The Non-Solution

In his column this morning in the Washington Post Robert Samuelson speaks out in favor of Trump’s wall. His argument is that it’s relatively inexpensive as federal projects and would be well worth it if it solves the problem:

Democrats regard the wall as a colossal waste of money, citing the Trump administration’s $18 billion request to build or strengthen 700 miles of barriers over a decade. Actually, the price is cheap if it buys a solution to this stubborn problem.

From my point of view that’s an example of what I might call the “technocratic fallacy”—that government programs will be unfailingly, flawlessly and evenly administered. The reality is that a border wall will only be as strong as the weakest border agent. Sure, paying bribes will raise the cost of crossing into the country illegally a little and, consequently, at the margins will reduce the inflow of immigrants. Unfortunately, it will make it more likely that those coming into the country illegally will be criminals guilty of something other than immigration-related crimes.

A better, less expensive solution less susceptible to human frailty because controls could be built in would be serious, heavily-punished workplace enforcement. Mr. Samuelson provides the answer to support for Trump’s wall in his column:

The basic question here involves the nature of politics. Is it an exercise in showmanship, with each side more intent on demonstrating to its supporters that it won’t sacrifice strongly held beliefs even if that means policy paralysis? Their main idea is to look good, not to do something.

That’s exactly what politics is now. Showy exercises in meanness. There’s good waste and there’s bad waste. If you campaigned on it and it will make your supporters happy, it’s good waste. If it helps your opponent and/or his constituents, it’s bad waste. As Dana Milbanks noted, it all goes back to money.

1 comment… add one
  • Modulo Myself

    According to McClatchy, it’s Stephen Miller who is alienating moderate Republicans and Democrats. And why shouldn’t he? The nativist right really believes we live in some open-border dystopia, where all it will take is to stop these hordes from coming here. Well we don’t, and any compromise is not going to change things they want it. So it’s better to short-circuit the compromise and to continue offering bitter fantasies to the blood and soil types.

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