WORLD - The Case for Getting Rid of Borders

Arno Froese

To paraphrase Rousseau, man is born free, yet everywhere he is caged. Barbed-wire, concrete walls, and gun-toting guards confine people to the nation-state of their birth. But why? The argument for open borders is both economic and moral. All people should be free to move about the earth, uncaged by the arbitrary lines known as borders.

The overwhelming majority of would-be immigrants want little more than to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to economic opportunity and participating in peaceful, voluntary trade. But lawmakers and heads of state quash these dreams with state-sanctioned violence—forced repatriation, involuntary detention, or worse—often while paying lip service to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

And while the benefits of cross-border movements are tremendous for the immigrants, they are also significant for those born in destination countries. Immigration unleashes economic forces that raise real wages throughout an economy. New immigrants possess skills different from those of their hosts, and these differences enable workers in both groups to better exploit their special talents and leverage their comparative advantages. The effect is to improve the welfare of newcomers and natives alike. The immigrant who mows the lawn of the nuclear physicist indirectly helps to unlock the secrets of the universe.

No standard moral framework, be it utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Christian, or any other well-developed perspective, regards people from foreign lands as less entitled to exercise their rights—or as inherently possessing less moral worth—than people lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time. Nationalism, of course, discounts the rights, interests, and moral value of “the Other, but this disposition is inconsistent with our fundamental moral teachings and beliefs.

Is there hope for the future? Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity. The grandest moral revolutions in history—the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off. They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded. Similarly, a planet unscarred by iron curtains is not only a world of greater equality and justice. It is a world unafraid of itself., 10 October 2015

Arno's commentary

The article authored by Alex Tabarrok in particular targets the European continent. It is the place of the Industrial Revolution, the place of universal law (Roman law), the place where religious Christianity dominated and, from there, spread to the other four continents; but it is also the place with the most ingrained diversity. The over 500 million population is divided into approximately 50 sovereign states, with dozens of languages, diverse customs and cultures. To weld a unity among these diverse groups was all but impossible one century ago.

Furthermore, no other continent has recorded so many wars as Europe. Yet, one word has changed it all: commercialism, or as the European Union’s motto so fittingly expresses: “United in diversity.” Today, one may travel from the north at the cape, Nordkapp, Norway, south to Punta de Tarifa, Spain; that’s about 3,400 km (2,100 miles). Or, from the west at Cabo da Roca, Portugal, to the Ural Mountains in Russia, a distance of 5,200 km (3,200 miles). And, in most cases there is no wall, no barbed wire, and within the EU Schengen area, no border control.

Often, we have emphasized the virtually mind-boggling success of the European continent, totally disregarding political realities. Based on Bible prophecy, merchandising is the key. The prophets of old identify this unity: for example, the prophet Daniel says: “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done” (Daniel 11:36).

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