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The United States: World Party Central
Under open borders, where would people go? Yes, population will heavily flow from the Third World to the First. But what about migration within the First World? Will almost all First Worlders stay in their country of birth? Or will they try their luck elsewhere in the First World? Furthermore, when people move to the First World, where exactly will they go? How many will choose the U.S. versus the E.U. versus Canada or the U.K. or Australia or Japan?
All of these questions inspired a recent series of polls that I did on Twitter. Yes, I know the obvious caveats, starting with the weirdness of my followers. I’ve even done a Twitter poll on that, showing considerably less selection bias than I expected:
In any case, some information is better than none, and I’m curious. I started the series of surveys with:
In other words, about one-quarter of people in the First World - and almost three-quarters elsewhere - want to move. For the First World, at least, that’s quite a bit higher than I expected. Which made we wonder: Where do all these people want to go? A large majority of U.S. respondents would stay put:
In contrast, over half of E.U. citizens say they would leave, even though they already have 27 rich countries to choose from! What’s the extra choice they’re currently missing the most? The U.S., by a landslide.
What about other First Worlders? The U.S. isn’t just their top alternative; it’s their top choice:
Third Worlders, finally, don’t merely want to get to the First World. Most respondents prefer the U.S. to their country of citizenship by almost 3:1:
In the comments, someone snarkily asked, “Is the U.S. a First World country?” In reality, the U.S. is so First World that other First Worlders want in. Under open borders, it wouldn’t just be a magnet for the Third World; it would be a magnet for the First World as well. What Texas is for America, America is for Earth.
Is the share of would-be movers improbably high? My respondents are heavily English-speaking, well-educated, high-IQ, and youngish. All of these predict desire to migrate, so the answer is almost surely yes - even taking diaspora dynamics into account. Notice, however, that responses reveal low absolute interest in the other First World English-speaking countries. Even for Anglophones, the U.S. is clearly the country of choice.
What is so attractive about the U.S.? Given all the negative international publicity that the U.S. gets for ugly politics, high crime, and sheer crackpottery, the most compelling answer by far is our standard of living. People in the U.S. don’t just have much higher official incomes that almost every other First World country. When you spend money outside of tourist zones, almost anyone can see that official statistics greatly understate the gap. The U.S. is the land of living large.
When Americans experience the inconvenience of Europe, it’s tempting to dismiss the relevance. “We like things our way; they like things their way.” What’s striking to me, however, is that as soon as you reach recently-developed parts of Europe, they look very American. In historic downtowns, Europeans shop with pushcarts and bicycles in tiny bodegas. So quaint! In the new suburbs, however, Euros shop with cars in mega-marts. They could have reproduced the cramped feel of the central cities if they wanted to, but European business realized that even Europeans dream the American dream.
People often ask me, “Can open borders work if only one country does it?” If the country is the U.S., I have little doubt. Open borders would turn the U.S. into a supersized version of itself. We’d build like Texans, with CostCos galore. And I have little doubt that we’d attract enough Europeans to finally give the U.S. dirt-cheap, top-notch croissants and cannolis, too. Under open borders, the U.S. would be the world’s party central. What a place to live, if only in imagination.