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Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

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Economist Bryan Caplan makes a bold case for unrestricted immigration in this fact-filled graphic nonfiction. American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more Economist Bryan Caplan makes a bold case for unrestricted immigration in this fact-filled graphic nonfiction. American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more restrictive laws argue the need to protect native citizens. But economist Bryan Caplan adds a new, compelling perspective to the immigration debate: He argues that opening all borders could eliminate absolute poverty worldwide and usher in a booming worldwide economy—greatly benefiting humanity. With a clear and conversational tone, exhaustive research, and vibrant illustrations by Zach Weinersmith, Open Borders makes the case for unrestricted immigration easy to follow and hard to deny.


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Economist Bryan Caplan makes a bold case for unrestricted immigration in this fact-filled graphic nonfiction. American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more Economist Bryan Caplan makes a bold case for unrestricted immigration in this fact-filled graphic nonfiction. American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more restrictive laws argue the need to protect native citizens. But economist Bryan Caplan adds a new, compelling perspective to the immigration debate: He argues that opening all borders could eliminate absolute poverty worldwide and usher in a booming worldwide economy—greatly benefiting humanity. With a clear and conversational tone, exhaustive research, and vibrant illustrations by Zach Weinersmith, Open Borders makes the case for unrestricted immigration easy to follow and hard to deny.

30 review for Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

  1. 4 out of 5

    Einzige

    Nicely illustrated but there are certainly some pretty serious troubles with its reasoning. The first and most significant is the issue than naturally pops up is that it simply equates increased production of wealth with progress and flourishing, which is view of reality that can only make sense if money in itself is treated as having an intrinsic moral value and human worth. The other trouble is the author is fond of false comparisons. In particular there is a tendency to take the benefits of Nicely illustrated but there are certainly some pretty serious troubles with its reasoning. The first and most significant is the issue than naturally pops up is that it simply equates increased production of wealth with progress and flourishing, which is view of reality that can only make sense if money in itself is treated as having an intrinsic moral value and human worth. The other trouble is the author is fond of false comparisons. In particular there is a tendency to take the benefits of the current controlled system of immigration and simply multiply them by the increased quantity that would result from open borders. Ill illustrate an example used in the book, the author claims that open immigration would have no burden on the welfare state as new immigrants would provide a net gain in tax revenues due to their productivity. He bases this argument on the fact that as immigrants to the US are predominantly of working age hence not incurring the same welfare costs that the very young and very old do. Hence the unjustifiable assumption is that the young and the old would continue to behave as though there were no open borders and choose not to seek a better standard of living. So essentially the author is pulling an intellectual sleight of hand. Of course there are also some impressively dodgy hand waving - for instance when discussing the issues of democracy and socially conservative immigrants voting illiberally his response is literally that is not worth worrying about because "immigrants have low voter turn out" and that the government won't pay attention to them anyway.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Beautiful stuff, perhaps the clearest economic argument I've ever seen, and more moving than expected. I've seen people dismiss it as narrowly economic ("people value more than money ya know") but this is stupid: fully half the book is about morals and culture. There are dozens of lovely little easter eggs in Weinersmith's art too (e.g. "Conspicuone Pecansumption" icecream). The arguments: 1. Closed borders lead to incredible suffering - not just the obvious oppression of camps, raids, struggle Beautiful stuff, perhaps the clearest economic argument I've ever seen, and more moving than expected. I've seen people dismiss it as narrowly economic ("people value more than money ya know") but this is stupid: fully half the book is about morals and culture. There are dozens of lovely little easter eggs in Weinersmith's art too (e.g. "Conspicuone Pecansumption" icecream). The arguments: 1. Closed borders lead to incredible suffering - not just the obvious oppression of camps, raids, struggle and drownings, but also the unnecessary perpetuation of poverty. 2. He argues that it's a human rights issue: "If a foreigner wants to accept a job offer from a willing employer or rent an apartment from a willing landlord, what moral right does anyone have to stop them? These are contracts between consenting adults, not welfare programs." The regulation is an apartheid with comparatively little outcry and great popularity. 3. America had completely open borders until 1875 and comparatively-free undocumented immigration until 1924. It did pretty alright. 4. Immigrants on average have been fiscally net-positive. Doing our best to isolate the effects, moving to a rich country seems to multiply your productivity. (For a few reasons: more co-operation, a larger market for your work, no tropical disease, coastal trade, IQ gain if you're young.) This model predicts trillions of dollars of gain from open borders. If true, this massively reduces global poverty. 5. Immigrants are on average culturally positive, allowing the recipient country to select from the best of everything in the world. The first generation are quite a bit more law-abiding than average natives. (Nowrasteh estimates that just one in seven million immigrants turned out to be a terrorist.) Assimilation is high, usually complete within 2-3 generations. "Political externalities" (the idea that your good culture will be voted out by bad culture once you let immigrants vote) have not in fact been seen. Residual points: The data is mostly from our current highly-restricted high-skill-only immigration regime. It's not clear which effects would change in the dramatically different world Caplan promotes, though he does his best to look at saturation effects and the low-skilled who are currently persecuted-out. (For instance, a large part of his cultural argument depends on the low-skilled continuing to not vote, as they haven't.) The biggest risk by far is the damage caused by irrational native backlash against foreigners. This produces things like Brexit and the Jobbik and Austrian 'Freedom' governments. Chapter 6 addresses some of this by suggesting ways to make things unfair for the migrants (limiting their welfare access, entry tolls, language tests, slow naturalisation) to mollify the local problems / backlash and so protect people's right to move in the first place. I glumly suspect this wouldn't work, because much of the backlash isn't based on real effects, and so can't be mollified by policy. (Indeed, he notes that most of the suggested hobbles already exist in US law in some form, and might have somewhat dulled anti-immigration sentiment.) He sometimes implies that he'd open borders in one big bang - but this size of policy shift should basically never be done, just out of epistemic modesty and reversibility. His counter is that the magnitude of the gains is too large to be possibly less than zero. It's mostly based on US data and US policy is the target, which is completely fine but limits the inference. This is sensible; general theory, general policy usually fail. To my surprise he doesn't much emphasise the macropolitical benefits of immigration: if people could just leave countries with terrible policies, taking their taxes with them, this would be a new and powerful check on government abuse. Voting with your feet, and governments actually trying to attract and retain people. Though its evidence checks out (as far as I can tell), it's still a polemic (like The Wealth of Nations before it!). As such it's simple, too simple. The Center for Global Development has a sadder, equivocal summary congruent to the limits of social science: No case study or academic paper can—ever—spell out what “the” effect of “immigration” is. Asking this question has as little use as asking whether “taxes” are inherently “good” or “bad.” The answer depends on what is taxed and what the revenue is spent on. Those choices make the policy harmful or beneficial. The same is true of migration.

  3. 4 out of 5

    paula

    I read a graphic novel about immigration policy written by an economist and if that doesn’t sound like compelling reading to you, allow me to SHOVE THIS BOOK AT YOU AND URGE YOU TO READ IT. If for no other reason than it provides a rebuttal to that moronic Skittles argument.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Srdjan

    The book itself is good, but not great. It's good because: - It presents the standard arguments for open borders well - It somewhat competently rebuts a number of common objections - It's fun to read. It's not great because: - He [weak-mans](https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12...) opposing arguments. - His arguments in a few key areas are pretty weak or use bad evidence. - There's nothing here that you won't have heard before if you're somewhat interested in libertarianism/migration ethics. His Case: The book itself is good, but not great. It's good because: - It presents the standard arguments for open borders well - It somewhat competently rebuts a number of common objections - It's fun to read. It's not great because: - He [weak-mans](https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12...) opposing arguments. - His arguments in a few key areas are pretty weak or use bad evidence. - There's nothing here that you won't have heard before if you're somewhat interested in libertarianism/migration ethics. His Case: Letting people move from poor, low productivity countries to rich, high productivity countries will make both the poor people and most people in the rich countries drastically better off. It's also good because borders are morally arbitrary and unjust. The objections he tackles: 1. Immigrants destroy our culture - They don't tend to commit more crime than natives - Terrorism is a non-issue - They tend to converge to natives language proficiency/values over time. 2. Immigrants are a drain on resources - Migrants increase the supply of labour, but also increase demand for goods/services meaning they don't reduce wages or increase unemployment. - High skilled migrants contribute more than they take. - Low skilled migrants do so as well provided they're young. - It's wrong to discriminate against net drain migrants because we don't do that for net-drain citizen babies. (It's a really weird attempt to conflate restricting reproductive autonomy with borders as both are stopping certain kinds of people from being citizens.) 3. Immigrants are low IQ - They converge to higher IQ's when in rich countries. - Even assuming no convergence and the worst case estimates for IQ/GDP correlation, global GDP would still rise by 88% with open borders. Some of the weak-manning: 1. Culture - The fact that immigrants integrate now does not mean that will continue to be the case when they form a far larger share of the population. - His evidence for immigrants skills is largely based on data from the USA. The USA does a particularly good job of integrating immigrants. He's cherry picking evidence. - He ignores the real concerns and instead focuses on easy to rebut things like immigrants not learning english. The real concern is immigrants respect for basic liberal values like individualism, free speech, freedom of religion, secularism etc... 2. Drain on resources - It seems like a policy of accepting high-skill migrants and rejecting low-skill ones is a viable mid-point between open borders and the current system - The assumptions about additional labour not reducing the price of labour is uncertain. In a country like spain, which already has 30%+ youth unemployment, it's not clear that the economy is constrained by labour supply and would grow if more were added. I may write a more thorough, chapter by chapter rebuttal at some point later in the week.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris Chester

    I'll preface this by saying that I've been a regular reader of Zach Weinersmith's webcomic for years. I would never have picked up a book like this normally, but since he specifically asked his normal readers to help him out with it, I preordered sight unseen because... you have to support the creators whose work you enjoy! Having said that, this is a strange book and I'm not entirely sure who the audience is supposed to be. Obviously, Caplan is making an argument for open borders. The crux of I'll preface this by saying that I've been a regular reader of Zach Weinersmith's webcomic for years. I would never have picked up a book like this normally, but since he specifically asked his normal readers to help him out with it, I preordered sight unseen because... you have to support the creators whose work you enjoy! Having said that, this is a strange book and I'm not entirely sure who the audience is supposed to be. Obviously, Caplan is making an argument for open borders. The crux of his argument is an economic one. The developed world makes people more productive, he says, so if we allowed an influx of people into the developed world, they would produce more with an ultimate net benefit of doubling the wealth of the entire world. That's it, really. He spends much of the rest of the book addressing the natural criticisms of open borders. He argues that it would still be a net benefit for natives. That cultural assimilation usually takes more than one generation, but it does happen. That immigrants wouldn't actually vote much differently than citizens, and even if they did politicians wouldn't listen to them anyway. (It's true, but it's so strange that he frames it this way...) On the whole, the arguments seem to be mostly with people on the rightward end of the political spectrum. See: the fact that he addresses concerns that immigration would lower the average American IQ, citing studies that show south Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa are less smart than the rest of the world. Yikes! Arguments for immigration that I find compelling aren't even mentioned. For example: the moral imperative we have to support Central America countries that our foreign policies have largely destroyed. Or the simple fact that immigration restrictions let big businesses exploit migrants without fear of legal repercussions. Or the fact that global climate change, largely precipitated by the emissions, pollution and rapacious extraction of natural resources that we caused, will only make conditions less livable in much of the world. Caplan is an economist, so most of his arguments are centered on economics. But it makes for a pretty ghoulish work on the whole that speaks to people with already ghoulish opinions about an idea that seems, even from a fairly liberal perspective, pretty pie in the sky. And that gets back to my audience question. If he's essentially arguing with conservatives and libertarians using this economic logic... what are the odds that those people are going to pick up a graphic novel with the title "Open Borders" at all? Slim to zero! He seems to address this himself towards the end, by telling himself and his readers that part of the project is simply moving the Overton window for the immigration discussion. Don't tell us that, bro! It makes it seem like you don't even really believe the message that you're peddling, but are deploying it cynically for some other purpose. I don't know. The Weinersmith art is still good, and there are some little SMBC-style nuggets to be found here and there. But the book isn't even really funny enough to make me overlook the major problems I had with the text. This is the problem about working with economists, I guess.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julian Michael

    I was looking forward to enjoying this book, but I left it disappointed. Maybe I'm not the right audience, because I'm already somewhat sympathetic to the idea of open borders, and Caplan approaches the issue as if he's arguing from outside the Overton Window. But in my point of view, the book's arguments are shallow and misguided. The most amazing thing about this work is how much time it spends discussing the disparity in wealth and living conditions between the developed and developing world, I was looking forward to enjoying this book, but I left it disappointed. Maybe I'm not the right audience, because I'm already somewhat sympathetic to the idea of open borders, and Caplan approaches the issue as if he's arguing from outside the Overton Window. But in my point of view, the book's arguments are shallow and misguided. The most amazing thing about this work is how much time it spends discussing the disparity in wealth and living conditions between the developed and developing world, without an inkling of insight on *why* this disparity exists. And yet, it presents open borders as a grand solution: a great generator of wealth and prosperity that can lift the living standards of the entire globe. How can you trust Caplan's solution to the problem when he gives absolutely no account of its cause? Okay, to be fair, there is a section devoted to this issue. But the answer is offensively reductive: Culture. Caplan says (or rather, assumes) that the entire difference in prosperity between the first and third world is due to, essentially, "Western values," laissez-faire capitalism, and democracy. Never mind that one of the greatest examples of mass poverty reduction (which Caplan himself cites as an example of the benefits of free movement) was under the aegis of the authoritarian Chinese government. And never mind the long, bloody history of Western colonialism that ravaged much of the developing world leaving it at an enormous disadvantage. And never mind the current neo-colonial, capitalism-fueled world order which maintains a global pool of desperate, cheap labor to supply the consumerist and military demands of the developed world. I *would* say what "Western values" have done well for their societies is exporting the negative consequences of this order onto other countries... but in the case of my country (the USA), we have plenty of the suffering underclass right here at home. So what does this mean for the arguments in the book? Again, you can only appreciate the impact of a change to a system if you understand the forces keeping it how it is. The world is not as simple as the economic model of independent actors making voluntary transactions. If the global underclass suddenly all had the ability to migrate into the developed world at will, the capitalist order that relies on their exploitation and desperation would be threatened. The conditions under which the West has prospered would cease to hold. There would be qualitative changes at various levels of the global economy. And I'm not talking about a cabal or conspiracy or anything. It's just forces of nature. Consider the example of housing. In the USA, people are free by law to live and work anywhere. And yet many struggle to find jobs that can consistently put food on the table. Is it that there are no jobs? No: it's that people go where the jobs are. This increases demand for necessities (e.g. housing) and drives up their price. And since there is a large supply of desperate labor in certain sectors (particularly low-skilled work), the employers set the terms, and the result is a race to the bottom where wages are the minimum amount that can hardly support an individual. And the cost of housing doesn't go down because the housing supply is restricted: by the inherent scarcity of space, our system of property ownership, and especially local (democratic! Western!) laws and NIMBYism limiting what can be built and lived in, in order to protect existing interests and wealth. So the result is that you have many workers barely scraping by while commuting many hours to and from job centers like San Francisco or its South Bay every day. So what would happen if the whole world's population could just up and move where the good jobs / living conditions are? Demand for housing in desirable areas would skyrocket and the issues plaguing San Francisco would be reenacted at huge scale. Local problems would become global problems. It wouldn't be as simple as workers walking out of desperation into paradise: unless something more fundamental and structural changes, there is reason to think the conditions of their exploitation will follow them. Perhaps it is not best to globalize the labor pool before we have figured out how to structure an economy that is fair to the laborer, or we will just globalize and perpetuate our mistakes, our market crashes, and our vectors of oppression. Perhaps it is better to have some isolation between economies so we can run more experiments and find better answers. But I don't necessarily believe the argument I just gave. I just think it's an angle that needs to be addressed, and that's just one example. I also doubt his view that maximizing wealth is the right goal to have, especially considering the short-sightedness with which economies tend to do this: preferring immediate gains in private share value at the expense of trashing common goods like our natural resources and our atmosphere. Can we confidently say that tossing immigrant coal into the engine of the capitalist machine will maximize human happiness in the long term, after accounting for the potentially catastrophic externalities of climate change? Given Weinersmith's role in this book, I had assumed (being a fan of SMBC) that some nuanced discussion of these kinds of issues would show up. But given that the real writer seems to be Bryan Caplan, it's no wonder that it's disappointing. You can never trust economists to do the kind of thinking that extends outside of their models, even when their models clearly don't fit the situation. The sad part is: on balance, I think I might support open borders! Or something very close to it. But this book really made a woeful case.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Caplan and Weinersmith make a strong case for open borders that doesn’t belittle the views of their detractors. I would consider myself a strong proponent of increased immigration, but there are some arguments in this book I hadn’t heard of before such as the reply to concerns of lowered national IQ. The Overton window on immigration policy has been too narrow for too long. I hope this book changes that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jerzy

    A quick, easy-to-read tour of the main arguments for and against open immigration. However, it skimmed over some concerns about immigration too superficially. Even though I agree with the conclusion that the USA's borders should be much more open (full disclosure: I'm an immigrant here myself!), I would have liked to see a more sincere engagement with several of the arguments against immigration. (See also this review by Julian Michael for better-stated criticisms of the book.) In particular, A quick, easy-to-read tour of the main arguments for and against open immigration. However, it skimmed over some concerns about immigration too superficially. Even though I agree with the conclusion that the USA's borders should be much more open (full disclosure: I'm an immigrant here myself!), I would have liked to see a more sincere engagement with several of the arguments against immigration. (See also this review by Julian Michael for better-stated criticisms of the book.) In particular, Caplan claims that more immigration should lead to vast economic gains overall / on average, and his argument sounds reasonable enough. But as a statistician, I know that averages can hide a lot of variation at the individual level. First of all, pages 30 and 187 repeat the argument that "While progress always hurts someone, the secret of mass consumption is mass production... Consumers' living standards rise when workers produce more stuff." The book ignores the problem of who gets hurt by progress, and how badly. Sure, if we can make widgets 5% less expensive for everyone by hiring more immigrants or outsourcing overseas, the net effect "improves" the USA's living standards on average -- but what about the local widget factory that has to shut down, killing the factory town, destroying an entire community? (That basically happened here in my town in Maine...) The economists' utopia of mass consumption sounds like a nation of bland strip malls and Walmarts, where most of us get to buy tons more unnecessary plastic crap at cheaper prices, while the rest of us have our livelihoods completely destroyed but it gets swept under the rug. Caplan does sort of address this on p.38 by graphing the effects of immigrant competitors vs immigrant consumers, but it rings hollow from my vantage point here in a collapsed mill town, where low-skilled locals used to have safe jobs until the mills closed. We're unlikely to get a flood of low-skilled immigrants here, but if we did, it's hard to see how the local low-skilled workers would be managing and training them. Maybe that argument works better in a big city, where there's more flexibility to shift careers gradually or more resources to retrain yourself for an entirely new line of work. Or maybe my intuition is completely wrong and Caplan's is right -- again I'd have liked to see more detail here. (And his claim to be in the same boat thanks to near-open borders for professors, on p.39, rings completely hollow. The difference between Caplan working at Harvard vs at George Mason U is nothing compared to the difference between having a low-skilled job vs having no job at all.) Besides, it's true that most of us now have access to vastly more goods at lower prices, but do we actually need all that crap? Does it actually improve our quality of life? I don't know if the alternative nostalgic vision (mostly prudent spending on what you actually need, in vibrant downtown Main Streets all throughout small town America) ever really existed, but I wish the book had actually addressed these real harms of economic efficiency, instead of glossing over them in half a sentence. Finally, Caplan emphasizes the benefits of mass consumption partly in terms of new technologies like refrigeration and antibiotics, which seems like a completely separate argument, not actually a point in favor of mass production itself. (The new tech argument does still favor open borders, as more immigrants should lead to more people with bright ideas and new inventions -- but it just seems like a separate point.) Okay, one more complaint -- even if nobody were to be economically harmed by open borders, where would the benefits accrue? On p.34-38, Caplan argues that open borders could double the gross world product, and average natives would reap much of the benefit. I'm more cynical about this, and I suspect that if there is indeed a lot of money to be made by opening borders, that money will accrue mostly to the wealthy, as it so often does. For instance, as I understand it (though I might be wrong), Google and other San Francisco tech startups have caused a zillion dollars to flow through the area -- but those dollars are going largely to the well-educated elites running or working for these companies, while the average residents are getting priced out, and very little trickles down to the poor or homeless. Admittedly, Caplan's argument rests largely on the benefits that accrue to immigrants themselves by moving to a country with more opportunities and higher standards of living, which might be a bit harder for monocle-wearing capitalists to exploit. So... Immigration might lead to real harm such as job losses for many typical natives. And the folks who do benefit most from immigration might not be the typical natives, but rather the wealthy natives as well as the immigrants themselves. Even if we should still open our borders for ethical reasons, we should be more honest about the economic shortcomings, not gloss them over with averages. If we want to push open-border legislation through, we'll need to understand -- and address/alleviate -- the typical native's realistic concerns about immigration. All that said, though I worry about the details, I do agree with the book's central tenet: Opening borders isn't charity to immigrants at the expense of natives, generally speaking. Enough of the immigrants would pay their own way (and more!) in terms of taxes and increased prosperity, so that economic arguments shouldn't delay us from correcting the injustices that closed borders cause. And I do think this book did a great job of pulling together many other pro and con arguments, especially the ethical ones and historical ones: * The US had pretty much open borders until the 1920s and still managed to be prosperous. * Forcibly barring people from crossing the border to a country where they can escape poverty and starvation is not morally different from forcibly placing someone into poverty and starvation. * If a qualified foreigner wants to accept a job offer from a native employer, these are contracts between consenting adults -- why does the government have the right to stop them? * Yes, some immigrants commit murder, but so do some redheads -- should we punish all redheads, or only the guilty ones? * Adult immigrants don't always learn the local language and culture well or assimilate completely, but their kids pretty much do. * If we're not ready for full-fledged open borders, there are many partial (Caplan call them "keyhold") solutions to specific concerns about immigration. We can still give advantages to natives without completely locking out immigrants. Some of these approaches are already partially in place -- for instance, immigrant college students pay higher out-of-state tuition than in-state residents -- so expanding these keyhole solutions could be a politically feasible starting point. * Chapter 7 does a nice job of presenting some philosophical frameworks for ethical decision-making and how they might view the question of open borders. PS -- page 116 shows some charts of US natives' vs immigrants' political opinions using General Social Survey data, and page 203 shows some maps comparing the foreign-born population share to percent voting for Brexit across the UK. These seem like interesting datasets -- I should try to find them for students interested in this topic in my Intro Stats course.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I actually read a lot of middle grade and YA nonfiction comics, so I’m well aware there’s a decent audience who reads NF GN for fun and not just formal academic purposes. With that in mind, this had a good narrative thread and is very reader friendly-from my perspective as someone who dabbles in Econ and politics podcasts but has no background in this area at all. Charts and graphs are sprinkled throughout to support the This ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I actually read a lot of middle grade and YA nonfiction comics, so I’m well aware there’s a decent audience who reads NF GN for fun and not just formal academic purposes. With that in mind, this had a good narrative thread and is very reader friendly-from my perspective as someone who dabbles in Econ and politics podcasts but has no background in this area at all. Charts and graphs are sprinkled throughout to support the author’s perspective, and he does a good job of disassembling anti-immigration arguments that I hear commonly. I wish the author had done more to present data that immigration opponents use and dissect why he feels their interpretations are wrong—it’s easy to make one side of an argument lack credibility if you don’t let those folks speak for themselves. That said, I’m pretty sold on the idea of open borders after reading this, and the massive humanitarian good it can do for the world. I did feel that the retelling of the parable of the Samaritan was ineffective, because nothing shuts the mind of a conservative Christian than having an outsider quote the Bible at them. So there’s that. I highly recommend everyone who’s thinking about how they want to vote in 2020 give this book a read to see if maybe they could view our current debate over immigration in a different light.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Open Borders is a graphic novel about immigration from the perspective of economics and policy. It advocated for Open Borders and lays out a case for why people on both sides of the aisle in American politics should also support it. I had mixed feelings about this one. I like what it's trying to do and think that much of the information in her is interesting and useful. However, it really reads more like a graphic version of a textbook and the organization doesn't always work that well. It can Open Borders is a graphic novel about immigration from the perspective of economics and policy. It advocated for Open Borders and lays out a case for why people on both sides of the aisle in American politics should also support it. I had mixed feelings about this one. I like what it's trying to do and think that much of the information in her is interesting and useful. However, it really reads more like a graphic version of a textbook and the organization doesn't always work that well. It can be a little dry to read and jumps around a lot. I appreciate the inclusion of humor, but sometimes that resulted in jokes that feel elitist and low-key racist. This was definitely a mixed bag, but I do think they make the case well. I received an advance copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Open borders is one of those ethical questions, like slavery, that people in the future will back look back on with order. How could everyone convince themselves it was okay for one group of people to draw an enormous line and use force to keep other people out? How could they debate the economic and cultural effects, argue over the morality of minor policy changes, while taking for granted the validity of the whole evil premise? My political views have changed a lot since I was a 14-year-old Open borders is one of those ethical questions, like slavery, that people in the future will back look back on with order. How could everyone convince themselves it was okay for one group of people to draw an enormous line and use force to keep other people out? How could they debate the economic and cultural effects, argue over the morality of minor policy changes, while taking for granted the validity of the whole evil premise? My political views have changed a lot since I was a 14-year-old anarchist, but this is one thing they get absolutely right. This book actually captures the somewhat surprising continuity of that shift really well. Bryan Caplan is not the sort of person I would have taken seriously until a few years ago. He's a libertarian economist, the most pro-capitalist you can get. He's also not the sort of person that the contemporary online Left would respect, mostly for that same reason but also because he takes IQ seriously. I know someone both sides of that political split might not see it this way, but I moved to a place where I see both Caplan's camp and my online Lefty pals as right on some issues and wrong on others but fundamentally well-intentioned and prepared to fight for things that make the world better. So it seems natural to me that we should converge and focus our efforts here, on an issue that is an ethical no-brainer and a high political priority for all of us. I hope that this book can make a big enough splash to catalyze that cooperation. As for the book itself, I think it's fantastic. It covers a lot of ground, addressing a lot of common objections and presenting a range of possible policies but never losing sight of the fundamental goal of human justice and the enormous economic opportunities presented by free movement of labor. It was preaching to the choir for me, of course so I don't know how persuasive actually is. I'm curious to give it some of the people in my life who I've been appalled to hear anti-open borders arguments from and see what they think of it. It's a very quick read, enthusiastic for its points and entertainingly stylized by Zach's quirky illustrations and visual gags, but never shallow. The depth and breadth of Caplan's reading on all different dimensions of this issue are always apparent, especially in the range of experts he brings into the comic to speak on aspects they study. Now that I think about it, the presentation actually kind of reminds me of the MO of Leftist YouTube, too--breaking down anti-immigrant propaganda patiently and reasonably with the nagging worry that only people who already believe will be convinced. Except now after years of watching Left YT, I'm aware that isn't true, and have a greater appreciation for the way simply reframing the debate with such a clarity of purpose can build new communities that advance your cause more than you might think. I'm pretty optimistic that this book will do that.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Required reading for anyone with a conscience.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Thomas C Regan

    This book is both hilarious and informative. I’ve been slowly coming around to the idea of open borders since 2016 or so, at first on the basis of, “If Republicans want to tarnish HRC by falsely claiming she’s in favor of it, it’s probably a good policy.” While I doubt that I’d agree with the authors on everything with regards to politics and economics, the arguments in favor of open borders seem smart, as do the examples of how to overcome arguments against them. I think the authors give short This book is both hilarious and informative. I’ve been slowly coming around to the idea of open borders since 2016 or so, at first on the basis of, “If Republicans want to tarnish HRC by falsely claiming she’s in favor of it, it’s probably a good policy.” While I doubt that I’d agree with the authors on everything with regards to politics and economics, the arguments in favor of open borders seem smart, as do the examples of how to overcome arguments against them. I think the authors give short shrift to how powerful out and out racism and xenophobia will be in terms of fighting against the common sense benefits of more open borders (see Brexit), but I think that’s a bad reason not to advocate for them at all. I think regardless of where you are on immigration as a policy, this book is worth a read and the novelty of its presentation makes it very much worth the price to pick up your own copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Appelcline

    I'd expected this book to be about the advantages of immigration in the modern day. What I hadn't expected (probably because I don't remember where I got the recommendation for it) was a full-throated call for entirely open immigration, with no borders to work or to live in any country. It was an interesting premise that I had never even considered, but Caplan did a good job of first of all presenting it as a moral issue or freedom and second of all doing his best to knock down many fears about I'd expected this book to be about the advantages of immigration in the modern day. What I hadn't expected (probably because I don't remember where I got the recommendation for it) was a full-throated call for entirely open immigration, with no borders to work or to live in any country. It was an interesting premise that I had never even considered, but Caplan did a good job of first of all presenting it as a moral issue or freedom and second of all doing his best to knock down many fears about open borders (and third of all offering halfway suggestions to get us partway there, for the fearmongers). Overall, an intriguing, thoughtful, well-considered argument, in a nice graphical format.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven Zoeller

    A great, inoffensive introduction to a worthy cause. I have but one major qualm with Caplan’s argument. He entertains the objection that open borders would flood the nation with immigrants whose cultural values may be undesirable. For example, a liberal might worry that increased immigration from Mexico will lead to increased opposition to abortion. He replies that one needn’t worry too much about such a scenario because immigrants rarely vote. I myself don’t think the objection is very powerful, A great, inoffensive introduction to a worthy cause. I have but one major qualm with Caplan’s argument. He entertains the objection that open borders would flood the nation with immigrants whose cultural values may be undesirable. For example, a liberal might worry that increased immigration from Mexico will lead to increased opposition to abortion. He replies that one needn’t worry too much about such a scenario because immigrants rarely vote. I myself don’t think the objection is very powerful, but I consider Caplan’s response naive. A liberal who favored border restrictions might well grant the laws won’t change and still dread things like the shaming of women who’ve had abortions and extrajudicial violence against abortion providers. There’s more at stake than the law when it comes to cultural change. He should have treated this complaint more seriously.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

    This is not a book I'd have read on my own, but a friend loaned it to me. I generally don't read comic books, and I'm pretty sure this is the first non-fiction comic book I've read. My friend, undoubtedly, is objecting to my calling this a comic book. It certainly is what I'd call a "scholarly" work. That is, it's non-fiction, has source notes and a bibliography (but no index). It's about 250 pages, but my by reckoning is a paltry 10-12,000 words. That's pretty lightweight. The scope of the work This is not a book I'd have read on my own, but a friend loaned it to me. I generally don't read comic books, and I'm pretty sure this is the first non-fiction comic book I've read. My friend, undoubtedly, is objecting to my calling this a comic book. It certainly is what I'd call a "scholarly" work. That is, it's non-fiction, has source notes and a bibliography (but no index). It's about 250 pages, but my by reckoning is a paltry 10-12,000 words. That's pretty lightweight. The scope of the work is suitable - it covers most of the arguments I've been making for years - but it lacks the depth. A more serious work would support the various positions with robust arguments, examples. This comic book form is naturally light on verbiage and, I think, short-changes the subject. The book includes most of my own arguments for open borders, but not all. It does, however, address some possible ways that that goal might be achieved, which is farther than I've tried to go. Generally, when I read good non-fiction, some combination of the text, the notes, and the bibliography will point me to other interesting works. Here, because of the terseness and the format, I'm left wanting. The bibliography is quite long for such a short work, and I'm left without any way to know which, if any, of these references I might want to investigate further.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris Callaway

    I had high hopes, and it exceeded them. This book brings an important issue to life. It's a wonderfully clear explanation of why we should have (or at least try to have) open borders. But the artwork (by Zach Weinersmith, of the web comic SMBC) nis what makes the book truly wonderful. The drawings interact with the text ingeniously. So the book is a great achievement not only in popular social science but also in terms of visual storytelling.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Pacini

    Superb. Be aware that it's format (non-fiction graphic novel) means that it is sometimes light on argumentation and detail--don't mislead yourself into believing that the author hasn't done his homework, he's just leaving more for the appendix.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee Richardson

    Caplan is the ultimate contrarian. We've seen this in all his his books; voters aren't rational, you should have kids for selfish reasons, the case against education, etc. In classic Caplan style, this book takes another contrarian position: open borders. The open borders position is contrarian when you consider the polling data: https://news.gallup.com/poll/1660/imm... Generally speaking, Americans want immigration to be reduced or stay the same. And although the percentage of the country who Caplan is the ultimate contrarian. We've seen this in all his his books; voters aren't rational, you should have kids for selfish reasons, the case against education, etc. In classic Caplan style, this book takes another contrarian position: open borders. The open borders position is contrarian when you consider the polling data: https://news.gallup.com/poll/1660/imm... Generally speaking, Americans want immigration to be reduced or stay the same. And although the percentage of the country who wants immigration to increase has seen a recent uptick, it's still the minority at 27%. At the same time, the majority of Americans believe that immigration is a good thing: 76% in the most recent poll. And the majority of the country wants immigration to be legal. So you could summarize the majority American majority position as: We really like immigration, but lets either keep the rates where they are or slow them down a little, and let's make sure they everything is legal, and goes through a formal process. Caplan zags on us here, and argues for open borders.. The crux of the argument is that it will double GDP, because workers who are unproductive in their current country would be much more productive in a developed country. The book is a nice tour of the main arguments. But I wasn't convinced, and here's why: I'll never forget watching an interview with the famous economist Lawrence Summers, who was asked a pretty basic question: What would he say to workers in factory, mill, and steel towns who lost their jobs because companies moved to countries who could provide the same services for cheaper? It's an obvious question, and Summers answer was (essentially): Sure, a lot of people lost their jobs, but at the same time, a lot of other jobs were created, and on average, we probably gained more jobs than we lost. And that's basically the same argument Caplan makes: Some will lose, but on average, more will win, and GDP will be higher. I've always had this thought experiment in my head: What if in the 1980's, factory workers decided: "Hey, we don't need all of these office workers.", and outsourced all their labor to other countries who could provide the services for cheaper. In this world, most American universities would have folded, and most accountants, professors, lawyers, and statisticians would be out of work. In this world, kids growing up in California and New York would flock to the Midwest for the opportunity to work in the latest and greatest factory. In this world, both Caplan and Summers lost their jobs, were stuck in the desolate Washington D.C. area, and needed to rebuild their careers from scratch. In this world, I bet that Caplan and Summers would oppose open borders.

  20. 5 out of 5

    MundiNova

    Fully support the argument, but the execution made it too easy to poke holes in the proposal. This book is best used by liberals to educate themselves on how to have immigration conversations with their conservative family members over Thanksgiving. The talking points are easy to understand and light enough to banter but lack depth for meaningful discourse. Economic theory is fascinating! So finding a comic book about immigration economics was a delightful surprise. While I agree with the ideas, Fully support the argument, but the execution made it too easy to poke holes in the proposal. This book is best used by liberals to educate themselves on how to have immigration conversations with their conservative family members over Thanksgiving. The talking points are easy to understand and light enough to banter but lack depth for meaningful discourse. Economic theory is fascinating! So finding a comic book about immigration economics was a delightful surprise. While I agree with the ideas, the way Caplan makes his case is less than satisfactory. First, let's focus on the good: - Highly complex ideas are (somewhat) successfully distilled into comic book form - Art style, pacing, and arguments are well organized - THERE ARE SOURCES!! For each statement or example, Caplan has a wealth of sources listed in the back, broken down by page and panel. So tired of reading pop nonfiction that excludes sources. - It's delightfully entertaining! The concerning bit: - His arguments can be easily picked apart by asking basic questions. Each one had me mentally saying "but this doesn't apply to your argument of unskilled labor" or "The data sources are different! This is a generalization." - There's very little on how open borders will impact the distribution of wealth, which is a global concern. All talk of increasing wealth is by GDP. If I were more invested, I'd use the sources listed in the back of the book to dive deeper into my concerns. Maybe the original sited authors already answered my questions or addressed my concerns. But I'm not that invested and I'd rather read the epic fantasy novel I've got lined up instead. Message: 4 stars Argument: 2 stars Writing/Art: 3 stars

  21. 4 out of 5

    Conor Duffy

    An outstanding and honest examination of the case for open borders I'm a long-time fan of both Caplan and Weinersmith so I entered this book a little biased, but I finished it thoroughly impressed beyond what I expected. Caplan methodically examines the case for open borders immigration from an economic and moral perspective, then proceeds to consider objections from financial, cultural and political standpoints. Sceptics of immigration should find that they get a fair hearing here - Caplan's goal An outstanding and honest examination of the case for open borders I'm a long-time fan of both Caplan and Weinersmith so I entered this book a little biased, but I finished it thoroughly impressed beyond what I expected. Caplan methodically examines the case for open borders immigration from an economic and moral perspective, then proceeds to consider objections from financial, cultural and political standpoints. Sceptics of immigration should find that they get a fair hearing here - Caplan's goal is to take objections seriously and while he does of course land on open borders as a conclusion, he avoids being snide or insulting towards his detractors in the process. Caplan then considers 'keyhole solutions' that could address concerns without restricting immigration, which pro-immigration folks should consider to temper out idealism with pragmatism. Finally, a range of moral arguments in favour of open borders are considered, ranging from utilitarianism to Christian ethics, demonstrating that the case for free immigration is robust across many ethical frameworks. This book was delightfully entertaining to read and Weinersmith's illustrations are a perfect companion. I can't recommend this book enough - not just to fellow open borders shills, but also to those simply curious about the topic and interested to see where we're coming from.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    This graphic nonfiction was compelling and thought-provoking. Economist Bryan Caplan has written an interesting case for open borders for immigration, and the illustrations by Zach Weinersmith make the topic clearer and more vivid. Some of the charts and graphs needed a bit more explanation or detail though. The argument is well-spoken and explained simply, comparing his theories to various philosophies and religious beliefs, as well as giving historical examples to back them up. I thought he This graphic nonfiction was compelling and thought-provoking. Economist Bryan Caplan has written an interesting case for open borders for immigration, and the illustrations by Zach Weinersmith make the topic clearer and more vivid. Some of the charts and graphs needed a bit more explanation or detail though. The argument is well-spoken and explained simply, comparing his theories to various philosophies and religious beliefs, as well as giving historical examples to back them up. I thought he skimmed too quickly over some of the counter-arguments, although it was beneficial that he always did include them. **Read via NetGalley

  23. 5 out of 5

    A

    I never thought I would add a book with "comics" and "economics" as tags. While the author presents a compelling case for Open Borders, I think the book is too optimistic: There are many pros whose outcomes are too good and cons that are considered irrelevant. For example, while cultural assimilation of communities does occur, it takes time (language takes a few generations). That is fine in the long term, but the author disregards the decades it will take for a large number of immigrants to I never thought I would add a book with "comics" and "economics" as tags. While the author presents a compelling case for Open Borders, I think the book is too optimistic: There are many pros whose outcomes are too good and cons that are considered irrelevant. For example, while cultural assimilation of communities does occur, it takes time (language takes a few generations). That is fine in the long term, but the author disregards the decades it will take for a large number of immigrants to assimilate a new culture, especially since it would be hard to claim the effects are linear. Despite its limitations, though, I think this book makes a compelling case for Open Borders; it is well explained, clear argumentation from many points of view (mostly economic, but also moral and cultural). I think this is a recommendable reading for pretty much anybody, even people not interested in economics and migration policies.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Iamreddave

    A fun quick read. Everyone in my office wants to borrow it. So I think there is a big market for educational non fiction graphic books. I have seen these before for maths topics but not for political ones. The art is really good and adds to the arguments. The arguments are quick and clear. That allows for some nit picking from on the points. But that is a fair trade off for fast versus comprehensive I feel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alia

    I think this book does an excellent job of breaking down all the arguments for an open borders policy in a way that's clear, easy to understand, and well referenced. As someone who's dealt with the bureaucratic nightmare that is immigration, even between two first world countries, I could not be any more in favor of open borders, but this book has helped give me clear reasons to support my stance.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian D.

    Adroitly confirmed my biases. In all seriousness, this is a great overview of the arguments against open borders and it systematically destroys most common objections. Caplan and Weinersmith's optimism shines through all the way to the end. I particularly liked the way Caplan pointed out that Open Borders is the only tenable Christian position (as well as for Kantian, Utilitarian, Libertarian, and even cost-benefit analysis).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I support much more legal immigration than now exists, and I thought the book had a lot of good points, but it seemed kind of tone deaf as well. Caplan tried to respond to many arguments against immigration but didn’t really address the feelings behind those arguments. The comic book format was certainly fun and easy to read, but the illustrations weren’t especially endearing to me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joey Lawless

    Profit is not the most important thing in the world. Anyone that thinks that it is a good idea, FOR ANY REASON, to have open, unrestricted borders on Western nations is not someone I have any confidence, or trust in. Anybody can "sell" anything with "facts", skewed statistics, and carefully selected examples. This reckless fabrication is far too often digested and unquestionably taken as fact by people that want so badly to believe that all people think, feel, and act the same as themselves. As Profit is not the most important thing in the world. Anyone that thinks that it is a good idea, FOR ANY REASON, to have open, unrestricted borders on Western nations is not someone I have any confidence, or trust in. Anybody can "sell" anything with "facts", skewed statistics, and carefully selected examples. This reckless fabrication is far too often digested and unquestionably taken as fact by people that want so badly to believe that all people think, feel, and act the same as themselves. As "noble" as this viewpoint may seem-it's dangerous. The peoples of Europe and their genetic ancestors have forgotten our contributions to the modern world and our place in it. We have been conditioned to focus on our "mistakes" and the things our people have done that we possibly could have done differently. We were not a bunch of greedy, bloodthirsty, war mongering evil men preying upon innocent, peaceful, loving, and defenseless brown and black people. Opening our borders to people that are not only like us, but admittedly loathe us- is not the answer. Saying that assimilation takes time is assuming that they would want to assimilate in the first place. Unfortunately it is easy to see upon ANY honest observation, that 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation non-European peoples hate our nations and our peoples as much, if not more than their predecessors. Not everyone is nice, kind, or wants good things for everyone else. Keep making excuses and coming up with our reasons why it is, or what we've done to cause it- but the facts of the matter are that non-whites hate whites, and the races are different. There are physical, spiritual, mental, psychological, and cultural differences. No matter how bad we try to deny or ignore nature.....it's the way it is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nikolas Bernaola Álvarez

    If you are not convinced about open borders or know anyone who isn't you should really read this book. I'm pretty sure that along with veganism this is going to be another ethical issue where future generations will look back and be horrified.

  30. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Amazing format, and what a book, with the largest endnote section of perhaps any graphic work I've read.

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