Across the West today, a rising populist right is blaming established elites for letting in too many immigrants. The immigrants, the populists complain, lower wages, dilute the local culture, and pose a threat to national security. But even as anti-immigrant sentiment gains ground, a small but growing band of open borders advocates is reaching the opposite conclusion: Western elites aren’t letting in too many immigrants—they are letting in too few. These advocates, including the author, call for a regime of nearly complete freedom of migration worldwide, with rare exceptions for preventing terrorism or the spread of contagious disease. Borders would still exist in such a world, but as jurisdictional boundaries rather than as barriers to human movement. Ending migration controls in this way would increase liberty, reduce global poverty, and accelerate economic growth. But more fundamentally, it would challenge the right of governments to regulate migration on the arbitrary grounds of sovereignty.
The open borders position may sound new and radical, but it is simply a call for the return of lost liberties. When the Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886, most of the world’s borders could be freely crossed without passports. Passport requirements had
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