Viewpoints: Should Borders Be Open?

By Mark Krikorian on April 1, 2004

BBC News, UK Edition, April 1, 2004

The issue of migration is high on the political agenda for governments around the world. Western governments are often under pressure to restrict the entry of migrants. Developing countries find themselves losing highly-skilled professionals while at the same time receiving important revenues from emigrants.

BBC News Online asked eight commentators to give their views on the economic arguments for and against migration, asking them to outline their views on whether countries should operate an open border policy:

No. Borders are essential to nationhood. They are the line between "us" and "them". Without 'them' there can be no 'us', precluding the possibility of social solidarity.

Aristotle wrote that each virtue has two corresponding vices, one marked by an excess of the characteristic related to the that virtue, the other by an insufficiency.

Denunciations of xenophobia or chauvinism are appropriately widespread, but an open borders policy is a function of the other vice, insufficient national feeling.

The analogy to common ownership of property is compelling: if everyone owns everything, the experience of socialist societies shows us that no one is responsible for anything.

Likewise, if all men have an equal claim to my affections, without regard to borders, then no man is my brother.

Even in a purely economic sense, the idea of open borders is a pernicious one. Free movement of people is different from the free movement of goods because people are not goods.

When we import a plastic toy from Malaysia, we import only the labour used to make it. When we import Malaysians, we import complete human beings, with all their dreams and preferences, their strengths and weaknesses.

In short, we change our society in a way that the free movement of goods cannot. Such change may or may not be a good idea, but it is not comparable in any way to the trade in goods.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.