Open Minds on Open Borders

  • Nathan BasikEmail author


This article is a plea, both moral and empirical, for open borders to be put on the agenda of mainstream academic theory. It begins by conceptualizing the liberalization of international labor markets as compensation for those who have not benefitted from the liberalization of capital and commodity markets. To demonstrate that the opportunity costs of maintaining closed borders are unacceptably high, it reports on economic studies suggesting huge gains from relaxing national border controls. The focus then turns to the historical record to argue against the realist notion that closed international borders are inevitable. Flaws are exposed in the logic underlying realist “infeasibility” arguments, as well as in much of the misinformation driving mass opinion against increased immigration into the USA. To explain how such myths are perpetuated by some prominent academic theorists, the focus turns to the “liberal paradox” reinforcing the moral perfectionism by which domestic inequality is condemned, but far greater international inequality is not. The conclusion, inspired by Julien Benda's The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, is that this perfectionism can be avoided by emphasizing intellectual integrity and the courage to follow one's ideas to their full logical consequences.


Immigration Open borders Labor market liberalization Liberal paradox 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

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