Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders  

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"In many ways, citizenship in Western democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal class privilege—an inherited status that greatly enhances one’s life chances. To be born a citizen of a rich state in Europe or North America is like being born into the nobility (even though many of us belong to the lesser nobility). To be born a citizen of a poor country in Asia or Africa is like being born into the peasantry in the Middle Ages (even if there are a few rich peasants and some peasants manage to gain entry to the nobility). Like feudal birthright privileges, contemporary social arrangements not only grant great advantages on the basis of birth but also entrench these advantages by legally restricting mobility, making it extremely difficult for those born into a socially disadvantaged position to overcome that disadvantage, no matter how talented they are or how hard they work. Like feudal practices, these contemporary social arrangements are hard to justify when one thinks about them closely."--"Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders" (1987) by Joseph Carens

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders" (1987, The Review of Politics. 49 (2): 251–73) is a highly cited paper defending open borders by Joseph H. Carens.

Abstract:

"Many poor and oppressed people wish to leave their countries of origin in the third world to come to affluent Western societies. This essay argues that there is little justification for keeping them out. The essay draws on three contemporary approaches to political theory — the Rawlsian, the Nozickean, and the utilitarian — to construct arguments for open borders. The fact that all three theories converge upon the same results on this issue, despite their significant disagreements on others, strengthens the case for open borders and reveals its roots in our deep commitment to respect all human beings as free and equal moral persons. The final part of the essay considers communitarian objections to this conclusion, especially those of Michael Walzer."




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