Book Notes: Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

Open Borders by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith
Read Dec 12, 2021 - Dec 12, 2021

Open Borders is a book in comic form advocating for unrestricted migration. The book is illustrated by Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal in his usual simple and vibrant style. The main author of the book is Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University.

Although Caplan starts by presenting the moral and ethical arguments for removing legal restrictions on human migration, the book (unsurprisingly) focuses on economic arguments from an American perspective. Caplan carefully refutes each of the usual objections to immigration, centering his arguments on the idea that immigrants would bring more labor and, thus, more production and wealth, which would more than offset any potential costs. He devotes a section to discussing how a pro-open-borders stance is consistent with many philosophical perspectives (utilitarianism, Christianity, libertarianism, meritocracy, etc).

I personally don’t find this kind of economic argument compelling (I am in favor of open borders as a human rights issue), and I was somewhat uncomfortable with the talk of “mass production” as obviously good goals, without even a nod to the environmental costs. But I see the wisdom in Caplan’s approach for appealing to immigration skeptics. Towards the end of the book he talks about how his advocacy for an extreme – completely open borders – might help shift the Overton window for the immigration conversation. I hope he’s right.

Tags: books

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