The other day I was reading a web page about Jane Jacobs’ theories of cities. There was something on it that made me think about immigration:
Thinking in terms of national economies smears over the economic facts. Once we take off these lenses, we can see that the world consists not of developed and poor nations, but of dynamic and poor regions. One of the great advantages of this point of view, in fact, is that we become aware of the backward regions in the First World, and realize that they follow the same dynamics as the Third World. These days they may be comfortable enough due to transfer payments from richer regions, but they are economically passive nonetheless.
In this country, we allow people to migrate freely from one part of the country to another. If you are born in a fading town in Kansas and want to move to Chicago to seek employment, there are no barriers to doing so. If you want to move from a state with poor schools and a low level of social services to one with excellent schools and more generous policies, you are free to do so. By the same token, someone who’s made millions of dollars in Hollywood can move to Montana and live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. No states have collapsed economically or threatened to secede as a result.
The obvious question to me, is, shouldn’t this be our goal on a global basis as well? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if it were practical to let people live wherever they like? I’m not saying that every nation should just open its borders tomorrow, but I think that it would make sense to pursue policies that get us closer to this ideal, both in terms of immigration and in terms of economic policy.
The European Union has not collapsed in spite of opening up its immigration laws so that citizens of any EU country can work in any other. What would it take to enable us to have open borders with Canada and Mexico, for starters?
I realize that there is a large group of people who think that there’s something special about nationhood, and that the idea of relegating national borders to a status more like that of state borders, county borders, and city lines is utter insanity, but I find their position absurd.