I have been wondering for several weeks whether to buy Open Borders, Bryan Caplan’s essay on favor of open borders, illustrated by Zach Weinersmith. Reason why I didn’t want to buy it earlier, was that I’m already sold on open borders. I don’t need any convincing. But I saw tweets about the book, from people who said it helped with arguments for when other people say stupid crap about immigration. It was enough to convince me to buy it.
And indeed, Bryan Caplan being an economist, he makes really good economic, backed up arguments against restricted immigration, whether it is about taxes, healthcare or cultural impact of immigrants, to name a few. And it’s really of great help when you need to make some semi-xenophobic well-behaved citizen (1) understand how their convictions are flawed or based on nothing practical. I don’t really want to go into specific details of the book; I encourage everyone to get it and read through it all. It’s pretty easy, there are pictures. But I would like to talk for a moment about what I disagreed on (2).
Even though Bryan Caplan is totally in favor of open borders, he accepts to think that his arguments could be wrong (or counter-intuitive at first glance) and offers a few solutions to pave the way for open borders. What he calls “Keyhole Solutions”. Basically, it’s almost the same thing, but with restrictions (so it’s not the same thing). That’s where the book felt foreign, because it talks about changing the status quo, but the status quo Caplan’s talking about is the USAian one. Those “solutions” (3) are actually already in place in several developed country, like Canada or Australia, in the allegedly egalitarian “point system” (4). And this same point system is being considered in some european countries (such as France) to actually restrict immigration. Which means the status quo it would globally tend to, is actually a move away from open borders in many countries. So you might understand why I really don’t see those keyhole solution as an actual global solution. And that it’s viewed as an improvement on the current situation in the USA, is quite worrying about the USA.
Finally, I understand that convincing the world that open borders would be hard and some steps will have to be taken to achieve it. But Bryan Caplan, aided by the wonderful comic strips by Zach “SMBC” Weinersmith, is really a toolbox to give you “yes but” ammunitions when your annoying uncle at the Christmas dinner starts making up made-up facts about immigration.
(1) We can assume that totally xenophobic scumbags are way beyond salvation, but we only need half of the people to understand basic respect for human life. Maybe those SXWBC are all who need convincing.
(2) It’s not about economics, which I lack the knowledge to judge, but about ethics.
(3) For example, setting up an age cap, or selecting countries or languages to preferably accept
(4) To reuse the examples above, it means giving more points to young graduated people, the more points given to 30-35 year old young workers, and decreasing the number of points awarded with age, or giving points if you already know the official language of the country. It’s everything but equal. Because everyone is scored on the same scale doesn’t mean they have the same chances. Equality doesn’t work like that.