by Jacob G. Hornberger
In my recent posts calling for open borders, I have talked about how Americans are free to travel across state lines without encountering immigration officials at state borders. We all take this freedom for granted. But that’s only because we’ve grown up with it. If we had been born and raised under a regime in which each state could erect immigration controls, the thought of opening the state borders would be as shocking as the thought of opening international borders.
What is a border? It’s simply an artificial line demarking a particular government’s jurisdiction. Each government has the authority to enact laws that regulate the conduct of people within that jurisdiction. If a person commits a crime within a certain jurisdiction, he can be criminally prosecuted by that jurisdiction even if he is a citizen of another jurisdiction.
Simply because people are free to cross borders doesn’t mean that borders disappear or that governments disappear. It simply means that when people cross a border, they are then subject to the laws of the new jurisdiction.
Consider Italy and France. Suppose one day, the governments of both countries mutually agree to dismantle their respective checkpoints on both sides of the border. It is agreed that the citizens of each country will be free to cross the border to tour, visit, invest, work, open businesses, and, well, just live life as everyone else. The only condition is that everyone will retain his respective citizenship, unless he chooses to follow the approved application process for change of citizenship.
Immediately, countless Italians begin crossing into France, and countless French begin crossing into Italy, in much the same way that countless Marylanders and Virginians cross back and forth between their two states.
If an Italian breaks the law in France, he is subject to French law. If a Frenchman breaks the law in Italy, he is subject to being prosecuted by Italian officials.
Not too shocking, right?
Now, apply those principles to the United States and, say, Mexico. Admittedly, it’s more difficult but that’s only because it is so ingrained in us that border checkpoints are a necessary part of American life.
One humorous irony in all this is how people in two different countries are so fearful of being subjected to the unrestricted flow of people from the other country. For example, consider Mexico and the United States, both of whom have checkpoints on both sides of the border. In Mexico, the entire populace is free to travel around the country. In the United States, the entire populace is free to travel around the country. But suggest opening the border between the two countries and officials in both countries are suddenly stricken with fear that all those terrorists, drug dealers, and job-stealers who are freely traveling around the other country are going to enter their country.
Here’s another way to look at it. Suppose the U.S. government announced that it was going to permit an unrestricted number of tourists into the United States but only during the summer months. At the end of the summer, all foreign tourists would be required to return to their respective countries.
While some Americans would be alarmed at such a prospect, my hunch is that more Americans would say, “Fantastic! Let them in!” They would recognize the tremendous economic boon that a temporary influx of foreign tourists would bring to the United States. Does this mean that the entire world would come? Not likely because it costs money to travel to the United States, and it costs money once you get here, such as hotel, meals, transportation, and entertainment. As demand for such things goes up, so will the price, which will tend to inhibit others from coming.
In other words, the price system would serve to regulate the flow of summer tourists and also allocate where they travel within the United States. As prices of New York hotels began soaring, other summer tourists would choose to visit San Antonio to get a taste of Texas life.
Now, simply extend that principle to tourists who would be free to tour the United States for as long as they wanted, even for twelve months.
Then, simply extend that principle to tourists being free to get a job while they’re here. Or open a business.
But all the while, the foreign tourists would retain their foreign citizenship, unless they chose to follow the normal application process for becoming an American citizen.
Not so shocking after all, uh?
A world mired in socialism, interventionism, conflict, and war is desperately in need of leadership toward peace, prosperity, harmony, and liberty. Americans themselves can remain mired in this statist muck or we can lead the world to freedom and free markets, not to mention to religious and ethical principles regarding man’s relationship to man. What better place to start than by opening our borders to the free movements of goods, services, and people?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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