Open the Borders

The question is: how far are we willing to go to make the world better for everyone?

That is always and definitely a good basis for discussion. If you want to make the argument even more heated, introduce this idea to your next talk: eradicate poverty by eliminating borders.

Global Voices recently published an article named A Radical Solution For Global Poverty: Open Borders. They describe how humanitarian aid and international cooperation haven’t really changed anything for the nations which are most haunted by poverty. They cite an article by Chris Berg which quite clearly states that in the global world we live in everything is globalized. Be it goods or finances, they all move freely on our planet. “But the situation for people is very different. People don’t move around the world easily at all.”

Reality looks more like this: “Borders have guards and the guards have guns. This is an obvious fact of political life but one that is easily hidden from view—at least from the view of those of us who are citizens of affluent Western democracies.” These are words by Joseph A. Carens who offers us a deeply philosophic essay on open borders.

Global Voices moves on to citing Marco Bagaric in the Sydney Morning Herald who says: “The best way to ameliorate Third World poverty is by massively increasing migration to the West. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life-sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world’s resources and its population.”

Have you ever read Peter Singer? In his classical book Practical Ethics (be sure to grab the old version, not the new one where he includes new topics but leaves out this one) writes a nice essay on the “insiders and outsiders”. He puts the question: how much are you ready to give of your comfort to save others? Singer explains a (very realistic) case in which large amounts of the world are destroyed by a nuclear catastrophe. Some people have prepared and have a shelter with food stocks. Now, other people would like to come in and be safe. Would you let them in if you are in a shelter?

I think that describes the main question quite nicely. Are we ready to share what we have? Or do we only want to go for charitable giving from time to time? Opening borders would spread wealth and well-being more equally on the planet. It would mean less exploitation and less need for international aid. It would give certain regions the chance to pick up.

Open borders definitely also have their downsides. Global Voices brings up topics like child and generally human trafficking, drug trafficking and possibly the spread of diseases like HIV/Aids. I would add xenophobia and racism as another factor on the rise to it. It’s not a perfect solution, but like I said, it might give your discussion an interesting new direction.

Picture by European Parliament, thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Open the Borders

  1. There are people who celebrate certain breeds of animals, and demand that such animals have papers or certificates to show purity of breed. In some cases, after many generations of breeding with only their own kind these creatures develop peculiarities. For example, some purebreds are known to be temperamental, some are prone to disease, etc. What some people describe as “purity” is actually accompanied by strong vulnerabilities due to a lack of genetic variance.

    “Purebreds” would be considered extreme racism if the term were applied to humans, but because humans apply it to dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures many find it acceptable. Building walls around ourselves is very similar; humans of one type are kept inside the walls and humans that are different are excluded. The humans inside the walls are then exposed only to one another. Over time such walls result in vulnerabilities, because we learn and grow through our experiences with others.

    Border security is a hot issue here in Arizona, but food security is a hot issue across the border in Mexico. I understand that conservative people feel threatened by poor people from any country, even our own, but also understand that when faced with desperate times people will do almost anything to feed their families. I love my family enough to move to another country if necessary, and feel sure that many conservatives probably do too. For some people life is a daily struggle, for others it is not, and these two demographics often collide. The answer is not either to build or destroy fences, but rather to address the various reasons that life has become a struggle for so many. As in so many disciplines, by addressing root causes the resulting symptoms may be eased.

  2. Pingback: Forgotten People | Kosmos 9

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