A Privatized Border Will Never Be Closed

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border, borders

If you are reading this, congratulations! You are on the internet.

The information superhighway, the result of a once-uneasy handshake between the public and private sectors, is a nearly fully privatized zone. The structure of the internet has very few rules, leaving space for businessmen and startup entrepreneurs to become modern titans of digital industry.

Within this relatively new and unexplored frontier, businesses in the late 1990s and early 2000s (especially in the United States) began employing risky business practices along crudely-drawn plans to focus on brand recognition and leave the profitable aspects of business to future phases. The resulting “dotcom bubble” drove home a somewhat forgettable lesson about markets: nobody is safe from the laws of supply and demand. A new space had opened, the possibilities seemed endless, entrepreneurs rushed in and battled for business supremacy, and the resulting space continued to evolve into a better and better final product.

What started as an alternative use for telephone lines has become a first-world necessity. The internet is an innovative modern marvel, and the home of fairly new services we already can’t imagine living without: streaming video services such as YouTube and Netflix, social media such as Facebook and Twitter where we spend unfathomable amounts of time, the ability to tour the known universe through the Google search engine, gaming networks such as Xbox Live and PSN, access to the world’s entire music catalog through Spotify and Pandora, and the ability to purchase and ship nearly anything through eBay and Amazon. At one time, none of these services existed. And though several of the aforementioned web services charge fees, the vast majority of the internet is freely accessible.

One thing the internet gives us unlimited access to, is stupidity, and it is generally thinly-veneered, flamboyantly decorated, and even advertised using money that someone, somewhere, worked for. The internet is fairly representative of human nature, opening the infrastructure of the information superhighway to businessmen and startup entrepreneurs, and simultaneously constructing a playground for idiots to entertain themselves while feeling correctly that they’re being heard by their peers.

Without fail, every emerging market or industry will be met with scrutinous inquiry regarding whether or not this market is compatible with reality, specifically the laws of the modern world: supply and demand. Without picturing an existing, flourishing market to accompany it, the thought of any new marketing space often scares the dreamer to question what ought not be questioned. Supply and demand will always apply.

Recently, there has been a trend within the liberty movement regarding the “border question.” Libertarians want to know if we should be promoting open or closed borders for our respective countries, sparking debates regarding whether movement can even be considered a natural right, and how the market will deal with the situation of a 2000 mile stretch of land along the US-Mexican border.

The general consensus is pretty clear: we need to get the borderland privatized. The reasons for wanting to privatize this land varies greatly, with some like myself excited about the opportunities private continental gateways will provide to a nearly forgotten region of the USA, and others (especially the more fundamentalist libertarians) insisting that a private border will provide a non-aggressive solution to America’s security needs (with the occasional footnote about how this move will help to preserve American culture by blocking Mexicans at the border).

US-Mexican border as seen from Nogales, Arizona.

The management of citizens has always been a state responsibility. The private sector shows little regard for nationality, as capitalists have learned over time that asking too many questions of a paying customer is the best advertising one’s competitor can receive. Capitalist activity often renders entire cities cosmopolitan, with the shining example of New York City existing to say “humans can accomplish much, in spite of the state” and Hong Kong chiming in to confirm. In the business world, money is the lingua franca, and no other language can speak nearly as loudly as cash.

Many libertarians, for whatever reason, have reached the consensus that privatizing the border would provide a natural remedy to an existing immigration problem. In reality, if the border were the dam restraining a sea of immigrants, privatizing it will bust it wide open. Any land owner who turns down the existing financial opportunities of building a private gateway to the USA is simply subsidizing the value of the land owned by someone unwilling to do the same. The higher the number of acres walled off, the higher the value of the unwalled land; financial blood poured into the waters of entrepreneur sharks.

In the situation where the US-Mexican border has absolutely no government oversight from the American side, it would be nearly impossible to determine when a walk through San Diego crosses into Tijuana. Both locations house high populations of Spanish and English-speaking individuals. The beach between the two would have no fence stretching into the water, and Mexican and American beachgoers would be unable to determine the nationality of the other people on the beach. Mexican estates may own portions of land on the US side adjacent to their own houses, though Americans owning land on the Mexican side would be far less common (Mexico has very protectionist land ownership policies). Roads would connect rather than run parallel beside the fence, and crossing the border would not require one to seek state permission or present papers to the proper authorities in exchange for entering without the fear of being pursued by other state agents at a later time.

The assumption that the gentry at the border will voluntarily turn down money out of loyalty to “We, The People” is absurd and not relevant to reality in any way. And this is why I personally endorse privatizing the borderlands. There is no version of this plan that cancels out supply and demand, and with the USA being the sweetheart of planet Earth, the demand to be here is extraordinarily high. Left ungoverned, the border will find itself coated in superhighways, surrounded by hotels and gas stations, theaters and car dealerships, tour guides and hitchhikers, all going about their business in dollars and pesos alike. Like the information superhighway, a borderland in anarchy would develop quickly and improve constantly, not to keep people out but to allow money in, constructing yet another innovative modern marvel.

The question of whether or not the borders of the USA should be open is a relevant discussion to have, but proposing a privatization plan is proposing opening them permanently. For the average person, this is nothing but a lively conversation. For a libertarian, carrying non-aggression as a principle, the dilemma should be obvious – without some level of “statism,” the border WILL be open.

You can stop reading and argue amongst yourselves now.

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As an appendix, I think it’s fair to point out that practically all borders are functionally open anyway. With even a substandard level of cleverness, getting over, under, through, or around a border fence is even easier than it sounds.

The fact that there are currently 11 million illegal immigrants from Mexico alone in the United States is not the result of some liberal conspiracy, or grossly-miscalculated efforts to keep them away. There is no way to stop the laws of economics sculpted by human behavior, especially when you’re trying to calculate your efforts based on what you think people are likely to do. Humans are ingenious creatures, and the world we’ve built for ourselves these past few thousand years is a testament to this observation.

If people want to be somewhere badly enough, they will get there. Would you rather be counted among those incessantly whining about it, transmuting the reputation of yourself and your peers (such as your fellow libertarians) into that of an infant that cannot cope with how unfair the world is, or would you rather be realistic about it and search for more practical solutions, reaching out to all communities (including the immigrants) to find a support base for your ideas? Intolerance takes effort, and most of us are too busy to worry about how much the real world doesn’t line up with an “America First” utopia. Reality has a way of bashing through unrealistic plans like a wrecking ball through an unstable window. Give reality a chance, and you’ll realize it’s not so bad after all.

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Nathaniel Owen is the Chairman and co-founder of Being Libertarian. He is a writer, musician, homeschooling advocate, and libertarian, and typically addresses issues from an economic point of view. Nathaniel is a member of the Goldwater Institute, a Friend of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and has been a member of the Libertarian Party since 2012.