A world with open borders - hypothetical

I’ve been reading a lot of foreign immigration laws lately, which all seem bent on preventing foreigners from moving in and working. Which got me thinking:

What would happen if all countries relaxed their immigration laws and allowed people to immigrate freely–with appropriate documentation. For sake of argument, let’s assume they continue to screen out criminals.

What would the world look like at equilibrium?

PS Try not to forget the ever baring force of supply and demand…

It will effect more and better homogenization of mankind, which is good for mankind, in that it will prevent hostilities among mankind, procuring mutual acceptance and collaboration.

Take this common phenomenon: you are travelling in a bus with strangers of all sorts in a very long trip. Before long there will be a commonality, call it community where each person feels that he is a member of the group: you and you and you are us; we are all us. When something happens requiring everyone to put in his share to solve a problem, or even when one only is in need, everyone will chip in. The one who does not do so will be ostracized by everyone else; so that it cannot be otherwise than that everyone will be helpful to everyone and to all.

It seems so beautiful. But why do countries and peoples keep out each other from their midst to live with themselves and among themselves? They are obsessed with the potential loss of sharing, and become oblivious to the big advantage of sharing.

Original sin, it’s the paranoia of having to share, seeing in this exigency a liability instead of an asset.

Susma Rio Sep

Could it ever be said to be “in equilibrium”?

Nonetheless, let us posit an immediate mass influx to the industrialised G8 from the Third World (both of which being vague and sometimes misleading terms, but useful enough here). While “bare bones” welfare states such as the US might accomodate this ingress financially, many European states simply could not afford to provide for all of the immigrants at the same level as now, and would by necessity have to slash state funding.

Since housing is somewhat scarce in the G8 even now, with relative little migration, the influx would necessitate refugee camps and their associated sanitary/health risks until massive building programs could be effected requiring considerable state funding, probably also entailing lifting any countryside/natural landscape protection to accomodate this.

However, it would quickly come to pass that a new migrant would find that being unemployed in a comparatively rich country (where goods are expensive) is perhaps even worse than being a poor Third World farmer on whom those bottom-of-the-ladder workers depend.

Equilibrium would then essentially comprise massively overcrowded countries (now mere geographic areas) where the opportunity for great wealth is there but, like any lottery, the near certainty is that you will lose.

I would suggest a valid simile might be found in a single large country, eg. Brazil. The bright lights of big cities lure rural migrant workers, who quickly find they are even worse off living in a crime-ridden shanty town recycling things from rubbish tips. This is perhaps what “equilibrium” would look like.

What are you talking about? Maybe a bus-load of hippies freak-os. I, like most of the other passengers, am perfectly content to spend the entire bus or plane trip reading a magazine and ignoring those around me.

In the real-world, sudden, uncontrolled immigration would initially have a huge destabalizing effect, much as SentientMeat described. A good old-fashioned cold snap should kill off most of the “favellas” that will spring up here in the Northeast though.

If controlled and managed, I see no reason why in the future, moving from Zimbabwe to France should be any more difficult than moving from Alabama to New York.

Hiow about houses with open doors. Anyone who wants to move in can. Lord help you if you have the biggest, richest, house on the block.

On the contrary, I believe that there is a tendency among people to organize into sub-groups, rather than come together into a larger whole. It is well exemplified in William Golding’s, “Lord of the Flies”.

At the outset of whatever problem may plague your representative bus-riders, they may well begin by working together. But as they realize that there are differing opinions among them as to how to achieve any particular tasks, they will tend to fracture into smaller like-minded groups. I agree that humanity will tend to associate within groups, but my opinion is that those groups will inevitably be smaller than the whole.

With respect to the OP, I don’t think that such a system could ever come to equilibrium. Because of the tendency to join a faction of those with whom you have only the greatest number of shared interests and opinions, no open border system will lead to a “oneness” among all people. Let’s say that it is maintained long enough for there to be essentially a net equilibrium in immigration and emigration from any particular geographic location. Like-minded people within a particular geographic area will still tend to break off from others in the same geographic area. With enough disagreement among the various groups, this will eventually once again lead not only to association among members, but compartmentalization, resulting in an effective “border” scenario.

Another problem is a legal one: citizenship. In the United States, anyone born on American soil, even a child of illegal immigrants, is considered a citizen, because that is how our courts have chosen to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment. But not that is not the case in every country. In Germany, the children and even the grandchildren of Turkish “guest-workers” are not considered German citizens, because in German law, citizenship is based on jus sanguinis, right of blood – you can claim German citizenship if your ancestors were ethnic Germans, or otherwise recognized as citizens. I really don’t know which arrangement is more common. But unrestricted immigration into any country that determines citizenship by jus sanguinis or some similar rule might produce a very large population of resident noncitizens, who might have most or all of the civil rights of citizens, but would be denied the right to vote, hold public office, or participate in the political process. Before long, the noncitizen population might even form a numerical majority. And that is sure to lead to civil unrest, possibly even civil war.

Underlying this problem is the fact that most countries do not have a “melting-pot” conception of national identity, as we have in the U.S. Nationalism, as it emerged in the 19th century, assumes that the “nation” is an interrelated group with common ancestors, culture and traditions. Persons of foreign origin can only be part of the national community conditionally, and on sufferance. French society, for instance, is still a long way from recognizing the children of Muslim immigrants as being truly “French,” even though non-French-speaking ethnocultural groups such as the Bretons and the Basques have been part of the French national community for centuries.

One reason Hitler was able to succeed in rounding up and exterminating the Jews of Europe is that, in most countries, Jews were thought of as a national minority, rather than a religious minority, which is the way we have generally viewed them in the U.S. Millions of Jews had lived in Poland since the Middle Ages, but the people of Poland still did not regard the Jews as “Poles,” and the Jews mostly did not think of themselves that way either.


That was the first thing I flashed on when I saw your question. I have an Amnesty Internation t-shirt that says Citizen of the World.