Post No.: 0786
It could be said that we tacitly consent to the government and the laws of the land we live on by virtue of us not leaving. We’re always free to emigrate. However, many people cannot just simply do so because they cannot afford to, because of family, or because another country won’t grant them citizenship.
So what one prefers, and what one ends up choosing or agreeing to, is going to be sensitive to both one’s free and coerced options. It’d be like if someone stuck a gun to your head and gave you the choice of ‘your money or your life’ and you ‘chose’ the former, it’s not really a genuine choice according to your lived experience of what choosing means.
No one really even gives prior consent to belonging anywhere – they’re just forced into whichever country they’re born and/or raised in. No one chooses where they’re born or raised hence people should arguably be able to freely migrate to wherever they wish i.e. for countries to have open borders to all except in rare cases. To actively block people from improving their lives, or from just simply moving, is to arguably be actively coercive. Free movement can be regarded as a human right, not just for asylum seekers who are fleeing from places of persecution.
An open border is one that enables the free, unrestricted movement of people between different jurisdictions, with minimal border controls.
Arguments against free and open borders, though, include a nation’s right to self-determination, and that includes the right to block whomever they collectively want. This highlights how one freedom to do something can obstruct another’s freedom to do something else. But libertarians would contend that the individual rights of the immigrant should matter more than the collective rights of the receiving country. Many receiving nation citizens themselves want immigrants to come in – for instance to work in their farms or firms, hence what about their rights as citizens of the receiving nation?
Controlled borders can help with population size management, and conserve the social and ethnic majority. Not wanting the receiving nation’s culture to dilute is a common argument against open borders. However, it’s not clear what a nation’s culture is, especially because there are already different cultures within every nation (e.g. New York is quite different to Texas). Nations import as well as export culture too via media, cuisine, music, etc. – hence the mixing of cultures and traditions is a normative as well as actual descriptive state of affairs of reality. Second-generation children usually always successfully assimilate into the local culture too, including often religiously. More cooperative mixing of religious groups in particular could reduce the occurrence of regional conflicts.
Another argument against open borders are immigrants harming the local economy. Some from a receiving country will believe that immigrants take jobs away from the ‘natives’ for they’re willing to accept lower wages than the locals. From the perspective of the sending country, there are also concerns of a ‘brain drain’, with those individuals with the resources to emigrate and the specific talents in demand by other nations doing so, hence it might mean some countries benefit from open borders whilst others suffer losses in talent for it. Countries – especially ‘developing’ countries – don’t want their most highly-skilled to leave, because it makes it harder for their economies to develop.
Open borders allow migrants from ‘developing’ countries to lift themselves out of poverty by earning higher wages abroad though. They then often send some of their earnings to relatives in their home country, which helps to lift them out of poverty there. So it’s overall a win-win.
Economic modelling consistently shows an overall benefit to the economies of receiving countries, with higher wages and lower unemployment. Immigrants are also overall net contributors of tax rather than net drains on public services. Temporarily lower wages means lower production costs, which means lower prices passed onto customers, which means more demand, including from those around the world (exports) who couldn’t afford the previously higher prices; which means a larger served market, which eventually means more job creation and higher wages. Besides, can it ever be ethical to block a competitor from applying for a job just because they’re willing to accept a lower wage than you?! That’s the free market!
Open borders would satisfy both luck egalitarian (the belief that luck is a factor in determining outcomes and this is unfair, but that not everything is down to luck because we do have free will and autonomy for our own actions and so we deserve the fruits of these) and libertarian values – to somewhat cancel out the (lack of) luck stemming from where we happened to have been born and raised, hence improving equality and the freedom to go wherever we want. Often these two values clash but here it doesn’t hence open borders are arguably a no-brainer, from a moral justification viewpoint anyway.
Another justification for open borders is that we shouldn’t have the right to block or coerce anyone who doesn’t have a democratic say in whether or not restrictive immigration policies should be imposed on them – for which immigrants don’t have a democratic say in how their lives will be impacted by the restrictive immigration policies of a receiving country, and for which they highly likely would not vote for such restrictive immigration policies there.
Open borders are usually reciprocal too – you could migrate to somewhere else frictionlessly too if you wished. It’s only propaganda to call oneself an ‘expatriate’ instead of an immigrant though(!) All humans who aren’t living in Africa are, or came from, migrants.
The UK has a reasonable amount of ethnic diversity and is better for it. Ethnically black citizens, for example, win plenty of gold medals for our country. The number of black British citizens amounts to only ~3% of the total UK population in 2022. Our perception may be skewed to think it’s higher though because we see more black (and LGBT) people on TV than is proportional to the population.
But we must acknowledge that this has come about not primarily due to open border invitations but unfortunately in key part because of the country’s slave-trading history. The ‘Windrush generation’ of inviting people from other parts of the British Commonwealth to take up jobs in the UK in sectors affected by the post-WWII labour shortage has been mired in scandal too because hundreds of these innocent people have been wrongly detained, denied legal rights and deported due to a later-introduced hostile immigration legislation. It was like ‘thanks for helping our country when we needed you – now leave!’
Notwithstanding, diversity is beneficial. Other ethnic minorities help Team GB win medals too. And they’re regarded as ‘one of us’ when they win, but as a whole they can be treated with ‘so where do you really come from?’ the rest of the time(!) Diversity helps our nation beat even a country like China or Russia/ROC now and again on the Olympic medal tables. They appear to have less diversity in their teams. So when celebrating our British sporting successes, we should be celebrating diversity rather than the supposed supremacy of any one ‘race’. Yet when a few black players miss their penalty kicks in a major cup final – ‘they’ lost it for our country and receive racist abuse rather than the acknowledgement that they were a critical reason for us reaching that final in the first place! Nationalism is horribly biased. If they don’t belong here then why not be a better footballer and represent your own country yourself then?(!) Unless you’re better than your representatives at what they represent, you cannot criticise them unless they’re not trying their best.
…Similarly, we may argue that our politicians represent the best people of our nation to run our country, hence if they’re inept or untrustworthy then it implicitly means that everyone else in our nation must be even worse, otherwise we should’ve voted for someone else instead(!) Post No.: 0509 discussed the value of elected representatives.
However in this case – this neglects the fact that different people have different opportunities to become politicians because of the expense of campaigning, because of what (private) school one went to, because it’s really about ‘who you know rather than what you know’ (well who you know can shape what you get to know), and other things of born and inherited privilege. Most of the true best of a nation won’t have a realistic chance of getting anywhere close to becoming a head of government because the cream doesn’t always rise to the top in places where inequality and inequity are high.
It’s true however that most citizens simply don’t have the inclination or desire to become politicians themselves. Most citizens don’t have a deep enough interest in politics itself. And because of the general ignorance of the public regarding political, economic, social and legal matters, the public are generally poor at monitoring their representatives, such as regarding what they’re actually up to behind our backs, or even regarding what they’re doing when they’re doing it in front of us and whether what they’re doing will be in our long-term interests.
Do you spend your days watching what’s happening in parliament/congress? Do you even know what your own local member of parliament/congress is doing right now? We, the public, are supposed to be the supervisors of our elected representatives but we often don’t even understand what they’re doing, hence we’re not very good supervisors at all. It’s like a head chef who doesn’t know how to cook or run a restaurant trying to supervise her/his staff.
Do you know how much of what you believe about certain issues is a result of information provided by a few powerful media institutions? Do you know how much money is at stake by the wealthy and powerful and their interests? Do you understand how difficult it is to create and enforce rules to adequately police the influence of these powerful interests in political circles? We might not believe we’re essentially clueless though because we look at our peers and see each other as roughly as equally clued-up. But this is like two loud people thinking they’re not that loud because the other person they’re with is just as loud.
The public, at large, can thus fail to hold the elected in a truly accountable way. An ignorant public isn’t effective at meaningfully monitoring its representatives, even when they’re elected by the public, which in turn undermines good governance and responsiveness. We have to rely too much on trust and goodwill. So it’s not just the fault of the political system or politicians but the public too – we’re generally ignorant in the sense that the overwhelming majority of us are nowhere near educated enough on political, economic, social and legal matters (although we think we are), as well as because we’re easily misled by some extremely partisan portions of the media that precisely exploit our general naivety.
This is the value of independent (as in non-partisan) political experts who voice their views in the independent (as in non-state run) media. It’d be ideal if every citizen just spent time every day completely immersed in political, economic, social and legal matters – but that’s almost a full-time task. The general public can employ some shortcuts like researching a politician’s potential conflicts of interests based on their personal history, funding sources and connections (e.g. if someone employed as a banking regulator has just come from one of the major banking corporations – an example of ‘regulatory capture’), and which groups endorse them. But such shortcuts aren’t foolproof. For example, knowing that a politician is from one major party rather than another won’t itself reliably tell us what their stance on a particular issue will be, and these major parties may occasionally offer basically no difference to each other on some issues anyway!