Would (Our) Open Borders Lead to (Their) Closed Borders?
By Bryan Caplan
My Facebook friend Anna Krupitsky asks a great question:
Let’s imagine: if United Stated today opened its borders, how many countries and how soon would close theirs for people leaving?
There’s ample evidence that ending emigration restrictions leads to more immigration restrictions. Most notably: As long as Communist border guards eagerly shot anyone trying to leave their Workers’ Paradises, the U.S. tended to welcome anyone who got out alive – like my wife’s family who escaped Romania in the 70s. Once Communist governments opened their borders, however, the U.S. swiftly changed course. The new policy was to minimize the exodus from behind the former Iron Curtain – even if the successor governments remained deeply oppressive. It’s almost as if U.S. policy were motivated more by Cold War public relations than a deep-seated commitment to human liberty.
Anna’s question, though, is whether liberalizing immigration restrictions would lead to emigration restrictions. In countries that already restrict emigration, this scenario is easy to believe. But what about the vast majority of countries that don’t currently restrict emigration? Would liberalization really lead more than a handful to this desperate and humiliating measure? Think of the most unanswerable words a Kennedy ever spoke: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not
perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in,
to prevent them from leaving us.”
Your thoughts? Please show your work.