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“Someday a history of our border policies will be written. It will require a Marxist — Groucho, not Karl.”

March 7, 2010

This is a statement by Charles Bowden who has written a thought provoking article, “The War Next Door,” in the March 1st issue of High Country News. 

In the article Bowden makes a good case for his conclusion.  Among other things, he notes the following:

     “Few discussions about the border come from facts. Most discussions of the border come from fears. We seem to prefer slogans and fantasies: free trade, “just say no,” gigantic walls.

     “Almost certainly, the drug industry and illegal migration are the two most successful anti-poverty initiatives in the history of the world. The drug industry has poured tens of billions of dollars annually into the hands of ill-educated and largely poor people. Illegal migration has taken people who were lucky to earn $5 a day and instantly given them jobs that pay 10 or 20 times that much. It has also financed the remittances, over $20 billion dollars shipped from immigrants in the U.S. back into the homes of Mexico’s poor each year. No government can match these achievements. And tens of thousands of people in the U.S. agencies are earning far better salaries fighting drugs and the Mexican poor than they could ever make in the private sector. After, say, five years, the average Border Patrol agent is knocking down 75 grand a year, plus generous benefits and serious job security. DEA is infested with agents earning six figures. And these industries are literally failure-proof — the more Mexicans that migrate, and the more drugs that arrive, the more agents that are hired.

     “The real problem is not these success stories but the fact that the good times are going to end. Obviously, the terrain of the U.S. can only sustain a finite number of people. So eventually migration — both legal and illegal — will be curtailed by draconian national I.D. laws. As for the drug industry, the money depends on two variables: that drugs remain illegal; and that domestic suppliers, meaning the licit pharmaceutical industry, refrain from launching competing products. This second reality is already vanishing. The explosion of over-the-counter mood-altering drugs cuts into the illegal market, and bit by bit will cut into the drug traffickers’ profits. Without the earnings of the drug industry, the Mexican economy would collapse.”

Bowden has a book coming out this month, Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields (The Nation Books).  I’m hooked.  It’s going on my list of books to acquire.

— Margadant

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