Guardian columnist Gary Younge has written an impassioned defense of open borders as part of a series of articles on utopian thinking published by the newspaper. Younge denounces the fact that money is free to cross borders while people are not, and suggests that one ultimate purpose of borders is the keep the poor from traveling at all. Here's an excerpt from Younge's piece:
Borders exist, by definition, to separate us from others. The primary two issues then become which “other” that will be, and on what basis we should be separated. As such they are both arbitrary and definite. Arbitrary because they could be anywhere and often move – just look at how Europe’s borders have changed over the past century. Definite, because wherever they are we have to deal with them, and because the process that determines who is allowed to move where and why is exercised with extreme prejudice.
America’s 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the White Australia Policy – a series of measures lasting 70 years – or Britain’s Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 are among the more crude filters. But while the “othering” changes with time – the shift from race to religion as grounds for suspicion over a generation has been breathtaking – the fact of it remains the same. Some people won’t be welcome, not because of what they have done but because of who they are, even if the groups of people in question may change.
This has long been true and long been a problem. Recently, however, it has been compounded by the fact that even as borders have become tougher for people, they have all but been lifted for capital. Money can travel the globe virtually without restriction, in search of regulations that are weaker and labour that is cheaper.
When it does, it often displaces people: sucking investment and resources from one place at the flick of a switch; shutting down factories and shifting them to the other side of the world; or introducing automation that renders some professions obsolete. But those who find their lives turned upside down by the free movement of capital are often prevented from moving country and looking for work. People should have at least the same rights – or more, since humans are more valuable than money.
Image: German police escort immigrants who have crossed from Austria to a registration centre, 2015. Via The Guardian.