In Caplan’s concise and clarifying barn burner of an economics thesis, he declares: “I want to see two parties fight about who loves immigration more.” The George Mason University professor lays out his pro–open borders argument via wonky charts, data sets, and philosophical ruminations, brought to life by webcomics artist and science buff Weinersmith’s clean, cheerful, and colorful drawings. Avoiding the nonfiction comics trap of info dumps, the science and art interplay in often amusing sequences that pan out to the bigger picture from cited facts and analysis. When Caplan points out that immigrants repopulate small, rural towns that have turned into “zombie economies,” the image of a plague of zombies strolling a hollowed-out town center makes the idea stick. Both the arguments and visuals challenge toxic myths about immigrants—such as that they are responsible for increases in violent crime in the United States. “Whatever you’ve heard, the answer is no. On average, the foreign-born are less criminally inclined than natives,” Caplan says, coolly staring down a masked bandit in an American flag shirt. The combination of Caplan’s deep research and Weinersmith’s snappy storytelling adds up to a persuasive treatise that sees open policy around immigration as historically positive and a future potential rising tide of consumers and producers together lifting boats and bottom lines. (Oct.)
In advance of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, this latest from economist Caplan (The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money) makes the case for open borders across the planet—and in particular into the United States. Joined by cartoonist Weinersmith (Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything) and modeling his approach on Scott McCloud's seminal Understanding Comics, Caplan appears as a character in almost every panel, speaking directly to readers about the economic and humanitarian logic of doing away with immigration restrictions, all of which is supported by extensive endnotes. While conservative readers will appreciate his free-market perspective, they might be less persuaded by his contrarian arguments. Progressives on the other hand might cheer his conclusions but find his underlying libertarian assumptions—as well as Bush/Cheney notions of certain immigrants "hating freedom," the use of debunked studies comparing national IQs, and lack of attention to structural inequality, racism, and ecological limits—dubious and off-putting. VERDICT While seeking political middle ground, Caplan's rational but myopic arguments aren't likely to advance a debate currently steeped in xenophobic irrationality, especially as they avoid naming and addressing racism. Recommended for collections with well-balanced social justice perspectives on this timely issue.—Michael Dudley, Univ. of Winnipeg Lib., Man.
Gr 9 Up—Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, takes a heroic stab at parsing out the reigning schools of thought regarding immigration and makes an earnest case for open borders across the globe. Marrying historically long and convoluted political arguments with layers of statistics, charts, and graphs would be a risky move, but Caplan nevertheless creates a humorous graphic novel that unravels the immigration debate that rages on in the United States. Drawing on significant research and inserting himself into the narrative as a guide, Caplan patiently looks at all the perspectives of the issue: cultural, philosophical, moral, and, of course, economic. Most intriguing, he finds viable compromises between the two seemingly unmitigable sides. Caplan is unabashed in his push for unrestricted immigration, using his own expertise in economics as the backbone of his arguments. Weinersmith's cartoons follow the pace of the arguments effortlessly, sprinkling in hard data along with dynamic interpretations of Caplan's examples. The graphic quips keep things both entertaining and educational. While the author has a clear agenda, he is respectful in his depictions of the most common opposing arguments. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries' graphic novel collections and for teachers seeking alternatives to more didactic texts on immigration.—Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA
An acclaimed economics professor and a celebrated comic creator team up to argue that a major component of global peace and prosperity is actually open borders.
In today's acrid political climate, where even the fundamental humanity of immigrants is often denied, many readers may be surprised to learn that the U.S. effectively maintained open borders until the Immigration Act of 1924. Beginning there, Caplan (Economics/George Mason Univ.; The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, 2018, etc.) and Weinersmith (Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543: A Collection of Science-Themed Comics, 2014, etc.) offer a cogent and accessible analysis of U.S. immigration policy and how it should change. The author and illustrator build a framework for their position based on moral, economic, philosophical, and pragmatic considerations, all while anticipating naysayers in a fun, open, and respectful manner. One example is the "Skittles argument" against open borders, which asks, "if there were three poison pills in a bowl of Skittles, would you take a handful?" Caplan and Weinersmith gently invoke the spirit of probability theory pioneer Carl Friedrich Gauss to illustrate that this argument against immigration is actually the "height of innumeracy" because the bowl with three poison pills actually contains millions of delicious candies—and refusing to eat is as childish as refusing to leave your house because you might get struck by lightning. "Numeracy won't mend your heart if an immigrant kills someone you love," writes the author, "but numeracy will prevent you from using one injustice to rationalize another." For the sake of argument, Caplan and Weinersmith even accept the validity of the top complaints about immigration, but they propose "keyhole solutions" that address those concerns "without blanket restrictions on immigration." If that's not enough to spark serious discussions about open borders, they also enlist the wisdom of J.S. Mill, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Richard Posner, Lee Kuan Yew, Immanual Kant, and even Jesus.
A highly effective way to talk about an issue that remains a nonstarter for so many nationwide.
"Highly recommendedthe most powerful an economic and moral argument on a fundamental issue I have ever read in graphic novel format and up there in any format."Jason Furman
"A delightful tour of the arguments and evidence behind the debate [around open borders]... What’s refreshing about the way that Caplan responds to the likely criticisms of his thesis is that he’s thoughtful and generous. Nobody is accused or racism or some other less-than-pure motivation." Bloomberg Opinion
"[Caplan's] numbers-don’t-lie arguments are supported by comprehensive research...makes easy dismissal impossible. His partner-in-insight Weinersmith provides crisp, easy-to-grasp artistic support, with his own occasional insertions of humor." Booklist, starred review
"A highly effective way to talk about an issue that remains a nonstarter for so many nationwide." Kirkus
"Highly recommended for all libraries’ graphic novel collections and for teachers seeking alternatives to more didactic texts on immigration." School Library Journal
“A phenomenal achievement. [Open Borders] is a landmark in economic education, how to present economic ideas, and the integration of economic analysis and graphic visuals. I picked it up not knowing what to expect, and was blown away by the execution . . . This book is one of the very best explainers of the gains from trade idea ever produced, and it will teach virtually anyone a truly significant amount about the immigration issue, as well as economic analytics more generally.” Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
“An easy-to-read contrarian take from an economist who is right about most everything.” John Stossel
“A welcome counterpoint to the rampant fear-mongering that all too often dominates airwaves and political campaigns.” Paste Magazine
“A compelling contribution to the debate over one of the most significant issues of our time.” Reason
“Just like John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women 150 years ago, this book advances a sustained argument so compelling that it just might shift the moral foundations of the world.” Scott Aaronson, University of Texas at Austin
“A tour de force graphic novel illustrating one fundamental truth: there’s nothing more American than being an immigrant.” Jeff Atwood, cofounder of Stack Overflow and Discourse.org
“Caplan and Weinersmith have pioneered a new format: a comic book that's quantitative and informative while remaining thoroughly entertaining. Whether you support more migration or not, Open Borders will quickly give you a balanced understanding of what serious research has to say about how open borders would affect America.” Robert Wiblin, director of research, 80,000 Hours
“A clear and inescapable economic, moral, and political case for reopening the borders that artfully counters the common objections.” John H. Cochrane, Hoover Institution at Stanford University