Academic journal article Refuge

Whose "No Borders"? Achieving Border Liberalization for the Right Reasons

Academic journal article Refuge

Whose "No Borders"? Achieving Border Liberalization for the Right Reasons

Article excerpt


Free population movement promises greater human liberties and improved economic performance. Inevitably, however, there are critics. Most vocally, the conservative Right points towards the erosion of Western welfare systems, the large migratory movements that a No Borders policy may precipitate, and the lowering of living standards in rich countries to approximate those in poor countries. This paper argues that, although the claims of the Right are often exaggerated, these objections have served to paste over important differences between advocates of No Borders, producing some unlikely bedfellows in opposition to conservative arguments. In particular, an uncomfortable conflation between liberal and Left-wing ideology has emerged as a result of the specific discursive strategy of Right-wing commentators to obfuscate distinctions between these ideological stances. After outlining the arguments of the Right for context, this paper responds to this conflation by distancing a Left-wing No Borders position from a free-market liberal No Borders position. It does this by using Left-wing arguments to criticize liberal No Borders ideology, and concludes by suggesting some key features of a Left-wing No Borders position.


La liberte de mouvement des populations promet un accroissement des libertes publiques et une amelioration des performances economiques. Inevitablement, des critiques se font entendre. L'un des plus bruyants, la droite conservatrice, craint l'erosion des mecanismes de protection sociale mis en place dans les societes occidentales, les grands mouvements migratoires qu'une politique No Border pourrait precipiter et le rabaissement du niveau de vie dans les pays nantis vers celui des pays pauvres. Bien que les affirmations de la droite soient souvent exagerees, le present article soutient qu'en servant a masquer d'importantes differences entre les partisans No Border, ces objections ont suscite d'etranges oppositions aux arguments conservateurs. Un assemblage particulierement inconfortable entre l'ideologie liberale et gauchiste est apparu a cause de la facon dont les commentateurs de droite brouillent les distinctions entre ces positions ideologiques. Apres une mise en contexte rappelant les arguments de la droite, l'auteur repond a cet enchevetrement en distinguant la position No Border de la gauche de celle du liberalisme economique. L'auteur se sert des arguments de la gauche pour critiquer l'ideologie liberale No Border et suggere, en conclusion, quelques tactiques susceptibles de rehausser la position No Border gauchiste.


This paper examines three positions on the No Borders debate. First, it reviews the arguments of what are called here "Right-wing Conservatives." These commentators are generally suspicious of migration, often on the basis of arguments about resource depletion in terms of jobs, welfare benefits, and space, or alternatively on the basis of "national identity" being undermined. These commentators are, of course, not a homogeneous group and the views I present in what follows are necessarily somewhat general. The second position on No Borders is in disagreement with the first on the basis that the economic gains available through increased migration outweigh the costs and are often underestimated. This school typically draws upon notions of economic efficiency to demonstrate their case: borders are an impediment to the functioning of a free market, so their arguments go, and so we can label this school "liberal." Again, liberal commentators are in reality a diverse group, so a caveat that the characterization of this group is a generalization is necessary.

Notwithstanding this caveat, this school would argue that various parties gain from migration, including migrants themselves, sending countries, and receiving countries. Because the liberal school is often in conversation with the conservative Right, however, the gains to receiving communities are frequently foregrounded, since the conservative Right is most interested in the fortunes of this group. …

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