Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

A couple days ago, I finished Suketu Mehta’s recent book, This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto. In keeping with the theme, I excitedly chose Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration next. (I received both books as Christmas gifts, but only the former was one I previously knew about and specifically asked for. Open Borders was a pleasant surprise – thank you, cousin Francesca!)

Written by Bryan Caplan and illustrated by Zach Weinersmith, Open Borders is the first graphic nonfiction book I’ve ever read. (Actually, the first graphic book of any genre!) Its format made it a quick and engaging read, and it helped to break down complicated explanations into something easy to understand.

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics, and he goes about tackling the idea of open borders with a suitably economics-driven perspective. He doesn’t simply talk about ideas that seem nice but would be impossible or dangerous to implement. Instead, he looks at numbers and facts to illustrate why open borders would actually benefit everyone, from the migrants to the native-born citizens.

As Open Borders shows across its eight chapters, immigrants actually increase wealth in the countries to which they migrate. The taxes they pay benefit our aging society, funding social security and medicaid. If the world were to open its borders, it would increase global wealth, decrease poverty, and overall benefit us all.

Bryan also demonstrates that many fears surrounding immigrants are largely false. For example, immigrants do generally learn the language of their host country, and they are far less violent and less likely to engage in criminal activity than their native-born counterparts. They don’t depend on so-called government “handouts” (a term I personally loath), but do lead to more stable and sustainable economies.

Many people may think of this as a partisan issue. Progressive and liberal-minded people (in the US, mostly Democrats) tend to be pro-immigration, while conservative people (see: Republicans) tend to be more anti-immigration, buying into unfounded fears about it. But as Bryan shows here, the concept of open borders is one that should appeal to a wide variety of philosophies, whether you agree with Utilitarianism or Libertarianism or Christianity.

No matter where you stand on this topic prior to reading, Bryan Caplan makes compelling arguments and provides a wealth of information and research. I myself learned a lot, and I suspect you will, too.

I’ll be honest: I was already in favor of open borders before reading this book. I lived in Europe for a year, and saw firsthand how that region flourishes with its open borders amongst its continent’s countries. Indeed, the United States essentially had open borders until about 100 years ago, and if anything it led to our country’s growth and prosperity.

After reading Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, I can see how this concept is indeed sound, and how it would actually impact the United States and the world. I’m more in favor of the concept than ever, and I appreciate books like this in getting that conversation started. The more we talk about issues, like this one, the more people learn how they aren’t so scary and that they could actually make life better.

Whatever your current views on immigration and borders, I encourage you to read this book. If you’re like me, you’ll learn quite a bit and may even find your perspective changing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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