David R. Henderson  

A Wall

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The retaliation begins... Limited Government as Insuranc...

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Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down!
From Robert Frost, "Mending Wall."

Walling out: I don't need to tell you if you've been following the news about Mexico.

Walling in: Check this link. And no, I'm not just piling on Donald Trump. Obama had plans underway to do what Trump is planning.




COMMENTS (11 to date)
Bill writes:

In regard to artistic critiques of an imposing, maternalistic authority building "protective" walls, I'm partial to the following:

"Of course Mama's gonna help build the wall...

Mama's gonna check out all your [migrants] for you
Mama won't let anyone dirty get through
Mama's gonna wait up till you get in
Mama will always find out where you've been
Mamma's gonna keep baby healthy and clean
You'll always be a baby to me

Mother, did it need to be so high?"

-Pink Floyd, Mother, From "The Wall" album

Thaomas writes:

Yes, Liberals are just as bad as Conservatives except on the minimum wage where they are worse. Best just maintain a strict pox on both your houses stance.

Kenneth A. Regas writes:

I think the intent is to see that all traffic, of people and goods, across our southern border occurs at the authorized ports of entry and exit, so as to facilitate enforcement of existing US and Mexican law.

So the answer to Frost's question is, in this instance, that no person and no thing is being walled in or out per se. Instead, all traffic is just directed to the lawful places of entry and exit, where the particular who's and what's are sorted out and treated accordingly.

Sounds reasonable to me. The US gets reduced imports of illegal drugs and immigrants. And our deportations stick. Mexico gets reduced imports of illegal weapons and cash. And perhaps less violence by drug cartels armed with American weapons and ammo.

Of course if you don't believe in the regulation of national borders - well, that's for another day.

Ken

shecky writes:

If you believe a wall will stop the flow of drugs, cash, and guns, there's no doubt you believe it will keep out immigrants. There's no doubt you'll believe anything.

I quite appreciate the walls of my house.

Getting theoretical, I'll propose that an the ideal set of walls (or frontier limits) would be built in an unregulated land of property rights.

Many walls will be wanted. But the biggest need for walls grows where there is a stark contrast in policing expectations between the two neighboring regions (e.g. a prison wall). Corollary to that, a wall which needs to be impervious will be expensive to build and, we may expect, will be demanded where the two proprietors cannot reach neighborly agreement about mutually affecting behavior.

The worry about immigration affects only public services and public spaces. Notice highways. The border wall is wanted only because highways into the interior are policed less than many would desire. If I were American Emperor (this remains theoretical :) I would decrease rather than increase government assets. Sell the roads. Then each road-owning company can and will have its own policy regarding whom it will welcome as a customers. That I believe would be better. But the argument seems impossible to carry in a democracy where rationally ignorant voters look with genuine expectation to their government for solutions.

Sergey writes:

Interesting question regarding how effective the wall is? And what are criteria for effectiveness? For small countries like Israel, wall prevents direct shooting from the other side but that is not the case for American border. Can we compare modern border patrol solutions like drones, radars to the wall?

BP1979 writes:

Border walls and fences are quite common. This is not an ideologic comment in support or against the wall, just that they are common.

http://infographics.economist.com/2015/fences/

Robert Schadler writes:

So many free market economists have high, nearly impervious "walls" in their thinking. Humans are more than "economic actors" which is a big reason why political borders exist, have existed and will continue to exist. Like "rule of law" (of which borders are a part), borders only mean anything to the degree that they are enforced. Groups of people, including, nations, want some minimal level of coherence and common understandings. A generous immigration policy can be compatible with strict enforcment of borders. Economists might lead the country on this issue, if their blinders were not so blinding.
And, of course, no government policy will ever be perfect, or perfectly implemented, whether it involves a wall or not.
Borders also mark the limits of any particular "rule of law"; and, in a democracy, it is the citizenry within those borders, that are the font of those laws.
A political economist is able to "see" all this; an "economist" rarely can.
Sign me as "a child of immigrants"

Mark Bahner writes:
I think the intent is to see that all traffic, of people and goods, across our southern border occurs at the authorized ports of entry and exit, so as to facilitate enforcement of existing US and Mexican law.

That's 20th century...or much earlier.

It would probably make much more sense to set up a drone air force to watch the border, rather than to try to build a wall to direct the flow of people and goods to "authorized ports of entry and exit."

This is an article about using Predators. But a Predator costs $18 million, and $3000 per hour to fly. Such money would probably support a much larger and more effective fleet of off-the-shelf drones.

Predator drones for Mexican border

robc writes:

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Thought the last line of the poem should be mentioned as well.

LD Bottorff writes:

Let's get to the economics of the issue. There was already authorization for a fence, much of which is built. The wall may work a little better, but it will be much more expensive. When the number of 10 Million undocumented immigrants was being bandied about, I also heard that 40% of them were here because of expired visas. An expensive wall won't fix that. A significant amount of cocaine already crosses into the USA via the Gulf of Mexico. If drugs can travel by boat (or submarine) then so can people. More opportunities for the coyotes.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of immigration law, the wall is going to be a waste of money. Stricter enforcement of the payroll tax and identity theft laws would probably have a bigger impact for the money, but it wouldn't be a visible symbol of our national determination. I'm not piling on Trump either - I just think the wall is a waste.

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