book spotlight: open borders, the science and ethics of immigration by bryan caplan and zach weinersmith

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It is rare that you pick up a book and just say, ” wow, this is an achievement.” For the last five years or so, Bryan Caplan has immersed himself in the extremely large social science literature on immigration and its impacts. You would expect a 300 page academic monograph. But that’s not what you get. Instead, he teamed up with Zach Weinersmith of SMBC fame to write a graphic novel. Open Borders: The Science and Ethnics of Immigration is truly something else. It’s a slim tome that lays out the argument for unrestricted migration. It’s joyful , it’s beautiful, and most importantly, it’s right.

So what’s at stake? Simple: the legitimacy of global apartheid. In other words, migration restrictions create two massive groups: some people live in relatively functional societies and many more who do not. If you want to move, chance are that you can’t. Only a small fraction of those who want to move are able to do so in any reasonable amount of time. Instead, they are trapped in under performing economies and murderous states.  The book starts off with this massive fact and argues that migration restriction is immoral and counter-productive.

Open Borders takes the critics seriously and uses the best evidence available to very carefully explain why anti-immigration critics are either just wrong (e.g., non-natives tend to commit less crime) or their fears are wildly exaggerated (e.g., yes, some immigrants may vote for policies you don’t like, but that wouldn’t change much). And that is why it is very convincing.

Ultimately, Open Borders succeeds not only as a policy argument, it succeeds as a work of art. Weinersmith’s style is bouyant. The colors pop. The book is happy, even when the authors present opposing arguments. For example, one section gets into internal migration and describes the massive Puerto Rican migration to New York. I smiled when I was a rendition of the famous opening dance from West Side Story. The book has many more witty allusions like that one. And who wouldn’t laugh when you see that one of the benefits of living in a developed nation is endless ice cream?

So buy this book. Even if you don’t agree with all the arguments, or you agree with none of them, it will make you think and make you smile.



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Written by fabiorojas

November 20, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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