Close Our Borders!

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We are told
that the vast majority of Americans want our borders closed. When
they say “our borders,” they do not mean the one with Canada —
the longest undefended border in the world. They mean the one with

Yet that border,
while not quite open, is more like a sieve than a wall.

The politicians
dither. But politicians do not dither when their re-election is
on the line. They see their opportunities, and they take them.

So, what explains
the dithering? I suggest that there is confusion — enormous confusion
— over three words: close, our, and borders.


means prevent entry and exit. Americans do not want this.
That would mean no travel industry: coming or going. It would mean
no relatives coming from abroad. It would mean no foreign students
studying here. It would mean no resident aliens, including high-tech

So, nobody
means “close” when he says “close.” He means “entry restrictions
on them.”

The debate
begins when it comes time to define them.

The politicians
dither because the voters are divided — “scrambled” is closer to

Does them
mean foreign workers who are willing to work below minimum wage?
Then why should consumers want to restrict them? As a consumer,
I prefer cost-cutting measures. Labor is the largest expense in
most productive arrangements. Let’s get costs cut!

Minimum wage
laws are government-set price floors. Why should I favor minimum
wage laws? They are restraints on trade. They require a government
agent’s gun in the belly of a buyer of labor, and another government
agent’s gun in the belly of a seller of labor.

Yet millions
of Americans favor minimum wage laws. As consumers, they don’t,
but as producers, they do. Voters favor restraints on trade when
they are facing price competition in their area of employment. They
favor coercion. They want guns in appropriate bellies. Whose bellies?
“Theirs.” Depending on which voters we survey, these bellies include
yours, mine, and ours.


In the context
of the phrase, “close our borders,” the word “our” means those people
with legal access to the ballot box.

In a pure monarchy,
this is irrelevant. In an oligarchy, this is close to irrelevant.
But in a republic or a pure democracy, legal access to the voting
booth is vitally important. Why? Because the voting booth is where
the answer to that crucial two-part question is decided: “Who?

What does “who”
mean? What does “whom” mean? The correct political definition of
who is this: the person who legally aims a government-authorized
gun. The correct political definition of whom is: the person
at whom the government-authorized gun is aimed.

In a nation
like the United States, in which the politics of plunder has become
a way of life, it is exceedingly important to defend one’s wallet
from gun-toting agents of voters with thinner wallets. Politics
is mostly about getting into the other guy’s wallet more effectively
than he gets into yours.

Probably the
best description of how the process works is James Dale Davidson’s
description of Congress. He says that we should imagine an organization
of 535 people, each of whom has been issued a credit card. They
may spend all they want, and at the end of the year, the total bill
will be divided evenly for payment. The system rewards those who
spend more than their share of the final bill. That organization,
Davidson says, is Congress.

So, when someone
speaks of “our” borders, he has in mind legal access to the political
process by which voters decide who will hold the credit cards. He
wants his kind of voters in those voting booths, not someone else’s
kind of voters.


What is a border?
It is an imaginary line that divides two groups of sovereign political
entities called civil governments.

Civil governments
are organizations whose past and present office-holders have claimed
the right of final decision-making regarding (1) who is allowed
to carry the largest guns, (2) whose bellies the guns may be pointed
at, and (3) on what terms.

Those people
who officially decide who may carry guns and on what terms see that
they possess an important legal right: gun carrying and gun aiming.
They do not want to surrender this legal right to outsiders who
want to participate in on the decision-making process. But how did
they originally gain this legal right? By conforming to — or seeming
to conform to — laws that were set by those decision-makers who
proved on an ancient battlefield that they possessed better, cheaper,
more abundant, and more accurate guns, and the ability and willingness
to use them.

If outsiders
who do not own guns of their own can gain legal access to the ballot
box, they will be able to decide who carries the legal guns and
whose bellies will be the legal targets. This is what the main debate
over immigration is always about in democracies: the designation
of gun carriers and their targets.

When Americans
say “our,” they mean “citizens of the United States.” They mean
people with legal access to the means of legal gun distribution
and belly distribution.

The Fourteenth
Amendment of United States Constitution (1868) declares: “All persons
born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction
thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein
they reside.” So, an infant born in the United States will be a
legal voter 18 years later. He or she will be a citizen: no public
oath of allegiance, no official papers to fill out, no muss, no
fuss. They become ours.

Voting patterns
being what they are, they will become Democrats, i.e., those with
thinner wallets. Ironically, the blue-collar unionized voting bloc
that kept the Democrats in power for half a century is losing its
power because of the wage competition offered by the non-voting
parents of the Democrats’ future voting bloc. In the transitional
decades — a fading AFL-CIO (May 1) and a growing La Raza (May
5) — the Republicans have controlled the Federal Government.

Who? Whom?


The border
between the United States and Mexico is long. It is mostly a border
between land owned by the civil government of Mexico and land owned
by the civil government of the United States. What kind of land
is it? Agriculturally worthless but the yellow brick road for Mexicans.
It is an unpaved highway to capital: the tools of production. It
is the dirt road to the great American auction.

The government
can build a wall. The Emperor Hadrian built one between Scotland
and the Roman forces in England. That was a short border. It did
not survive the departure of the Romans from the British Isles.
And down from Scotland came Christian missionaries, who had arrived
from Ireland.

The Chinese
had a Great Wall. It was very long. It was as porous as its guard
posts. Guards could be bought by bags of gold. The wall was no more
secure than one greedy guard.

Whether there
will be open bidding for the Great Wall of America contract, I have
no clue. Whether Bechtel will outbid Halliburton is beyond me. All
I know is that I will wind up paying my share.

For all I know,
the ACLU will claim racial discrimination if the government builds
a wall on the southern border and not an equally secure one along
the northern border. Maybe Halliburton will get the Mexican wall
contact and Bechtel will get the Canadian. I am not sure.

This much I
do know: The wall will be no better than the will to police it.
I have no idea how many troops that would take. The best argument
for the wall is that it might force the President to recall Army
troops from abroad to guard the wall.

The suggestion
that a wall can keep Mexicans out of the American labor market is
an intellectual attack on the power of capital to attract labor.

The wall is
a symbol. The problem is this: What is it a symbol of?


I find it difficult
to believe that anybody believes that the wall will be the only
policing tool needed to keep Mexicans away from America’s tools
of production. The wall’s advocates call for follow-up measures.

Voters want
green cards issued to immigrants: no card — no job. But who will
police the green-card system? Business owners, mostly. So, the call
for green cards is a call to place restrictions on agreements between
employer and employee. It is a call for government agents with guns
to enforce the terms of trade.

No thanks.

Then there
is the Social Security card: no card — no job. I am old enough
to have a Social Security card that has these words on it: “Not
to be used for identification purposes.” That world is long dead.
The Social Security card is now a de facto national identity card.
It is used to track my money and my purchases. Businesses are requiring
me to give them my SS number. Ironic, isn’t it? SS: Those initials
symbolize the worst of the Nazi movement. “Your papers, please.”

Today, millions
of Americans not only accept the card’s use as a national ID card,
they demand that it be used to police the labor markets. In the
name of the politics of plunder, most Americans are willing to make
the Social Security card the surrogate for a national ID card. This
is why the resistance to a national ID card is just about gone in
American conservative circles. So is resistance to the politics
of plunder.

No thanks.

The welfare
system lures the Mexicans to cross the border. There is free tax-funded
schooling for their children before the children get the ultimate
green card: citizenship. The courts say that cities cannot refuse
to educate any child, including the child of illegal aliens. There
is no green card required for access to the tax-funded schools.

Then there
are all the other welfare benefits: access to free emergency room
care in hospitals, and access to parks, libraries, and every other
local welfare project. Come one, come all!

Then voters
pretend that the system of tax-funded goodies isn’t as alluring
to Mexicans as it to is Americans. The politics of plunder has real
appeal. Yet American voters want to raise the drawbridge. “These
illegal immigrants will bankrupt the welfare system!”

This is a very
good argument for open borders. “Kill the accursed thing!”

How can “we”
police a wall that doesn’t yet exist by means of a welfare system
that the courts refuse to police?

How can “we”
police the wall without undermining the right of free contract between
employer and employee?

How can “we”
police the wall without surrendering our privacy to a police State?

So far, no
one has offered any widely agreed-upon answers.


Those who want
the Federal government to police our borders forget what the Federal
government is and what it does.

the Fourteenth Amendment offers the politically unsolvable problem.
It grants citizenship by physical birth. Until voters are willing
to amend the Fourteenth Amendment, they will dither on the peripheral
issues. So will Congress.

15, 2006

North [send him mail] is the
author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible

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