The introduction to Jane Guskin and David Wilson’s work The Politics of Immigration states that one of the major goals of the book is to reduce the amount of backlash against grassroots immigration organizations with progressive agendas “by addressing people’s concerns about immigration”(9-10). When I began writing a critical review of this book that I was assigned to read in a social science seminar in my first year of college, I aimed to go over various sections throughout the book to point out where the authors fail to achieve this goal. But I soon realized that the authors never planned to assuage any doubts. Their true agenda is revealed in the final chapter of the book, where they put forward a solution to the problems related to restricting immigration: opening borders. In this part of the book, I saw that however valid, sound, logical, and persuasive some parts of the book were, the writing of the conclusion fails so spectacularly at its stated goal that it overshadows the rest of the work. When I say that it fails to reduce backlash, I mean that this chapter does not settle the qualms and quagmires facing progressive reform in the mind of a skeptical audience. My newfound purpose in writing this review is to demonstrate exactly where in their final argument these authors fail to accomplish their own goal. I specifically address the cost-benefit analysis included in this chapter because it ostensibly relies on much of the study and arguments found in the previous sections of the book. While some of my arguments may seem nitpicky, pedantic, or cynical, the purpose of them is to vocalize the response from a skeptical audience that some of the authors’ flawed arguments may generate.
The final chapter of the book contains a section which asks, “Can We Open Our Borders?”(235) and provides a cost-benefit analysis of exactly such a situation. Given the current border crisis in spring 2021, this is an important question to seriously consider, since that is effectively what has been happening. But when I say that the authors provide a cost-benefit analysis to answer this question, I mean that they include a list of eight pros, some of which have been discussed thoroughly in previous chapters, while others were completely new to the reader, and only discuss one con: labor mobility bringing about an economic race to the bottom. The lack of any other listed cons shows a bias and possible unwillingness to engage practically and truthfully with the audience. The authors here may assume that the previous chapters of the book may supply all the necessary information for this suggested policy, but that assumption is undermined by the following issues.
First, not only do the authors fail to create a realistic analysis of opening borders (they really could only come up with one downside?), they try to play down the one and only mentioned con with a glaring red herring. The con that the authors allow to be mentioned is that fact that an increase in the labor supply will make the job market more competitive and drive down the price of labor, creating a race to the bottom – an overall plus for the economy and businesses, but a drawback for some individual workers. Instead of leaving that negative effect to sit out in clear daylight, the authors mistakenly choose to try to obfuscate the reality of the issue by advocating for a sort of global union: “However, the solution to the race is for workers to join together across borders, and across ethnic and racial lines, to organize for better wages and working conditions”(247). While the argument to solve this race to bottom is not invalid, per se, its only purpose seems to be to de-legitimize the one and only negative effect of opening borders by advocating for a utopian vision. In essence, what is happening is that the reader is being intentionally misled by the argument for a global union instead of being given a fair analysis of a serious problem facing a borderless world. While the red herring may be excused as a noble effort to solve a real issue, it does not change the fact that the authors decided to include only one con to opening the borders.
Second, the argument that aims to solve this con works against itself in a number of ways. The authors are correct in saying that the race to the bottom will not be solved by open borders, but their plan to eliminate it wouldn’t even work. Let’s say borders are indeed gone and the human race actually lives in John Lennon’s Imagine. The heterogeneity of the workforce is, by definition, including a guaranteed difference in the people. This difference in a competitive environment will produce the effect that a group of people will work outside of a union (for various reasons like the costs of union dues, or the fact that they may freeride off the union’s effects on industry) and who in fact will be easier to employ because the employee will work for less and the employers risk less by taking on a free agent. At the end of the day, some employers and employees will have an incentive to not participate in this union. The effect of this is the red herring, which is masked as a solution to the one and only con, in the “analysis,” fails to accomplish its purpose in delegitimizing the con because the issue cannot be solved under the authors’ proposed solution.
Third, several of the benefits of opening borders in the list are framed as the disappearance of issues and crimes that are related to restricting immigration. While crimes like human trafficking will not fit the standard definition of “people who smuggle others across borders,” the authors neglect to mention any analysis as to whether they will take on a new form. The same is true with the false document trade. These criminal acts will not just fall off the face of the earth, rather, as long as there is an incentive, criminals will take on new roles that may be very similar, if not identical, to the ones they played in a bordered world. However, the authors do make a decent argument that crime will be reduced. The authors’ reason for this is that people will no longer be afraid to report it. There is nothing wrong with this analysis, but the relationship between an open borders society and justice is left in question. Even if more crimes end up getting reported, what jurisdiction do they fall under? How are deterrents like bail bond or parole supposed to function if there is no enforcement of any sort of border? Most pertinently, what incentive does a criminal have against going as far away as possible from the scene of the crime in order to escape justice? These questions serve the purpose of illustrating how the authors mistakenly claim that certain types of criminal behaviors will simply disappear. In fact, the opposite may be true due to the new strains on enforcement.
Similarly, the authors argue that open borders will automatically raise wages and increase tax revenue by encouraging labor organization, but their analysis, as shown above, contradicts this argument. The race to the bottom will still exist, but what is more notable on this point is the fact that opening borders does not immediately make workers more skilled, therefore, non-fluent English speakers’ wages will not rise to levels that are equal to fluent English speakers as is suggested. But, it must be granted that wages may increase if the status of “illegal” can no longer be held against people, however, prices of goods and services will go up to compensate. This is a recipe for an economic crisis: a race to the bottom of wages paired with the increase in costs of consumer goods.
But what is on the list is not as harmful as what is not. This list lacks any accounting for how social welfare nets are supposed to cope with a massively increased population. even if a country is able to maintain a social safety net, the supposed tax gains from the greater population will not outpace other unfunded liabilities like government-backed health care and retirement programs, which will also experience increased demand. The authors fail to address how any governmental structure is supposed to be maintained, prompting the following questions: Who is governing over what and who decides who governs? How is zoning supposed to work, that is, if borders are open nationally does that mean that towns and cities no longer have borders? If there is some sort of global welfare safety net, some global government, is there supposed to be a global tax system? The extreme skeptic must then ask, is every single person on earth supposed to be put into a database and numbered for tax identification? What choice does a member of the global society have in regard to paying taxes and receiving benefits? What is the role of currency in a borderless world? What is to stop corporations from expanding to become more powerful than current governments? If laws are going to be different around the world, where do they start and end? This is an organizational nightmare.
The analysis that is supposed to be a convincing solution to the problems mentioned in the book does no such thing. Rather, this list points to the authors’ globalist bias. What this list shows is that authors do have a response to the previous problems I mentioned pertaining to the execution of justice and governance. On justice, Guskin and Wilson would say well just expand international justice courts, to governance they might say the United Nations is more aligned with the goals of the human race, and to solve the race to the bottom they advocate for a global union. The analysis which the authors put forth is nothing but a hasty generalization; a logical fallacy that comes upon a conclusion based on purposefully limiting the evidence to support its propositions. Eight carefully crafted pros and one con does not warrant the opening of borders. If this chapter contains any moral at all, it is that the authors should have spent their time writing a book solely on opening borders, so that they might justify it more thoroughly.
The authors start with a globalist conclusion and expect the rest of their research will naturally support it. But not only does their own research not support their conclusion, it is completely unrealistic in its assumptions and lacks any understanding of the problems associated with open borders. They understand neither culture nor differences in culture, and the only means by which their plan would be possible is if the governments of the world joined together to socialize, if not communize, all economic activity and governmental functions.
Because global socialism is the only way to sustain this perspective, I am led to believe this was the goal the authors had in mind all along. Some may say that this is a cynical take on the philosophy that undergirds their writings. But this is not a matter of merely latent philosophy once the border crisis becomes real. This is a push for global socialism that is masked by the egalitarian nature of the authors’ focus on immigration. The result is that the eleven preceding chapters barely align with the conclusion of this book, pulling a bait and switch on the readers. If the authors (or their political party) could enact their agenda a fiat, people would live in a world of globalized force.
In conclusion, if the authors are going to make their argument in such a lackadaisical fashion, they can expect the following equally bad faith rebuttal by those skeptical to opening borders: if you are so set on opening borders, then why don’t you leave your front door unlocked?