Author Harry Binswanger gave a provocative talk Monday on "The Case for Open Immigration: Why Immigration Is a Right." He said that, ideally, he would support there being the same treatment at the American border as one would have crossing the Triborough Bridge, only without the toll. There would be no passports or customs, either.
Mr. Binswanger, who formerly taught philosophy at Hunter College, spoke before members of the Objectivist Club at New York University. He is currently the director of the Objectivist Graduate Center of the Ayn Rand Institute, whose headquarters is in Irvine, Calif.
Mr. Binswanger began by outlining two aspects regarding the case for free and open immigration: one moral, the other practical.
The moral case, he said, was that "man has rights as an individual - not as a member of this or that nation." Government does not create rights, he said; rights pertain to man by his nature as a rational being who needs to be free in order to live. If an owner of private property wants to invite a Canadian or Indian onto his or her property, and that person doesn't cross someone else's property, the property owner has that right.
Mr. Binswanger then turned to practical reasons for open immigration. He handed out a chart titled "The U.S. Is Underpopulated." It showed that if half the world moved to America, this country would still be less densely populated than England, a country he described by saying: "Outside of London, it's like one big golf course." The chart showed that even if one moved half the world's population to California, the state would be less densely populated than the borough of Queens.
Mr. Binswanger said it was not a problem if the whole world wanted to move here; he just wouldn't want it to occur suddenly.
One benefit of open immigration, he said, was that if people started deserting other countries, those countries would come to the realize that they should become more like America. Otherwise, he said, they might clamp down and stem immigration - for instance, by taxing those who leave.
Mr. Binswanger spoke of the benefits of open immigration: More people in a market allowed more brainpower in America and greater specialization and division of labor. He said New York's strength was its number of creative people and its highly specialized division of labor. It has, for example, "copy editors for magazines for people who like skateboarding."
Mr. Binswanger argued against sealing American borders. "It cannot be done," he said, since they are too long. Mr. Binswanger said he has taken a tape measure to the globe and estimated that America has slightly more than 8,000 miles of borders - the distance from New York to New Delhi.
He did say, however, that America has a right to keep out criminals and terrorists, and sequester those with infectious diseases. And he said the government has the right to screen medically for avian flu. He said that same right would apply equally to those arriving in the country as to citizens already living here.
The Argentine Consulate was filled Wednesday for the launch of the first edition of Frommer's guide to Buenos Aires, by Michael Luongo. There was tango, wine, and prizes.
Meanwhile four blocks away - and a few doors down from a Bolivian party - art lovers gathered at the Onassis Cultural Center of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, located in the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue. The energy of Greece filled the air as attendees celebrated the opening of an exhibit titled "From Byzantium to Modern Greece: Hellenic Art in Adversity, 1453-1830."The show, which runs through May 6, highlights many artistic treasures from the Benaki Museum in Athens.
At a recent gala dinner at Lincoln Center for the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, the Knickerbocker learned that artist David Hockney will have an opening in Boston in February showing 50 years of his portraits; director Peter Hall has begun rehearsals in Los Angeles for "The Importance of Being Earnest"; and director Julie Taymor is working on a feature film about the Beatles' music called "Across the Universe."