Bryan Caplan  

Open Borders Meets the Writers Workshop

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The staunchly anti-immigration US Inc. invited me to present my case for open borders.  Here's what I told them.

COMMENTS (12 to date)
Nacim writes:

Wonderful work! Diving into the fray must have been really exciting. I would love to have been present for the Q&A portion.

jon writes:

At 3:15, you say you don't want to sugarcoat the fact that open borders means 100's of millions moving.
Then at 22:10 - when arguing against the precautionary principle - you say that billions of people are being exiled to the third world for no good reason.
Sounds like maybe you did sugarcoat it.

BZ writes:

@jon - He's suggesting not everyone WOULD move (100s of millions), even though billions ARE trapped (to the tune of 98%).

Ricardo writes:

Nicely done! Two suggestions for future talks on this subject:

(1) Be ready for the objections to the part about "immigrants have lower crime rates than natives." Provide references during the talk (not afterwards) and motivate with anecdotes that your audience will believe. Example: in DC last year, 100% of murders were committed by natives (I just made that up, but wouldn't be surprised if it were true).

(2) Consider taking a few elocution lessons. Your powerful message may be compromised by your friendly demeanor. Milton Friedman was so effective not just because he was right, but because he delivered his ideas beautifully. I mean this suggestion constructively!

Colombo writes:

But wouldn't the immigrants want to close the borders again when they get a foothold in a rich country?

I'm all for open borders as matter of principle and of consequence, but, realistically, most people are not libertarians, including the immigrants.

john hare writes:

This talk reinforced my opposition to open borders as Brian projects it. Of course most of his posts have the same effect on me. My experiences with immigrants from other countries (19 that I can think of) is more positive than those from Puerto Rico for instance. A higher percentage of PRs seem to think we owe them something. And Brian was pointing to PR as a positive example.

People that earn, legally or illegally, residence in the US seem to have far higher regard for this country than those that get in free. Thinking otherwise seems a bit too much Ivory Tower from my experiences with actual people. Some consideration should be given to how people value things that are earned vs free.

Steve F writes:

A few disagreements:

1) When discussing how many would emigrate from poor countries, you left it at the implication that poor countries would remain so and that rich countries would be jam packed. I do not believe this would be the case since mass emigration from poor countries would heavily incentivize them to pursue reforms in market and civic traditions. Open borders would likely have the effect of turning many poor countries into rich ones.

2) You mentioned that natives of rich countries would have to see more of the poverty since it would be on our doorsteps. I don't think this would be the case because poor immigrants would migrate to regions where their skills are best used and the cost of living is more reasonable for them. I live in suburbia and I don't see poor Mexicans even though there are quite a few in the state because they don't move to suburbia. They go to the farms, and ones that migrate to cities and work in places like restaurants are no longer poor by doing so. I would suspect that the only way native would see much increased poverty would be if welfare remained intact and generous.

On a related note, I think that the US espousing open borders would have the counter-intuitive effect of gradually turning the rest of the world into US-like places.

Michael Crone writes:

I find the moral (Libertarian and the one you labeled Christian) case convincing. I wish you put the focus on that. Expert predictions of the sort you focus on are too frequently wrong.

But I, for one, really like the friendly tone.

Colombo writes:

A side topic.

I've been noticing a rather curious phenomenon. Deontological libertarians tend to be against "open-borders" because of its consequences (or the consequences they think would happen). Consequentialist libertarians tend to defend "open-borders" as a matter of principle.

Where does this inversion of roles come from?
When did it happen first?

Mises, Rand, Rothbard, being survivors of the evils of the Old World, would agree because of principle and because of consequence with the concept of open borders (although Rothbard changed that position later, I just think that was political posturing or pandering). Hoppe kinda makes a performative contradiction, as his teachers would have been dead if his current opinion had been put in practice when they had to make a run for it, and then he could have never leave Habermas philosophy.

Just how many good books have not been written because of political control of borders?

On the other hand, consequentialist libertarians jump over many logicoempirical hoops to make their argument. For once, they seem to leave behind practial political solutions and demand strict adherence to logic, justice and intellectual authority. Which I'm sure is disappointing for some people in the always small audience.

It is fun to watch. Libertarians specialize in upsetting liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, but they are not content with that. They also seek the exquisite pleasure of upsetting other libertarians. It's almost like a sport.

Where is Samuel Edward Konkin III when we need him? We need a libertarian séance right away. Do ghosts prefer bitcoins to gold?

Kenneth A. Regas writes:

Dr. Caplan's entire presentation seems to be founded on the belief that productivity is a trait of places rather than of peoples. This is a very difficult position to sustain. There is no place in the world where Germans don't thrive or where sub-saharan Africans do thrive. No place in the world where Ashkenazi Jews don't thrive, or where Scotch-Irish do thrive. When British farmers set up shop in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, they made a very good living, hiring the locals for labor. Local entrepeneurs certainly hadn't done so. And when the white African farmers were forced off the land, their successors haven't thrived. Chinese minorities are hated throughout Southeast Asia and nevertheless outperform the locals routinely. Malaysia has affirmative action for the majority population because otherwise the Chinese minority would run the joint. I would refer to Thomas Sowell's classic book on the subject (The Economics and Politics of Race, 1984).

I'm dying to hear the case that places have productivities, not peoples.


p.s. Was there no Q&A? I should think that this would be the best part of the program - letting Dr. Caplan defend his views against live and well-briefed opponents, rather than his versions of his opponents.

Flann writes:

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