My Path to Open Borders
By Bryan Caplan
My open borders autobiography is now a guest post at Open Borders. Since I strove to truthfully and unstrategically describe my intellectual evolution, even my harshest critics may enjoy it. Highlights:
Until I was seventeen, my views on immigration were completely conventional. In 11th
grade, I wrote a paper defending the “moderate” view that (a)
contemporary levels of immigration were good for America, but (b)
immigrants should have to learn English. As far as I remember, I didn’t
discuss illegal immigration
one way or the other. If you asked me about illegal immigration, I
probably would have reflexively said, “I’m against it,” perhaps adding,
“Well, illegals do a lot of jobs that Americans won’t.”
By the time I started my undergraduate education as UC Berkeley, then, I
was a staunch yet shallow devotee of free immigration. I simply lacked
the knowledge base to understand the magnitude of the issue. My subsequent coursework did nothing to alleviate my ignorance.
After I joined EconLog in 2005, I suddenly had an ideal forum to share
my views on immigration. Many such posts were based on my lectures or
lunch table arguments with my colleagues. Take “How Everyone Can Get Richer As Per-Capita GDP Falls,” blogged in March, 2005. [Open Borders note: Arguments of this sort are discussed at the compositional effects page on this website].
If I sent this piece to an economics journal, I doubt the editor would
even send it to referees. Why not? Because the argument is “obvious” and
“informal.” Yet if I wrote this piece as an op-ed, I’d just as surely
be rejected. Why? Because the argument is “abstract” and “academic.”
Once I became a professor at George Mason, however, I came to personally
know many victims of U.S. immigration law. None of this affected the
substance of my views, but it probably increased the intensity. The
United States really does have the effrontery to brand good people as
criminals for performing honest labor without government permission.
If you like the piece, thank Vipul Naik, who urged me to write it.