Culture Wars/Current Controversies

How Would a Billion Immigrants Change the American Polity?

This article by Nathan Smith is the best analysis of the immigration issue that I have seen to date in terms of nuance, honesty, and depth. He argues that there would be both tremendous benefits and tremendous costs if the borders of the United States were to be opened completely (where moving to the USA from another country would be no different than moving from California to Texas or from Virginia to Maryland). Smith summarizes his analysis as follows:

In short, I think the most wild-eyed predictions of the open borders optimists will come true, and to spare, but I think a lot of the forebodings of the grimmest open border pessimists will also prove more than justified.

He ultimately comes down on the side of open borders, primarily on the grounds that the Global South would be the net winners on the economic level. See a critique of Smith’s position by Robert Montenegro here.

By Nathan Smith


A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called “The American Polity Can Endure and Flourish Under Open Borders.” I would not write that post today. The American polity might endure and flourish under open borders, but I wouldn’t claim that confidently. What changed my mind? A greater familiarity with the theoretical models that are the basis for “double world GDP” as a claim about the global economic impact of open borders, especially my own. It turns out that these estimates depend on billions of people migrating internationally under open borders. Previously, my vague and tentative expectations about how much migration would occur under open borders were akin to Gallup poll estimates suggesting that 150 million or so would like to migrate to the USA. Others may disagree, but I was fairly confident at the time that the US polity was robust enough to absorb 150-200 million immigrants (over, say, a couple of decades) and retain its basic political character and structure. I do not think the US polity is robust enough to absorb 1 billion immigrants (even, say, over the course of fifty years) and retain its basic political character and structure.


3 replies »

  1. “The Dow would rise, and rise, and rise.”

    What goes up must come down

    “universal conscription into some kind of national police force”

    Yeah, no thanks. You really do NOT wanna try conscripting my neurotic little ass. And that goes double for my family, because their freedom means more than my own life. Sorry, not sorry.

    In general, I support open borders. To an extent. I firmly believe that any community who values open immigration should be allowed that right, while any community who wants to build a wall should be allowed to. And homeowners should have every right to build a 10-foot fence regardless of whether their nosy fucking neighbors think it looks ugly or scary.

      • “Yeah, no thanks. You really do NOT wanna try conscripting my neurotic little ass. And that goes double for my family, because their freedom means more than my own life. Sorry, not sorry.”

        One of the most important movements in the history of the United States was the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the anti-draft movement that was parallel to it. Consider this: The most powerful state in history was forced to end an imperialist war against a peasant country through domestic popular uprising and popular resistance. Not only was the US forced to withdraw from Vietnam due to popular pressure, but the draft was ended and essentially made politically impossible due to unpopularity even 45 years later.

        The antiwar movement also delegitimized imperialist war to the point where the US public will not accept imperialist war if there are any casualties on the US side, even if the forces being used are all volunteer professional military. Public opinion started turning against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as the US casualty list neared the 1000 mark, and even after 3000 Americans were killed at 9/11.

        Therefore, the state has been reduced to fighting imperialist war with proxy armies, foreign armies, mercenaries and technology, and losing one war after another in the process.

        The legacy of the antiwar movement has been monumental. But notice how the leaders of the antiwar movement are never commemorated the way that other past leaders, from George Washington to Martin Luther King, are commemorated. That’s because the System is embarrassed by the success of the anti-Vietnam War and is legacy of undermining imperialism to a significant degree. If it hadn’t been for the antiwar movement, the US regime would today be fielding conscript armies of millions of people. There would be troops still in Vietnam like there are in South Korea, as well as Central and South America, Africa, and full scale WW2 level occupations of the Middle Eastern nations.

Leave a Reply