Carens provides a no-borders argument by employing libertarian, Rawlsian, and utilitarian theories. In the first paragraph I will assess the libertarian and utilitarian theories, before going on in the second to explain the Rawlsian argument and in the third to assess Walzer’s communitarian critique.
Carens observes the Nozickean libertarian argument to show how it can be used as a no-borders theory. Property cannot, according to this theory, be collectively owned. The state can ensure the liberty of all citizens by restricting intervention and enforcing a minimal rule. It can do this within the boundaries in which it operates, but Carens suggests that this does not necessarily mean that they do not apply to anyone. Because property cannot be owned by collectives, non-citizens of a nation have equal stakes in the allocation of property. The third, utilitarian argument Carens attempts to employ is the least attractive. According to the discussion he offers of utilitarianism, we should have restricted or unrestricted immigration insofar as it maximises utility. He suggests that this scale of utility need not be restricted to within states. Rather, worldwide utility may be maximised. This does not seem persuasive, mainly because of the disagreements among utilitarians which he highlights. What, he asks, should count as utility? He shows how some may count racial prejudice or sadism, others simply monetary data. The problem with any account is that we may reach an optimum situation in terms of utility which includes either restricted or unrestricted movement. It seems strange how he attempts to employ the utilitarian no-borders argument and tries to show it as one that supports his view. It seems to create more problems than it solves.
The second argument Carens employs is an adaptation of Rawlsianism. The original position, he insists, should work on a global scale. Just as people under the veil of ignorance would be unaware of their race/sex and so on, people in a global original position would also be unaware of their place of birth. This seems like an extension of the first Rawlsian original position, rather tan an adaptation of the second, global original position advanced in the Law of Peoples. He says this view is `compatible with a respect for all human beings as moral persons’. He goes on to suggest that the same principles people would agree upon in the first original position would pertain at a global level. Immigration, then, would be unrestricted insofar as it does not threaten `public order.’ In the original position, people would choose a system in which their liberty is restricted in order to ensure that their liberty is upheld.
Walzer argues that the state’s status as a self-determining body gives us reason to believe that they have a right to permit or exclude outsiders. Aside from the problems Carens sees with this view, I believe that there are further problems with Carens’ views. He seems to disregard the fact that public order may be maintained under a system where immigrants are exploited. Even though he insists, rightly, that all human beings are moral persons, surely they may lose this status, or maybe it will only just be fulfilled if unrestricted immigration leads to people working for extremely low wages for indigenous inhabitants of their new nation. Public order may be maintained, in other words, not through a restriction on numbers of immigrants, but rather through a restriction on distribution of wages to them once they arrive.