What’s the Difference Between a State Border, and a Country Border?

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I was driving fast, about 60 miles per hour, and I wasn’t planning on slowing down.  I didn’t have a passport, my driver’s license was expired, and I was approaching the border.  This might have been a dangerous situation, except that the border I was crossing was between Minnesota and South Dakota – a border that’s so open, all that exists is a sign that says, “Welcome to South Dakota”.

What’s the difference between a state border, and a country border?

If you ask most people, there’s a big difference.  Crossing a country’s border could screw up their economy!  We might give them terrible diseases, or use up all their welfare.  Murderers might be able to get across the border, and cause all kinds of terror.

But, somehow when we cross the border between states (at least in the United States), most people don’t think about any these nightmare scenarios.  When I moved to Hawaii, no one was afraid that I was going to steal their job.  No one was afraid that I was going to give them a disease, or use up all the welfare.  Isn’t it odd then, that people should be so worried about people crossing a country’s borders, as opposed to a state’s borders?

Of course, this is maybe because when I move to a state, many people realize that I’m benefiting the state in many ways.  Many people would LOVE to have me move to their state instead.  But this same logic should also work for international immigration.  Studies show that in general, people who immigrate are actually GOOD for the economy.  They grow the economic pie for everyone.  They create a demand for housing, which causes a boom in the real estate market, and so on.

In fact, research at the Center for Global Development shows that if the entire world opened it’s borders, it would instantly double the world’s GDP.  Just think about that for a second.  Double the GDP . . . for the entire world.  Whoa.

But what about murderers?  Surely we need to protect the country against any and all bad guys.  Yet, many murderers enjoy the freedom to travel through state borders without going through any security checkpoints at all.  It’s so mundane that most people don’t even care.  Bad guys going from state to state are a non-issue.  But bad guys from other countries are seen as somehow different.  As more devious, or evil.  But to quote the economist Brian Caplan, if they REALLY wanted to cause terror in this country, “They’re probably already here.”

As a thought experiment, imagine if all states in America closed their borders.  Floridians were no longer allowed into Alabama.  Nebraskans could not go to Kansas.  Imagine if it took hours, or years to leave Minnesota, just to drive over to South Dakota.  Imagine if Wyomingites were never allowed to leave Wyoming.  Would the economy be better off, or worse off?

Obviously, we would all be worse off.  Perhaps some state rulers would be very cruel to their residents, knowing that no one was allowed to leave.  Parents would send their kids over the border, risking their lives in order to get the chance to see a better life on the other side.  When borders are open, parents get to travel safely with their kids, and create a better life for their family.  They can send money back home — so much money in fact, that last year, immigrants sent 600 billion dollars back to their home countries, globally.  That makes global charity organizations and foreign aid  money look like peanuts, compared to the amount of money that individuals can send to their own relatives back home.

America is used to an open borders policy — the country has benefited from free and open borders between states for hundreds of years.  Opening the borders between countries is not that far fetched, and it would probably work just as well as it does with states.  Open the borders, grow the economy, and let people freely choose where they’d like to travel.  It’s an American success story.

 

Car interior with man in suit driving fast

Joe Kent

Joe Kent was a public school teacher for seven years, teaching music to Kindergarten through High School. He's the creator of the Maui Liberty Network TV Show, and is a policy analyst at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

8 Comments to What’s the Difference Between a State Border, and a Country Border?

  1. ” When I moved to Hawaii, no one was afraid that I was going to steal their job. No one was afraid that I was going to give them a disease, or use up all the welfare. Isn’t it odd then, that people should be so worried about people crossing a country’s borders, as opposed to a state’s borders?”

    Could we have a native Hawaiian’s view of unrestricted immigration to the Kingdom of Hawaii? If you can find one.

    I used to share similar views on open border, until I moved to Eastern Europe, where I lived 1991-2004. Libertarian comrades in countries like LIthuania and Estonia pointed out to me that they live with the knowledge a hiccup of history could wipe their nations out forever.

  2. Joe, you want to run for office???? Are you kidding me???? Maybe you should know that here in the United States, all of the states of “this union”, including Hawaii, are required to adhere to certain rules/laws and follow certain health guidelines. These countries you want to open our country borders to do not follow these same rules/laws or guidelines. So when you open the borders to anyone and everyone, you are not going to get your double GDP and everyone living in healthy harmony. What absolute fantasy. How many of these orphans or families are you willing to open your home to?? Two children, maybe? Or a small family?? Now what if I told you that you needed to open your home to ten or twelve people…..including a rapist or murderer or one with TB. Still with me here?? Still want open borders?? I think you want open borders and think its a good idea as long as you don’t have to care for or worry about the immigrants. The government will take care of them, you say. Well, I am a part of the government…….the provider, you see, as I pay taxes…..and I can barely support my own family. If you want open borders, you can open your own homes to these people and support them without my help and tax money. By the way, get your license renewed. That fee helps pay someone’s salary.

  3. I posted a comment a couple days ago that seems to have been deemed not suitable for print. Is it because I disagreed to your view on open borders? I guess this site must operate on the same principle as most liberals…..if your ideas don’t align with our ideas, we will not have any discourse. The “promotion of liberty” around the world would seem to invite the need to discuss varying views.

  4. Still looking for a response to my reply I submitted last week. If you will not post a reply you shouldn’t offer that option……!!! Or is it just because I left an opposing reply?

  5. Yes, open borders is a pretty good idea. If government support is a problem, just let them voluntarily sign something that excluded them from government support. I’m not sure why I would have to open my home? I don’t have to open my home when people move from other states, so why would I have to do that for other countries?

    • “Yes, open borders is a pretty good idea. If government support is a problem, just let them voluntarily sign something that excluded them from government support. I’m not sure why I would have to open my home? I don’t have to open my home when people move from other states, so why would I have to do that for other countries?”

      When I moved from state to state I was moving from job to job, and had the means to buy/rent housing and food in the new location…i.e. support myself. These new people have no means to support themselves. They are coming here looking for a handout. Where do you think the support, i.e. money, is going to come from? .Are you in favor of them living on the street, panhandling? No one is in favor of that, so our tax dollars will find them a place to stay and a meal to eat. Maybe in your neighborhood. And another thing we have here in these United States is a means of checking a person’s background. Are you up for some truly bad people living in your neighborhood?? Or will you be happy and satisfied if they “voluntarily sign something” that says they are good people not looking for any government support??

      This country cannot support everyone that wants to come here. And there are too many people that think open borders are a good thing…..as long as it doesn’t inconvenience/cost them. The government should do that, they say. But don’t raise my taxes! Liberal b.s. Make someone else pay, they say. There is no free lunch. That food gets paid for by someone…..and that someone is the taxpayer. You and me.

  6. Joseph Miranda

    Joe:

    Question: if we have open borders, should all immigrants have the right to vote?

    If anyone can move into the USA and then vote, this destroys the value of citizenship. On the other hand, if open borders immigrants are denied the right to vote this will create a massive underclass lacking basic legal rights.

    Neither scenario sounds good.

    Look at the politics of open borders:

    Open borders have a demonstrated negative impact on liberty. For example, some US university campuses have banned the term “illegal alien”; one must use the state-approved “undocumented immigrant/worker”. This kind of censorship is becoming increasingly common. What is your take on it?

    Are you familiar with Emma West? A British woman who was subject to a nationwide police action due to her telling some apparent immigrants on a public bus that they did not belong in England. Many European countries have enacted hatespeech laws which criminalize dissent—including on issues such as immigration. How does this enrich liberty?

    Open borders immigrants violate the property rights of American citizens by trampling through ranches and farmlands on the frontiers. Americans who have tried to defend their property rights have been subject to legal action (see Ranch Rescue). Given libertarian planks on property rights and use of firearms to defend the same, how do you plan to deal with armed confrontations between citizens and immigrants crossing the border?

    There are numerous groups such as the NAACP, La Raza, and etc., which organize along racial-ethnic lines (to use Ayn Rand’s term, “barnyard-collectivist”). Often, these groups are supported by corporate grants and taxpayer monies. Open borders will give these groups and their backers a mass pool of recruits for pushing collectivist-statist agendas. How do you plan to counter these groups?

    Many open borders immigrants would be able to take advantage of affirmative action in academia, jobs and government programs. They will displace you and your children in the schools, the workplace and access to public services. Is that acceptable?

    Europe in recent years has been the scene of numerous riots, the perpetrators being primarily third world immigrants or their children. Granted, it is not fair to stigmatize all immigrants for the criminal action of a few. But how do you propose planning to deal with car burnings, looting and violence? By sending in paramilitary police to crack skulls and consigning more people to the prison-industrial complex? Many of the rioters’ complaints are about a lack of employment and a failure to assimilate—do you plan to have massive government jobs program for them, while changing your own laws to accommodate their customs?

    One can argue that open border immigrants could sign a pledge that they will not engage in unconstitutional and illegal activities, that they will not take advantage of affirmative action, that if they can not find jobs they will cheerfully return to their countries of origins. But how do you plan to make them sign, or enforce such an agreement if they refuse to play by the terms?

    These are real issues, and I would like to see you provide real answers.

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