Reason Podcast

Is the Phrase 'Open Borders' a Libertarian Mistake?

As Trump cracks down yet again, Reason's editors disagree over labeling in immigration policy.

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The past 24 hours have seen two unrelated events tethered to America's ever-contentious immigration debates: (1) President Donald Trump reportedly forcing out Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, on the grounds that she somehow wasn't tough enough, and (2) the launch announcement by pals o' Reason Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith of their new graphic nonfiction paperback Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. (Pre-order here!)

So what happens if you mash up these two events? Well, if you're the Editors' Roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast, you get into a spirited debate over whether the phrase "open borders" actually describes your immigration worldview, let alone is an effective way of selling it. Katherine Mangu-Ward, Nick Gillespie, Peter Suderman and yours truly argue about that, plus President Donald Trump's interest in increasing family separations, whether the phrase "military-industrial complex" is for hippies, and how a show with a name like Love, Death & Robots could have managed to escape Katherine's attention.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'When You're Gone' by Bombay Laughing Club is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Relevant links from the show:

"DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Is Leaving Wednesday. Will Her Replacement Be Worse?" by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"Kirstjen Nielsen and John Kelly Keep Lying About 'Zero Tolerance' and Child Snatching, While Donald Trump Tells the Truth," by Jacob Sullum

"Trump Says Kidnapping Unauthorized Immigrants' Children Is an Effective Deterrent," by Jacob Sullum

"Child Separation Policy at Border Led to Procedural, Personal Chaos, Says Inspector General Report," by Brian Doherty

"Bryan Caplan's New Book on Open Borders," by Ilya Somin

"Bernie Sanders Reminds Voters That He Is Absolutely Against Open Borders," by Robby Soave

"Debate: Nations Can and Should Control Their Borders," by Jonathan H. Adler and Shikha Dalmia

"Rand Paul and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Found Something They Can Agree On," by Joe Setyon

"Trump Ain't Dismantling the American Empire," by Shikha Dalmia

"Sens. Rand Paul, Tom Udall Introduce Bill to End the War in Afghanistan," by Christian Britschgi

"Washington Imperialists Fret Over Trump's Troop Withdrawals," by Matt Welch

"Netflix's Love, Death and Robots Is a Sci-Fi Demo Reel For the Untapped Potential of Animation," by Peter Suderman

"Bret Easton Ellis on American Psycho, Hollywood Hypocrisy, and the Excesses of #MeToo," by Nick Gillespie and Paul Detrick

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  1. Well, if you’re the Editors’ Roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast, you get into a spirited debate over whether the phrase “open borders” actually describes your immigration worldview, let alone is an effective way of selling it.

    Lookit the PFLs over here finally catching a clue.

    1. I wish they’d talk about this because it seems like a big deal to me, and the left-wing media are going after it viciously. I’m guessing noone at Reason gives a hoot about Texas, though.

      1. The moronic wokebot that keeps getting soundbited on the radio is flapping on about how Christian pediatricians are going to refuse to care for children of aame sex couples. Apparently she has no idea what the Hippocratic Oath is and is living in a fantasy scare world of “Christians are monsters”.

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  2. No, the policy “open borders” is a mistake. Just changing the name to something else wouldn’t help.

    1. Perhaps you could adopt the steelman policy and describe what policy you think the name “open borders” describes.

      1. In a nutshell, any immigration policy Shikha Dalmia wouldn’t find objectionable.

        Out of the nutshell, an immigration policy where the federal government doesn’t get to pick and choose among those applying for entry on the basis of benefit to those already citizens, and isn’t allowed to do any of the things necessary to effectively prevent those it doesn’t choose to allow entry from entering anyway.

        1. an immigration policy where the federal government doesn’t get to pick and choose among those applying for entry on the basis of benefit to those already citizens

          Not sure that’s accurate. “Open Borders”, depending on who you talk to, might commonly exclude felons and the ill.

          The argument that most “Open Borders” people would make is that letting in most everyone IS to the benefit of pre-existing citizens. There are ultimately quite limited classes of people that aren’t “to the benefit”.

          The fundamental argument is over that, not over the right to exclude.

          1. The fundamental argument is over that, not over the right to exclude.

            Why don’t they say that, then? Libertarian open borders advocates say that crossing a border is a human right and the government does NOT have any justification for stopping anyone.

            1. I suspect that’s what the podcast dives into. I don’t think the “human right” angle is universal.

          2. “The argument that most “Open Borders” people would make is that letting in most everyone IS to the benefit of pre-existing citizens. There are ultimately quite limited classes of people that aren’t “to the benefit”.
            The fundamental argument is over that, not over the right to exclude.”

            Chemjeff, agamemnon, old mex, chipper morning eunuch, and Leo kovalesky, among others, beg to differ

            1. Hmm, I see chemjeff beat me to it

        2. doesn’t get to pick and choose among those applying for entry on the basis of benefit to those already citizens

          Who decides what constitutes what a benefit is, and how large that benefit ought to be, before permission to migrate is granted?

          Why not devolve that decision-making down to the level of the individuals involved? Let them decide what constitutes a benefit or not.

          1. I think Jeffy is like that girl in 50 First Dates. That’s why he asks the same questions over and over, every time this subject comes up here, seemingly with no recollection that we’ve answered them dozens of times.

            1. And each time you answer the question, you reveal yourself to be a collectivist on the issue.

              1. And each time you respond by calling us “collectivists” for taking a realistic position in the issue, and ignore the substance of our arguments, you reveal yourself to be a childish fool with the moral reasoning ability of a sixth-grader.

                1. No, half the time he just skips to “racist”

                2. If you don’t want to be called collectivist, then don’t advocate for collectivism.

                  What would you call someone who demands that I surrender my property rights to the collective, for the sake of some claimed public good? A collectivist. It doesn’t matter if that collectivist is a Bernie Sanders type or a Donald Trump type.

                  Collectivism is very frequently “realistic”. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily right.

                  And the substance of your arguments just constitute different ways to try to justify your collectivism, along with your childish insults. Since you can’t refute what I argue.

                  1. Someone needs a nap.

                  2. Disavowing borders between nations is as one-world-government as it gets.
                    The zenith of collectivism

                    1. And you can show where I advocate for one-world government, right? Oh wait I don’t.
                      I actually advocate for completely decentralized, competing governments. You choose which government you want to provide services for you, and you voluntarily agree to the rules of those governments, regardless of where you live.

                      There were even some Reason articles/podcasts about it.

                      Maybe you should study up on the matter.

                    2. you voluntarily agree to the rules of those governments

                      Including their rules about crossing their borders?

                    3. If I got to choose my government? Sure. Because that would have been a choice I voluntarily agreed to in exchange for some benefit presumably. Like any other contract that I might sign. But to have it forced upon me by a state that I have no choice in? Slightly different.

                    4. Is is difficult to run carrying that goalpost?

                    5. Why would you say that?

                    6. That you don’t understand the logical implications of your faith, and insist upon treating fantasy as reality, is not a valid argument but rather a revelation of psychosis.

                    7. If I got to choose my government? Sure. Because that would have been a choice I voluntarily agreed to in exchange for some benefit presumably. Like any other contract that I might sign. But to have it forced upon me by a state that I have no choice in? Slightly different

                      But you DID choose your government.

                      Why do you pretend that you didn’t?

            2. Maybe you could try answering the message instead of shooting the messenger.

          2. Who decides what constitutes what a benefit is, and how large that benefit ought to be, before permission to migrate is granted?

            Or, if someone you have no connection with whatsoever migrates from one place to another and it doesn’t benefit you, so fucking what? It’s none of your fucking business.

            1. Yeah, that could summarize “open borders”, too. I reject that.

              1. So migration is not a right, but a privilege; and this privilege may only be extended to individuals who can demonstrate some benefit to the entire society, as determined by some central government bureau. Does that about sum thins up, Brett?

                1. So migration is not a right, but a privilege;

                  YES.

                  Just as it is with all other forms of life. One accepts migration of another into one’s territory under two circumstances–it is mutually beneficial, or the current occupant can’t stop one from migrating.

                  The second usually results in violence.

            2. Exactly.

            3. If we lived in anarchy, sure. Do we?

              1. Dude, it doesn’t require anarchy to not require people to demonstrate some objective benefit in order to justify some activity.

        3. Why do you care what that Socialist turd thinks? She is the worst ambassador to the brand since William Weld.

      2. I certainly take it to mean that U.S. residency/citizenship is not a scarce good – thus fulfilling both ends of Sowell’s first lessons on economics and politics.

        1. Well I think it’s important to distinguish between residency and citizenship. One does not necessarily imply the other.

        2. I haven’t brushed up on Sowell’s lessons is there mention of the is/ought fallacy? I agree that US residency/citizenship ought not be a scarce good. I don’t, for a second, believe that it isn’t or couldn’t possibly be made so.

          1. The first lesson of economics is scarcity, there is never enough to satisfy all demand. The first lesson of politics is to ignore the first lesson of economics.

            Would anyone actually argue that residency or citizenship are not scarce?

            As for the economic benefits of immigrants, would anyone actually argue that there is no point of diminishing returns?

            1. Are you new here? Those get argued for all the time.

              1. Ackshually there Vern, I’m not around as much as I used to be, and if anyone wants to argue against Dr. Sowell, I’ll just let their stupidity speak for itself.

  3. >>>whether the phrase “military-industrial complex” is for hippies

    leave hippies alone. and look around Holmes we’ve been at war since last year’s h.s. grads were babies

    1. Reason may dislike the military industrial complex, but they’re sure as hell devoted to the welfare industrial complex

  4. “Open Borders” was my ex-wife’s nickname in high school.

    1. She liked books?

          1. Boarders are better than Hoarders.

  5. show with a name like Love, Death & Robots could have managed to escape Katherine’s attention.

    It’s ok, Katherine. It’s called “getting old”.

  6. Is the name “open borders” a mistake? Only to the extent truth in labeling is a mistake

    1. LOL

      You’ll be in for quite a shock when the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate wins in a landslide on an open borders platform.

      1. OBL, congrats on inspiring a podcast

      2. Try open heart surgery. That will be time for the revolution. One where snowflakes wake up and get woke to shock and awe. Along with the progressive Libertarians who run the editorial staff who are backing Bernie, Beto , Warren, Harris, Butthurt, Swallowswell or any opther of the 3 dozen progressive 3 idiots running

  7. I’m going to listen to this podcast, but from my perspective, open borders reasonably means one (or more) of a couple of things.

    1. On the more direct, literal side, it means you tear down the border shacks, remove the guards and anyone can walk in or walk out without any checks or vetting.

    2. On the broader scale, it means the former PLUS any of those people coming in can set up residency with no checks or vetting, vote in elections, be eligible for government benefits/welfare etc.

    3. On a more realistic side, it often means that you still keep the border shacks, border guards and still engage in some kind of procedure for establishing entry and residency, but the bar and waiting period is significantly lowered.

    Most people advocating for open borders are more often than not describing option 3.

    1. Buried out behind the woodshed below salted ground, 12 ft. down with ancient socialist incantations of sealing chalked onto the top of it for good measure, is option 4. Bringing equal parts liberty, prosperity, and the culture to support or even expand it to various shitholes that these people immigrate from.

      Everybody agrees we shouldn’t bomb the fuck out of Iran, but sanctions against Russia for oppressing pro-gay speech and, simultaneously, legally prosecuting their citizens for influencing elections just make sense. Would we even consider imposing trade restrictions and/or immigration sanctions on a nation that curtails free speech, seizes control of private industry, disarms it’s citizenry, *and* violates their property rights? Fuck no! We barely give two shits about those issues in this country.

      Human rights are only human rights when it will win an election inside our own borders or when we can spend more money abroad as token gestures.

      1. Buried out behind the woodshed below salted ground, 12 ft. down with ancient socialist incantations of sealing chalked onto the top of it for good measure, is option 4. Bringing equal parts liberty, prosperity, and the culture to support or even expand it to various shitholes that these people immigrate from

        This is conquest.

        This is the building of a New Rome

        This is the attempt to take them by the hand and raise them, Europeans included, out of the barbarism they have mired themselves in.

        To help them do what we have done.

    2. Re: Paul,

      Most people advocating for open borders are more often than not describing option 3.

      I advocate for option 4: No shacks and no checks, and also not one immigrant votes or gets benefits.

      I advocate for open borders when it comes to goods, services, capital and labor. Only Nativists, xenophobes and Trumpistas think it means allowing immigrants to vote, get benefits and replace tikki torch-carrying whites and date their womenfolk – or something, I lost track of their paranoid fantasies. They’re woefully unaware that welfare is merely a political tool meant to garner votes, and so if you can’t vote, you don’t get benefits. As simple as that. Which is why it is a big, fat lie perpetuated by the likes of FEAR – sorry, FAIR and CIS, that immigrants obtain welfare benefits at a higher rate than the native-born. If they have to resort to statistical sleigh-of-hand, then it means they have NO evidence. Just like Trumpistas, they make shit up.

      1. so if you can’t vote, you don’t get benefits…. that immigrants obtain welfare benefits at a higher rate than the native-born

        So you went from ‘no benefits’ to ‘not disproportionate benefits’ in less than a full sentence *while* calling your straw men fabrications liars.

        Nobody should get any benefits and your exceedingly obvious slight-of-hand is that you don’t care who gets what benefits as long as there are no nobody’s checking.

        Seriously, like Dahlmia, you’re becoming more of a liability to your own cause every day.

      2. This is why they need our help.

        They’re idiots–

        I advocate for option 4: No shacks and no checks, and also not one immigrant votes or gets benefits.

        Simple Mex, if there are no checks then how does one tell if a person is a wetback or not?

  8. We Koch / Reason libertarians should absolutely embrace the expression “open borders.” Not only is it the most accurate description of what we advocate, it’s also rapidly becoming the mainstream view among American voters.

    1. As good as you are at towing the lion, I don’t think they’re going to give you contributing editor status.

    2. Thank you for your relentless pursuit of rubbing this shit in their faces

  9. Is coconut penis a good name for a soft drink that tastes like a penis dusted with powdered coconut?

    1. Ask Buttigieg.

  10. Oh, come on! You can’t be really free until you’re getting everything you don’t want shoved down your throat!

  11. I think that phrase in any pragmatic arena is a mistake. I tell my friends on the left to stop saying “Democratic socialism” or everyone has a “right” to healthcare if they want to make ground with anyone who doesn’t already think like they do. “Open Borders” just doesn’t start the conversation off on the right foot.

    But, like Mr. Miller says, “That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong”.

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  13. I wonder if open borders advocates would think everyone is a benefit to society if they were Poland in 1939…

    1. Re: awildseaking,

      I wonder if open borders advocates would think everyone is a benefit to society if they were Poland in 1939

      Perhaps you should take some time to learn how to put together coherent arguments, you Trumpista. Poland was invaded by an ARMY, not by immigrants. Also how does that make your case, you stupid ignorant fool, when it was true (it wasn’t a Nazi exaggeration) that ethnic Germans WERE being expelled from their homes and harassed by the Polish government just like your fellow Trumpistas want Orange Potatoman and his goon Stephen Miller to expel millions of immigrants from THEIR homes, ousted from their places of work and kidnapped away from their families.

      Pathetic. You’re pathetic. You, Trumpista(*)

      (*) Term of derision and will continue to be for at least a generation.

      1. Once you admit that people crossing a border CAN be bad, you’ve already left open borders behind, and we’re only negotiating over who to allow entry.

      2. You didn’t even address the argument. What would have occurred if Poland didn’t enforce its borders and defend its sovereignty? Nazis could have walked right in, army optional, and used demographic replacement to take over. Of course that isn’t what Mexico (or any country) is doing to the US because these people are economic migrants from around the world, but the point stands that open borders don’t work if bad people exist. You need enforcement mechanisms to keep bad people out and that means the state deciding who is bad for the country.

        1. to keep bad people out

          Or to keep good individuals out if the number of those wishing to immigrate is such that their numbers alone would be bad for the country.

        2. Why even go with a hypothetical Poland, when we have the examples of Austria and Czechoslovakia

  14. Is the Phrase ‘Open Borders’ a Libertarian Mistake?

    Where’s the mistake? The term is consistent with free and open trade and travel of goods, of services, of capital and, yes, of labor. being for open borders doesn’t mean being against the protection of private property, but actually the contrary: being FOR private property is being FOR markets, not against. Trumpistas and white supremacists are actually quite HOSTILE to markets but you wouldn’t have that from the actual Trumpistas who come here to soil our libertarian heaven. No, they always LIE. Just like their champion lies. Many times, without even a need to lie.

    The fact that you have a bunch of white supremacists clamoring for a totally enclosed society where everyone not white is purged from it does not mean your principles are wrong. Trumpistas are wrong. Their white supremacist brethren are wrong, no matter how many tikki torches they light up and how much they shave their heads ? la Stephen Miller, the imbecilic fuckers.

    1. No, they always LIE.

      Like this?

      The fact that you have a bunch of white supremacists clamoring for a totally enclosed society where everyone not white is purged from it

      1. Re: Mar,

        Like this?

        No, like you, Trumpista.(*)

        (*) Term of derision, likely for a generation to come at least.

        1. No, like you, Trumpista.(*)

          No doubt this is the limit of your analysis and intellect.

          1. Either he’s had a stroke, some kind of severe head injury, or he’s been replaced.

            Because Old Mex used to be one of the really good posters here.

            Insightful, entertaining.

            This things just embarrassing.

  15. Well for all of the immigration articles here, the only immigration “policy” I can find in any if them is to keep all immigration laws exactly the same but don’t enforce any of them.

    1. Maybe “illegal immigration non-enforcement” would be a better label?

    2. That is the solution that provides us with the most cheap and docile labor force.

  16. Allow me to tell you about my ‘open borders’ experience.

    Last year, I was in Derby Line, Vermont and wanted to go to Montreal, Canada to catch a concert.

    To get to Montreal, I had to cross the so called ‘border.’

    To my shock there was a ‘border agent’ who demanded to see a US Passport.

    I told him: Sir, I’m a libertarian and we believe in open borders, so I do not need a passport.

    He told me without the passport, I would not be able to cross.

    I missed the concert because of my belief.

    I am assuming that no Reason staffers have passports. So how do you folks get out of the USA, do you sneak out or what?

  17. yeah, “open borders” is bad marketing. Call it “Freedom of Movement” or “Immigration Freedom”.

    Just like the “War on Drugs” was bad marketing toward conservatives, who love war. It should have been “Drug Freedom” or “Constitutional Policing” or some such.

    1. In reality, it is “Freedom of Association”.

      I contend that it’s not possible to have genuine freedom of association without simultaneous freedom of migration.

      1. If you had a functioning adult brain, you would understand that for the most prosperous nation in this world full of impoverished, violent shitholes to be the only nation in the world with complete freedom of migration would result in the destruction of our freedom and our prosperity.

      2. Association and migration aren’t the same thing. Even then, freedom of association isn’t the unfettered ability to associate with anyone and everyone without end. People can’t exactly get together and buy guns in a plot to overthrow the government. If the FBI discovers the plot and hauls a bunch of them off to prison, the rest aren’t free to waltz into prison and resume plotting over the phone through plate glass…

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  20. What’s Reason’s position on Trump’s threat to send illegal aliens to sanctuary cities?

    To keep consistent with an open borders position, they would have to welcome the move. They might argue that it’s illegal for Trump to do so (executive overreach), but the move thwarts the Democrats’ plans to flip red voting precincts to blue and thus help them advance their totalitarian leftist agenda. That’s a good thing for libertarians.

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