current U.S. law, it is illegal for a foreigner to work for a willing American
employer or rent from a willing American landlord without government
permission.For most foreigners, this
permission is impossible to obtain.As a
result, hundreds of millions who want to move here are stuck in their birth
countries.Most would-be immigrants are
desperately poor, but could easily work their way out of poverty if they were here.
America should open its borders to them all.Every other country should do the same.But given America's illustrious open borders tradition, it is fitting
that we lead the way.My case for open
borders comes down to two claims: One moral, one empirical.
claim: Immigration restrictions are
unjust.Letting people work for
willing employers and rent from willing landlords is not charity.It's basic decency.And even though foreigners wickedly chose the
wrong parents, they're clearly people.
claim: Being just to foreigners would
cost us less than nothing.When
people immigrate here to work, they simultaneously enrich themselves and
us.Though a high-skilled worker
enriches us more than a low-skilled
worker, the typical low-skilled worker is far better than nothing - and there's plenty
of room for everyone.
with our laws' injustice.Imagine the U.S.
made it illegal for blacks, women, or Jews to take certain jobs or live in
certain neighborhoods.You wouldn't
merely object.You'd be appalled.Whatever your specific moral views, you know
it's wrong to prohibit a black, woman, or Jew from accepting a job or renting a
question: How is mandatory discrimination against foreigners against less wrong
than mandatory discrimination against blacks, women, or Jews?The leading rationale is that "we should take
care of our own first."That might be a
good argument against sending foreigners welfare checks.But it's an Orwellian argument for stopping
immigrants from working or renting here.Minding your own business when two strangers trade with each other is
not a form of charity.
This is not
a weird libertarian point.The fact that
I never put Krazy Glue in the locks of the Center for Immigration Studies does
not make me one of its donors.
immigration restrictions often compare nations to families.I'll accept their analogy.I love my children more than I love the rest
of you put together.This is a good
reason to worry that I'll treat you
unjustly if there's ever a conflict of interest.But it's no excuse for me to treat you unjustly."I want my beloved son to get this job" does
not justify slashing rival candidates' tires the morning of the final
interview.The same goes for immigration
policy.Your love for Americans may tempt you to treat foreigners unjustly,
but it's no excuse for treating them unjustly.
refrain from unjust actions even if they're in our self-interest.In the zombie apocalypse, you shouldn't eat
me because you're hungry and I'm wimpy.Yet in the real world, fortunately, justice usually pays.Becoming a violent criminal is a poor path to
prosperity.So were Jim Crow laws.What about immigration laws?
me to my second big claim: Being just to foreigners would cost us less than
nothing.Everyone has his problems.Opponents of immigration spend most of their
time staring at foreigners to find fault.But if you pick a random would-be immigrant - even a random illiterate peasant
- and calmly weigh his positives and negatives for us, the sum is
To see why,
you need a little labor economics.Hard
fact: Immigration laws trap people in countries where workers produce far below their potential.When Haitians move to the United States,
their wages easily increase twenty-fold.That's not +20%.It's plus
+2000%.The reason isn't that American
employers are nicer than Haitian employers.The reason is that Haitians produce vastly more in America than they do
in Haiti.Think about how little you could contribute to the world
economy if you were stuck in Haiti.
would total production rise under open borders?Every economist who asks the question reaches an astronomical
answer.A typical estimate is that
global free migration would double
global production.If the U.S. alone opened
its borders, the global effect would naturally be smaller, but the national
effect would be even larger.
vastly higher production in your self-interest?The obvious reason: More stuff produced means more stuff consumed.This is not trickle-down economics; it is
Niagara Falls economics.Production is
what distinguishes the rich world of today from the wretched world of the past.If half the workforce suddenly retired, it
would be bad for you.
always has its naysayers.When
driverless cars arrive, you can count on people to complain that they're
putting truck-drivers out of work.But
by this logic, we'd be richer if law-makers in the 19th-century
banned the tractor.The fundamental truth
of economic growth: While innovation often hurts immediate competitors, it is the fountainhead of rising prosperity.
immigration hurt workers by increasing the supply of labor?It's complicated, because immigration also
increases labor demand.After all,
workers buy stuff.To grasp
immigration's full effect, keep both eyes on production.Trapping Mexican farm workers on primitive
Mexican farms starves them and us.It's
far better if they move here and enrich themselves by putting better and
cheaper food on our tables.
driverless cars, immigration can impoverish some Americans while enriching the
rest.As a native-born research
professor, I ought to know.Thanks to an
immigration loophole, about half the people in my occupation are foreign-born.Closing that loophole would give my career a big
shot in the arm.Most labor economists similarly
find that lower immigration helps native high school dropouts.
How can I
concede this yet insist that illiterate foreigners are far better than nothing?
Because unlike Mark, I don't look at a
would-be immigrant and ask, "Is there any possible downside?"Instead, I ask, "Is his net effect positive?"Every innovation
is bad for someone, but innovation is still a good thing.Every immigrant is bad for someone, but immigrants
are still good thing.
Why must I
be so radical?In part, because this is
a matter of basic human rights.We don't
have to give foreigners welfare or let them vote.But treating fellow human beings like
criminals for working without government permission is unconscionable.
cements my radicalism, though, is that doing the right thing would cost us less
than nothing.If you think production
leads to poverty, open borders should terrify you.Otherwise, the sooner America opens its
borders, the better.