Robert Nozick famously criticized
government for forbidding "capitalist acts between consenting adults."If an employer wants to hire you and you want
to work for him, government should leave you alone.If a landlord wants to rent to you and you
want to rent from him, government should leave you alone.The right of consenting individuals to be
left in peace by the government is the heart of freedom.It doesn't matter if the individuals are white
or black, men or women, Christian or atheist; consenting adults of all stripes
have the right to engage in consensual capitalist acts.
The case for open borders begins with a follow-up
question: If race, gender, and religion don't matter here, why should
nationality?Suppose I want to hire a
Chinese citizen to work in my factory, and he wants to work in my factory.Or suppose I want to rent my apartment to a
Romanian citizen, and she wants to accept my offer.It seems like government should leave us alone, too.If it did, open borders - a world where every
non-criminal is free to live and work in any country on earth - would result.
The main principled objection to this
position is that countries are their citizens' collective property.Just as parents can legitimately say, "My
house, my rules," countries can say, "Our house, our rules."Though even many libertarians sympathize with
this argument, it undermines everything they think about human freedom.The idea that countries collectively belong to
their citizens has a name - and the name is socialism.If your dad can mandate, "As long as you live
under my roof, you'll go to church, refrain from swearing, work in my
restaurant, and stay away from that girl I don't like," why can't countries make
comparably intrusive demands "As long as you live within our borders"?Authoritarians may bite this bullet, but
freedom-lovers must reject the premise: America is not the collective property of the American people, but the private
property of American property-owners.
This brings us to the long list of pragmatic objections to open
borders.We're short on time, so I'll
make two sweeping points.
First sweeping point: Immigration
restrictions aren't just another impoverishing trade barrier; they are the
greatest and most impoverishing trade barrier on earth.According to standard estimates, open borders
would roughly DOUBLE the production of mankind by moving human talent from
countries where it languishes to countries where it flourishes.Picture an upscale version of the
migration-fueled economic growth that's modernizing China and India.Every advance hurts someone - see Uber - but open
borders is not trickle-down economics; it's Niagara Falls economics.This enormous increase in wealth - greater
than all other known policy reforms combined - far outweighs almost any
downside of immigration you can imagine - or all of them combined.
Second sweeping point: Immigration
restrictions are not a minor inconvenience we impose on foreigners for the
greater good.To legally relocate to the
United States, you need close relatives, incredible talent, or a winning
lottery ticket.Since every country has
similar policies, almost everyone who "chooses" to be born in the Third World
is stuck there - and being stuck there is very bad.How is their plight our problem?Because without our laws against capitalist
acts between consenting adults, the global poor could pull themselves up by
their own bootstraps in the global labor market.
Freedom-loving people often fret that
immigrants don't love freedom enough to come to the land of the free.They have a point: most immigrants don't love
freedom.But they're missing a larger
point: most native-born Americans don't love freedom either.See the 2016 election if you're in doubt.The real question is, "Do immigrants love
freedom even less than native-born Americans?"I've seen the data, and the answer is, "Maybe a little, but immigrants
don't vote much anyway."Sometimes
sacrificing a little freedom now brings much greater freedom in the
long-run.But for immigration restrictions,
the opposite is true: They're a never-ending, draconian violation of human
freedom where the long-run payoff is hazy at best.