Close Our Borders!

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 Mexico.

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.


Close 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 workers.

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 it.

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? Whom?”

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.

Ultimately, 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.

July 15, 2006

Gary 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.

Copyright © 2006