiment as gwern.

But I'd be really happy to hear your thoughts on the effects of an abrupt opening of borders as they play out over time, preferably with some thick sociological/SciFi description of how cultures and institutions would adapt.

My initial intuition is that rates matter, as do the sorts of political factors that libertarian economists might wish away with the borders themselves.

PrometheeFeu writes:

Somewhat. I already supported mostly open borders. Your econtalk podcast gave me the final shove.

PrometheeFeu writes:

Somewhat. I already supported mostly open borders. Your econtalk podcast gave me the final shove.

mike shupp writes:

Middling. I'm not a proponent of completely open borders, on the grounds that it takes some time (a) to socialize immigrants and (b) to reconcile old time residents to the existence of new-comers. That said, I'd be happy with much higher levels of immigration -- say twice our current levels? I've had those views for several decades and your preaching hasn't changed them in any way, but you've definitely kept the topic alive in my thinking.

Keep up the good fight!

Clown writes:

I am still unconvinced that the median immigrant to the USA is a net positive for the economy.

Eelco Hoogendoorn writes:

None at all.

While I enjoy your efforts to point out the hypocrisy in the moral theories that people like to shroud themselves in, I personally dont put much weight on stated preferences in the face of revealed preferences.

To give an example: I routinely spend hundereds of euros, which could have saved scores of unborn babies from getting infected with AIDS by their mothers, on complete and utter personal luxuries instead. For sure you are not talking to a practicing christian or marxist; utilitarian is a possible model; but that could mean anything. Certainly one with a 'strongly weighted utility function', in that case.

Why do you suppose that those who are unwilling to give up their smartphones to save human lives, would choose to dillute their 'property share' in their sovereign wealth? (taking perceptions for granted, and leaving aside the question whether this would actually increase or decrease; since you seek to argue morals rather than consequencs)

Again, insofar as you make other people squirm, I tip my hat to you, but with all due respect; I do not share your stated moral principles, nor have I seen the extraordinary evidence that you practice what you preach.

SL__72 writes:

I always agreed with your premise but you've significantly changed my perception of the importance of this issue relative to others.

Justin writes:

Very persuasive for me. I hadn't given the issue much thought before you began blogging about it, but it is now my number one issue now. Morally, I agree with you 100%.

Practically, I have no doubt that letting in more immigrants will not negatively effect Americans. I'm still not convinced that letting in, say, 1 billion immigrants wouldn't negatively effect Americans though. But I don't think that policy will ever be on the table so it's no use worrying about. Besides, I don't think how it effects Americans is the right issue- we should really be asking how it would effect people as a whole. In light of that, even if letting a billion immigrants into the US negatively effected Americans, it's hard to imagine it would negatively effect the world.

MK writes:

Not much, as I already agreed with your position.

What your blog posts here have shown me, however, is the fact that people don't base their political opinions on facts or logic. You post very strong data on why immigration is good for both individuals and nations. The negative reactions to that are, almost without exception, simply statements that immigration is bad. There are no data to support these negative reactions and only rarely does anyone try to point out flaws in either your data or your logic. They simply say you are wrong, demonstrating clearly that they are ignoring the facts that contradict their preconceived notions.

So I guess I'd say you haven't changed my mind on immigration issues, but you have changed my views on human psychology. As a result of your immigration posts and the negative reactions to them, I have delved much more into the study of psychology of political beliefs.

Sieben writes:

You have influenced my view on immigration in the extreme. Your literature review alone...

Literally all my ancap friends on facebook turn to your arguments when they defend open borders. You are THE guy.

Methinks writes:

If you're willing to share the blame with Don Boudreaux and Russ Roberts, I'll say you've all had a huge effect on me. I'm a naturalized citizen myself and so is my husband (we're from different countries).

I was all for immigration, but not exactly open immigration and mostly because of the growing welfare state. I have personally seen immigrants abuse the system with shocking gall. However, if they're going to hasten the collapse of that disaster, so much the better and, on net, they aren't coming here for the welfare. We certainly didn't.

BTW, I'm also beginning to think that physical immigration is not as important as it used to be and will become less important in the future. Technology has already gone a long way and will go a longer way still in killing distance and borders. At least I hope so, humanity is unlikely to rid itself of the racism and tribalism that fuels anti-immigration demands any time soon.

Martin writes:

I don't consider myself to be a libertarian. At best a soft libertarian. But your paper and your youtube talks on immigration have had a dramatic influence on my views. Your use of hard moral arguments, evidence and geeky humour are very effective. I would now say that Australia (my home) should have dramatically increased immigration levels, perhaps without access to welfare.

SB7 writes:

I think you've been quite persuasive, with the caveat that you can't easily use reason to argue someone out of a position they didn't use reason to get themselves into. (Which is to say, you've been about as persuasive as I can expect someone to be when dealing with what is fundamentally an emotional/aesthetic decision.)

I think you have been more persuasive in making me raise the relative importance I place on immigration.

I agree with a previous commenter that your EconTalk podcast was superb. I had already come around to a pro-open borders position prior to that as part of my own growth from conservatism to libertarianism, but I really love how you structured that argument.

Kevin Driscoll writes:

When I started reading this blog, I was roughly for the immigration system as it exists now.

Now, I am unequivocally for unrestricted immigration. I am not a utilitarian; I am much closer to a Kantian. Therefore, the fact that this might have some unintended negative consequences doesn't really matter to me. I think we have a moral imperative to allow others to exercise their personal and property rights by moving here.

However, were I a Utilitarian, I don't know that I have seen enough evidence to convince me that the consequences of unrestricted immigration would be positive.

Michael writes:

Personally, I had already supported open borders before reading your arguments, but now I think the issue is more important than I used to. I've also successfully used your arguments to convince people that were previously against open borders.

Philippe Belanger writes:

It's very hard to find a counter-argument to the problem of political externalities in a democracy. Samuel Huntington did some work making the case that the majority of democracies have a western culture/western values. If that is the case, and if you are not willing to have a two-class society (with immigrants having total economic but no political freedom), then it seems unlikely that the efficient flow of immigration is attained with open borders. Your posts have not persuaded me otherwise (although they have persuaded me of plenty of other things).

Btw I don't see open border as a libertarian position. A good parallel are highways. Libertarians don't argue for "open highways"; we want people to pay for their use, because there is a externality involved. Why should it be different for people who want to "use" the country? Let's make them pay for it! That way we can (a) make money, (b) make sure those who value it most or those who expect to make the higher salaries get through, (c) keep the flow of immigrations efficient.

Michael writes:

You've convinced me that relative to current policy, the derivative of net humanitarian gain with respect to immigration is positive. You have not provided any evidence, to my knowledge, of where the inflection point is.


Mordatar writes:

Dramatic effect. I was pro migration before I read your arguments, but I had no idea that it open borders could represent "trillion dollars on the sidewalk". I thought it was just another issue, probably smaller than free trade.

Andrew C writes:

You haven't so much changed my views as made me attach much more importance to this issue relative to others.

Kenneth A. Regas writes:

You've helped confirm my opposition to open borders, which is for the reason gwern gives.

There is a certain kind of argument made in the social sciences (of which economics is certainly one) that has crystalline mathematical clarity - and is utterly foolish. Think Captain Queeg, or Mao Zedong. That's what your arguments sound like to me.

Ken

Robinson writes:

I've never been in favor of immigration restrictions, but you've succeeded not only in convincing me that this issue is the most important policy issue facing the United States, but also in arming me with my best arguments on the topic.

CC writes:

Not much of a change. Two reasons:

1. Political pollution. I know that you say this isn't an issue, but there's no denying that (for example) Central American immigrants are very much opposed to abortion. This could very well shift the balance in the U.S.

I bet this holds for other social issues as well. And I'm not sure why you think that letting in people from socialist countries won't push us economically to the left.

2. Crime. I know that "every study" shows that immigrants are less likely to get into trouble with the law, but someone on this blog pointed out that these studies deliberately refuse to look at children of immigrants. The results could very well flip, and I don't see anyone denying this. I'd at least like to see this studied before we made major changes to immigration policy.

BK writes:

I was familiar with the large productivity disparities for workers in different places before reading you. Overall, your blogging has made me more negative towards open borders. Partly this is because of your work on voting and how political externalities get worse as we consider migrants like those which would come under open borders. It seems like there is a large risk of undermining the distinctive features of the rich countries by diluting their political and institutional differences, as gwern mentions above.

Also, from a utilitarian-leaning perspective, the cost-benefit standard you have offered for assessing immigration restrictions sounds very ominous: you have suggested that because of libertarian deontological reasons there should be open borders unless the costs are 10 (!!!) times the benefits. Given the billions of potential migrants under open borders, the results could be incredibly catastrophic for global institutions, growth, and long-term welfare while still passing your test.

Since you claim to be so indifferent to whether migration helps or hurts, it's hard for those who are focused on what would actually make things better overall to trust that your analysis is unbiased.

Sohaib Hasan writes:

I'm in the same camp as SL__72. While I agreed with the basic idea, I didn't appreciate how important it was until after I started reading your opinions on the issue. You've also provided me with more persuasive arguments.

Tom West writes:

I'm not for open borders (although I support fairly high (Canadian) levels of immigration).

Bryan's arguments have made it clear that (1) the society that I appreciate could not survive open borders (destruction of the welfare system or two-tier citizenship are both antithetical to my personal happiness) and (2) that the cost of non-open borders is very high to non-citizens. It has forced me to acknowledge that I am a citizen-ist to a far greater degree than I originally would have realized.

AS writes:

Your writing has had a huge effect. Before I had passively accepted the idea that open borders were only practical without a welfare state: you have challenged my views on this significantly.

The issue that I believe holds most libertarians back on this issue is the political externality: the fear that first world countries would simply cease to have good institutions. This is the point that you should address most directly, all while emphasizing the huge economic benefits. You have put forth the idea (which I think is an excellent point) that the same reasons which make people less "open" to the idea of open borders should also minimize the political externality.

Andy Hallman writes:

I was already pretty pro-immigration before I started reading EconLog four years ago but I've become more radical since then. I don't want you to get a big head, but your arguments are among the best I've read (Michael Huemer's essay on the subject is pretty good, too).

The main thing I've learned from reading your posts is how petty the complaints are from your detractors. I love the talk about the political externalities of immigration, as if electing democrats over republicans was so much worse that we could stop someone from moving here because of their future party affiliation.

Daublin writes:

You changed my prioritization. I already thought open borders would be a good idea. You convinced me it is more important than other libertarian issues, and you reminded me that the welfare of non-Americans is also important to factor in.

It's not just an economic argument for me. I've worked with people all over the world, including Latin Americans. I'd enjoy having them come work with me back in my homeland.

MikeP writes:

Since as a commenter I've tried to make open borders my pet issue, I have been on your side the whole time.

But one thing you did do is lead me to consider moral arguments again. Certainly open borders is the only answer from a moral or individual rights perspective. But, finding such exchanges short and fruitless, I had focused on economic arguments because they could more readily be debated from common premises.

Your posts, in contrast, have added new dimensions to the moral arguments that expand their foundation and allow more common ground with opponents.

zman writes:

Short answer: not at all. I read most of your posts on immigration: partly because I like your work, partly because I like your comments (a lot of intelligent responses arguing against you here for example), and partly because at least we agree that immigration policy is really really important no matter what your policy preference on the subject. But we just totally disagree on the issue. I may follow-up with some other posts on WHY I disagree with you.

Chris Stucchio writes:

I've generally found you very convincing on your moral points.

However, I've also observed a real reluctance on your part to address your opponents strongest arguments. In particular, you tend to gloss over political and welfare externalities.

I should be very easy to convince. A large fraction of my friends are immigrants. I started a company (now defunct) overseas and I'd love to bring some of my old employees over. It would be really satisfying if my moral and personal views were well supported by the data. But they don't seem to be.

I strongly suggest that you directly engage your critics (Tino Sanandaji, for example) and address their strongest arguments. That would (assuming your facts stand up) go a long way towards convincing me, at least.

johnleemk writes:

What SL__72 said. I would not rate you as my biggest influence on this issue -- for that Michael Clemens would win in a heartbeat -- but no doubt you've influenced me.

Having said that, I don't think your arguments are very persuasive for someone who doesn't share your mood affiliation (i.e. most people in the political mainstream and/or most people who don't base their sociopolitical views on what academic social science papers say). I think your arguments are probably capable of moving/influencing the kind of person who is already predisposed to them, like many economists and certain kinds of libertarians, but they don't work well for the larger population.

I will agree with Andy Hallman that a knock-on effect of yours has been to make me realise how puerile most anti-immigration arguments are, and how ineffective the most informed critiques of immigration (I'm thinking George Borjas) actually are -- and yet how difficult it is to convince the people making the former sort of argument that loosening immigration restrictions is morally right and/or economically desirable.

In the end I think it will be important to make people realise that certain conceptions of the nation-state are not as important as most people actually think they are. If you go back 50 years, 100 years, or 150 years, race is seen as incredibly important, especially in the US. Arguments about immigration today, word for word, could have been used to defend Jim Crow laws and slavery -- and I mean literally so. Protecting "white citizenship" and the "white working class" meant a lot to white Americans of yesteryear.

Race remains important today. But we recognise today that race, as important as it is, is not grounds for discrimination, because nobody chooses the race they were born into. Nobody chooses the culture they were born into. Nobody chooses the nation-state they were born into. All these things matter -- I am not for abolishing the idea of a nation-state. But what I am for is ending the idea that it is morally right and economically profitable to discriminate against people based on certain interpretations of nation-statehood. American citizens should be proud of being American. But you do not need to oppress a Mexican or an Indian (or a fellow American seeking to associate himself with a Mexican or Indian) to keep your national pride.

I think this line of reasoning is one which I don't see pursued much, if at all. But the nation-state issue is one which advocates of immigration must contend with. The battles against slavery, segregation, and apartheid were not won based on economic numbers, although those certainly helped. Rather, these battles were won based on convincing the heretofore oppressors that they did not have as much to fear from ending said oppression as they thought. They were won based on convincing the heretofore oppressors that rather than doing right by the white man, they were actually doing wrong by all of humankind. That is an argumentative tack I hope to see more in writing about this issue.

Simon Cranshaw writes:

As both an advocate of open borders and a long term migrant worker myself, there wasn't much left of which to be persuaded. Still I thought your summary was the most comprehensive and convincing I've seen. I think it will help me to argue better with others in the future.

Bo writes:

I was always vaguely in favor of open borders, but Bryan's writings have made me much more enthusiastic and likely to bring the subject up to others.

John writes:

I think you do a good job of taking down the traditional arguments, but that's easy when everyone's being rationally irrational right? To convince me you need to give a real non-hand-waving treatment to the political externality argument. Neither of the options the political system are offering involve creating a non-voting citizen class for immigrants and their descendants.

Bryan, do you think if the U.S. and Mexico (or wherever) were suddenly merged and elections were held, total production would go up after that? If you say "we'd be under a worse regime, but they'd be under a better one, the political center of gravity doesn't move so it's neutral," then I say the sum of two exponential functions has end behavior equal to the faster one because after a while it's arbitrarily larger than the slower one.

As far as your arguments that immigrants don't vote as much or that they have status quo bias: sure but that's short term. Aren't we already seeing dems benefiting a lot from latino migration especially in California? There's no point in leveraging up the benefits of (relatively) good gov't if you can't preserve the regime that was worth leveraging, right?

BTW great blog, you're awesome. Keep blowing up every pillar of current popular dogma. Health care next?

Mercer writes:

They have confirmed my opposition to open borders.

Your posts mainly state how proud you are of being morally superior compared to the vast majority of your fellow citizens. I don't see why your cosmopolitan values are superior to nationalism. Given that the vast majority of people are not cosmopolitan libertarians your posts about immigration strike me as naive.

You are indifferent to the costs of low skilled immigrants in terms of public schooling and medical care which vastly exceed the amount of taxes they pay. You never address why California's budget is a mess if having more low skilled immigrants is such a good thing.

Mike writes:

It's the culture that is important.

I'm with Sailer.

Pseu writes:

I've upgraded the status of the idea in my head from "crazy" to "probably crazy, but worth thinking about to clarify my own position".

C writes:

For me, personally--Significant negative effect towards open borders. I very much respect your arguments on a lot of topics (e.g., education and signaling) and if someone of your intelligence can only come up with arguments of the level you (and to be fair, Vipul Naik) have, then I think the open borders case is extremely weak. To echo gwern in different words, the nation state has been successful by specifically creating a coherent body of citizens and building universal, self-beneficial institutions. If immigrants (like myself) are educated and skilled like in Canada's system, I can (and do) buy the argument that this could be beneficial to the host nation.

However, your arguments have time and time again ignored the obvious strong points restrictionists raise (ie., low IQ, low skill immigration is not the same or as valuable as high IQ immigration with most illegals especially a net drain on the taxpayer; the 1890s were a far different economy than our present-day stagnant economy which is already facing rising inequality; raising standards in other nations is just as (or more) beneficial as open borders; no nation state has ever survived an open borders or high immigration society; diversity weakens institutions (some of them, etc.). Just lots and lots of reiteration of how much value *1* generic immigrant in a highly dubious study now produces and so presumably how much value a *whole bunch* of immigrants would produce.

Overall, if you can't do better than quoting abstract moral theories (which also imply a lot of other more pertinent conclusions than the one you selectively choose that gives you cheaper nannies and burdens working class Americans with the externalities or weak academic evidence, then I think you have only strengthened opposition.

Kevin writes:

Quite a lot. Generally, your posts have forced me to see how far I can push my own presumption of liberty, often in topics I had never previously considered. The result is pretty consistently that it can be pushed far further than I had often realized. While before reading your posts I had a vague notion that there should be "more immigration allowed", I now have a solid belief supporting open borders as well as an arsenal of arguments to back that belief up.

David writes:

For me, your posts on free immigration have helped solidfy my position. I agree with you that borders should be open. I would still like to see some system where we know who comes in and out but I dont think there should be any quota restrictions and if you want to move here than you should be allowed to. I was watching a video from LearnLiberty on the 10 principles of classical liberalism and one of them was freedom of movement. It is in my opinion a quitessential human right to be able to move to somewhere else without having to be hassled by the government. I have looked back at my progression from a conservative who favored putting troops on the border to a libertarian where I now favor open borders. And the one thing that always stuck with me is being consistent. I viewed conservativsm and progressivism as being inconsistent. They both talk about freedom but they only mean "their" freedom. Where as libertarians, when they speak of freedom, actually mean it. The other two only mean freedom when it comes to their favored way of life.

Daniel Molling writes:

Personally? Very. Essentially I had no opinion on immigration before reading you (and a select few other writers). Since then I've sought out arguments for opposing views and found them pathetically lacking if not fundamentally immoral. I believe, as Tyler Cowen would say, that you're on "the right side of history" (though I also believe it may take a very long time for history to make its way here in this instance). Keep up the good work

John S writes:

Eli Dourado's Smash the New Aristocracy was what really convinced me that immigration policy is the moral issue of our time. But I'd say that my move towards supporting totally open borders has had a lot to do with your blogging on the issue.

(For background, with the exception of a brief conservative phase, I used to weakly support moderately relaxed immigration restrictions.)

Paul J writes:

After shedding my rational ignorance on immigration and becoming agnostic, I have, thanks to your posts and especially your EconTalk interview on the subject, become absolutely sold on the open borders idea. In reading through many of the comments, it would appear that your EconTalk interview may have been missed as it addressed many of the stated concerns. My grandparents arrived in this country at a time that was as close to "open borders" as we've ever had, which begs the question: why stop now? (granted, we stopped years ago, but the question still stands).

Godfrey Miller writes:

Your blogging hasn't changed my views so much as informed and strengthened them. I was already favorably inclined toward free immigration, but the arguments and evidence that you bring to bear have bolstered my conviction that immigration restrictions are a monstrous evil. Your recent article in CATO is a perfect example of the compelling moral case that you make on behalf of people who wish to immigrate.

nzgsw writes:

Only slightly. I've always favored drastically increasing legal immigration, but I haven't been convinced on the open borders issue. Maybe I've missed some posts or arguments, but I don't believe you've made the case well enough that open borders will result in the elimination of the welfare state. As a long-term resident of California, high levels of immigration, both legal and illegal, don't seem to result in a shrinking of the welfare state.

Silas Barta writes:

I'm very much in favor of relaxing immigration restrictions, Bryan_Caplan, but gwern beat me to it: all you do is say why immigration is good in the abstract, without addressing the hard issue of where you have to stop it (or making the case that you never have to!): that is, how do you know when to slow it down to the point that immigrants aren't undoing the very memes that made the country worth immigrating to in the first place.

(Can we call that the hipster critique? "I came to this country *before* it was cool!")

You have, from time to time, refuted concerns about related "political externalities" of immigration ... for existing levels. These results are not, however, robust for the general case of letting everyone come to America who wants to.

I'm sure that your idea of "open borders" stops *somewhere* short of "Allow the Chinese Army to 'peacefully immigrate' to strategic locations, shortly before becoming unpeaceful and rendering America defenseless." Where is that point, and why?

Sam Hardwick writes:

I used to be generally in favour of open borders, at least in principle. However, after more careful consideration, partly after reading your "Why Should We Restrict Immigration?" essay, I am much more skeptical. This is partly because I'm not an American (but a Finn), and as the American argument is only so-so and relies on the relative cheapness of the American welfare state, it seems that in Europe open borders would be (at least in current conditions) a huge mistake.

milos writes:

Hi Bryan,

I think you have more non-libertarian readers than you may think.

I myself identify as a conservative, and I identify you as one of my favorite bloggers/authors.

To the point, then: I've read everything you've written here on immigration and, I'm sorry to say, I still find the case very weak. I have not budged, not even a little, in favor of open borders. In fact, seeing how unpersuasive the arguments for it are has, if anything, made me more against open borders than I was before.

Regardless of how you judge those like me - prejudiced, nationalist-egoist, etc. - I just think this open borders stuff is a loser. The only way it will even come close to happening is if we're bombed back into the Stone Age. And maybe not even then.

Grieve Chelwa writes:

Bryan

As an economics Phd student i have read some literature here and there on the merits and possible gains from open borders. But your Cato Journal piece from Winter 2012 was really the clincher for me - it combines moral philosophical arguments with empirics to make a strong case for open borders.

Thanks!

Ben Southwood writes:

I already agreed with you wholeheartedly on liberal grounds.

Now I feel I can say open borders is required by egalitarianism and utilitarianism as well – which is a very powerful argument to have.

As some other commenters have said, comment sections on your posts prove that many of your readers basically ignore what you say and reiterate their unjustified prejudices time after time.

Eric writes:

I agree with SL__72. I've been in favor of essentially unlimited immigration, but you've moved it to #2 on my list after ending abortion. Being a libertarian-leaning conservative, I have a lot of sympathy for the conservative understanding against open borders and could certainly pass an ideological turing test for that position, but I've disagreed with it for quite a while.

Greg G writes:

I am someone who would like to see our approach to immigration liberalized. A huge increase in immigration would bring some benefits but it would also create problems, especially for the communities that face the biggest influx.

Bryan, the fact that you so thoroughly trivialize these problems makes you a lot less persuasive to me. If you aspire to go beyond preaching to the choir taking people's objections more seriously wold help a lot.

zz writes:

Persuasive that open borders is a superior economic policy, or persuasive that it should be US policy? The former may be so, but I don't think you've addressed the issues of culture change that would be accelerated in intuitive ways by open borders as US policy. Is the policy pushback a direct debate about economics?

JJW14 writes:

Your argument for open borders seems to boil down to the following: the immigrants would be much better off in America and other developed nations. Therefore, the benefit to them is so great that it trumps any right of the native population to limit immigration.

I find this deeply unconvincing.It's like arguing that a homeless man would be much better off living in my basement than on the street. Therefore, my family's preferences about privacy, space and security are irrelevant. I don't believe that as it applies to my home nor as it applies to my country.

Brian writes:

I little, I was already close to an open border policy. I just believe in yearly quotas sold in a Dutch auction to the highest bidder. Now I just believe we should restrict Muslims everyone else should be open immigration.

I don't want to be Europe. It is only the Islam immigrants that are causing major issues in Europe and are hostile to all forms of western government.

Islam is incompatible with western forms of government. Turkey has shown was able to do it only for a short time with a totalitarian Military with limited democracy.

Nigel writes:

Very persuasive. I agreed with you before I knew your opinions based on the simple logic of the matter. But your thought experiments and your framing of the issue are really compelling. I recall an EconTalk with Russ Roberts that was really good.

You might want to spend some time persuading people in terms of their own moral traditions. I agree with you based on the cosmopolitan notion, but for those who don't share it I think it's worth driving home the point on their own terms. For example, I really don't think there's any good reason for a Catholic, conservative or otherwise, to be anti immigration. It's against our ethos to begin with, and when you frame it from a social justice perspective it is very compelling. And liberals in the Catholic tradition may find in immigration a cause that is now tragically unheeded.

I think this is an issue where you could change some minds and actually make an impact. This is a simple act of federal law and with enough awareness, it only takes one shot.

shecky writes:

I was for open borders before your writings, and have had my views strengthened. On economic, humanitarian, and philosophical levels, I'm more convinced that the open border is possibly the most important freedom that can benefit all with the fewest negative externalities. The culture that embraces open borders is the one that truly values freedom and the individual.

One area where your posts have been truly enlightening is illuminating how deeply rooted in irrationality and illiberalism opposition to open borders and immigration usually is. There's no difficulty seeing poorly reasoned thought among your political foes. Open borders exposes poorly reasoned chain of thought among your those who would otherwise be your political allies, exposing weaknesses and true colors in the process.

Alan writes:

I'd say rather persuasive as well. (Haven't really had the time to look through the comments to see what the consensus is.)

I've been relatively open to immigration for a while, but mostly in the minor sense of increasing H-1B visas and importing more skilled workers. However, you and Michael Clemens have really opened my eyes to the possibilities of, and the necessity in promoting, open borders.

Carl Jakobsson writes:

I was in favor of open borders before you started writing on this subject (I've been following this blog since -07 maybe), and I have always felt that it was a very important issue, but your writing has deepend that conviction.

Of your writings I especially like "One Day at ICE".

James Oswald writes:

While I was somewhat pro higher immigration before, your work has convinced me to write and talk more about it.

Vipul Naik writes:

Prior to reading you, I hadn't devoted much thought to open borders, though I guess if you'd asked me to reflect on it, I would have probably been pro-free-migration in a generic sense. But your blogging and writing helped me understand the case for open borders as well as appreciate its importance.

Your indirect effect -- in terms of the many other open borders writers you've exposed me to -- rivals your direct effect. If it weren't for your EconLog blog posts, I would almost certainly not have read Michael Huemer's piece advocating open borders,and I would probably not have come across, or paid close attention to, Michael Clemens. I heard of many of the other writers on the pro-open borders people list via either your blog posts or the comments and trackbacks on your blog posts. If I count second-order indirect effects, i.e., people I came to know of through your blog or comments introducing me to the work of yet more people, then I came to know of almost everybody on the pro-open borders people list through you.

I've tried to return the favor by working on the Open Borders website, which will hopefully expand on the good work you've done in the area.

Also, your general willingness to not hide from the wide range of objections to open borders (even if you don't address them to the satisfaction of critics) has influenced me a lot, as I narrate in the site story for Open Borders.

Nathan Smith writes:

I've been for open borders since I was 19 (fifteen years). I'm a Christian and I'll confirm that Christianity does imply this. See what the Bible has to say about the resident alien. Or consider "Love thy neighbor as thyself," along with the Good Samaritan parable with which Jesus illustrates it. I could hardly have been influenced further in that direction, but your writings gave me confidence and inspiration. Some readers seem to be put off by the tone of moral superiority, but sorry, it's just not possible to pretend that nationalists aren't at a lower moral level. Moral disdain is one of the chief instruments by which great social evils, say slavery or racism (or I would mischievous add foreign policy isolationism after Munich) are overcome. People can lie to themselves for a while that they're not getting crushed in the moral debates, but eventually they get tired of it and turn to the truth.

D writes:

None. Mostly because you don't engage the best counterarguments that are usually here in your comments section and are usually based on the low quality of immigrants -- e.g., low IQ, high crime in the long-term, vote left, use public services at a high rate, the extremely poor academic achievement going back 4-5 generations of Mexican immigrants, the increase cultural and political balkanization, etc -- and the long-term effects of increasing them as a % of the population and the negative spillover effects.

Brendan writes:

As someone who already believed in the moral and efficiency case for immigration, you strengthened my conviction.

Then Steve Sailer changed my mind. You nor anyone else has explained why the Sailer types are wrong about the long-run consequences of immigration from 3rd world countries.

You strengthen the conviction of believes, but Sailer changes minds.

Michael writes:

I was a closed-borders neocon until I started reading Bryan Caplan. Granted he's not been my only influence, and I'm only 27 so my political opinions hadn't yet ossified when I found this blog a few years back, but I'd say Bryan has definitely recruited me to his camp.

David S writes:

I've always been for completely open borders, in both directions - but not under the current system. One would need to limit the political influence some way. Personally, I would get rid of minimum voting ages and residency requirements and move to a simple "Have you paid net positive taxes of $X in total?" $X should be set so that virtually everyone can vote eventually, and retired people can continue to vote until their lifetime is a net drag on the economy.

Garth Zietsman writes:

Fairly persuasive for me. I used to think that the great unwashed (particularly those on the left hand of the bell curve) need to be kept out if you want civilization but you convinced me that my concerns were incorrect. For me it wasn't the morality of it but the straightforward economics of it that I found convincing. Matt Yglesias has also been very persuasive on this issue.

I contacted you a few months back with my little study showing that the more intelligent lean toward being more open to immigration and the dull to greater restrictions - even when controlling for education, income, age, sex, race and ideological preferences. I figure that points to there being good reasons to prefer openness and I think you and Matt have provided some of them.

Finch writes:

This blog talked me out of favoring more open immigration. It was a combination of steadfast refusal to engage in the numbers and data and the choice of global welfare as opposed to American welfare or more specifically, my welfare, as the relevant metric. Frankly, the opposition is more convincing.

I _am_ a fricking immigrant and EconLog has convinced me we should have less immigration, favor skills more then we presently do, and perhaps charge immigrants directly or auction immigration slots. The gains from immigration should accrue primarily to citizens.

Gordon Slapspittle writes:

Your most convincing argument is that there's always a more humane way than closing the boarder. Nobody is even talking about that one. They're still concerned about the influence when immigrants vote or use public services, as though denying them votes or services isn't even an option they're willing to consider.

I think condemning these people to the third world lets them forget how bad others have it. Letting them in as a second class citizen gives them constant reminders they can't hide from that we are the ones making their lives rough. They'd rather spare their own feelings than improve the lives of strangers.

sieben writes:


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Floccina writes:

You have certainly had some impact on me. I think you might help your cause by pointing out that borders were more open in the not so distant past.

guthrie writes:

Extremely. I was once a virulent anti-immigration advocate who cheered the building of the border wall and the efforts of private citizens to patrol the borders. That has all changed, almost exclusively because of your blog posts here, Bryan (with assistance from David Henderson). As a result of my regular visits here, I have completely changed my point of view. You challenged my position, and forced me to think and re-think the ‘whys’.

I believe there is room for discussion as to how to bring more immigrants in. However, I am now convinced of the moral superiority of the open borders position. Hats off to you, sir.

MikeDC writes:

I'd say you've made me moderately more open borders and moderately more skeptical of other open borders supporters.

As a practical matter, I support as much immigration as does not undermine or conflict with our necessary economic growth conditions.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

I have paid a great deal of attention to your arguments, but they haven't persuaded me for two reasons:

Your moral case is nearly pure utilitarianism, but that obviously reduces to an absurdity of self-abnegation (so long as one person on Earth is poorer than you, you must give him your wealth-- and I neglect the question of interpersonal utility comparisons) so it disappoints your own quest for universally applicable principles. To paper over the weakness of your moral argument, you always resort to claiming that anyone who wants to restrict immigration also necessarily wants to exile or even liquidate some portion of existing citizens. That pleases your cheering section, but is simply untrue-- and unworthy; why must you put such nasty words into your opponents' mouths? You also ask readers/listeners to imagine themselves exiled for no reason, then tell them that forbidding strangers to immigrate is exactly the same, which is an emotional tactic, not a logical or philosophical one-- and again unworthy. To be more persuasive, address real arguments, not hysterical strawmen.

Second, you tout absurd empirical arguments that mass immigration will be ultra-beneficial and ignore all contrary arguments. You would be more persuasive if you at least acknowleged the arguments against your position, even if you went on to claim the balance of arguments tipped to your side. For example, you have been repeating the claim that open immigration would immediately double world GDP. In your own comments section I just pointed out how absurd Vipul Naik's own favorite reference for that assertion (Michael Clemens' paper) is-- to get a 20~60% gain in world GDP would apparently require 84 poor million people to move to California (and proportionately equal numbers of poor people to move to every other rich region, city, whatever) and all find highly-paid industrial jobs just waiting for them there, though they bring no industrial capital with them. Like most of your empirical assertions, the proposition falls apart as soon as it is critically-examined because too many immigration boosters apparently think their good moral intentions absolve them of any duty to intellectual honesty (such as considering the question of capital base, which an economist probably would if he were writing about some unemotional subject). Other commenters have already noted that you refuse to acknowledge any of: differences among immigrants modulating the consequences of letting any particular group of them in; likely effects of immigration on citizens' (or even additional immigrants') surplus from existing institutions; immigrants' demand for capital-destroying transfer payments from current citizens; and so-forth.

(Let me say some more about "doubling world GDP." The average world annual GDP growth rate seems to have been a bit more than 2.5% over the last several decades. Call it 2.5% which by the rule of 70 will double GDP for us in 28 years. Now, that will not double per-capita GDP because of population growth, but it does show that to be of dramatic benefit, unrestricted migration would have to double world GDP a lot faster than normal growth-- say, in 5 or 10 years instead of 28. However, for migration to increase world GDP so rapidly, the migrants would have to move quickly and find new jobs quickly. That would require a very rapid increase in destination-country industrial capital, yet no immigration-booster has offered any plausible source for all that new capital. There is no great demand for unskilled workers in the rich countries' existing industrial plant (low wages prove that demand for low-skilled labor is minimal).

(In rich countries you can't even get bureaucratic approval to build a new oil refinery or housing tract in less than ten years, so how would infrastructure to support 2.6 billion poor people newly arrived in rich countries (Clemens' estimate) get built? "Oh," you say, "we will abolish domestic red tape at the same time we open the borders." Okay, but that proposal vitiates your basic claim that the only reason poor people are poor is that they live under bad institutions, which we should correct by inviting them to live under* our institutions. Our bureacracy is part of our institutions! If we must remold our institutions to accomodate the migrants, how can you be confident we won't throw the baby out with the bathwater?

(Even a few minutes' consideration shows that estimates of gigantic rapid gains in world GDP from migration are absurd. I think it is more likely that massive migration would reduce world GDP by disrupting industrial activity in rich countries.

(Also, just as population growth could cause per-capita GDP growth to lag total GDP growth over the long term, rapid population growth due to increased fertility of poor-to-rich-country migrants would likely sap the per-capita benefits of any sudden GDP expansion from migration (if such were even possible). The US and EU experience since 1965 is that immigrants from poor countries have much higher TFR's than both natives and compatriots who remain in the source country. This isn't surprising, really-- when people with no cultural predjudices against large families suddenly find themselves richer, they have more kids. Any TFR-inhibiting effects of wealth ("demographic transition," anyone?) don't kick in for another generation or two.)

*Live under and help (re-)shape our institutions, I say, even though you claim immigrants will not affect institutions while you say simultaneously that rich countries should nearly quadruple their populations by accepting enough immigrants (per Clemens) to "double world GDP." I can't imagine 30 million Californians (for example) keepng 84 million immigrants out of politics for very long.

Steve Schow writes:

Fresh out of college I discovered what I would now call "faux Libertarianism" of the Neal Boortz variety and was still staunchly anti-immigration under the "they are breaking the law" thought process.

I had backed off that a little bit, but you personally have pushed me far to the other side. Realizing how arbitrary political boundaries are for the sale of goods and services, how is labor any different? That is how I frame it now. The "two consenting adults" thought process if you will.

I still don't deny that open borders would put downward pressure on wages (hint for everyone who is scared of that: prices of goods and services come down as well), but is that really a legitimate gripe to justify putting up fences and gun-toting officers at the border? Probably not.

johnleemk writes:

Ghost of Christmas Past:

Clemens cites 5 different research papers for his estimates on the impact of full and partial liberalisation of border restrictions. Funny how none of the 10+ authors of these papers, or the peer reviewers who signed off on publication of these papers, caught the ostensibly elementary "errors" you point out. Funny how all the economists who signed off on a petition calling for looser immigration policies have fallen prey to the same "errors": http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1727

Vipul Naik writes:

@Ghost of Christmas Past: Thank you for the cogent critique of double world GDP estimates. I plan to address your thoughtful and meticulous critique in detail eventually, but I've laid out some preliminary groundwork for now in this blog post: The story behind the “double world GDP” estimates.

Feel free to comment on it there -- I don't think this bleg is the right place to carry out that conversation.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

johnleemk, I do not rely on appeal to authority (as you apparently wish to. What do you think of "peer reviewed" global-warming hysteria?).

I show, immediately and transparently, that Clemens' numbers are absurd. Go to Clemens' paper (linked above). Read the first few pages. Observe how he derives his estimate. Recognize that his estimate demands the migration of 3/7 of world population. Observe also that he simply assumes the rich countries will provide jobs (at slowly declining wage rates) to all those (billions of) people immediately. I have quoted Clemens fairly and extended his calculations fairly. They clearly lead to an absurd conclusion. (Follow the link to my comment yesterday on Clemens' paper.)

In my last comment I showed that "doubling world GDP" much faster than the current growth trend requires absurd assumptions about the availability of capital other than "human capital" (unless you want to posit very rapid technological change, but Clemens offers no such assumptions, and I suggest mass migration would retard rather than accellerate technological growth).

I expect Clemens represents the sources he cites fairly. If his calculations reflect theirs, and he reaches absurd conclusions, then their conclusions must also be absurd.

Furthermore, I show that it is ridiculous to assert (based on Clemens and his sources) that mass migration will greatly increase world GDP in a short time while simultaneously maintaining that the migrants will not influence the "institutions" of their new homes. Clemens' calculations require an approximate quadrupling of rich-country populations. No reasonable analyst could expect almost three new residents for every one old resident to have no effect on local culture or politics. (Not to mention destroying the standard of living of current rich-country citizens.)

Clemens and (I figure he cites them fairly) his sources may all be wrong because, I speculate, they are "results driven," more interested in moral preening than rational analysis. They all implicitly assume that rich countries have vast underutilized* capital other than "human capital" so those countries could immediately employ vast new quantities of labor at high wages. They do not explore or offer any foundation for that assumption. The current difference in wages for the marginal worker doesn't support their point because demand curves slope downward. Clemens acknowledges that, but simply posits a long, flat slope for that curve which when examined closely is obviously absurd.

Instead of trying to thump me with the old "all my favorite sources agree with me" stick, I suggest you try to show why my calculations based on Clemens' are wrong-- I don't think you can (other than in irrelevant details-- let me be the first to point out that I got California's current population wrong, it's 37 million not 30 million, but since I was mostly writing about ratios that doesn't matter-- my "84 million" Clemens'-program immigrants would just become 100 million without difference in effects).

*Some people might contend that the capital tied up in rich-country citizens' spacious comfy homes full of redundant furniture (even poor people in rich countries often have separate chairs for dining, watching TV, doing bench or desk work, and taking off their shoes), expansive public parks, many automobiles, TV's, computers, bass boats, and so-forth is "underutilized." Perhaps all that "underutilized" capital could be, er, "repurposed" to raise the living standards of migrants from poor countries. However, forcing that would seem to violate the libertarian principle of respect for property and personal autonomy.

Koz writes:

Not very persuasive for me. I think you're flunking the Turing Test in a substantial way.

If it looked like you were engaging Steve Sailer or acted as though you appreciated what somebody else's point of view might be, I think you'd be more persuasive.

johnleemk writes:

Ghost:

I have read his paper multiple times, and your comments as well. I still don't see what is so terribly absurd about the paper. Open borders would both increase world GDP dramatically and lead to large amounts of people moving to the developed world. That's not an absurd conclusion, but you professed to be shocked at the idea that 1% of the world's population might find it desirable to move to California, and that this would be necessary to accomplish the changes in economic output implied by open borders. As far as the math goes, colour me unimpressed.

Nowhere in Clemens's paper does he suggest that the gains from open border come from immigrants taking high-skilled blue- or white-collar jobs. In most cases the immigrants from developing countries would be doing similar jobs as they would have done at home. The notion that demand for additional labour is low is laughable; the press is full of stories about fruit withering on the vine across the US without immigrant labourers to pick them. It is economically more profitable for farmers to let their crop spoil than to hire Americans to pick the fruit.

And turning away more labour because it requires capital is like turning away more imported machinery because it requires maintenance. And considering you are the one arguing by implication that South Africa would have been better off preserving apartheid, I don't think I'm the one being absurd.

John writes:

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Eelco Hoogendoorn writes:
I had backed off that a little bit, but you personally have pushed me far to the other side. Realizing how arbitrary political boundaries are for the sale of goods and services, how is labor any different? That is how I frame it now. The "two consenting adults" thought process if you will.

Not that I do not sympathize with that view; it is infuriating that something as arbitrary as national boundaries can keep two consenting adults apart on whatever level. But the reality is that its not just two consenting adults, but a whole bunch of externalities are involved as well. As annoying as borders are, the complete lack of them would be a complete disaster for any group of people currently fencing off a well cultivated piece of land.

The crux of the matter is that I think it is a fallacy to assume that there is fairness to be found in either position; open or closed borders, or anything inbetween. It is not unlike to question; 'should the government make red or blue cars?'. None of the above. There is no correct answer to these questions in a command economy, nor is there anything resembling a correct answer to questions of association, in a society that is not in any meaningful sense stooled on voluntary association.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

johleemk, I don't want to wear out my welcome here so I'll be brief and hope the moderator tolerates me. (Your reference to crops rotting in the field suggests you may want to be a more skeptical reader.)

Clemens' analysis is absurd because he says you can quadruple the populations of rich countries almost overnight while assuming that the average immigrant will find employment at wages much higher than in his country of origin (that's what Clemens' straight-line marginal gain curve says), even though there is little more demand for his labor in the destination countries than in the source countries. Per Clemens and friends the migrants are supposed to demand each-other's labor by playing both the consumer and producer roles, which is fine, except they already do that in their source countries without generating extra GDP, so it is unlikely that the exact same people can generate more GDP just by moving-- when there are no factories or homes sitting empty for them to move into and they will not bring any new non-human capital with them when they arrive.

You yourself just wrote "In most cases the immigrants from developing countries would be doing similar jobs as they would have done at home." Exactly, they would do what they did at home and earn what they did at home so there would be no point in their moving! In order for migrants to earn higher wages they must do something new that they didn't do at home (possibly just serve new richer customers, but since the migrants will outnumber rich-country customers 3-to-1 most of the migrants will have to serve other migrants and none of them have much money). (I suppose migrants would take advantage of new opportunities to gain by crime or "redistribution" in their new homes.)

It is rational to "turn away" labor when there is no demand for it (due to lack of capital). People aren't like "imported machinery." They are self-willed actors. If they can't find jobs they will steal to eat, or do any number of negative-productivity things to fill their own desires, unlike disused machinery which will quietly rust away bothering no one.

And I thank you for misusing the South Africa example in exactly the way I feared. Instead of arguing directly, you are now trying to make me look bad by accusing me of supporting Apartheid, which is not true. Clemens brought up the South Africa example and I pointed out that he didn't treat it fairly. The abrupt end of Apartheid really did devastate the then-existing South African economy. Following South African economist W.H. Hutt (in a truly fine book) I think the apartheid policy should never have been implemented and that without it South Africa would have developed more evenly. Apartheid was a moral and economic crime. Nevertheless, today's South Africa does serve as a horrible example of what a sudden large "influx" (reflux? liberation?) of poor people susceptible to populist/leftist political blandishments can do to an advanced (though exclusive, racist, immoral, unwise, etc.) economy of rich people.

Apartheid was wrong, but humans are envious everywhere even when they haven't been wronged, so if you insist on bringing 2+ billion poor people into rich countries you will find many of them act just like freshly liberated South African blacks once they arrive.

roystgnr writes:

You've indirectly been anti-persuasive for me, I'm afraid. I've gone from "extremely strongly pro-open-borders" to "weakly pro-open-borders, but we really need to figure out how to cope with any negative externalities", due in part to reading and formulating arguments based on your interlocutors' disagreement.

E.g.: why would anyone *want* to move from one location to another? Typically because of better society (politics, economy, culture), not better climate, right? Yet if the society is just a function of the people at each location, then "worse locations spread people to better locations" may not be a good way to evolve those functions. (note that immigration restrictions don't totally fix this problem: it exists whether "locations" means "countries" or even just "states" or "municipalities").

Prakash writes:

Not much.

I was a supporter of limited migration before and am one now. The arguments you have made have not moved me to the unlimited camp.

I think that increased skilled immigration into the developed world will have a dual effect in countries like India. The positive is that it might force their hand to reform and it takes away men from competition. The negative is that the flow of remitances postpones the need for urgent reform. Look at the MP Shashi Tharoor openly advertising the flow of remittances to indicate that India is doing well in the recent economist debate.

John Lynch writes:

Count me as someone whose position has moved closer to yours, Bryan.

MikeDC writes:

What's arbitrary about borders?

A Libertarian should not say that property rights are arbitrary. Even starting from a natural rights position, they (and our other important rights) we need to form agreements with others for recognition and protection of those rights.

Our borders are where that recognition and agreement ends in many ways, and what's inside those borders are largely subject to those agreements.

The question this is what about newcomers? Well, our descendents inherit our rights and agreements, so even if we don't like them much (I'd much rather have the average foreigner as a fellow citizen than my meth addict cousin), we've all agreed on the heritability of rights and property.

The other kind of newcomer is folks who just show up within our borders. And wile I think them showing up is overwhelmingly beneficial for both them and us, there should be a process to make sure they're buying in to the bigger agreement and system of rights. Just like there is a process to protect and guarantee my other rights.

Michael W writes:

No, I'm not moved to change my position. Open borders would, in my view, decrease my quality of life by (for starters) decreasing open space, driving down wages, increase the need for government-provided services, and, perhaps most importantly, decreasing pressure on the source countries to continue improving their own political systems and societies. We can't forever be the safety valve for badly run countries.

I am for immigration reform. A PhD should come with a green card. Have more than a $1m in liquid assets, then come on in. Bringing over grandma and all the cousins? Not so much.

GMiller writes:

You have been incredibly persuasive to me, and influential in both framing how I think about the issue of immigration and leading me to be a strong proponent of more open borders.
I have, at times, amplified your efforts in discussions with friends and colleagues.

Thanks

Ken B writes:

Deeply unconvincing. More, I'd say you have made me *more* skeptical of large scale immigration. I have articulated why in some detail on a few of DRH's threads. In short you want to argue from (non-existent) principles and a perch of an assumed moral high ground. I see this as a way of evading concrete concerns, which heightens my skepticism. Analogies to apartheid don't help.

Sorry, but you did ask.

J Nevard writes:

Not the slightest bit convincing.

You mention 'utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Kantian, Christian, and Marxist'.. with the exception of 'Christian', which in this context means a particular kind of 'Christian' who values ideology over a natural society, all these are ideologies. All ideologies are bunk.

dullgeek writes:

Wow. I'm surprised at the breadth of answers here. Since I was converted by Bryan (and others) from a "secure the borders" type to the complete opposite point of view, I expected that my answer would be somewhere near the median.

Finch writes:

> I'm surprised at the breadth of answers here.

I think a kind way to put it is that while Bryan is not particularly convincing on this point, he is thought-provoking.

David C writes:

I think you've been very persuasive.

johnleemk writes:

Ghost of Christmas Past,

Your view that people doing the same jobs would by necessity earn the same wages anywhere in the world suggests unfamiliarity with the concept of the place premium. Whether white-collar or blue-collar, workers earn higher wages in the developed world than they would in the developing world. Clemens and some other scholars have some empirical work on this here: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4412631/Clemens%20Place%20Premium.pdf?sequence=1

The existence of the place premium (and its magnitude is in many cases large) means that immigration restrictions are in many cases tantamount to apartheid. Saying "abolishing apartheid temporarily made things worse" isn't an excuse for the conclusion "we shouldn't do anything about apartheid" -- so why is it more acceptable to do the same about immigration?

If the only thing keeping a Bangladeshi farmer from tripling his income is the fact that he can't do the same job in a richer country he wasn't lucky enough to be born in, the bar is set very high for arguing that he shouldn't be allowed to do that job in a richer country.

Nathan writes:

Since reading econlog i've gone from relatively indifferent to extremely pro-open border. I'd give econlog credit for at least 50% of my change in opinion.

James A. Donald writes:

You have been completely unpersuasive. Indeed, I have been horrified and outraged by your arguments, and am unable to critique them properly, because such a critique would sound like a personal attack.

If you want to be more persuasive, you should move to a nonwhite suburb, with non white political leadership, nonwhite police, and nonwhite juries. I guarantee you will suffer disadvantage immeasurably more severe than Jim Crow.

Your arguments rest wholly and entirely on the foundation that anyone who points out fallacies necessarily implicitly or explicitly invokes racist hate facts. You arguments are that whosoever contradicts them, risks being punished.

Steve writes:

It is always plump white rich pompous chappies like Caplan who support open borders, since they are not on the bleeding edge of the inflow of resent-filled minorities.

Peter A. Taylor writes:

Completely unpersuasive. I wrote an appendix on immigration policy to my e-book on libertarianism, and you provided me with a great amount of fodder for the anti-immigration position.

The practical argument for libertarianism depends on secure property rights. Secure property rights depend on government policy. Government policy depends on the behavior of irrational voters (great book, by the way!). The mix of irrationality we get from voters depends on quasi-religion and demographics, which are affected by immigration.

If you want to persuade me, start by giving me an equation describing the rate at which immigrants assimilate.

On the bright side, American democracy was probably doomed even without immigration.

Evan writes:

I already thought that having more open borders simply seemed like the fair thing to do. But Bryan's arguments persuaded me that it was a much more important and urgent issue than I previously thought.

I also found reading a lot of the responses made to Bryan's arguments eye-opening. They revealed to me an unpleasant side of humanity that uses political debates as an excuse to denigrate and insult whole classes of people in order to give themselves a mild status boost. To this day the knowledge that places like vdare.com exist makes me physically ill. I have to remind myself that most opponents of immigration are decent folks who are just a little misguided, and that the unpleasant people are a tiny minority.

I also think reading Bryan strengthened my support of open borders because I got to see him engage in arguments against it. This made me feel like I held a view that had been tested against adversity and come out on top.

Andy writes:

I've always been a proponent of more immigration (I immigrated to the US with my family and there's no doubt that our lives are dramatically better). But Bryan convinced me that this is even more important than I thought, and that allowing a restricted amount of immigration is only marginally better than none at all.

So overall Bryan has been very convincing, although his views are fairly in line with my own.

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