The Open Borders Manifesto
By Bryan Caplan
Freedom of movement is a basic liberty that governments should
respect and protect unless justified by extenuating circumstances. This
extends to movement across international boundaries.
International law and many domestic laws already recognise the right of
any individual to leave his or her country. This right may only be
circumscribed in extreme circumstances, where threats to public safety
or order are imminent.
We believe international and domestic law should similarly extend
such protections to individuals seeking to enter another country.
Although there may be times when governments should treat foreign
nationals differently from domestic citizens, freedom of movement and
residence are fundamental rights that should only be circumscribed when
the situation absolutely warrants.
The border enforcement status quo is both morally unconscionable and
economically destructive. Border controls predominantly restrict the
movement of people who bear no ill intentions. Most of the people
legally barred from moving across international borders today are
fleeing persecution or poverty, desire a better job or home, or simply
want to see the city lights.
The border status quo bars ordinary people from pursuing the life and
opportunity they desire, not because they lack merit or because they
pose a danger to others. Billions of people are legally barred from
realising their full potential and ambitions purely on the basis of an
accident of birth: where they were born. This is both a drain on the
economic and innovative potential of human societies across the world,
and indefensible in any order that recognises the moral worth and
dignity of every human being.
We seek legal and policy reforms that will reduce and eventually
remove these bars to movement for billions of ordinary people around the
world. The economic toll of the modern restrictive border regime is
vast, the human toll incalculable. To end this, we do not need a
philosopher’s utopia or a world government. As citizens and human
beings, we only demand accountability from our own governments for the
senseless immigration laws that they enact in our name. Border controls
should be minimised to only the extent required to protect public health
and security. International borders should be open for all to cross, in
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