Friday, April 6, 2012

New Open Borders Website

A new website, Open Borders: The Case, started up a few weeks ago (ht Bryan Caplan). The site, run by one Vipul Naik, gathers many of the arguments for and against open borders in one place. Naik's viewpoint is clear-- he supports open borders, and much of the site is dedicated to various arguments for that position. The pages featuring arguments against open borders sometimes include counter-arguments, though not always. Despite his viewpoint, Naik seems to take a special interest in overcoming his own bias, even including a specific feedback form to let him know whether he's treating the other side fairly.

Some highlights:
  • Doubling world GDP: Various studies have found that removing barriers to labor mobility would increase world GDP by at least 67% and possibly as much as 147%. [For comparison, world GDP increased about 67% from 2003-2010, and about 147% from 1993-2010. In other words, with open borders we could see an extra decade's worth of economic growth, bringing new meaning to the term "lost decade."]
  • Competitive government: Free movement between US states allows Americans to "vote with their feet," putting a check on state and local government power. Open borders would do the same to national governments.
  • The Gumball Video: Since I wrote my own response to Roy Beck's gumball video last year, I found it interesting to read Naik's response, which is somewhat more kind to Dr. Beck than I was.
  • Interesting analogies: In making the moral case for open borders, Naik raises some interesting thought exercises, such as Starving Marvin, which asks whether it's right to use force to keep a starving man out of a grocery store; John and Julio, which asks what level of force is appropriate to keep a competitor out of a job interview; and the Drowning Child, which asks whether we can use force to prevent someone else from saving a drowning child.
On the whole, the site is still very new. Many of its pages are just short blurbs, especially in the list of objections. Bryan Caplan quotes also dominate quite a few pages; at times, you could be forgiven for thinking Caplan set up the site himself. But websites unfortunately don't spring forth fully formed from the internet ether, so hopefully both of those issues will fade away as the site matures.

The case presented is explicitly based on libertarian, utilitarian and egalitarian reasons to support open borders. Those with strong objections to one or more of those philosophies might not find the site as interesting as I did. Either way, the site certainly has the potential to become a valuable resource to anyone who wants to learn more about the issue, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on it as it grows.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the site review! I've added your blog post to the "external coverage" page on the site here:

    Your criticisms are spot on. I've been working on some of them, and have shelved others for later:

    (1) Regarding the Bryan Caplan quotes: Caplan seems to have touched a fairly large section of the issues that are currently covered on the site, and his writing is clear, lucid, and links to relevant sources. That said, I think I've already added almost all the Bryan Caplan material that I'd ever add, so from now on, the proportion of Caplan material in the website can only fall (and in fact, it has been falling over the last two weeks or so).

    (2) The brevity of objections pages, and the absence of counter-arguments: My first focus is to get the most reasonable and convincing arguments against open borders, then find sources that elaborate on these arguments in the most reasonable and convincing form, *then* start filling in counter-arguments. For many of the anti-open borders arguments, I'm still largely at the first stage, but the material is gradually being filled out.

    (3) Too much focus on the moral/philosophical angle: I don't remember if I did the site structure change before or after you drafted this blog post, but I've recently bifurcated the case for open borders into the "moral" component (which goes into the various meta-ethical theories) and the "practical" component (which basically makes the factual arguments -- ones that mostly bolster the utilitarian case). I'm hoping this bifurcation will help increase the site's appeal to people who (unlike you) are not interested in meta-ethics or underlying moral theories.