Review: Open Borders – the Science and Ethics of Immigration

9781250316967In OPEN BORDERS: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, Bryan Caplan, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and Zach Weinersmith, a prolific cartoonist, have created an accessible and relatively simple argument for Open Borders in the USA (and around the world). Throughout this graphic non-fiction work, Caplan presents proactive arguments and addresses criticisms and fears surrounding the concept of Open Borders with both respect for the audience and even some humor. It’s worth a read if, like me, you understand the basics but aren’t sure about the nitty-gritty of what gets thrown around in political discourse.

There are some pretty in-depth reviews of OPEN BORDERS out there, including one by Caplan’s co-blogger and also a professor of economics, David Henderson. This review on reddit includes both praise and concerns about a few claims including in the book. For me, a non-economics-degree-having child of immigrants immersed in the daily grind of my family and the current national (and local) horror show, the concept of open borders has been a bit of a see-saw where my sympathy lies. While I scoff at the conservative and IMO reactionary “my great-grandparents did it legally!” attitude, I’ve also often wondered what actual “open borders” would look like. Floodgates or turnstile? Target on Black Friday or waiting for cars to leave an at-capacity parking garage so you can get in? This book, sometimes in seemingly over-simplified terms, helps clarify many issues for mystified folks like me.

The USA-specific economics of open borders made a lot of sense to me; the global economics less so. The moral arguments were mainly in-line with why I have centered much of my activism on migrant and refugee issues. And while I think Caplan has an overly optimistic expectation about culture clashes and grievance politics, the USA, with its heterogeneous society, is likely to fare better than some homogeneous countries along those lines. Admittedly, I skimmed over the IQ section because, as an educator, I just don’t believe in using it as a reliable measure for, well, anything. I was surprised at Caplan’s seeming approval of some “keyhole” measures, and I’ll probably go back and re-read some sections and any footnotes to clarify the assertions for myself.

One of the most interesting chapters was “All Roads Lead to Open Borders.” Caplan succinctly runs through one-pagers on how various philosophies would approach open borders. Everything from Utilitarianism to Cost-Benefit Analysis to Christianity to Meritocracy gets a turn. It is a little like being Eleanor in Chidi’s ethics class. And it is effective. It’s also painfully optimistic at times. Appealing to Christianity’s reason for welcoming immigrants is pretty hopeful at a time that separating migrant children from their families and farming them out to “Christian” organizations for adoption is a shrug on the national conscience. But I digress.

I highly recommend reading Bryan Caplan’s OPEN BORDERS no matter into which opinion about immigration you fall. The illustrations and text work together to organize the information clearly with enough simplicity for we non-philosophers with a dearth of economics education, and it presents well-rounded arguments from all sides.



About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. Do The Most Good.
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2 Responses to Review: Open Borders – the Science and Ethics of Immigration

  1. Lauren Becker says:

    Sounds like a really informative read, and I’m sure I’d learn a lot. I like that it’s in a graphic format too. 🙂


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