Bryan Caplan’s latest on the open borders question illuminates an imaginary world. Perhaps the strangest thing about this fantasy earth is that it corresponds almost perfectly with an achieved libertarian utopia, marred only by pesky borders that impede the frictionless completion of labor contracts.
In Caplan World there are two significant levels of social organization: private owners — fully secure in their property rights — and the human race as a whole, struggling to sort itself into productive relationships of voluntary cooperation. In his figurative simplification, there are households, and there is the planet. Nothing done to de-fragment the planet could negatively affect households to any significant extent. In fact, they could only benefit from open-access to several billion potential tenants. On Caplan World, open-borders is a no-brainer.
On Sol-3, unfortunately, things are not nearly so simple. The most obvious reason is that nobody on this planet enjoys secure property rights. Freely-contracting Caplan World ‘tenants’ are — in reality — also voters, and what they vote upon, most substantially, is other people’s property rights. In this, real world, geographical fragmentation means that a whole bunch of (once) non-random other people do not have any voice in regards to your business. In an age of rampant democracy, the only way to maintain this situation is to keep them on the other side of a border, at least formally (polite visitors don’t get to decide whether your house should be expropriated). Eliminate the borders, and the only property rights remaining are those that the global population, as a whole, are willing to grant. Does it really need to be spelt out that this is not the recipe for a libertarian society?
Yes, it’s tediously repetitive to accuse Caplan and company of being suicidal lunatics, but they keeps printing out the collective suicide notes. These aren’t stupid people. They have to know their plans won’t result in the importation of voiceless exit-units, or free-contractors, but rather of a new people, already pre-determined by democratic assumptions to be particles of political sovereignty — i.e. masters. You don’t get to decide (commercially) whether they can stay in your house. They get to decide (politically) whether you can keep your house. Since they are also disproportionately saturated with the bio-cultural heritage of places that have never shown any taste or competence for the creation or mere preservation of freedom-tolerant institutions, the subsequent democratic decisions — it can reliably be predicted — will be horrendous. If this were not so, why would the Left-half of the political spectrum be openly salivating about the electoral catastrophe in process? (Nobody thinks they’re importing reinforcements for the Tea Party.)
It’s probably far too late for any of this to matter. At this point, Caplan is just rubbing salty madness into the wounds.