world without borders


The other night before my generator died, I was watching a Frontline episode about the state of anti-terrorism security within the EU, and it appears that terrorists are able to exploit the freedom of movement which is possible in Europe now that borders between countries have become less of an obstruction. In 2008, Ecuador’s National Assembly approved a new constitution that recognizes unfettered mobility across borders as a basic human right. Now some analysts claim Ecuador’s policies have made that country a conduit for terrorists and human trafficking, and a security threat for the entire Western Hemisphere. Donald Trump says he wants to build a “great wall” along the US border with Mexico, but anyone who lives on the border knows this is more complicated than Trump acknowledges and will likely prove to be an election-season pipe dream. This emphasis on a border with Mexico is also in marked contrast to a tradition of trans-border migration which existed for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years before the arrival of the white man in the early 1800s.

In his first prolonged interview since being elected, Donald Trump still says he’ll build a border wall and that he’ll deport millions of people who are in the US illegally. Saying that his administration will deport “probably 2 million”—and possibly 3 million—people who are in the country illegally, Trump told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that he wants to secure the border. Trump also seemed willing to consider the plan some of his fellow Republicans have aired, of securing some parts of the border with a fence.

Yet, all this notwithstanding, it has been written that the world impoverishes itself much more through the blocking international migration than any other single act of international policy. Large numbers of people wish to move permanently to other countries—more than 40% of adults in the poorest of nations. But most of them are either ineligible for any form of legal movement or face waiting lists of a decade or more. Walls are a human creation, and hobble the global economy, costing the world roughly half its potential economic product.

The internet makes it possible for young Africans or Afghans to see with one click of a mouse how Europeans and Americans live. People no longer compare their lives with those of their neighbors but with the planet’s most prosperous inhabitants. The next revolution requires no ideology, political movement, or political leader. You change not the government but the geography. To change your life you need a boat, not a party. It is easier to cross national borders than class barriers.

A worker’s economic productivity depends much more on location than skill. A taxi driver in Ethiopia’s capital, no matter how talented and industrious, cannot earn more than a few thousand dollars a year. The same person doing the same job in New York City can easily earn $35,000 a year. The reason people will pay him that much is that his driving adds more than $35,000 of value to New York’s economy—much more value than his actions can add to the Ethiopian economy.

Simply changing a worker’s location can massively enrich the world economy. And stopping such movement massively impoverishes it.

Many in the EU feel overwhelmed—not by the 1 million and more refugees who have asked for asylum but by the prospect of a future in which their borders are constantly breached by migrants.

The future ageing and shrinking of the incumbent population painted by demographers is frightening even to some of the more robust Europeans. The majorities who feel under threat have emerged as an influential force in politics.

Many people fear that even a minor increase in international migration will wreck their own economies and societies. Those fears deserve a hearing. They are old fears, of the kind that filled US newspapers a century ago. The US population subsequently quadrupled, largely through immigration to already-settled areas. Today, even in crisis, America is the richest country in the world.

It occurs to me that one of the great questions of our age is whether we will rely on external borders to help regulate society, versus internal boundaries. As external borders become more porous, there is unfortunately a corresponding degradation of constraints on the individual. While both of these developments are welcomed from a freedom (non-coercive) perspective, the lessening of internal boundaries is unfortunate from a self-control point-of-view. It seems to me that this situation is a formula for total anarchy (in the worst sense of the term).

I am all for self-regulation by the individual, but many people today (maybe most?) are not prepared for this responsibility. Our current election proves that.




Groove of the Day

Listen to Slim Whitman performing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”


Weather Report

72° and Clear





1 Response to “world without borders”

  1. 1 Willow54
    November 15, 2016 at 4:45 am

    I’m not sure that the ‘many’ in the EU who are overwhelmed by the migrant crisis would agree with you about the merits of having open borders. As an EU citizen myself, until Brexit eventually changes my status, and living in a country which seems to be the target destination for the majority of would-be migrants (the UK), I think we have understandable concerns about this kind of policy, hence our vote to leave the EU and desire to gain some control over it.

    Whilst the economic argument you made for unlimited migration is nice in principle, the reality of it has major consequences on the indigenous populations of the destination countries as well as for the migrants. This has come into sharp focus in the UK particularly, which has been the chosen destination for a flood of people from relatively poor countries in Eastern Europe, which are now also EU members. We cannot stop these people from coming under the terms of EU membership, and whilst most of them eventually work and contribute to our society here in Britain, the government has systematically failed to invest in the infrastructure of the country, which would support the existing population and the new arrivals, and this is the problem that has created the atmosphere of hostility towards migrants in general and the EU in particular.

    Schools, healthcare, social services and housing have all been put under intense pressure in those parts of the land where migrants have settled in numbers. There are parts of the country where it is now impossible to get timely access to doctors, dentistry, school places and social housing. Local population numbers augmented by the flood of new arrivals from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia have simply outstripped the availability of just about every service local government provides, and so far they haven’t really been able to address these issues with investment because of the atmosphere of austerity created in the wake of the economic crash of 2008/9.

    So yes, I’m afraid the economic argument for unlimited migration doesn’t necessarily stack up unless other things are taken into account, and successive governments in most developed countries, which might be popular destinations for would-be migrants (such as the UK and the US), have not pursued policies that would support such a radical way of doing things.

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