Open borders idiocy

If you would like some idea of why I will never count myself a libertarian, here is one of the most important. This is a newsletter from the CIS titled, Open the Borders.

March 16 is unofficially ‘Open Borders Day’, drawing attention to the moral and practical case for more movement of people across national borders. It refers to the presumption that people should be able to move freely – the burden of proof lies on those who favour restrictions.

Apart from the ever-present issue of asylum seeker and refugee policies, and stoushes over 457 visas, immigration policy largely flies under the radar. This a positive by-product of a relatively bipartisan consensus on immigration benefits, but also means creative thinking in this area is lacking.

There has been a largely unremarked shift in the government’s rhetoric. Michael Pezzullo, secretary of the Department of Immigration, Customs, and Border Protection, (the delineation of these three functions is indicative) has said mass migration is a mission “long accomplished”, describing the department as a “gateway”, and emphasising the border.

The Howard era approach – where a deterrence narrative for asylum seekers sat comfortably alongside a welcoming attitude to immigrants – appears to be going out of fashion.

Due to the budget pressures outlined in the Intergenerational Report, which can be ameliorated by higher levels of immigration, a substantial restriction in immigration policy is unlikely. But it’s also worth asking why, then, scant attention is being paid to it outside the government’s latest plan to crack down on 457 visas.

Given the government has had much success in negotiating freer movement of goods across borders, it could also be successful in negotiating freer movement of labour, particularly with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and United States, in a manner similar to the arrangement with New Zealand. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has expressed interest in the idea.

The Productivity Commission has suggested changes to visa conditions to make it easier for live-in au pairs to stay with a family longer than six months, and another suggestion involves allowing Indonesian women to live and work in Australia as nannies, as a partial solution to the problems plaguing childcare.

These are the kind of innovations that could revitalise discussion around immigration policy. It shouldn’t continue to fly under the radar.

There is, as it happens, not a single good economic reason for opening our borders, with the positively worst one of all some kind of Keynesian demand-side stimulus idiocy. There are no other good non-economic reasons for open borders either. Here we find the CIS lining up with Obama on possibly the single most important issue the US is facing. Immigration should be selective and the immigrant should be assessed very carefully by the country to which application is being made. Showing up on the border and asking to be let in should ensure someone is put at the farthest end of the back of the queue. Immigration may yet sink the West beneath a tide of newly arrived migrants who have no marketable skills and care nothing at all for the value system of the West.