Friday, April 28, 2006

An interesting proposal on immigration: open borders

Take a look-see. [via Political Theory Daily Review]. Can one make a legitimate moral, economic, and political counter-argument? Does that hypothetical counter-argument rest on racist assumptions?
Europe has a common market and currency. Customs and passport checkpoints have been abolished at many internal borders, resulting in a peaceful and democratic free zone for travel, work and investment. There are 20 official European languages, spoken by a total of 460,000,000 souls, roughly the population of North America.

The EU is hardly paradise, but it is a model for how many fiercely nationalistic groups, long accustomed to slaughtering each other over the most trivial of pretexts, can create a new and better world from the ashes of devastation and atrocity.

What prevents the US, Mexico and Canada from embarking on a similar road to borderless unification?

It wouldn’t be easy. First of all, it would cost a fortune. We’d need the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to aid Mexico. But if we’ve got $275 billion (and counting!) to wage war and remake Iraq in our image, why not find the funds for waging peace and providing health, education and social welfare for our fellow inhabitants of North America?

There would be countless other obstacles, not the least of which is winning the trust and partnership of the various native cultures and Indian nations with whom our credibility, as well as Mexico’s, is stretched almost beyond repair. We’d also need to address legitimate security and counter-terrorism concerns. We’d need to respect cultural, historical and religious differences. We might have to give up on the idea of military dominance over the rest of the world. But Europe faced similar challenges and is prevailing.

If, like the critics of Victor Hugo, you think a North America without borders is utopian, consider the perils of the anti-utopia currently under discussion: a 2000-mile wall, an ultra-militarized border zone, ghettoization of the Mexican labor force, and criminalization of their presence north of the border. Such a system is a throwback to an age of runaway slaves, collective punishment and debtors prisons. It is impractical, immoral and unsustainable.


Neil Shakespeare said...

Actually, it sounds like a great argument, but it's unlikely anyone in this country is going to look to Europe for answers.

MT said...

"Can one make a legitimate moral, economic, and political counter-argument?"

O.K. I see no reason to think we could replicate Europe, so best not to try. Better safe than sorry. The greens have no monopoly on the precautionary principle.

But seriously, that's half way to how I feel. These aren't equilibrium problems. Europe is how it is because of history and geography and the current rates of immigration, which will be different for Europe in the future and would be different for us even if we could turn back time 50 years and mirror Europe's policies, because our geography and whatnot are our own.

troutsky said...

OR, taken to it's logical extreme, we have the internationalist position of TOTAL integration. Why stop at the Mexican border? A Bolivian could come up here and work thinning timber and Ill go down there and work in the tin mine. Anything less establishes the same arbitrary lines of economic exploitation, cultural bias, racism.

helmut said...

MT - sorry about what, though? Europe's economy is doing pretty well. Criticism from American commentators is based on a sense of what's best for the US economy rather than what best for Europeans or perhaps citizens of any country. If it's all about GNP, which includes such dubious inputs as cleaning up pollution, the US does well. But if it's about quality of life indices, Europe outpaces the US. And in the meantime, national patriotism in Europe has remained - countries have not dissipated into one lump mass as had been predicted.

Why is the geography that much different? The southwestern US has thousands of native Spanish speakers, so much so that culturally it's closer to Mexico in many ways than it is to anglophone US. Canada? Well, who thinks Canada would be a whole lot different or that that many more Canadians would want to live in the US in the case of open borders?

It wouldn't have to be the European model, but a Europe-inspired model.

And it woul be more competitive, and probably fairer, and probably more sound from a human rights perspective.

MT said...

My stance is that the systems are dynamic--culturally and economically diverse peoples are moving into the region and out of the region in changing ratios...and when they get there how they assimilate or adapt or impact the place depends on what economy and community and culture they find there. In the context of biology Stephen Jay Gould used to say that if you were to rewind evolution back to the first vertebrate or first cell, we'd get a completely different world each time. I think it's the same for human history, including economics and where it's happening.

helmut said...

I don't disagree. But this all doesn't mean that we can't draw upon the best going ideas that are out there. That's the special status of human intelligence - when it's used. That is, the capacity to imagine various outcomes to various ideas and possible courses of action and then choose the best option based on that imagined rehearsal. Then we test it out as we go and revise, adapt, reject, etc. as we go along.

I really dislike model thinking myself - the sorts of ideas about economy, community, political life that suggest certain complex patterns can be applied across very different situations. Some things have regularity in these terms. Others are highly irregular or differentiated across different cultures.

This is part of the reason why I'd go with experiementalism every time. And this means looking to the best available options and testing to see if they fit particular contexts.

MT said...

I just want to know if I morally and legitimately counter-argued, and if so what I win.