Friday, September 17, 2010

Do borders really impede anything?

Cafe Philo in New York City will meet next week on Thursday, September 23, 2010 with a discussion on the topic of "Could we live well without borders?" This continues my preparation for that discussion with some thoughts on whether borders really interfere much at all with many activities.

Here are some significant entities and activities that occur on a regular basis, apparently unimpeded by the existence of national political borders:

  1. Multinational corporations
  2. International investment on both a large scale and individual basis
  3. Multinational and international banking
  4. Tourism
  5. Education
  6. Terrorism
  7. Smuggling
  8. Drug trade
  9. Human trafficking
  10. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activism
  11. Environmental activism
  12. Limited immigration

So, if all of these entities and activities are essentially unimpeded by the existence of borders, why bother considering the elimination of national borders?

Technically, immigration is on the list, but only in a limited sense. Immigration into the U.S. is a great example of how borders can be a dramatic impediment to human activity, at least in some cases.

Variations in laws can hamper or confuse human activities as well.

Commerce and investment may sometimes occur freely, but sometimes individuals countries may place onerous or confusing limitations on financial transactions or transfers.

People cannot just pick up and go live just anywhere for arbitrary amounts of time due to visa limits.

Some countries, such as North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Somalia, etc. are effectively off limits to the citizens of some countries.

Some or actually many countries actively seek to protect their national identity and actively discourage to varying degrees any attempts to water down their national cultures. France is a notable example, protecting the language, deporting gypsies, seeking to ban various religious attire, etc.

Although many forms of communications occur freely across national borders, national languages offer a hurdle to free and open direct verbal communication between people, although this is not an insurmountable hurdle.

Human relationships can occur freely, to some extent, across borders, and even marriages, although sometimes with varying degrees of difficulty related to immigration.

To be continued, maybe.

-- Jack Krupansky

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