Open Borders Without Open Access (conference version July 2019)


What are libertarian open borders advocates even advocating for? Is it, as the title to Michael Huemer’s influential essay suggests, a prima facie “right to immigrate”? Or is it, as the branding connotes, literal open borders, or a strong prima facie moral right to free movement across borders that entails a right to immigrate? In this paper, I peel apart the view that people have a strong moral right to freely cross international borders, or "open access," from the view that non-citizens have a right to immigrate, which I will call "open residence." As radical as open residence is, open access is even more extreme; so whether open borders ideology commits one to open access matters to its plausibility. At times it can seem that libertarian open borders advocates, by emphasizing our prima facie right to free movement, call for open access. Nonetheless, I suggest that libertarian open borders advocates should content themselves with mere open residence, even though open residence is compatible with tight border controls and even border walls—policies which they might (rightly or wrongly) object to for independent reasons.



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Dan Demetriou
University of Minnesota, Morris

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