I have a great deal of respect for Harry Binswanger, however I think his idea of open borders is wrong. Binswanger (who writes for Cap Mag which has a “required reading” of his article entitled Immigration Quotas vs. Individual Rights: The Moral and Practical Case for Open Immigration) argues for phasing in open (unlimited) immigration into the U.S. for any foreigner provided the person is neither a disease carrier, a criminal, or a would-be terrorist. Moreover, he is advocating not for automatic citizenship but only unlimited and unfettered immigration. Dr. Binswanger argues that his proposition is based upon the principle of individual rights, the same ones to which our founding fathers appealed in declaring independence from King George. Binswanger argues his case on two levels, first a moral case and then a practical case.
In my opinion a national policy of open immigration fails, not from a theoretical standpoint (his moral case is solid, in fact I could add to it) but rather from the standpoint of what America has evolved into since, at the very least, the New Deal and perhaps as far back as 1787. The fundamental error Dr. Binswanger makes is that he assumes the only substantial objection people can raise (which he easily dispenses with) is the moral-practicle dichotomy, that in fact there can exist a contradiction. But what he doesn’t do in his argument, is to fully examine the nature of the presumed contradiction he easily defeats. He clears up the idea that, “It is immoral but practical” is an untenable position (as are all contradictions). But the problem here is different, it is contextual between philosophical premises (irrational as some may be, yet held by many) so what you actually have is not a question of showing the error in presuming “it is immoral but practical.” Rather, how does one deal with the reality that open immigration is moral premised upon individual rights, but untenable in America as currently configured philosophically. Precisely because America has completely lost its fundamental, founding, philosophical base open immigration would not work in a practical way, notwithstanding its moral rightness. Therefore, there is no contradiction here. Reality is real and the reality of this country today is incompatible with the moral precepts of Dr. Binswanger (much to my chagrin) which are the fundamental rationale for open borders.
The essential problem which would render open immigration as Binswanger proposes problematic is the political structure and power wielded by what can only be described as the “neo fabians.” America today is being led by one of two philosophies, both preclude the idea of open immigration and both employ to one degree or another a fabianesque approach. The first is the philosophy of sacrifice promoted blatantly by our evangelical president (please note I have been using this tag long before Bill Sammon wrote his book) who represents a political party (the hard core of this group is roughly 30% of the voting population), the GOP, filled to the gills with evangelical mystics. Open immigration is not possible with this sort of altruistic mentality at the helm of this country, not to mention an all too-willing group of elected representatives (and judges) who essentially believe the same way. Just drive by any church and witness the number of “W” bumper stickers. Point being here is that we now have institutionalized altruism, which if applied to open immigration would be disasterous.
You cannot make the argument (well, you can try) that unfettered, open, immigration (ostensibly legal) into this country would work better than tightly controlled immigration as has been our historical national policy by using the notion that an unfettered inflow of self-sustaining immigrants would contribute more than they would take. This is essentially the same argument that says lowered tax rates are good because it increases revenue to the federal government. Why would you want to increase revenue to an entity which has proven itself inherently flawed in so many ways and by increasing funding to it you inevitably decrease your own liberty? Yet this is precisely the argument put forth by our evangelical president and his minions.. Unlimited immigration into the U.S. justified by the same principle is similarly a bad argument. Why would you want to allow an unlimited increase in the number of people from whom more taxation and more government would result?
To be equitable to Dr. Binswanger he maintains that open immigration as he perceives it does not mean automatic citizenship but, again, the reality of the predominant philosophy today in America would see these new contributors as either cash calves from whom they could loot, or misguided souls who need salvation, not self-sustaining men of the mind.. Just go in front of any government monopolized school board in this country and propose a local tax levy credit for attendance at a private or home school and you’ll understand this immediately (I have, by the way, done this).
The other dominant group in America today are the left leaning, socialist/interventionists. In America today I would argue that at least 45% of the population is composed, to one degree or another, of this ilk. Does anyone out there honestly think that with massive open immigration that this group would not immediately demand (and get) far more monopolization of education (if that could be imagined), far greater levels of government services being provided, fewer private property rights, more controls on almost all aspects of economics? It is almost axiomatic that open immigration would lead to far higher degrees of government intervention, our recent history has plainly showed this to be true here in America. And government interventionism means less liberty, and less freedom, for its own citizenry.
In summary, I am not opposed to open immigration. In fact, I think it is fully consistent with free-market capitalism and the morality which is implicit in laissez faire. Moreover, it is utterly consistent with the logical extensions of the founding philosophical vision of this country. But that is not the reality we are dealing with today. Today we clearly have a philosophical-political premise inconsistent with the founding vision, laissez faire, and open immigration. If Dr. Binswanger would have made a more comprehensive argument, first stating the need to return to the vision of our founders, their philosophic premises, and then illustrated the distinct benefits of such a return (such as open immigration) I would be far more in line with the proposition. Also, I see a problem inherent in our current U.S. Constitution and the political structure and classes it has spawned which has allowed the former confederation of semi-autonomous free states to become the altruistic interventionist federal leviathon of today. The reality is we are a long way from either, but in such an rational setting open immigration would not just be workable, but an obvious, rational, proposition. Open immigration simply cannot work in America today because the majority of the citizens are not operating under a fully rational, objective, philosophy.