THE ADVOCATE 43
VOL. 79 PART 1 JANUARY 2021
live in rich countries are the nobility and the vast majority of people in the
world are peasants who are poor and impoverished. This arrangement is not
ordained by nature; it is a creation of our social system. We create institutions
and maintain them. Every single day in Canada we perpetuate a system
that results in vast inequalities between states.
Carens observes that a person can move freely from L.A. to New York. But
if a person wants to move from L.A. to Toronto, the Canadian government
might refuse. Carens questions why there is freedom to move within a country
but the right to move across a border is discretionary. If people have the
right to move freely, then that right should not be limited by political borders.
In other words, freedom of international movement is the logical
extension of the right to domestic movement and the right to leave the country.
The reason to move within a state may also be the same reason for moving
between states. The obvious examples include finding a job, falling in
love, belonging to a religion and seeking cultural opportunities. Therefore,
freedom of international movement should be accepted as a basic human
right of no less significance than the right to free domestic movement.
An argument advanced by Professor Cole relies on the inclusion of a
“right to leave any country” in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
Rights.23 If there is a right to exit a country, then such a right must entail the
right to enter another. There must be a symmetry between exit and entry:
one cannot assert a fundamental human right to emigration if one has
nowhere to go.
Carens recognizes the impracticality of open borders. It would result in a
large movement of people from poor countries to rich ones. However, he
posits that this should be a basis for trying to increase equality among
states. As we reduce inequality between states, we enhance human freedom
Carens appreciates that a person may say, “It is not my problem. It is a
shame there is such inequality, but I did not create it, and it is not my
responsibility to fix it.” Carens responds:
The presupposition of that view is that the existing order is somehow justifiable.
Again, imagine how we would respond to a noble in the Middle
Ages who said, “Why are the peasants my responsibility? I didn’t create
We are all born into social situations, but then we need to ask ourselves
whether that set of social situations is justifiable. We have to decide
whether to keep things as they are or whether to try to change them.
That’s the challenge for someone who says “it’s not my problem”.24
Carens observes that in the wake of the Holocaust, most people in democratic
states felt a profound shame over the fact that their countries