The television was tuned to CNN when I heard the strangest thing. The reporter was proposing a great idea for winning the War on (Mexican) Immigration.
She wasn’t talking about putting under-employed Americans (see also Pentagon, CIA, State Department, DHS, TSA, ATF, Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, EPA, et al.) to work in the strawberry fields of California. Heck, they can’t afford to buy real estate in California any more than the average Mexican can.
She wasn’t talking about having American taxpayers and their grandchildren fund a big ugly expensive stupid East-German inspired wall between us and Mexico, harshly and cruelly dividing not just one city, but hundreds of cities and towns that dot the border.
She wasn’t talking about sending farmers and builders and bakers and candlestick makers to jail for hiring willing workers who happen to have paid the wrong kind of coyote to get into the land of freedom and opportunity.
She wasn’t talking about instantly transforming millions of people into felonious criminals, subject to long expensive imprisonment as a result of "three strikes" laws and mandatory sentencing in many states.
Yes, I am aware that Halliburton and many other companies are building more detention centers and jails on our dime. Yes, I understand, given our demographics, we may not be producing enough nonviolent drug offenders to fill current jails, much less these new ones. Yes, I understand that Congress has but to change a rule or two, and the land of the free instantly and conveniently grows the inmate pool. Yes, I understand the importance of federal career opportunities for guards and jail maintenance folks, not to mention immigration control and regular cops. Everyone knows non-violent offenders make better inmates, easier to intimidate and better educated. Who wouldn’t want to guard these nice people at an even nicer federal wage?
But CNN got it right — because they didn’t promote any of these things. CNN got it right because the lone reporter didn’t repeat the Lou Dobbs’ Whine, that these people are destroying our "American" culture, and stealing our jobs and opportunities to succeed.
The CNN reporter was talking about how much Mexican illegals pay to get into the land of the free. Fees they pay for illegal documentation, illegal and often unsafe transportation, fees for protection from U.S. law enforcement, and fees to coyotes that cover all of the above plus bribes to various U.S. government officials.
Huh? Money changes hands?
Wait a minute! Illegal immigration means that money changes hands at incredibly high rates, in order to cover risk associated with illegal acts and possible jail time, law enforcement escape and evasion, and bribes to government officials?
Does any aspect of the American immigration problem sound remotely familiar?
Just like Tennesseeans smuggling tobacco products into heavily tobacco-taxed New York, the smuggling and selling of government controlled and prohibited drugs, back-alley abortions in the 40’s and 50’s, and the rise of the Mafia during Prohibition, the "illegal" immigration problem demonstrates predictably how the marketplace responds to market demands in the face of arbitrary government restrictions.
Costs always rise, danger always increases, government always grows, and whatever the problem originally was, that part gets worse even as it expands in new ways, usually with dangerous unintended consequences. It leads to Lou Dobbs every night talking about "our" culture under attack, "Broken Borders," and the need for more war, more walls, and more government weapons.
But the CNN reporter seemed to understand all of this! She asked a group of Mexican workers in California, "Would you pay a fee to come here and work legally?" They said "Yes!"
She said, "Would you pay $2,000 each to come to America and work?" She probably thought she was highballing the proposed "fee" and yet the answer was an instant and resounding "Yes!"
This CNN reporter doesn’t know what the market in legality will bear. I don’t either. Whether picking beans, or apples or lettuce, or building houses, or cars or parts, or baking bread and serving it, or sanitation and maintenance, child care, security services, arts and crafts or teaching young people in our schools — we truly don’t know what the market in legality will bear. While a "government" fee implies central planning, and central planners know about as much about how to price "coming to America" as the CNN reporter or me, this was still a great moment for CNN.
It is calculated that legalization of drugs in America, even the harshest and most hateful of addictive substances like methamphetamine, will drop the price instantly, put dealers out of the drug business, save lives all around and reduce drug promotion and consumption. We know that the legalization of alcohol put criminals out of business, saved lives, and improved national productivity.
Common sense, perhaps as a result of America’s counterproductive and failed wars on alcohol, abortion, illiteracy, drugs, tobacco, proliferation of nuclear weapons, terror, and now, the war on Mexican workers, is apparently seeping into the conversation of low-level CNN reporters.
This may not be the immigration view shared by The American Conservative, many in the House of Representatives, or lots of other concerned people in this country. But a commonsense, traditional marketplace perspective on this challenge will lead our country back to the place we’ve always loved and will always hold dear — the place where we are a land of freedom, prosperity, and justice for everyone.
Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum on Saturday nights, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com. To receive automatic announcements of new articles and upcoming guests on her American Forum radio program, click here.