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Review

“Open Borders”

Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

As a Certified Liberal, it was never going to be particularly hard to sell me on “we should loosen our immigration restrictions,” but I still think this book did a great job at selling me on it. It’s a very quick read—more of a highly-illustrated essay than what you’d think from the term “book”—and is well-organized around the topic idea.

Structurally, it reminds me of writing essays in school. A chapter of overview, a chapter of the primary argument for, and then a few chapters rebutting the arguments against your thesis, and then a final wrap-it-together with a call to action. And, hey, they teach essay structures like that because it’s effective!

I think my favorite line from the book comes from a discussion of keyhole policies.1

“How can immigration restrictions handle problem x?” is simply a bad question.

It makes far more sense to ask: “What’s the cheapest, most humane way to handle problem x?”

The final call to action is less a “let’s make open borders happen!” and more a “let’s start moving the Overton Window to make open borders happen!” So, by reading this post: thank you for your contribution. If you’re interested in furthering that goal, I recommend you check out the book, as I quite enjoyed it.2

  1. Keyhole policies are defined in the context of keyhole surgeries: instead of cutting the patient wide open, you make as small an incision as possible—a keyhole—in order to reduce collateral damage/side effects. Similarly, a keyhole policy is a narrowly-focused policy in place of a (possibly overly-) broad one.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

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