Strong opinions, weakly held

Ideal immigration policy

How many people agree with the following statement?

In an ideal world, people would be free to reside in any country that they choose.


  1. I agree. Borders are annoying.

    If person A and person B reach a voluntary agreement such that person A will sell some land to person B, who cares what country each of them are from?

    We currently have some humans standing in between this voluntary transaction and saying they can’t do that because of an arbitrary, man-made border.

  2. I strongly agree.

  3. disagree 100% – my country is already overcrowded and unrestricted immigration would only make matters worse.

  4. Absolutely agree.

  5. In an ideal world, there would be plentiful jobs, energy, freedoms, education, opportunities and resources for everyone so the need to emigrate to another country would be greatly reduced.

    So I agree.

    Except we don’t live in an ideal world. Not even close.

  6. Ideal world yes. In the current world we live in: no.

  7. Well, that statement as given isn’t precise. Obviously, a single-sentence definition is never going to be precise enough for legal purposes. I am inferring that you mean:

    “In an ideal world, if one were to decide to reside in another country, the only barrier should be the economic means to get there.”

    I see a few problems with it: how one guarantees that there are homes and jobs for immigrants; how one guarantees that they have the economic means for the former; and the skills for the latter. All of that will resolve itself given time, but I could very easily imagine that a reversal in US policy [1] to say “anyone who wishes to live here, can now do so” would result in over-immigration, and in the experience of immigrants being significantly worse than in their country of origin.

    [1] Not that I think the US is the only country worth emigrating to, but it’s certainly a salient example.

    So, a couple of alternative “more precise” statements I’d support would be:

    “In an ideal world, if one were to decide to reside in another country, there should be no permanent barriers to immigration.”

    I don’t know the numbers for how many immigrants to the US are permitted per year, nor the number that would choose to immigrate given permission, nor the average lifespan of those who never do. But I assume that, taken together, those three numbers mean that a significant number of potential immigrants are never given the chance. That’s unjust, and I expect the rate of immigration could sustain quite an increase before immigration would cease to benefit immigrants.

    I also took off the economic restriction: subsidizing the cost of immigration could be construed as foreign aid on its own (since it benefits [currently] foreign nationals). But, since, if I recall, the largest source of foreign aid is remittances from immigrants, it would actually be a rather large indirect source of aid.

    “Restrictions on immigration should not be a way to ensure that the quality of life remains better in one country than another.”

    I accept and expect that a greater rate of immigration would have a negative impact on a country. For example, a larger number of unskilled workers would probably necessitate a lowering of minimum wage, resulting in a lower quality of life for workers whose salary was previously held up by it. Overcrowding places stress on sanitation, on the power grid, and on any number of other services. That’s OK.

    If I were to graph quality of life, of the US, and of the countries people are emigrating from to get here, then I’d expect one of three patterns depending on immigration policy: one where the US remains perpetually above the others; one where the US spikes briefly to the bottom, then evens out to be equal; and one where they all meet in the middle. I think current immigration policy is designed to maintain the first. I worry that unrestricted immigration might lead to the latter. I believe that a higher rate of immigration would result in the third, and that this is the right result.

  8. In an ideal world, 100% agree.

    In the real world I’d like… a) immigration laws significantly eased b) and those immigration laws strongly enforced

    Right now? I’ll settle for just enforcing the law as written (thought I’d rather see them changed)

  9. In an ideal world, there would be no borders. Since it would be comprised of ideal countries, each with its own ideal conditions. Immigration would not exist, it would just be called… moving around. Like switching cities in your own country.

    Right now, as things stand, we are very far from an ideal world…

  10. Agree. If capital can move freely across borders, labor should be able to as well.

  11. I disagree but agree. The threshold for moving around the planet (a costly and stressful adventure) should be much much higher than “I want to live there.” People should be free to cross borders to meet their needs, but just because the scenery is better? Or the cheese or sausage is more authentic? No. Stay home.

  12. Agree 100%.

    What’s wrong with crossing borders for cheese and sausage? Life’s short. Spending it eating inferior cheese and sausage is a waste. I’m happy to learn a new language if I get better cheese and sausage as a result.

  13. Strongly agree. How dare governments tell me where I can and cannot live and work. I am not a free man.

  14. Strongly agree. Especially as someone who has changed countries of residence five times. The U.S. was hardest of all to get into.

  15. Katxena nails it above. Agree.

  16. I Agree.

    Immigration laws are mostly about the ‘Haves’ (people with jobs, money, property and security) being scared of loosing some to the ‘Have-nots’. Which is great if you’r a Haves but leaves the powerless Have-nots with fewer options to get ahead.

    Removing immigration laws would improve global equity.

  17. Agree. People should be allowed to go where they want, and stay where they want. Objections based on arguments to the effect that the resources of a particular place are limited are falsely premised: if the resources of a particular place can’t support immigration people aren’t likely to immigrate to that place.

  18. Bill, that assumes people have perfect knowledge, which I guess is correct it you’re talking about an ideal world.

    In reality it’s all about relative perceptions – if people perceive that a place provides better resources than their current place, they are more likely to relocate. That doesn’t mean their perceptions are accurate or the resources are sufficient to support them. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

  19. It would certainly get rid of the inane “us versus them” BS. I hate all this country fighting going on like school yard bullies. Can’t we all just get along?

    But let’s say so many want to move to Denmark and they have not enough room for everyone. What to do? But I adore the idea, really. I have a lust to hop around the globe. 🙂 I’m a xenophile.

    We should see each other as our brothers and sisters. After all, we are all humans first, yes? We really all need to learn to co-exist in diversity.

  20. What is stopping anyone from residing in whatever country they choose now? Even the current undocumented population can indeed become a citizen. It takes a little time but it certainly is possible. I lived in Canada for 3 years. I could have stayed and become a citizen of Canada but chose to come back here. I have a relative who is a US citizen but resides in Italy. Person A can indeed buy property from person B if they have different citizenships.

    If you mean have no countries, citizenships, federal governments or armies. I’m not sure if I agree or not. As long as we have religion we will have war. Even without countries religion will be the thing that gives groups of people a reason to battle.

  21. I would guess that the answer to your question is “most.” The caveats start almost immediately, however…

  22. Agree.

    Most of the caveats seem to be of the type, “what if everyone wants to move to X, and there’s not enough room?” — which translates, “fine so long as nothing happens to tax local resources around me and reduce my quality of life”.

    Of course if we remove all migration restrictions, people will move out of the shitholes and into the nice places. Of course that will make the nice places less nice, at least for a while. But it will also take pressure off the shitholes, and shine some much needed spotlights on global disparity.

    All in all, I can’t think of a better way to force the Haves to treat the fact that there are Have-nots as a problem.

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