Bernie Sanders thinks open borders are a “right-wing proposal” that “would make everyone in America poorer.” Sanders’s comments not only display a shocking ignorance of the economics of immigration, but also a disappointing, racist, xenophobic tendency among the mainstream left.
While Sanders also thinks we have a “moral responsibility” to “work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty,” he apparently doesn’t believe this extends to a duty not to lock the global poor out of the industrialized world. How can we fulfill our moral obligations to the global poor if we continually fence them out of the developed world and leave them to stagnate in their own underdeveloped, unfree nations?
If we have a moral obligation to aid impoverished people around the world, the least we can do is to tear down the walls that lock them in poverty. Allowing for the free movement of people between nations would provide foreigners the opportunity to escape the poverty of their native countries and climb the socio-economic ladder. If Sanders wishes to really tackle the problem of international poverty, then he should be an adamant supporter of open borders. as According to Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Studies, open borders would double world GDP.
When individuals are free to move and travel without asking permission from government bureaucrats, they are capable of crafting meaningful lives and communities that enable everyone to advance their well-being on their own terms. When nation states, voters plagued by anti-foreign bias, and corporate-bought politicians forcibly restrain the free movement of individuals and their families, poverty becomes institutionalized along arbitrary geo-political boundaries.
Sanders’s implicit nativism is perhaps more dangerous than his economic ignorance. His primary concern is the welfare of Americans, and if they suffer the least bit, he’s justified in violating the rights of foreigners and keeping them poor so Americans can prosper. Of course, Sanders is wrong that open borders would make Americans poorer.
But what if easing immigration restrictions actually did make Americans worse off? Would that justify building fences to keep competing workers out? Would it justify violating the right of foreign-born humans to travel as they wish? For Senator Sanders, it clearly would, because for him and other nationalists, American lives are simply more valuable than other lives.
While Sanders seems interested in alleviating poverty, his anti-immigration sentiments prove he really only cares about alleviating American poverty. If you are a poor child in the United States, then you deserve government provided healthcare. If you are a poor child in Mexico, you not only don’t deserve subsidized healthcare, you ought to be locked in your impoverished country condemned to live a miserable life. Sanders lets the random, arbitrary location of one’s birth influence how much dignity and respect one deserves as a human being. And this person is considered a leftist in America?
Perhaps the standard American political landscape should be revised when a self-identified democratic socialist shares the same nativist views of someone on the extreme right.
The sorry state of the mainstream left that embraces bad economics and closed borders (as a cover for xenophobia and anti-foreign bias) is a sign that we need a truly radical left. Without one, we’ll never transcend the downright cruelty that the political game rewards. A radical left that understands the solution to low wages and worker exploitation is to strike down monopolies, rather than create new, bigger ones. A radical left that recognizes the evils of state control and closed borders. A radical left that sees the potential for a liberated world embracing the free movement of goods, ideas, and people. Of course, consistent moral individualism and good economics can only be found on the libertarian left.