Open Borders

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George Mason economist and recreational controversialist Bryan Caplan has teamed up with artist Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal fame to create a surprisingly readable visual case for open borders.

Overall, the arguments in Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration are rather sophisticated—much more so than skeptics of the genre might expect. A red devil in a necktie fights with a cartoon Caplan about the impact of immigration from low-trust societies. Caplan digs into the infamous Skittles metaphor (“If you have a bowlful of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”) to talk about crime rates and terrorism risk.

A cartoon Lant Pritchett in a Harvard sweatshirt (it’s hard to differentiate between economists, OK?) raises the specter of “zombie economies” that are insufficiently responsive to changes in the demand for labor, as actual zombies shamble through the next panel.

Of particular note is a lively debate about Milton Friedman’s claim that “you cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.” The bespectacled cartoon Friedman looks enough like Caplan himself that Weinersmith has distinguished the two by draping a Nobel Prize around Friedman’s neck, a charitable gesture to the person he’s arguing against.

To its credit, Open Borders backs up its claims. It contains meta-panels in which cartoon Caplan holds a copy of his book The Myth of the Rational Voter as a kind of visual footnote to his arguments, as well as a large section of actual footnotes, livened up with delightful doodles.


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