WU champions the idea that the free flow of money and people across borders ultimately benefits everyone Bloomberg
Some borders are formed naturally, by oceans, seas, rivers or lakes. By mountain ranges and even forests. But most are entirely man-made. They are essentially imaginary lines, either agreed or imposed. They keep people in, they keep people out.
A great deal of time, money and resources are spent defending these arbitrary constructs. Millions of lives have been lost to protect the integrity of something entirely made-up.
Given the serious and often deadly nature of borders, it is only natural to wonder, whether borders are ‘worth it’. Would border guards go home to their families and checkpoints sit empty? And would it matter if they did? What would a world be like without them? Would we live in peace and wonder why we put up with them for so long?
The first consequence of the removal of borders would be the free movement of people. Some are fearful of the consequences of free movement, but Michael A Clemens of the Center for Global Development argues that, “The world impoverishes itself much more through blocking international migration than any other single class of international policy.”
Millions of people from low-income countries want to emigrate, to generate more money for their families, and as a direct consequence, more money for the global economy. Clemens’ research paper, published by the American Economic Association, makes clear that borders, or barriers to migration, are causing enormous losses to the global economy.
Not only would people be able to move freely in a borderless world, so would money. Free flow of capital across borders would allow extra financing because a bigger global pool of funds would flow towards businesses, anywhere in the world, that are well run and thus have a better chance of long term success, and hence profit.
So not only would people be able to share in healthy economies anywhere in the world, wealth could potentially be distributed to anywhere in the world.
Some might argue the case of security. But with no borders and no countries, you’d have to ask, security from what?
If it sounds utopian, well, it is. John Lennon, in his song, Imagine, wasn’t the first to ponder a world without countries, but his dream of a world without conflict and division was one of the world’s most popular songs because it reflected the natural human desire for peace. We’re social creatures. We gather in groups. And conflict only occurs when one group sees another as different and thus in opposition to them. Borders play an enormous part in creating “otherness”. If we were to get rid of them, hate would have to find another excuse to exist.
Most of us - and we will never all agree to the same side of any debate - most of us want to live in peace and prosperity. Borders are among the biggest obstacles to the both of those aims.
Of course governments would still have to exist even if borders didn’t. Someone would still need to ensure basic functions and institutions continue; the monitoring of the economy, business and banks, along with the maintaining of communications, roads, education, public utilities, welfare and health services.
But with the scrapping of borders, there’d be no need for immigration or security services on anything like the scale there is now. And the money could be spent of improving people’s lives instead of building barriers that actively suppress and impoverish them.
To some extent the United Nations are step in that direction. At least we’re talking, anyway. But the Schengen Area - the 26 European states that have scrapped border controls - provide a working example of a world without borders, albeit one limited by their external boundaries. That’s 400 million people living without the threat of war and with growing trade. What’s not to like?
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