Bryan Caplan  

Is Immigration a Basic Human Right? Full Video

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Here's my debate with Christopher Wellman.  Since the audience was admonished to vote on the literal resolution prior to voting, I'm now slightly less confident in my "metaphorical voting" theory of my Intelligence Squared debate outcome.  Either way, enjoy.






COMMENTS (5 to date)
Jonathan S writes:

I was surprised by the number of people who considered immigration to be a human right in the first place. I imagine most of the switch was a result of a change in views of "human rights" more than views on the efficacy of immigration.

I think Wellman's most convincing argument was that a country should have the right to restrict immigration, even if that is not in the country's best interest; the same way that individuals should have the right to make decisions that are irrational or harmful towards themselves.

Bryan, I think you would have been better off directly comparing immigration restrictions to Jim Crow, as you have done in the past.

Roger writes:

Wellman argued the position extremely well.

I agree that people should have the ability to decide on the terms of membership, that any moral obligation they may feel to people outside the state does not necessarily limit itself to open immigration (there are alternative avenues of action), but that more immigration is, in general, a good thing.

The extreme libertarian position (as is so often the case) came across as idealistic.

I know this sounds odd, but it is Wellman's arguments which are actually advancing the moral case for immigration. He recognizes that immigration and international improvements in institutions are morally and economically positive, but that we need to convince people of this argument and find mutually beneficial solutions to the problem. This may include more immigration, or even unlimited immigration, but it may also or alternatively include pressure on the failing state, foreign aid or creating new institutional zones for immigrants.


Hi Bryan. Are you going to write a post on your thoughts about the debate, like you did when you debated Mark Krikorian?

I remember you saying that Krikorian "debated like a lawyer." How would you describe Wellman's style?

Norman writes:

Wellman’s notion of the legitimate state could change in the next election by one vote. There is a higher order than democracy.

There is no such thing as a legitimate state. The state is an organization of criminals who prey on its citizens. Some are worse than others, but even the best such as Norway are poor. The legitimate state can turn and pounce on you in a moment.

Most citizens are ignorant of the ideas of morality and follow intellectuals such as Professor Wellman, believing that they have the right to exclude people who look different and have different beliefs. Just think of the idea of the legitimate state regarding the right to smoke marijuana or purchase Obamacare.

Opening up our country will lead to morality and freedom. If our country doesn’t do it, don’t be surprised if the Chinese do when they find out that it will improve their standard of living. Soon everybody will follow.

Free migration is moral from the human rights point of view. The idea of dividing the earth into countries and nationalistic ideas has been a failure. The right to leave an area of tyranny will lead to world economic improvement but also to dissolution of tyranny.

Even with open borders, I would not be surprised if most people remained put, especially if freedom prevailed.That is the case in the U.S. We haven't been over run by Puerto Ricans

John Ashman writes:

Governments have no rights, and the rights of groups of like minded people don't include the trampling of rights of individuals or people who disagree with them. The Founders saw migration as a natural inalienable right and didn't touch it in the Constitution.

No one gets to decide who their neighbors are. That's just life.

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