SFL Virtual Reading Groups operate like Liberty Fund symposia, in which participants are given a list of readings on the intellectual underpinnings of a free society and are then given the opportunity to share their own thoughts on the readings with each other. By creating a space for active discussion with other intellectually engaged students, led by capable and informed discussion leaders, VRGs give participants a unique chance to truly delve into a text in ways they might not have been able to on their own.
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Immigration and the moral status of national borders have historically divided many liberty-oriented thinkers and remains a hot-button issue among the libertarian minded. An issue this complex can be approached from a variety of different analytical lenses. Libertarian thinkers have studied borders from a wide array of ethical, economic, sociological, and political viewpoints over the years, yet a widespread consensus on the their role, if they have one, has yet to be realized in the community. The debates about the moral status of national borders, the economic effects of immigration, the way in which immigration affects culture, and the political consequences of immigration policy have roused freedom lovers’ intellects, imaginations, and hunger for debate for decades. But the time has come for a consistent, reasonable, and libertarian approach to borders.
Immigration is becoming an increasingly critical public policy issue with new bills for immigration reform being proposed every 5 minutes. With the topic on everyone’s minds and every new station, it’s more important than ever for libertarians to be able to bring a well thought-out and reasoned view of immigration to the ongoing debate. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have a firm philosophical or economic understanding of immigration and borders, but if libertarians educate themselves on this complicated issue, and offer a real, viable, third-way in the immigration debate, the time could be right for immigration policy to be shifted in a radical and free direction.
While the astronomical importance of this issue can be seen within the libertarian sphere in some places and the ongoing debates over the “true” libertarian position are still commonplace, the issue of borders deserves much more attention, discussion, research, and communication than it currently gets. For libertarians to offer their views on immigration for the intellectual climate to absorb and digest, they first need to learn and develop a consistent view of their own.
What effect does immigration have on the economy? How does immigration affect the cultural climate? Is there a moral right to immigrate? What does the effect of immigration have on further, inter-related issues such as the drug war, the welfare state, and healthcare? Are national borders defensible on ethical or practical grounds? Both? Neither?
These kinds of fundamental questions and more must be answered if libertarians are to have a coherent philosophy to offer, and if they will be taken seriously among other political and intellectual communities. Put simply, borders are a contentious, complex issue and libertarians are in a perfect situation to provide a consistent, principled solution.
To answer the questions mentioned above and more, economist Bryan Caplan will be helping us explore the ins and outs of the border debate from moral, economic, cultural, and political viewpoints. What is the solution to the immigration problem? Open the borders!
Bryan Caplan is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger for EconLog. My first book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, was named “the best political book of the year” by the New York Times. My newest book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, is now on sale. I am currently working on my next book, The Case Against Education. I’ve published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and appeared on 20/20 and C-SPAN. An openly nerdy man who loves role-playing games and graphic novels, I live in Oakton, Virginia, with my wife and four kids.
Session 1: The Philosophy of Immigration 6/3 9pm EST
Huemer, “Is There a Right to Immigrate?” http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/immigration.htm
Caplan, “Why Should We Restrict Immigration?”
Session 2: Immigration and the Economy 6/10 9pm EST
Clemens, “Trillion Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk”
Caplan and Naik, “A Radical Case for Open Borders” (email me for a draft version)
Session 3: Fiscal, Cultural, and Political Effects of Immigration 6/17 9pm EST
Kerr and Kerr, “Economic Impacts of Immigration”
Gochenour and Nowrasteh, “The Political Externalities of Open Borders”