2013-09-03

Simon Grey: Open Borders Is Illogical

Simon Grey has a recent post in which he argues that the idea of open borders is illogical. While the whole post is worth reading, I think Grey neatly sums up his position in his second paragraph, as follows:
To me, supporting the Open Borders movement is akin to designing a house without doors in the various entry points.  The entire point of putting doors on a house is to regulate who can enter and leave the house, and on what terms, and at what time, so forth and so on.  Likewise with borders, the entire point of their existence is to regulate who can enter and leave, the terms and times of entrance and exit, and so forth.  The Open Borders movement, though, is basically arguing that borders should still exist, but that they shouldn’t be used to regulate anyone’s movement.
It's a fair point, right? If the purpose of the border is regulation of entry, and my position is that entry shouldn't be regulated, then why not advocate for border elimination rather than border freedom?

In cases such as this, I often wonder why immigration restrictionists view national borders as being fundamentally different on every level to any other kind of border that exists in the world. To see what I mean, consider the following Google Maps screen-shot of part of the New York City area:
While most of us would call this metropolitan mess by the general term "New York," there are nonetheless real differences between these communities, and real borders between them. Borders identify legal boundaries between points of administration. Certain police precincts exist between these communities, differences in tax rates and real estate values, differences in the price and delivery of public utilities, and private utilities. And even beyond all of that, the communities are slightly different for more natural reasons such as landscape and local culture.

Yet, at the same time, no immigration restrictionist in his or her right mind would argue that a citizen of Levittown ought to be barred from moving, working, hanging out, or even couch-surfing in Massapequa. Even the prospect of such border enforcement seems absurd to the average immigration restrictionist.

By way of comparison, take a look at this screenshot of a region between California and Baja California.
If it weren't for the thick white line Google Maps uses to delineate between the two states, you'd stand about as good a chance identifying the border between San Diego and Tiujuana as you would the border between Glen Cove and Syosset. The open borders position is simply that a resident of Tiujana ought to be able to interact with San Diego in exactly the same way that a resident of Glen Cove can interact with Syosset. That's all.

An argument in favor of moving from Glen Cove to Syosset - or even moving from Manhattan to Dallas - is an argument for neither anarchy nor border irrelevance. Or, if it is an argument for border irrelevance, it is as equally as anarchic as the idea that there is nothing inherently problematic in moving from Denver to Boulder, or from Bismarck to Minneapolis, or from Minneapolis to St. Paul.

In one sense, the borders matter. In another sense, they don't. If that fact is "illogical" it is a level of illogic that is universally shared by anyone who believes people ought to be allowed to move to an adjacent city in the same metropolitan area. And, in the case of San Diego and Tiujana, it is actually the very same argument.