Why not... a world without borders?

This article is the first piece of a series we've called "Why not...?". Its intention is to challenge the fundamentals elements of the world we live in. Mostly to generate questions, conversations and push for change. Feel free to contact us to continue the conversation!


Since I was born and until very recently I lived in a world where travelling was easy. Born French citizen I have a passport that allowed me to travel pretty much everywhere without any limit.


Time travel into self-discovery

I was born in a time when you still had to stop at the border and get your passport stamped. At that time, for me it was almost like a game. I remember clearly, during our vacations with my parents while traveling through Europe, stopping at every toll, meeting the custom officer in his (yes at this time almost exclusively males) uniform and watching him putting a stamp on the passports.

Then I was taking the passport out of my father’s hand to watch all these stamps, as reminiscences of all these amazing new places I was discovering.

My best memory of this is when we reached the Turkish border on our way to Istanbul and the mythical Bosphore! We stopped at the toll and went to the custom office where the officer was seating, behind the security glass. He welcomed us with a nice smile. He was kind of a big guy and I clearly remember his big moustache! This one was impressive!

And suddenly he looked at me, tiny blond boy with eyes wide open in front of all this newness, and he moved his finger to tell me : “come closer”. Then he signaled me to show him my hand. My father looked at me and told me to do it. I didn’t know why it was for.

And then he took my hand and stamped it! I was really proud and everyone laughed!

Along the years, where ever I traveled, Japan, Malaysia, USA, Europe… I never had to think about planning, going to get some paperworks, doing all the visa process… Traveling was fun and easy going. Even while going from Brunei to Malaysia, transiting to this custom-free island of Labuan, with a very much exotic ferry boat, I didn’t think about any trouble I’ll have while crossing the border. I was just amused how the custom officers were trying to consciously put their stamps one after the other as a way to map my trip on a single page of my passport.

Fast forward in my 30s I had to go to the USA for some months for an exchange program I was selected for. And for the first time in my life I had to apply for a visa.

And I understood that a new world, not a fun world, was opening to me. I started, ashamed, to realize how traveling was not easy for so many people! 

And I understood that a new world, not a fun world, was opening to me. I started, ashamed, to realize how traveling was not easy for so many people! 

What a pain it is to go through all this! You feel scrutinized, untrusted, judged unworthy of moving to an other land. As if by nature you were a bad guy just because you wanted to visit or experience somewhere else.

Along the years since then I discovered the price to pay for most of the people to travel.

And then I wondered… Maybe my experience living in Europe grew this question in my mind: why do we still need borders? Why do we still need to rely on our native state to be allowed to travel? Why do we have to be considered according to the worse people holding the same “citizenship”? Something rang in my mind telling me this was really wrong.

I started to read, research, talk, share… To a point that I realized that it’s time. It’s time to take down borders, it’s time for states to stop being those telling us how and where we can travel and under what conditions. It’s time for everyone to be free!


Moving up as a species

It’s time to reach the next level of evolution for human’s societies. We started hundred thousands years ago as individuals, then we slowly moved to family groups, then slightly bigger groups along the centuries. We ended up forming clans, tribes, villages, cities, counties, principalities, kingdoms, states. 

But let’s be honest, States only exist in their modern form (the famous Nation State) since only the 19th century. At the scale of Human history, and moreover the planet’s history, these are fairly young concepts. They haven’t been here since the dawn of time. So why should they remain if they’re not useful anymore? Why this punctual hot trend should remain so ingrained in our daily life?

And with this reflection comes lots of side questions about identity, the concept of “nationality”, the right of the soil and the right of blood (two damned scary expressions to me, remembrances of dark times for humanities)… 

I claim the right to be human and that’s it. But I claim it hard! I claim to be seen as a living being from planet earth. I claim to not being “owned” by any organization that has proven doing more wrong than rights. 

I claim the right to be human and that’s it. But I claim it hard! I claim to be seen as a living being from planet earth. I claim to not being “owned” by any organization that has proven doing more wrong than rights. 

And as nature put not boundaries, why should I have some? Who are those who decide where and when I can go some place and why I shouldn’t? Why should they be more important than me and those millions of people traveling for good reasons?

Now I’m hearing some people telling me : yes but nature does have borders too. Indeed some animals put some cues on a piece of territory to claim this as theirs. But do they limit the passage of others? Especially, do they limit the passage of other species? They claim a right of priority on a land they live in, they use and manage (because yes animals do manage their lands) which could be understood. But they don’t forbid any movement. And they still respect some places as open for everyone, places known to be vital for all the species such as water ponds. 

We hear about the world globalisation since a long time. But true globalisation, which is the ability for individuals to live globally, does not exist at the individual scale. It only exists for businesses who don’t care anymore about the rules imposed by the states. Why would they, they are bigger and more powerful than those states! 

They exist also for primary resources, mostly to provide to a few minority the ability to exploit and gain for other places at the expense of local populations most of the time.

So don’t you think it’s time to let go of the borders, to let go of the states and to change our view on how we organize our societies?

First of all, let’s consider this : the place you were born in is not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of fact. You were born here or there just… because. “Just because” it’s just a random fact. 

So why, based on simple randomness, will you be allowed to claim more rights than someone who will make a conscious choice to live where you’re currently living? 

Does it really make sense to you? 


Fighting biases with common sense

Second of all, let’s look at borders: do they really make sense? Let’s say you sail the ocean, this open natural space. But because someone said so, suddenly, between this wave and the other, no not this one, the next one actually oh no… wait, I can’t tell… Anyway, you suddenly cross a “border” and suddenly completely changes the way you have to live.

Some would say that mountains are natural borders. They are, but you’re still free to cross them if you have the ability to, no mountain is forbidding you to cross!

So eventually, the basic premises of the current situation are pretty much non sense but they have been used as the foundations of our current system.

Let’s see this issue through an other more practical lens. Travelling is something that you have to experience to really understand what it implies. You can’t imagine what it is for people to leave some place to live in an other, especially when they are forced to by dramatic reasons. But once they reach the new place, they are welcomed by people who, most of the time, have never left their home country. How could they understand what people are experiencing if they haven’t lived it themselves? Hence they consider those situation through the lens of their more privileged situation and will naturally see others are people trying to come to benefit from the same privileges.

Have you ever met an immigration officer who was an immigrant herself or himself too? Try once, you’ll see they are usually nicer because they know exactly what you’re going through.

Plus, let’s be honest with it, those who really want to cross any border for “bad” reasons (and here we used bad as criminal reasons) will always find a way to trick the process or to go over it. So those who are the most affected are usually people who travel for genuine reasons. So the current systems doesn’t meet the goal it was created for and make everyone’s life more painful. All the reasons to get rid of it!

Numerous studies suggest that taking down borders will increase economic wealth, not the other way around. Yet, people still think that protecting the space they happen to live in for random reasons against people who would consciously want to live there would build economic profit. But this would be true only for a specific category of already advantaged people who mostly benefit from the current inequalities.

Numerous studies suggest that taking down borders will increase economic wealth, not the other way around. Yet, people still think that protecting the space they happen to live in for random reasons against people who would consciously want to live there would build economic profit. But this would be true only for a specific category of already advantaged people who mostly benefit from the current inequalities.

And again, why did we allow companies and corporations and not individuals to be truly global? I’m guessing it’s because states are trying hard to keep control over the population living under their authority as for the dominant class to remain in power. 

Just look at the simple idea of the passport : your state of citizenship decides if you’re worthy of traveling and other states look at who is your “sponsor state” before letting you in. Basically you’re accountable of the mistakes of your native states that is trying it’s best to keep you under his hand.

Is this the last round of battle of old school impotent states who can no longer give efficient responses to today’s challenges? Because, not only corporations are global, today’s challenge are too!

Climate change doesn’t care about borders. But unfortunately, policies to fight against it are still implemented within artificial borders and it’s still up to the good will of the states to commit to this dramatic challenge humanity is facing (yes I said humanity as the earth will recover. We are fighting our own survival here).

Poverty has become global because business is global. Yet the policies to fight against poverty are implemented within borders without a clear global logic to sustain it. 

And the list could go on like this… But I’m not here to talk about issues. I’m here to propose solutions.

But before moving on to solutions, here’s an other clear element to make you rethink the way you think of borders. Because when I think of border, it’s not only the geographical borders or the political ones. We can extend the notion to any limitation provided to specific categories of people.

And as so beautifully explained by Michael A Clemens in his study “Economics and Emigrations: Trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk?” (I do recommend you read this one), people who are saying immigrants are taking people’s jobs, would they say the same about women as since about 50 years now women have the right to work?

Externalities like these are often assumed to be so pervasive that the literature refers to skilled migration with a pejorative catchphrase—“brain drain”—embodying the assumption. (To see why economists should avoid this term, picture reading a journal article on female labor force participation that calls it the “family abandonment rate.””

And you could go back in time to ask the same questions about abolishing slavery. Was it also an issue for the job market? I challenge anyone to sustain this argument. So if you cannot sustain this argument, how can you sustain the one stating that migration is a threat to the job market? 


Taking ownership of yourself

Now that we are all clear on the challenges here, let’s talk about solutions. 

Obviously it would be too much of a change to take down frontiers and borders in the minute and let people go. We should not repeat the mistakes made when some countries have changed regime : expecting everything to be fixed within days.

So here’s how we could proceed.

First of all, we could shift the current regime of passports from being under the States’ responsibilities to be under individuals’ accountability. 

Instead of deciding who can or cannot have a passport or which passport is more efficient than other, let’s give everyone a right for a passport. As some countries give a constitutional right to happiness (or at least to pursue happiness says the country that is now so willing to build walls and create a society fostering from exclusion), why not a universal right to travel and live on the same planet and everywhere on the planet as we please? 

This does not mean everything should be permitted. There’s a clear line between freedom and permissively! 

Indeed it would be easily feasible, along the person’s life, whatever this person does, to record her/his personal datas. And thus it would be then possible to decide if this person can reach a specific space according to the customs (not the administration, the traditional customs), the culture… 

This will slowly have people used to be accountable for their own deeds and stop having to pay for what others or their states did. It will also encourage cultural sensitivity, curiosity and respect of difference and diversity. And it will allow people to embrace the culture of their choice and thus help every culture to foster through spreading among the all range of humanity not only people from the same place. 

Eventually we’ll have to reach a point where borders will be torn down. How could this work. Probably by taking down the State from the power ladder. 

Cities have been existing since much longer than states. They have a historical legitimacy and a size that fits our human way of collaborating. 

Cities have been existing since much longer than states. They have a historical legitimacy and a size that fits our human way of collaborating. 

And few times cities have been completely closed. On this, even if it’s only a novel, have a read of “Pillars of the Earth” from Ken Follett, you’ll have a good glance of life in Medieval cities. Instead they were in fact actually places to gather people from around a specific distance range to share, do business, talk, learn… Cities were and are places of diversity, of mix and along the centuries, they have came up with systems to put up collective rules in order for everyone to interact properly and efficiently with each other (cleanliness, sewage, currencies… all these policies were originated by cities).

Most of the time, a certain group of cities can claim some cultural connections : language, practices and customs, religion… Enough to constitue a coherent ensemble that can work easily together.

They happen today to be usually counties, “regions”, landers… coherent cultural spaces in most of the country that are trying to create an harmonious way of living and take care of the connexion between different cities.

And that’s after this ladder that we have to envision the change. States have to vanish and give room for bigger ensemble that will regulate bigger issues, this leading to the final stage, the international stage.


Finding the best common share

One thing to remember is that we cannot look only at the smallest lens possible. Some people, most of them libertarians, argue today that we don’t need states any more but that we can only deal with individuals. This doesn’t work as well as communities need to be regulated at some point. And that is also based on the assumption, false to my knowledge and according to evolutionary science, that humans are individualistic and can rely on their own self to survive. 

If we turn to a too much individualistic vision of the world we destroy the necessary link between individuals. We are a social collaborative species, we need bonds together and we cannot rely only on ourselves. So we need to see the situation from both the individual point of view and the big picture part. 

The main point is that those “bodies” are just here to regulate and police some specific spaces to ensure positive interactions between individuals. But they no longer have to be closed ensembles without any form of connections. It’s time to unleash our communities and empowering them by giving them the ability to move and interact with others without having to ask for permissions.

States are maintaining people in a childish attitude being not considered able to deal with properly their own interactions. And obviously, as the Pygmalion’s syndrome goes, the more you tell people they can’t, the more they’ll believe you.

This to tell the opponents of this idea that it’s not because you’ll show that this is how it is today that it won’t work tomorrow. Because obviously we never really tried an other option to be sure it doesn’t work. And it seems to me that, looking throughout history, the times of the big open cities like Venice and all the Mediterranean or Mid-Eastern cities along medieval times or earlier, they didn’t seem to be big failures and broker of misery… Whereas States have demonstrated their abilities to kill people, to refrain economic development by limiting natural exchanges, to create extreme inequalities…

The more you keep a space enclosed the less you give voice for a change, the more you give opportunities for people to get control over this space. But when there’s no longer a fixed space, when things are always moving and changing, no one but individuals or communities can decide what they want and how they want it. 

That’s where we have to really research: how to create communities that are flexible enough to be inclusive while serving the strong natural need of belonging that every human beings feel?

One way will be to definitely review the curriculum at schools. Schools should no longer be places to encourage national identity but to empower inclusive human beings.

History should not be taught from a national perspective but as a combination of facts that interact at a global scale and impact lives of people all around the world. Because, most of the time, if you think your country has had a brilliant glorious history it probably has been so at the expense of others. 

We need to educate people about being part of a global community that, according to specific environment and constraints, have developed a strong variety of responses to these constraints and challenges that we call culture. 

This variety is not a threat to your own specific identity, it’s just the clear demonstration of the ability of our species to adapt and be flexible. 


Are you ready?

Taking down frontiers and borders will take time, it will require lots of changes and as every change it will need lots of collaboration and forward thinking, even out-of-the-box thinking.

But as every change, it will probably worth it as it will be for the benefit of the most. Are we ready for this bold move or are we still willing to perpetuate the privileges of a few? 

But as every change, it will probably worth it as it will be for the benefit of the most. Are we ready for this bold move or are we still willing to perpetuate the privileges of a few? 

And eventually, the true question at the end of this is: do you still think that you cannot see each and every human being in this planet as your true equal to be welcomed in your home as any of other people who physically look like you? Do you really think you are threatened by those of your kind or does the real challenge is within you?


Eventually, are you ready for a leap of faith?

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