Capital Knows No Borders But Workers Do
November 21, 2019 11:05 AM   Subscribe

“ When we unite all working people in the country, regardless of immigration status or national origin, our movement will be stronger. We must demand a policy of open borders not simply because it is the only morally defensible position, but also because it opens up an alternate strategy to building workers’ power.” Ten Arguments for Open Borders, the Abolition of ICE, and an Internationalist Labor Movement (Socialist Forum) “ The counterpart of capital, wage-labor, is likewise compelled to push past national constraints, as workers seek employment wherever capital offers it.” The Communist Case For Open Borders (Brooklyn Rail ) (Interview with the author on the Antifada) The West’s Obsession With Border Security Is Breeding Instability (Foreign Policy)
posted by The Whelk (21 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a nakedly capitalist argument to be made too: that when borders are open to movement of as many of the 4 factors of production as possible, trade will flow freely and economic efficiency will be maximized. (right now Raw Materials(aka "Land"), Capital, Entrepreneurs, and finished products all cross easily -- Labor is the only missing piece)
posted by warreng at 12:07 PM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:32 PM on November 21, 2019


warreng: I wouldn't be so quick to equate capitalism, or capitalist interests, with economic efficiency...

The FP article is pretty interesting, thanks for the links.
posted by ropeladder at 12:56 PM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


There's an excellent book called "Open Borders" written by a guy I'd doubtless dispise on most issues as he's a Cato economist and hardcore libertarian, and illustrated by one of my favorite webcomic artists Zach Weinersmith. Not sure on the policy of linking to Amazon, so I'm not, but it's well written, presents a case for open borders from an economic, social, and moral standpoint, and is really well sourced. It's also a comic book so it's a very quick read.

I went from thinking we needed to let in more immigrants but that the idea of border control was valid to becoming convinced that actual open borders was the best policy.

The capitalist argument can be boiled down to one fact: most economists think that open borders would, at minimum, increase GDP by 50% and many think it'd double GDP.
posted by sotonohito at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


There's an excellent book called "Open Borders" written by a guy I'd doubtless dispise on most issues as he's a Cato economist and hardcore libertarian, and illustrated by one of my favorite webcomic artists Zach Weinersmith. Not sure on the policy of linking to Amazon, so I'm not, but it's well written, presents a case for open borders from an economic, social, and moral standpoint, and is really well sourced. It's also a comic book so it's a very quick read.

I went from thinking we needed to let in more immigrants but that the idea of border control was valid to becoming convinced that actual open borders was the best policy.


Seconding this comment. I still don't consider myself particularly informed, but after reading Caplan's book I now think that the kind of vague common-sense reasons I used to have in my mind about the reasons why it would be even selfishly important to have some degree of national border control, like the idea that the American welfare state would have a hard time supporting a lot of new low-skill immigrants, seem wrong. (It seems that even no-high-school immigrants of working age are typically net positive to the American economy.)
posted by value of information at 1:21 PM on November 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


an excellent book called "Open Borders"

Summary here: Open Borders Are a Trillion-Dollar Idea.

Econ 101 says that a surge in supply of low-skilled labor would drive down wages for existing low-skilled labor. (And most immigrants would be considered low-skilled in the context of the U.S. economy.) In other words, richer people would benefit from being able to pay their gardeners and nannies less, while the poor people currently working in those jobs would see their wages depressed.

The real world is more complicated, but that argument isn't completely wrong, according to the mainstream economic consensus:"...the impact of immigration on the wages of natives overall is very small. To the extent that negative wage effects are found, prior immigrants—who are often the closest substitutes for new immigrants—are most likely to experience them, followed by native-born high school dropouts, who share job qualifications similar to the large share of low-skilled workers among immigrants to the United States." (National Academy of Sciences, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration (2017))

There is room for way more immigration than we have now, including accepting more refugees, without moving all the way to open borders. (Last month, for the first time since records began, the U.S. resettled zero refugees.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:24 PM on November 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


There is a lot of good information at https://openborders.info, including a link to this manifesto (from the UK but universal in spirit) which makes complete sense to me.

Thank you for posting this, Whelk.
posted by 6thsense at 5:24 PM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


When "my" nation state gets to decide where a wall is that I cannot cross without being in their good graces it makes me realize... I am not a slave, but I am also certainly not a free person, fully. My planet! Fuck you! Not the boss of me! I know this is a naive / teenager type perspective, but I guess I will not be growing out of it. Nationalism is a 19th Century meme that has done too much damage and needs to be retired.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:51 PM on November 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


What's the counter for "You can't have open borders AND a welfare state. You have to pick one."?
posted by bartleby at 7:43 PM on November 21, 2019


"As long as you have similar standards of living and opportunity you can have both. Look at the EU."
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


What's the counter for "You can't have open borders AND a welfare state. You have to pick one."?
"As long as you have similar standards of living and opportunity you can have both. Look at the EU."


Since globalism is not going back in the bottle, you have to create global worker's movement with both global solidarity movements and electoral movements in these countries not to buy or accept products made from slave labor in our markets. That's the answer to "Oh they'll just the cheapest country to work in" Hound them until they cannot turn a profit anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on November 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh, I meant administratively, not about labor cost arbitrage.
Like post-revolution when everyone's entitled to UBI / Citizen's Dividend, how does that work when no one's really a citizen of anywhere?
If decisions are made by The Local Community, what qualifies one as a Local? A year's residence? A month? Just passing through, heard you were having a vote today?

I'm not disputing that some of the best house parties can be had by not just opening the door, but taking it off the hinges and using it as a buffet table; I'm just one of those people who fuss about how we handle the chairs and if there's enough ice.
posted by bartleby at 10:10 PM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think probably Donald Trump is correct: "If you don't have borders, then you don't have a country."

"You can't have open borders AND a welfare state. You have to pick one."?

Alright, no "welfare state". Maybe try to figure out just the "welfare" part?

electoral movements in these countries

So the "don't have a country" bit I feel makes this a poor choice for those socialists or others who wish to rule through the apparatus of a "country".

Like post-revolution when everyone's entitled to UBI / Citizen's Dividend, how does that work when no one's really a citizen of anywhere?

Give people money. I mean the plan for UBI under the Westphalian system is for the funds to be distributed by the sovereign, so could be ... same, just non-Westphalian sovereigns.

If decisions are made by The Local Community, what qualifies one as a Local?

You propose delineating some geographic area. Those within this area are Locals, and those without are not - NO! No borders!

For a real example of a non-country sovereign entity which has not gone so far as the UBI but has in fact provided a great deal of welfare, it's Catholicism. While the Pope is currently head of the Vatican City State, the Holy See is separate, so when the Popes held no territory for some decades not too long ago, they were still sovereigns.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2019


If we mean "no borders" very literally, then yeah, I guess you don't, except for if we start devising non-geographic countries that use alternate methods to designate their citizens and other people and organizations subject to their jurisdiction. Which I'm not opposed to, as a fan of Terra Ignota.

But having freedom of movement across national borders is different from not having borders, and it's terribly reductive to conflate the two ideas.

As it stands, we have two concepts to determine who is subject to what jurisdiction, those being citizenship and residency. We can open borders, allow anyone who wants it to obtain residency, and still distinguish between citizens, non-citizen residents, and visitors. Distinguishing too strongly between citizens and other residents leads to bad places, but there may be reasons to do so in some situations. I think a foundational aspect of being a citizen is that a place you are not a resident of retains some form of jurisdiction over you.

Given that:
- Some US states have more of a welfare state going on then others,
- we have freedom of movement across state borders
- there's no such thing as being a citizen of an individual state.

So we actually have a lot of experience dealing with this sort of thing. Whether you are a resident of a particular state can be a very important question, and one that's been managed for the most part fairly reasonably. So dealing with jurisdictional issues related to open borders is not a new issue. It's just a question of which borders.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:53 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Another argument for open borders is that it makes life harder for authoritarians. Many people living under dictatorships would leave if they weren't basically captive.
posted by Acey at 2:20 AM on November 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


The basic answer to "you can't have open borders and a welfare state" is that it's just not factually correct. Immigrants, on average, add to the economy rather than taking from it. Increasing immigration will, contrary to the closed border advocates claims, increase the money available for welfare programs.

in part due to the fact that a great deal of government spending is fixed. If we double the population you don't need to double military spending for example, so doubling the population will halve the amount we each pay for the military thus freeing up that money for other uses.
posted by sotonohito at 4:25 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


One basis for drawing up geographical governmental units I really like: watersheds

If previous state borders where drawn wither arbitrarily or based around trade, new ones could me based around environmental impact.
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 AM on November 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Immigrants, on average, add to the economy rather than taking from it.

I could be wrong about this since I'm not a specialist, but it seems to me this is also because, at least for adult immigrants able to work and/or spend money, you're essentially getting a fully formed human taxpayer without having had to invest in any of their development or education. They've already been born, educated, and received X years of healthcare on someone else's dime (or centime or grosz or peso or whatever), bringing them to your doorstep ready to participate in the economy and pay taxes despite only having consumed a fraction of what your average native-born citizen has up to that same point in their life.
posted by peakes at 6:47 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


*Pay the same taxes as people (in their income bracket) born and raised in the country in question, I might add.
posted by peakes at 7:02 AM on November 22, 2019


Additionally, our legal immigration system as it functioned before this administration cherry picks people based on education level and SES.
posted by Selena777 at 7:38 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Per the book I read, even when accepting a larger number of unskilled immigrants the total on average remains a net positive. I'm not an expert so I don't know if the studies they cited are flawed or not.

In part they're looking at a longer time frame, immigrants cost more the first year or two they're in the country then cost less. On a longer time frame the children of immigrants typically outdo the children of native born people in terms of economic benefit.
posted by sotonohito at 10:34 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


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