On the site structure: site content pages and blog posts
What exactly is this website? Is it a blog?
The website has site content pages as well as blog posts. When describing it to others, it is best to describe it as a blog-cum-website or a blog-cum-informational resource.
- Site content pages have URLS that read openborders.info/pagename. They do not have explicit publication dates or explicit authorship. The pages may be changed at any time, both in terms of content and structure. Comments are disabled for site content pages. For more on the people responsible for maintaining site content, see the authors page.
- Blog posts have URLs that read openborders.info/blog/pagename. They come with a clearly stated publication date and explicit authorship information at the top of the post. Blog posts are not usually updated after the stated publication date, except for explicitly identified updates as well as broken link fixes or minor spelling/grammar fixes. New blog posts are added frequently, with the frequency varying from several a day to one a week. Recent posts can be accessed in reverse chronological order from the site’s front page openborders.info. Comments are enabled for all blog posts. For more information, see our page on basic information about blog posts and comments policy.
I still don’t get it. What’s the distinction between blog posts and site content pages?
Blog posts represent the opinions of individual authors at specific points in time and are written in the first person. Site content pages describe what might be thought of as the consensus of received wisdom on the matter so far, and are more likely to feature links, lists of points, and summaries, rather than individual opinions. These include links to content both on this site and elsewhere.
What’s the point of having site content pages? Aren’t blog posts good enough?
Site content pages can be used as canonical references for specific topics that the blog posts can refer to. These pages are regularly edited and updated with links to new material and are modified to reflect evolving understandings of ideas. Blog posts are usually not restructured after their publication. Site content pages also reduce the need for individual blog posts to re-describe the received wisdom. This way, individual blog posts can concentrate more on their novel contribution and “value added” and avoid sounding repetitive. Site content pages serve as a background reference on which blog posts can build to explore new realms.
Why have blog posts then? Why not just keep editing and improving site content pages to build a better reference?
Blog posts are more useful for exploring novel ideas and expressing personal opinions. They are more conducive for “original research” and putting forward new permutations of existing ideas. The personal authorship of blog posts gives them a voice that is hard to replicate in impersonally written pages. The comments feature on blog posts also allows for active discussion and debate.
On the purpose of the site
Is this site affiliated with any lobbying group? Are you lobbying or advocating for any particular change to migration policy?
It is important to note that currently open borders is a theoretical topic, not operationalized fully in any country, developed or developing, and no country seems keen to implement it. Some countries even have restrictions or discourage migrations between regions within the country, and concepts like Gross World Product are not in the purview of any global organization that has the authority to legislate measures to improve them. However, the site assumes that discussion on “open borders” will enable interested people to understand the issues involved and suggest possible paths for the future.
The Open Borders website is not a political lobbying group or organization and does not have formal ties with any such organization, although the site pages may contain discussion and evaluation of specific immigration law proposals and individual bloggers may express their own support or disapproval of specific aspects of such legislation. In case of guest blog posts by a person employed or paid by a lobbying group, the information will be clearly and explicitly disclosed. As of now, we have not published any pieces written by lobbyists. Our guest bloggers so far have included academics, people working at think tanks, undergraduate and graduate students, and people employed in the for-profit non-academic world in jobs unrelated to politics or policy.
Can I trust this site to be neutral, given that it announces its bias in support of open borders in its masthead?
The goal of the site is to foster discussion of “open borders” and collect the best arguments on both sides. While the people who have created and are involved with the site tend to generally be fairly pro-open borders, the site content pages make every effort to fairly represent all viewpoints, including the viewpoints we disagree with. Individual blog posts are more freewheeling in nature, but even in these, the authors usually make a sincere effort to link to the best counter-arguments they can find, and when they fail to find them, commenters usually set them straight. If you find a certain argument framed in a misleading or inaccurate fashion, please let us know and we will look into the matter.
As a general rule, we think it’s better to openly and explicitly state where we think the balance of the evidence points, and it seems to point in the direction of open borders.
Often, you have pages on restrictionist arguments without even an attempted rebuttal! What kind of open borders advocacy website is this?
We do plan to address all restrictionist arguments, but different arguments have different priorities. In some cases, the empirical data are unclear and we’d need to do a lot more research to come up with a response we’d feel comfortable publishing on the site content pages. In other cases, the objection is so esoteric that we don’t think it is a high priority to address it. Generally, in cases where there isn’t a lot of good literature that directly addresses the objection, we try to first address the objection in a blog post, then link to that from the site content page.
However, we don’t wait for a rebuttal to be ready before publishing a specific restrictionist argument. Maximal transparency means that we should fairly represent the restrictionist case, including arguments that we haven’t yet had time to respond to.
All that said, there are a few general counter-arguments that can be applied to most restrictionist arguments. You can see the overall strategy at the end of the objections page.
You make the rebuttals to the objections all this sound very complicated! Aren’t there simple one-liners one can use?
Most objections to open borders are not as easy to dismiss as naive supporters of open borders might believe them to be. For instance, when restrictionists say “immigrants commit crime” the naive counter-argument “immigrants don’t commit crime” is false. Some immigrants do commit crimes. The appropriate thing to do is to look at crime rates of immigrants in comparison with natives. But once we start comparing, a whole can of worms is opened up. Are the statistics reliable? Do some things need to be controlled for? Are the observations likely to hold up under open borders? Should we be concerned about the long term impact of immigration on crime?
In the case of crime, the prima facie evidence does not support the restrictionist case. But there are many different interpretations of the evidence that point in different directions, and restrictionists are often quick to point out other interpretations. Without a thorough knowledge of these interpretations, it is difficult to engage these arguments. It’s also better to learn of all the differing interpretations early on rather than be confronted by the statistic out of context in a debate.
It is sometimes possible to switch from empirical to moral arguments, such as “even if some immigrants commit crimes, is that good reason to restrict the immigration of many other peaceful immigrants?” However, these moral arguments aren’t one-liners either. There are counter-arguments about risks, cost-benefit analyses, and conflicting interpretations of morality.
There are lots of restrictionists you link to who have been identified as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Why do you link to and critique their work?
You might be referring to VDARE, CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA (see also here). Legitimate questions can be raised about the SPLC’s labeling of these groups as hate groups, but regardless of the appropriate label, our decision to engage their arguments is largely unaffected. When addressing and critiquing arguments by specific individuals and groups, we are concerned not so much with the provenance of these arguments, but with their plausibility and potential future popularity. Obviously, if multiple people make a similar argument, we will try to select the most coherent proponent of that argument to critique. There are some kinds of arguments, however, that are made only in some circles — for instance, VDARE is generally one of the few groups that makes racialist arguments coherently and articulately. CIS and NumbersUSA don’t make these kinds of arguments. In order to address these arguments, we link to VDARE.
Why do you address racialist arguments against immigration at all? Isn’t this just giving credibility to these people? Isn’t IQ, race, and eugenics discredited?
We actually have very little site content devoted to pure racialist arguments (see here) — arguments that basically say “race X is bad, so no immigrants of race X” without any need for justification. We do address some arguments that have racialist associations, but are not normatively racialist, such as arguments about IQ deficit and dysfunctional immigrant culture. Some people make these arguments from a racialist perspective, others make the same arguments from a culturalist perspective, and yet others come from a structuralist perspective. The reason we address IQ is that it is a common source of objection to immigration, particularly among the economically literate conservatives and libertarians who don’t buy the suppression of wages of natives argument.
Although the topic of IQ, particularly the validity of cross-cultural comparisons of IQ, is hotly debated, it has not been firmly “discredited” and needs to be addressed in any comprehensive attempt to address concerns about immigration. Different bloggers on this site have differing opinions about these matters, which are often debated in blog posts and comments. The general consensus is that for a wide range of possibilities about IQ-related issues, open borders still remains the right choice.
Americo-centrism and political agendas
Why do you insist on open borders for the US, and not for other countries?
We try to make the case for open borders universally (see here for a lot more on this) and often discuss examples of migration, both current and historical, for all sorts of country pairs. Our primary focus is on migration to developed countries because that’s the sort of migration we expect will be dominant under open borders. We also focus more on the US simply because we know more about the US, and more information is publicly available about the US. Also, restrictionists in the US seem to have published the most coherent critiques of immigration that we’re aware of. If you get restrictionists in other countries to improve the quality of their restrictionist discourse, we might switch our attention to critiquing them!
For our coverage of migration-related topics around the world, see our world map for blog coverage.
Let me rephrase. Why do you insist on open borders for migration from the Third World to the First World, but not vice versa?
We support open borders everywhere (see here — same link as for previous question). We’ve also argued for the benefits poor countries might experience through opening borders (see here). From a consequences perspective, allowing migration from the Third World to the First World is simply more quantitatively significant, which is why we focus on it. But we hope to improve our coverage with time.
Again, see our world map for blog coverage.
Are you out to destroy American culture/the West/the White race?
No. There may be some people who support open borders with the hope that this will destroy some races or cultures, but we’re not those people, nor do we consider it a likely effect of open borders.
You claim that there is a right to migrate. Doesn’t that mean that any and all restrictions on migrations are immoral? Conversely, doesn’t it imply that if I can argue that immigration restrictions are morally necessary under certain circumstances, then that destroys your case?
The term “right” has many different meanings. Some people view rights as absolute — either you have a right to do X, in which case any restriction on X is immoral, or you don’t have a right to do X, in which case there is carte blanche for restrictions on X. Another view is that rights are presumptive. Establishing a right to X means that restricting that through coercive methods requires a high burden of proof, usually a somewhat higher burden of proof than pure utilitarian/consequentialist considerations would entail.
For the most part, this site uses the term “right” in the presumptive sense. This is consistent with the use of “right” in many other contexts. For instance, many free speech advocates acknowledge certain exceptions to free speech rights, on various grounds which may include libel/slander, obscenity, direct incitement to violence, and copyright infringement (some free speech advocates reject one or more of these grounds, but there are very few who reject all these grounds). What distinguishes free speech advocates from detractors is that (a) most free speech advocates oppose “prior restraint” and (b) free speech advocates seek to make restrictions on free speech as mild and limited as possible, and to the extent possible, enforced through civil litigation rather than criminal prosecution. More importantly, they have a strong presumption against restrictions on speech and require strong burdens of proof.
In the same way, open borders advocates acknowledge some necessary exceptions to the case for open borders. On this site, we often engage in discussions on what exactly the contours of the restrictions could be (see here and here for instance). For this reason, it is important to discuss and predict the effects of migration.
Another reason why we engage in empirical analyses of the effects of migration is to engage and appeal to people who are not as convinced about the moral arguments in favor of migration as we are. For these people, a stronger utilitarian/consequentialist case against migration restrictions is needed. Also, understanding the effects (positive and negative) of migration can help better prepare for and adjust to its impact if and when freer migration becomes a reality.
I have nothing against immigrants as long as they come legally, don’t go on welfare, and don’t vote. But I oppose the status quo. Do you support the status quo?
We support keyhole solutions that would allow massively expanded immigration while denying immigrants access to welfare benefits or citizenship rights, though we have differing opinions on whether these are better or worse than pure open borders. However, our commitment to open borders supercedes our commitment to keeping immigrants in or out of the welfare state. In other words, either option (open borders with welfare ineligibility or open borders with welfare eligibility) is superior to the status quo of near-closed borders.
We already have open borders.
Not quite. Polling data on migration reveal that worldwide, a lot more people would migrate if it weren’t for restrictions on migration.
5 billion people live in countries with lower median income than Mexico. Do you really think open borders can work?
The questions of moderate versus radical open borders, and of a gradual versus sudden introduction of open borders, are important questions. There are differing opinions about just how quickly open borders can and should be achieved. The general position of this site is that open borders are a generally desirable end state for a variety of reasons, but there are many legitimate concerns about how immediate open borders can cause regions to be swamped.
You’re a bunch of lefists with a plan to destroy the free world.
We already know people say that, but thanks for the reminder. Actually, a fairly small minority of the bloggers for the site identifies as left-of-center.
You’re a bunch of libertarians with pie-in-the-sky dreams.
We’ve heard that claim before. Though we’re not all strictly libertarian, this does hit closer home than the “leftist agenda” claim. Our dreams may be pie-in-the-sky at present, but we look forward to a world where they become reality (though as mentioned above, we are not involved with any lobbying organization).
On the game plan
What do you mean by open borders?
We mean that there is a strong presumption in favor of the right to migrate, and the burden of proof rests with those who wish to curtail, override, or infringe upon this right. We do not mean that the border has to be physically open — a border fence may or may not be suitable. What’s important is that people can freely move between jurisdictions. See this blog post for the detailed views of one of this site’s bloggers.
What’s your plan for achieving open borders? What will the first steps (in terms of changes to laws or public attitudes) look like?
The site does not take an overall stand on this. We feel that as of now, there is too little consensus on the matter to specify a single best strategy. The strategy would also vary from country to country and era to era (since we don’t know when countries will actually decide to start moving towards open borders, if ever). Nathan Smith has proposed a DRITI scheme for open borders in the US context. There are many proposals based on existing keyhole solutions that we consider and evaluate on this site. As of now, the conversation is being carried out mostly through blog posts, but we hope to add to site content as more information on this accumulates.
What’s the point of proposing open borders if you don’t even know how we’ll get there?
We see open borders as an ideal to strive towards. Identifying this as a goal that there are at least some reasons to strive towards is the first step. We can then figure out how to get there.
Do you really think open borders will become a reality?
Different bloggers have different opinions about the time horizon over which open borders might be feasible. This is a topic we hope to discuss and debate in future blog posts.
What’s this concept of keyhole solutions? Doesn’t the idea of keyhole solutions mean that you basically aren’t proposing open borders?
Keyhole solutions are basically solutions that try to keep borders as open as possible while addressing the specific problems created by suitable narrowly targeted measures. Much more information can be found at the keyhole solutions page on this site.
Keyhole solutions do negate some aspects of open borders, though the nature of the keyhole solution matters. In some cases, open borders advocates propose keyhole solutions as a compromise: they’d prefer pure open borders, but accept the keyhole solution as a nod to political reality. In other cases, open borders advocates may view the keyhole solution as genuinely superior to pure open borders. For more on the distinction, see this blog post.
In either case, it is still true that the presumption is tilted towards open borders and any keyhole solution must be justified both in terms of the seriousness of the problem being tackled and in terms of the keyhole solution being the most effective way to tackle the problem.
Referencing this site
I’m a journalist writing a pro-immigration piece. Should I quote or link to this site?
Feel free. All original content on this site is released under a CC-BY license. Quoted or excerpted content from others has its original copyright.
If you’re discussing a mainstream topic, it’s best to link to the site content page on the topic which has the most comprehensive list of references. You could also link to any of the referred content, but be sure to read at least the abstract of that referred content before linking! Top pages for you to consider linking to are:
- US-specific suppression of wages of natives in any discussion of the effects of immigration on wages and employment of US citizens and/or native-born Americans.
- Native wages down if discussing the same in general, or for countries other than the US.
- Hispanic crime and illegal immigration in the United States for any discussion of immigrant crime problems in the US.
- Double world GDP for a discussion of the huge potential upside of open borders in terms of global GDP.
I’d like to prepare for a speech/debate in support of open borders. How do I use the site content for this?
We don’t have any specific site resources for debaters, but we hope to improve in that regard. But you should consider seeing our videos and reading lists to see how people other than us have argued for and against immigration.
I want to convince my friends about open borders. Is your site a good place to refer them to?
Depends on who your friends are. This site is not everybody’s cup of tea, and is definitely not designed to instantly appeal to all. It’s perhaps more useful for people who are already reasonably sympathetic to open borders and/or highly knowledgeable about the matter to hone their understanding of the issues.