What would a world without borders look like?
A world without borders is, for many of us, a utopia that one could only hope to actualise in the distant future. We perceive national borders as a natural phenomenon, and in doing so, we often forget the unnatural, political origins from which they arise. Traveling around the world is not the easiest process for most of us. If we wish to relocate to a different country to build a better future or we seek to experience different cultures to widen our horizons, we must go through an arduous process. And whether you eventually cross these borders or not will be determined by your ethnic, religious, political and national circumstances.
For example, if you’re fleeing a war, chances are, you’ll have a more difficult time traveling than someone from a safe country with the financial means to support themselves. And, if you’re from a powerful country like the US, you will probably have an easier time “traveling the world” than if you’re from a war-torn country like Libya – even though others regularly argue that policy emanating from the US often contributes to other countries’ instabilities.
We can think of national borders as non-physical, political barriers that will either open or further close in response to different individuals. However, if we attempt to solve the issues that limit human freedoms and solidify the inequalities that already exist around the globe, would a world without borders be the solution? Or perhaps, a world with less strict borders? How would that world look like? Would it be freer and richer or even more chaotic?
Some Economists predict that a world with less strict borders may accelerate economic growth and benefit the global economy. This is probably based on an increased circulation of exports that result from lower cross-border “transaction costs”. In such a world, we would probably witness mass migration to the West where economic opportunities and chances for higher living standards reside. With newer business and innovations, higher employment and opportunities may benefit a great number of poorer individuals who would have otherwise endured a harsh reality in their resident countries. On the other hand, an absence of borders may also disrupt government abilities to maintain national sovereignty and security – but I believe that if a nation became overpopulated, individuals may then leave these countries to find other opportunities, and hence concerns surrounding population growth may automatically correct themselves. Issues such as contagious diseases and international terrorism may therefore not be so difficult to prevent and contain.
Therefore, if the overall outcome would allow for greater liberty and greater equality, should we begin to question our nationalist biases and consider the possibility of a borderless world? Writers, poets, artists and many others continuously attempt to describe a universal vision for humanity. Some even advocate for this vision: no borders dividing a world that looks perfectly united from outer space. People like Garry Davis have even attempted to make this vision a reality. Garry Davis, an international peace activist, formed a World Government of World Citizens in 1953 which now exists as an organisation based in Washington DC called the World Service Authority. This organisation issues a world passport that is considered a “mere fantasy” by national governments. It is based on Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and return to one’s country’.
We cannot deny the fact that the world is becoming more interconnected as technology becomes more advanced. Perhaps it will naturally become more united when governments lose the ability to strictly regulate migration. However, there are many challenges that remain to be solved before we decide to unify our world, such as the possibility of backlash from right-wing nationalist groups responding to this demographic change. Additionally, to eradicate borders when the world is in a current state of conflict may be considered irresponsible and untimely, resulting in more chaos than peace.
It may be better for this process to unfold over time in clusters of systematic changes, policy reforms, and other types of developments that are already occurring with the growth of the internet and a globalised world politics. In essence, giving this possibility a place in our collective imagination may allow us to take concrete steps towards a more equal world and bring this vision closer to the present, only if it proves to be beneficial for humanity and only if we mitigate its potential risks.