I have a different cause though, which I also feel receives too little love: increasing migration between rich areas.
Currently citizens of EU states have the right to move freely inside the EU, subject to them getting a job or having enough independent means to not need state welfare. This is seems like an excellent idea, and surely it could scale up to a larger area than just the EU. For example, how about the EU, the US, Japan, and the rich areas of China . For software developers, being able to conveniently move to the Bay Area would be really welcome.
 E.g. Beijing and Shanghai. These already have strict immigration restrictions, so including them in the common area would not expose industrial regions to immigration from agricultural regions.
Tangentially, this is exactly the situation in China today. The central government restricts movement, particularly between rural and urban areas. Many rural poor want to move to cities, but it is not legal.
Caplan has very insightful remarks about the benefits of immigration and the inconsistency of current policy on it. But he is unhelpfully silent on the question of the upper bound on ideal peaceful immigration, and yes, there certainly is one. Taking his ideas literally, we should be totally okay with Chinese army regulars "peacefully" immigrating, then using their free trade rights to import their weaponry. Sure, enacting their "takeover America" plan would be worthy of opposing (and violating free trade/movement ideals), but by then it's too late.
(Before you flame me: no I'm not saying that this would be the result of relaxing immigration policy; please read it carefully and flame me for the right reason.)
There has to be some principle that tells you when you are allowing in too many immigrants, which would stop you before you reach that point, and Caplan shows far too little interest in articulating it.
If all immigration and emigration restrictions were dropped everywhere, and anyone could freely move from any country to any country, and you were full citizen of whatever country you are living in at any given point, what would happen? Would democracy as political system prevail or would people simply move in and out of non-democratic countries depending on how their respective rules work for them? Would there be inhabitable regions on earth that are abandoned because everyone moved away? Would there be countries that attract all the "desirable" citizen while other countries collapse because they were left with "undesirable" citizens? Is there even such a thing as a generally "desirable" citizen or are people only desirable to some countries but not others? If one (but only one) of those open-border countries were to start implementing new immigration restrictions (that should be possible, after all you can leave if you don't like it), would this result in a net outflow of people and the ultimate collapse of this country? Or would the country strive and be home to some kind of elite group of people? Would the world move back to a state where every country has immigration restrictions, or would we find a different equilibrium?
I know next to nothing about immigration policy, but thinking of this as a game is quite interesting. I wonder if there are simulations where you can model scenarios like this?
Add to this the strain of large demographic shifts on representative democracies and you have the recipe for a break up into a decentralized network of regional and local governments that run things according to their particular demographic make-ups. The correlation we have come to expect between geographical proximity and consistent culture and politics would begin to disappear.
"Is there even such a thing as a generally "desirable" citizen" I've done some minimal research and worldwide immigration policies have more or less congealed on certain desirable characteristics, which boil down to money, job, credentialed education, family connections, and fame. Age and health and clean record vary somewhat from country to country. There are variations in the level of the category, like some 3rd world countries sell citizenship for only $50K or so, but the 1st world wants $500K or more. But the organization is remarkable. It would be like if a space alien civilization coincidentally organized their books with the same Dewey Decimal system numbers we use.
Looping back to your first argument on environmental problems: Those people who could do the most severe environmental damage are probably in that group who can move freely already. And my impression is that they are already doing a fair bit of environmental damage. A trivial example would be the people who travel to the Alps every winter to do winter sports while merrily destroying the ecosystem there.
From my old chemistry days, there's a dude active in the 40s to 70s named Max Gergel who pioneered advanced organic chemistry in that era, unfortunately safety and environmental concerns were kind of dark ages, just pour stuff out in the backyard type. Google for "Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide" and there's pdfs floating around. Its kinda popular, sorta, in comparison analogy to the BOFH legend. Unfortunately in contrast to the BOFH its all true stories if anything somewhat censored down. I'm pretty sure the old factory site is/was a superfund site although I don't remember.
There's another classic chemist book about "questionable" behavior called the green flame of boron or something like that, basically the manufacturing side of John D Clark's "Ignition" book (which I still own a copy of). That's another enviro hair raiser.
I think the TLDR for pretty much any pre-70s era chemical plant (and, maybe to the current date) is you really don't want to live downwind or downriver if at all possible.
One interesting CS/IT/tech lesson is these guys didn't think they were doing anything wrong which is part of the strange otherworldly appeal of reading their books. Its fun to contemplate what contemporary "data hygiene" practices will be looked back on with horror in perhaps as little as a generation. Sharing executable files? DRM? Tracking? Social networking? Who knows, but evidence from other fields is that things we don't blink about doing now might make our kids recoil in horror decades later.
The US has been headed very much in the opposite direction for the last decade. These decisions seem very counter-intuitive and I've read and heard a number of stories where people have tried to get into the states to contribute (teach, give talks, consult) and have been sent home. Likely these stories make the romance of freedom seem all the more compelling. But I see the reality of a rate of change that has historically created a bad environment. Think New York City circa 1880.
Unrestricted immigration would make the West's social safety nets and healthcare impossible to maintain. There would be corresponding civil unrest as a reaction.
The obvious first thing to do about world poverty is provide free birth control and related education.
I'm reasonably well off, childless, and if I were given a free choice of any country to emigrate to, I'm fairly sure the U.S. wouldn't be the first on my list.
There's a case to be made that welfare states are immoral for this reason. If national social guarantees force you to restrict third-world economic mobility, it's not progressive: it's the opposite. Internally it's egalitarian, but globally, it's a group of rich people using force to preserve inequality. It's not just failing to help the poor: it's actively repressing their attempts to help themselves.
I've always thought of this in relation to the outcry against "the 1%" in the US from people outside the country (like Scandinavia, etc). We might be unequal in the US but the One-percenters don't have the right to use deadly force and do not have standing armies. But these so-called egalitarian northern European states have both. (Although I do in fact love Northern European countries and their people, I'm just pointing out the strangeness of the position.)
In many ways we'd see a massive US if borders in all countries were opened. The author of the piece hints at this as well. Many groups will still lose out, but the laws will be uniform and will add to efficiency. I feel like the British Colonies were a good example of this.
I believe most of the people, especially the most poverty stricken ones, would stay put
How would they move if they can't support themselves? Food is the priority
Of course, this may lead to a different balance of people in countries, so it may work from that side.
Well as a citizen of two countries (one in the EU) I am quite mobile myself, but sometimes the language is a bigger barrier than the 'official' borders.
On the other hand, some people go out of their way to cross borders illegally exactly because it's illegal.
Sometimes it is hard to see when people are joking here.
> Is the US self-sustainable, i.e. can it function totally on its own?
There's a huge question that needs to be answered first then: who would we wage war on?
We currently have a VERY profitable civil war against our own population, "The War on (Some) Drugs".
I feel quite confident the military industrial complex would continue to profit.
I don't that is true. If given the choice a lot of people would choose to stay. Sure, you can have more material things, but you will have to go to a strange place, far from friends and family, where you are just a stranger, that possible don't even speak the language.
People who decide to emigrate is because they have strong reasons. Either your situation is desperate or your are very courageous, or both. Leaving your country is really not easy.
Sure lots of Thais, Ecuadorians and Dominicans might move to the U.S. and Western Europe for jobs, but the Americans and Europeans might move to their countries and live like kings, generating tons of local jobs.
Now suppose you did your remote job in the countryside of South Korea (relatively cheap and has its charms), and you decide you need an junior person to help you out with your work? Why not hire an incredibly well educated local, who'd be just as happy to not take a job in a boring chaebol grinder? Now you're generating high-end white collar jobs?
How much poverty would need to be eliminated that dismantling of welfare state becomes an acceptable trade-off?
From the article: "George Mason economist Bryan Caplan, whose writing at EconLog inspired Naik's interest in open borders, has offered 'keyhole' solutions as a substitute for black and white, yes-or-no questions on immigration. 'If immigrants hurt American workers, we can charge immigrants higher taxes or admission fees, and use the revenue to compensate the losers,' Caplan wrote last year. 'If immigrants burden American taxpayers, we can make immigrants ineligible for benefits. If immigrants hurt American culture, we can impose tests of English fluency and cultural literacy. If immigrants hurt American liberty, we can refuse to give them the right to vote. Whatever your complaint happens to be, immigration restrictions are a needlessly draconian remedy.'"
Further along in the article, what is to me the scariest possible outcome of huge immigration is mentioned: "Naik points out that 'political externalities' may be a major drawback of allowing anyone who wants to move to stable, wealthy nations to do so. Gallup polls have found that 700 million people would like to permanently move to another country, many of them from developing nations with failed political systems. If the U.S. or another wealthy nation were to see a sudden large increase in immigrants from these countries, it's possible that the new populace will vote for bad policies in their new home. As Naik puts it, some people believe that 'if you're coming from a place that has a problem, you are probably part of the problem, and if you move to a new place you might bring the problem with you.'" I would indeed want a keyhole solution to acculturate new immigrants to United States political culture (which I have seen done, for my wife) before allowing them to vote in local or national elections. One great advantage that the United States has over many other countries is that its sources of immigrants are so diverse that the immigrants tend to educate and broaden the perspective of one another. As I have related before here on Hacker News, all my grandparents were born in the United States, but three of the four spoke a language other than English at home, and my two maternal grandparents, one born in Nebraska and one born in Colorado, received all of their schooling in the German language. My grandparents learned English and learned American attitudes about civic culture because they interacted with other people who had come here from other places besides where their ancestors came from. That's always the strength of American society, and that's why I'm generally sympathetic to very open immigration policies. I am aware many Europeans don't feel the same way, but most countries in Europe LOST population to emigration until rather recent times, so the European experience with the benefits of immigration is not as deep as the American experience.
The other reason the policy suggestion is plausible to me is that I have visited Hong Kong, a territory that was flooded with immigrants during my lifetime, on more than one occasion. Countries that receive large influxes of people from elsewhere can learn to deal with that.
AFTER EDIT: Here's the website with the policy case for open borders
mentioned and linked in the submitted article.
Let's say you let the genie out of the bottle and allow open immigration with several restrictions (higher taxes, no right to vote) for this new group of immigrants. First you have a problem with deciding when to lift these restrictions (10 years, a test, only the next generation?).
Even if you find a solution, you will be breeding resentment due to imposed inequality. Now you are facing a protest and political movement composed of immigrants and their citizen sympathizers who are demanding the ever-popular "justice, equality, etc". For a recent example see the illegal immigrant Debate in the US. Southern illegals are already entering the US (illegally) as if the borders are open, already face discrimination and restricted rights and already have a political movement to fight for things that matter to them.
Worst case I see is something like France, (and I'm picking on France, but my understanding is that this is super common. Japan and much of Europe also have a 'blood' component to citizenship.) where they don't have 'by right of the soil' citizenship; you can be born in France, but still not be a french citizen, because of who your parents were. And yeah, they see problems from it. They have a permanent underclass of hereditary non-citizens.
Personally, I think that as long as we keep that particular Americanism (which is to say, if you are born on US soil, you are a full American, and at least legally equal to any other American, regardless of who your parents were or what you look like, or what hoops you choose to jump through.) I think we'll be ahead of the game (vs. other countries)
"keyhole solutions" I think are feasible if they aren't multi-generational. You /really/ don't want to grow that multi-generational non-citizen underclass. If you only have those restrictions on people who immigrate, and not their children born here? I would see that as an expanded guest worker type program, and it would probably have similar political consequences as an expanded guest worker type program.
Overall only education, integration and the political clout to refuse to sacrifice democratic principles in the face of potential demands from new immigrants is a way that open immigration can work.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_tourism
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_babies
It's also a nice, neutral way of defining 'American' that doesn't have racial overtones.
But, to me? the really bad thing would be to make that hereditary. To say you don't have full citizenship because your dad didn't have full citizenship, even if you have never set foot outside of America.
"jus solis" means that whatever legal restrictions we place on immigrants will fade with time, as they die off.
Telling those people to stay the hell out isn't exactly winning you any points either.
In any event, political article, consider flagging.
Also, as a potential future immigrant (native English speaker, doing a PhD in the US, not very culturally distant from Americans except perhaps for a greater appreciation of Monty Python) I would feel extremely alienated if told I had to pay higher taxes for the rest of my life just because I was born elsewhere. The current immigration system may be frustrating at times, but at least I can hold onto the hope that if I become a citizen here, I will have the same rights as everyone else. (Except running for president, which isn't relevant to my planned career path anyway.)
Then perhaps the solution is to not give them the vote, at least at first. Here's an example: Australia decides to set up a new city on an isolated part of its coastline. It accepts very poor immigrants from anywhere and pays them very low wages to work in factories. They cannot vote for 20 years and cannot move to any other part of Australia, but they can choose to return to their country of origin at any time. The city is administered and policed by Australians.
The idea is to repeat the experience of Hong Kong where British rule mixed with cheap immigrant labour produced very rapid rises in standard of living. It's basically the same as the Charter Cities  proposed by Paul Romer, except that the city is located in the rich country rather than the poor one.
When people migrate from regions where there is no trust in the government, it's natural that some of these bring problems with them. You could say it's no fault of their own -- they are used to the authorities being the bad guys and don't care to follow their rules or tax law.
To Americans reading this: You have nothing to win from discrediting "the government" or "othering" it, it does you no good. Make the problem yours and solve it; no one else but you owns your country.
and tell us point-by-point what you think is incorrect about Caplan's policy proposals?
I don't think a point by point rebuttal of Caplan would be fruitful. I disagree with him fundamentally, about everything from the relevance of macro-economics to political debates, to the notion that "world GDP" matters as opposed to "American GDP per capita." A people, acting through a sovereign government, have no obligation to care about the well being of anyone but their own. I think there is a fundamental equivalence between the set of people who would fight in a war to preserve a nation and the set of people that nation's government should care about.
How is their culture toxic?
My father was a college student at the time of the Bengali independence. He had great hope for the country when it adopted a constitution with western-style attitudes (secular democracy). But now he's bitter because the people reinstated the theocracy, made Islam the official religion, made the religious leaders ever more powerful, turned the democracy into dynastic rule by two families, and perpetuated the culture of corruption and graft that exists in government and business. This didn't just happen to them. They're not the victims of external forces. They got the government and society they deserved and tolerated.
There are good people and smart people in Bangladesh. Letting people immigrate in a controlled way, and an emphasis on adoption of American culture, works. But but letting them just import their culture wholesale would mean the destruction of what makes America worth living in in the first place.
Really? Prediction markets, futarchy, signalling, ems economics... not even anything in Launching The Innovation Renaissance?
1. Poverty is endogenous to population, not exogenous. Admitting a flood of poor immigrants to your country makes your country poor. All this stuff about being born on the wrong side is misleading, because the difference between the two sides is not natural resources or something* but the people themselves.
Also your stuff about willing employers and landlords is incomplete, because those people do not keep immigrants in cages. The immigrants impose stiff externalities on other people in the destination country, who are not able to adjust their costs and benefits vis-a-vis immigrants by lowering their wages or raising their rents.
2. Restricting immigration is necessary to avert the destruction of the high-capital-to-worker society which is uniquely conducive to technological progress. Even if mass immigration may please some poor immigrants in the short run, it is 'eating the seed corn.' As commenters have pointed out to you before, virtually all the world population growth in the last two centuries has been enabled by the diffusion of technology from advanced countries to poor ones (and one reason most formerly-poor countries are still poor is that they put nearly all their economic growth into population growth rather than capital accumulation, so they stayed near the Malthusian limit!). Transforming all the advanced countries into poor countries by mass immigration will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Anyway, hard-core utilitarianism is a suicide pact; clearly non-adaptive. The moral duty to refrain from harming strangers, which is a form of cooperation (offer to participate in 'mutual altruism') does not extend to a duty to relieve all strangers' opportunity costs of not having been born or invited into the community.
Also, there are diminishing marginal returns to immigration. The first few poor immigrants may enjoy big wage gains over their home-country wages (though higher cost of living in rich countries will mitigate those gains) but as more immigrants arrive to compete down wages and fill all the jobs enabled by the available industrial capital, each new immigrant gains less and less over staying home. (We know for sure there isn't much demand for low-wage workers in rich countries-- low wages==low demand!) It is therefore misleading to suggest that open immigration will relieve much poverty around the world, because only a modest amount of migration will force the marginal gains to zero. Sadly, by that point, the quality of life for citizens of the (formerly) rich countries will have dimished toward poor-country levels. So open borders means economically destroying rich-country citizens to benefit a small percentage of world poor people. Temporarily.
3. You tend to destroy your own credibility when you lie, even by omission or by statistical legerdemain. Poor immigrants pay much less in taxes than they (and their offspring) consume in benefits. This is very well documented (in Europe as well as in the US) and conceded even by (intellectually honest) open-borders advocates, and it has been pointed out to you with links to reliable references many times. The closest you can come to justifying your propaganda is to average (as Julian Simon was wont to do) a few hyper-rich Google-founder-type immigrants in with the millions of low-IQ Mexican peasant illegal aliens. That's dishonest because we don't need open borders to admit math geniuses-- we do that already.
4. The "guest worker" approach doesn't work: (1) even immigrants "ineligible for benefits" collect them. They have children and claim welfare payments and schooling for them. They get sick or injured and go to the E.R.. They file for EITC. (2) Poor immigrants excite the sympathy of nice people, the duplicity of leftist politicians, and the cupidity of businessmen. Every grocer in a neighborhood of poor immigrants funds politicians who work to extend benefits to immigrants because the grocer wants his customers to spend more money and he doesn't mind if that money is taxed away from citizens somewhere else. Every employer of poor immigrants is a big advocate for government subsidies to them because those reduce the wages the employer must pay to maintain his workforce-- it's a matter of socializing costs and privatizing benefits. In our society, the only way to avoid subsidizing poor immigrants is to exclude them from the country.
(Nobody is "forcing" anyone to go and live in Haiti. Your prospective immigrants already live in Haiti. They were born in Haiti. Haiti may be a dump but the Haitians made it that way. Americans have no duty to import Haitians to make America a dump like Haiti. Americans who feel sorry for Haitians can send them money. Hope springs eternal, but experience is the best teacher. More than a century of American experience with Haitians in and out of Haiti suggests that no amount of subsidy improves Haiti because the Hatians themselves squander any resources given to them, and bringing Haitians to the US simply adds mouths to the welfare rolls (and inmates to the jails). The only way to "fix" Haiti-- an approach I oppose completely-- would be conquest and imperial administration. I do not advocate doing that.)
Generally speaking. Oil sheikdoms and so-forth are noise.
*Eventually a disproportionate number of the children of low-quality immigrants become criminals and impose additional stiff costs on citizens.
I sincerely fail to understand why some Americans always assume everyone wants to emigrate to the United States. It is a fairly probable assumption, but I often see it being the default one whenever I discuss the topic with some people from the US. Most people from the UK/Australia/NZ at least often ask "immigration to which country?".
Would you care to elaborate on this? In contrast to other segments of your comment, it appears to be incredibly ignorant and chauvinistic, at least to me.
Think of the efficiency: it would save many thousands of tons of fuel, reduce greenhouse gas exhaust, save people transport time and travel stress, etc.
It reminds me of the old "How do you move Mt. Fuji?" challenge. Problem solved. Next question please.
A. Poverty is always relatively defined. There will always be a bottom n percent in the population.
B. A high bar for immigration acts as a filter to select the hardest working, most intelligent, most willing to take risks, and sometimes the richest. Take that filter away and the profile of immigrants looks quite different.
The primary effect, and perhaps purpose of immigration (excluding asylum), is to keep labor costs down. One could even convincingly claim that wages, in general, are controlled by immigration and certainly not the "free market".
A useful side effect is that it maintains a healthier demographic profile.
In historical terms, there is an important distinction between inimicus vs hostis; that is, hostility between individuals within a given political order vs hostility to the political order itself. To someone who views a country as nothing more than a utilitarian vehicle for atomized and rootless individuals to maximize their earning potential, this distinction vanishes and thus someone like Bryan Caplan -- a rootless cosmopolitan in every sense of the word -- can publicly and proudly endorse to the destruction and displacement of a people in their own country.
People like this are not men with legitimate opinions and ambitions -- a man who is a traitor to his own people is by definition an evil man and a criminal. He is categorically animated by malice and he's an unjust hostis (enemy) of his own society.