The Volokh Conspiracy

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Bryan Caplan's New Book on Open Borders

It should be of great interest to anyone who follows debates over immigration.


My George Mason University colleague, prominent libertarian economist Bryan Caplan, has a forthcoming book making the case for open borders. It is entitled Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. In this recent blog post, Bryan explains the purpose of the book, and its somewhat unusual "nonfiction graphic novel" format:

Open Borders is a non-fiction graphic novel. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, picture a comic-book documentary. While the form is light-hearted, the content is thoroughly researched and carefully documented. I strive to steelman the critics. I've got chapters on all the leading objections to open borders: economic, fiscal, cultural, and political….

While the book is packed with arguments, you can easily read it cover-to-cover (minus the References) in two fun-filled hours. Indeed, out of all my books, Open Borders delivers the most information per minute of reader time. How is this possible? Because combining words and pictures allows me to communicate far more economically than I can communicate with words alone.

Who's the target audience? Everyone from curious laymen to researchers specializing in immigration. And due to the format, "laymen" even includes precocious kids as young as seven. I'm not kidding: My youngest kids kept reading it over my shoulder as I was writing it….

Above all, I consider Open Borders the most persuasive book I've ever written. I know what I'm advocating is radical and scary. I know I bear the burden of proof – and I gladly accept it. I know that political discourse has gone from bad to worse over the last decade. My goal, however, is to be part of the solution. I don't want to demonize, humiliate, or "call out" people who disagree with me about immigration. I want to listen to them, answer their objections to their own satisfaction, and be friends. An impossible dream? Probably. But Open Borders is me doing my best to make that dream a reality.

Graphic novels are not really my thing, so it is hard for me to comment on that aspect of the book. Be that as it may, I am confident this will turn out to be a compelling contribution to the debate over one of the most significant issues of our time. I have long found Bryan to be one of the most impressive academic commentators on immigration policy and debates over related issues. His 2012 article "Why Restrict Immigration?" may be the best short introduction to the case for open borders, effectively combining intellectual rigor with accessibility.

I am also a big fan of Bryan's previous books, The Case Against Education (which I reviewed here), The Myth of the Rational Voter (an important influence on my own work on voter ignorance, though we differ on some key points), and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. All are major, innovative contributions to our understanding of important issues, and all have had a substantial impact on public debate. If Open Borders is indeed his most persuasive book, that's quite an accomplishment!