Q: Isn’t VIP just a modern form of indentured servitude?
A: No. Indentured servitude, by definition, has an indenture, meaning participants cannot leave unless they have the permission of the person they are indentured to. In our system, migrants may leave at any time. Individual sponsorship of migrants is already extremely common: natives sponsor spouses, au pairs and workers on family farms in the US. In Canada (one of the most respected countries in the world for its migration policies) they can sponsor in a much wider range of cases. Most of these situations have much more potential for abuse than the carefully-regulated labor exchange we suggest.
Q: Wouldn’t migrants be horribly abused because if they lose their job they can be forced to leave the country?
A: Doubtless there would be abuses, as there are abuses of all labor systems. Currently hundreds of millions of people are excluded from critical opportunities by the oppression of present migration policies. Reasonable labor regulation, together with the greatly expanded competition for migrant labor our system would create, would make abuses less than in existing migration systems while dramatically expanding opportunity.
Q: Wouldn’t this system require a huge enforcement apparatus to monitor migrants and their movement?
A: Of course we would need to enforce the law, but in many ways this system would make that simpler. By providing a legal pathway it would dramatically reduce the demand for illegal migration. The personal responsibility of hosts for migrants would give them an incentive to ensure migrants obeyed rules rather than pushing the whole responsibility onto the state as at present.
Q: Why not just auction off visas and redistribute the proceeds?
A: Opposition to migration is not purely a matter of economics. There is also a lot of tension between cultures, xenophobia and lack of understanding. Our proposal helps address these issues by allowing local communities to regulate migration, by allow hosts to select compatible migrants and by promoting personal contact that will lessen xenophobia and promote understanding between migrants and hosts.
Q: How would the VIP address xenophobic opposition to migration?
A: Xenophobia is more common among those with little personal experience with migrants than among those who interact with migrants. Our proposal creates not just contact, but positive economic exchange that tends to promote peaceful and positive relationships.
Q: Wouldn’t the VIP greatly worsen the condition of current migrants?
A: All reforms involve transition, which can be costly to people who have relied on the old system. There are many ways to reduce the costs of transition, for example, grandfathering.
Q: How could we tolerate the enormous inequality within societies this proposal would create?
A: We don’t think that the type of inequality that would be created by VIP—the inequality between citizens and those who are constantly cycling in and out—is as troublesome, morally or socially, as entrenched inequality among citizens and other permanent residents. In fact, it may be less troubling than the sort of inequality that it helps eliminate: persistent inequality across countries with vastly different resources.
Q: Why not just open borders? The VIP seems like a half-way house compromise.
A: Open borders would be overwhelmingly opposed by the working classes of wealthy countries and for good reason: it would dramatically change their countries and probably significantly lower their wages while benefiting only migrants and capitalists. Implementing open borders would thus require abolishing national democracy and probably some sort of violent revolution, a prospect that seems impossible and undesirable.
Q: You say that the benefits of migration have not been evenly spread, but why should they be? Unless migration is actively hurting low-income people, which evidence suggests is very rare, why should we worry about them benefiting from it?
A: If the benefits of politically salient reforms are not broadly shared, resentments naturally and inevitably arise.