Bryan Caplan  

Cruise Ships and Private Plots

Saving, cost control, and infr... More Ginis please...
I'm now cruising to Bermuda.  Which has me thinking: In an open borders world, cruising would probably drastically decline.  Why?  Because cruise ships show the logic of open borders in stunted form. 

Think about it: On a cruise ship, people of all nations - and all skill levels - work together.  Top-notch pilots and mechanics from Scandinavia ply their craft alongside cabin stewards and janitors from the Third World.  Via comparative advantage, their cooperation allows them to provide an affordable, high-quality vacation to eager consumers.

So where's the stunting?  Simple: This cosmopolitan cooperation is illegal on dry land.  Resources therefore pour into the unregulated sector, creating a beautiful tourist experience.  But that's nothing compared to what laissez-faire could accomplish.

By analogy: Remember the famous private plots of Soviet agriculture?  The socialist government owned all the land... except for a tiny fraction in private hands.  Yet this tiny fraction of private land produced a quarter to a third of Soviet foodstuffs!  All the pent-up potential of Soviet farmers poured into the one legal outlet.  Cruise ships work the same way: Immigration restrictions funnel labor into the one place where humans of all nations can legally work side-by-side.  Loopholes in destructive policies are a good thing, but there's no substitute for repeal.

P.S. Here are my earlier thoughts on the economics and philosophy of cruising.

COMMENTS (6 to date)
Stephen Gradijan writes:

It is worth pointing out that it is illegal for you to go on a cruise that leaves a US port and goes to another US port with no foreign ports in between with that foreign crew of yours. Therefore domestic ports get dramatically fewer visits from tourists than they otherwise might due to stupid US law.

If it was due to stupid foreign law then our current US president would no doubt be very upset about it and try to end that particular law. If someone knows how to bring this to his attention then perhaps he might actually try to get that US law abolished just as he would if it were a law perpetrated by "nasty" foreigners.

bastiatfan1998 writes:

I'm pro open-borders but I like to think arguments against my opinions.
The cruise ship is not a Democracy. Here is a list of things of some differences between the cruise ship workers and people who enter in a foreign country.
- The former enter freely and with a contract.
- They do not believe they get to live at the expense of everyone else, especially the clients-passengers.
- They know when their job is going to end.
- They have a very reasonable hope of getting payed on time, unlike dry-land migrant workers.
- There are no mafias in the cruise ship.
- Cruise ship workers are not forced to finance a social cruise ship security scheme.
- And they do not inherit the standing debt of the cruise ship.
- Very importantly: in case of a pirate attack, all the workers are more than willing to fight back the pirates. After all, they are enlightened enough to know they have to defend their lives, and there is no police force in the ship that would prevent them to defend themselves.
- Also, no one among the passengers believe that the workers are in desperate need of help of an oppressive system, nor they believe that the workers are belong to an inferior race full of vices. Perhaps the passengers do not ponder these stupid things because the blissful lack of media and journalists on board.

Gee, that cruise looks like paradise for an philanthropic economist. By the way, the Paradise of Genesis had borders... bummer.

Have a nice time!

ChrisA writes:

Dubai and to a lesser extent Singapore and Hong Kong are perhaps better examples where free immigration from the West and the developing world have created very prosperous societies. The issue is that like on a cruise ship, this is largely achieved via non democratic means, it seems like, as with protectionism like the cabotage example above, populism is against economics.

Brad writes:

@ Stephen Gradijan

The Jones Act

IronSig writes:

A cosmopolitan misery is often found on commercial airplanes. People from nearly all walks of life and many skill levels (I a member of the Amish will fly if an emergency called for it) join each other inside a metal tube that will be hurled through the sky to land on another stretch of dirt.

To reach this big can, they are given welcomes that ranges from perfunctory greetings to suspicious and invasive security screening. Don't forget the obscure and arbitrary contraband standards that are assigned to both passengers and crew, often applied as retroactive protection from a terror plot of some degree of completion and, more often than admitted, obstacles of no serious consequence by the internal watchdogs of security administration.

Next comes the cattle car seating that crunches person to person. Thumb-twiddling takes control as arcane priorities dictates actual flight time. Another security theater brings an emergency landing lecture that you can half-mouth, even if you're drunk, and a stern admonishment to turn off that electronic devise that is only just staving off that disgust, annoyance and bile. Complementary snack and drink? More like deserved snack and keep those drinks coming, and maybe I'll get through this. Only those with terrific bladder and bowel control will walk away with their pride intact and odds are your earbuds will fizzle out and your neighbor will try to sell you life insurance.

Plenty of hyperbole inflated what I just wrote, but only by my standards; it's not difficult to find someone who would be underplaying how annoyed they are with air travel and would have a rant like the preceding. I personally believe that even four babies crying the whole flight, one in each cardinal direction of your head, can be tolerated with a mind set firmly on the destination and with an appreciation of the speed you'll get there. However, I think I'm a patient outlier.

I would concede that the airplane experience is closer to authoritarianism than a cruise ship. The first three sections of my comment flesh out a relationship between passengers and crew based on unilateral rules. I wouldn't be surprised if a history of how we got to the current state of airline travel would sketch out a bottleneck of sorts: many people want to go between great distances, very quickly. They use a technology that has a smaller gap between optimal performance and disastrous performance than modern ships or land vehicles. The smaller room for error means the system is fragile, with fragility compounded by the speed it's​ operated at.

Steve Johnson writes:

This could be the stupidest argument I've ever read.

A cruise ship is open borders in miniature? Cruise ships have amazingly
tight border controls. You don't get on them unless you're part of the
crew or you've paid for passage.

The third worlders that you'd love to swamp your nation of residence
with don't have free access to a cruise ship - they are employed under
condition of good behavior and can be dismissed and removed from the
ship for violating the rules or for no reason at all.

What cruise ships actually demonstrate is that the only way to allow
third world people to live near and work with civilized people without
chaos, crime, and disorder being the result is to do so in a context
where the third worlders are deprived of all "fundamental human rights"
and can be removed.

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