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The Insanity of Open Borders

Every now and then, some article from two or three or ten years ago makes the rounds on social media, and sometimes you don't notice that it's old news until after you've read it and gotten all worked up about it. Such was my experience the other day when somebody on my Facebook feed posted a piece from the Atlantic called “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely.” I was about to bang out a response to this ridiculous screed, written by one Alex Tabarrok, when I noticed that it was dated October 10, 2015.

Nonetheless, I couldn't get the thing out of my mind. How could I? It was bonkers. And, as we'll see, Tabarrok is far from the only person in a respectable-sounding position who's made this argument in the last few years. So here goes. “All people,” asserted Tabarrok, “should be free to move about the earth, uncaged by the arbitrary lines known as borders.” Closed borders “cement...inequality into place”; immigration, by contrast, “is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised.” There is no moral defense, then, for denying people freedom of movement. “Human rights do not stop at the border,” Tabarrok argues. “Today, we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let their people exit. I look forward to the day when we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let people enter.”

Full points for virtue signaling; “F” for realism. Need one explain why? There's a huge difference between the West and the rest, and it isn't just a matter of wealth vs. poverty. I suspect that a great many people in the West are insufficiently aware of just how much better their countries are than others in all kinds of ways, and are thus incapable of realizing just how attractive they are to people unfortunate enough to be born elsewhere. Or perhaps some people in the West are too politically correct to admit, even to themselves, just how much better the West is than the rest.

But facts are facts. Look through the State Department reports on the hundred or so poorest countries in the world and read a few at random, and you'll soon recognize that inviting their citizens to move next door to you is to put out the welcome mat for people to whom the world is a far different place than it is to you: a place marked by murderous hatreds between tribal and religious groups; a place where virtually every economic transaction involves some kind of corruption; a place where men take for granted their right to brutally abuse their wives and children; a place where due process is unheard of, where police officers and soldiers can beat, torture, and even kill with impunity, and where judges know nothing of justice; a place where sanitation and medical care are primitive; and a place where the rare soul who refuses to cheat and steal on a daily basis is not viewed as a paragon of virtue but as a fool.