Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Mexico Should Build The Wall (But Won't)

Donald Trump’s success as a GOP candidate remains a mystery to most political observers. Trump's numbers, as we all know, have held high despite several absurd statements, which started when he claimed in his announcement speech that he was going to build a wall along the Mexican border - and make Mexico pay for it! He turned himself into Tom Tancredo, if Tom Tancredo had had a squirrel on his head and a billion in his pocket. And yet, if Trump is the nominee, I believe that he is likely to win a majority of the Hispanic vote. Keep reading and you’ll find out how.

Ever since Trump made this promise, a lot of the debate has revolved around whether or not there is any way to make this happen; some say that there is no way to make a poor country like Mexico take on a project such as building a wall (walls don't come cheap after all), while others correctly point out that the US is a superpower and could wreak havoc on the still developing economy of Mexico without much effort (sanctions on trade being the easiest way).

However, this question comes with a false premise: That a wall is good for the US, but bad for Mexico.

When you think about it, this premise is quite absurd: It assumes that losing citizens that you have spent good money educating (Mexico has public schools) just as they reach the age when they finally start paying taxes is a good thing.

Now, there is an economic justification behind supporting emigration - remittances. Basically, Mexicans in the US send back money to their families. If a Mexican emigrates and then sends home more money than Mexico spent on him while he was growing up, then Mexico just made a profit. And since even a minimum wage salary in the US is several times what most people in Mexico can expect to earn, that's not exactly unrealistic.

There are three problems though: One, remittances assume no assimilation. Mexicans who actually become a part of the American society - and lose touch with the Mexican - will have no reason whatsoever to send money back home (unless it's an emergency). The close family ties associated with Latino culture simply do not exist in Anglo-Saxon, or for all that matters Scandinavian culture - hence why I have never sent a penny back home during all the years since I left Sweden.

Secondly, remittances act as a form of welfare, and just like regular government welfare, it deprives people of an incentive to work and worse; an incentive to start a business. Why take a great risk and invest a massive effort into starting a company if even in a best case scenario all you will make is half what your brother in the US can send back to you? Developing countries like Mexico need entrepreneurs and hard workers in general, but remittances deprive them of both. And for those who believe that remittances may help as seed capital to start a business; if that was true, Mexico would have more businesses than virtually any other nation on earth. When you get a lump sum from someone who crossed the border, your first thought is either going to be "Let's go shopping" or "Hey now I can afford to move to the US" - it's not going to be "Great, now I can start a tortilla stand and then maybe I can make 1/5th of the American minimum wage".

Thirdly, it leaves children and young people without good role models: If the richest family in town got its wealth by sending a few of their kids across the border, how does that teach a young person to stay in school and work hard? Just like kids growing up in areas where everyone is on welfare and the only people who "made it" are the drug dealers, kids who grow up where everyone is either just barely getting by or getting their wealth from their relatives in America will never learn the value of honest hard work, and this will of course perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

But the bigger problem is that the economic cost is a small part of the overall cost of emigration.

Why do we care about our countries? There are lots of different reasons of course, but one of the most basic ones that we do not usually talk about is this: We're stuck here. Kind of like how we are stuck with the family we have, we are stuck with the country we happened to be born in. And just like, when something is wrong with our relatives, we go to great lengths to fix the problem rather than cut them out the way we may do with an acquaintance. Similarly, if we don't like the way things are in our country, we try to fix it rather than running away - which is partly because running away for most of us is no easy thing to do.

In Mexico, that's not true. Decades of emigration have turned Mexico into a "disposable" country. This affects everything: How you vote - why vote for a party that will build the country up with a view to the future, when you're planning to cross the border and won't ever get to reap the benefits (and neither will your American-born kids)? How you invest - why would you tie your money up in investments of any sort that you can't take with you? Why participate in any long-term projects to clean up your local community, when you intend to leave that local community soon anyway? It doesn't even have to be actual plans, just the fact that leaving is easy, socially acceptable and even encouraged serves to make people less attached to their country of origin and everything in it.

Then of course, there are the Narcos - Mexican drug cartels that have more power than the mob ever had in America. They control more or less every city in northern Mexico - I mean, they actually run these places. They are not merely criminals hiding in the slums; they openly run schools and patrol the streets. Virtually every police officer and politician in these regions have been bribed or threatened into compliance.

The Narcos are funded by the drug trade - not the one in Mexico, mind you, Mexicans don't earn enough to pay any significant amounts for drugs. But, the Narcos produce and smuggle drugs across the US-Mexican border where they are then sold to Americans looking for a high time. This would be impossible if the US had a well-guarded wall along the border, and losing that source of income would be a serious blow to the Narcos. Some may think legalization of marijuana would solve the problem, but that's wishful thinking as marijuana isn't a very profitable drug - the real money comes from drugs like LSD and cocaine (nearly all cocaine consumed by Americans can be traced to a Mexican drug cartel).

But if illegal immigration hurts Mexico that much, why haven't the Mexican government built a wall themselves already? The simple answer is this: While emigration hurts Mexico, it helps the Mexican political establishment. Here's what happens when you have a culture of emigration: All the people who could change society, leave. There are many examples of this in history and as well as in present times. The fact that Ireland lagged so far behind all the other western European countries in social and economic progress can be largely attributed to emigration - those who opposed the Catholic Church and its influence over Irish politics would simply take the boat to America instead of staying in Ireland and fighting. That is why until 1996 Irish girls could be sentenced to slavery for the crime of being promiscuous!

Roughly speaking, the people in a developing country can be divided into three categories: Poor people who are too weak to change the country (and too poor to afford to emigrate), rich people who are content with the status quo since it works for them, and a middle class that is rich enough to have influence but not rich enough that they are content with the way things are run. That is why virtually every social change starts with the middle class - they are the only ones with both the power and the incentive to change a country.

However, the middle class, unlike the poorest people, also have the financial means necessary to emigrate. And so, if you're a rich person - a member of the political establishment who enjoys the status quo - you'd much rather see the middle class pack their bags and get out than stay and cause trouble. Having a wealthy neighbor country with a practically open border is a dream to any member of the establishment in a developing country. And for the Mexican establishment, it's a dream come true. Whenever anyone complains, you just point to the north and tell them "If you don't like it, you know where the door is".

So that is why Mexico should build a wall, and why they won't. But I also promised to tell you how Donald Trump could win the Latino vote - after all, most Latinos do not want to build a wall and explaining why it would be good for everyone would take a really long time, more time than anyone has during a presidential campaign.

Instead, what Trump should do if he is the nominee is to promise military action against the Narcos. Think about it - they are straight across the border in northern Mexico. Yes, they have military weapons, but they have nowhere even close to the training or equipment of the US Marine force. I would bet that one US marine could easily take out 5-10 Narco members and still be home in time for dinner.

However, this operation would not merely target the Narco soldiers, but their friends as well: Mexican border towns would be placed under temporary occupation and martial law, and anyone - including civilians - who are found to have been collaborating with the Narcos would be publicly executed. In some cities this would involve marching out virtually every single member of the city council & police force  to the market square and executing them as traitors, which they are. The Narcos have set up their own tribal states, not at all unlike Somali warlords right across the US border and the US has done nothing about it. I'm not sure if Mexico would allow such an operation (it's possible seeing as how Mexico have used its own military to try and defeat the Narcos), but I do know that the Mexican people would be eternally grateful, and as such I believe it has to happen either way. The Mexican army could not withstand more than a week against the US Army and Mexico knows that, which is why nothing will happen beyond formal protests ("angry letters").

And yes, I really meant what I said about the executions being public. This is not only to deter people from aiding the Narcos, but also because the victims deserve the closure of watching their tormenters die. The Narcos have the power to abduct an entire school class, kill them and get away with it, and the parents of those kids deserve to see them die. Like ISIS, they love to videotape their crimes and put their murders and their poor victims on the internet for everyone to see. They are pure evil and I frankly cannot blame any Mexican for wanting to emigrate as long as they exist.

Every Mexican in the US knows about the evils of the Narcos; many of them have friends or family who has been targeted by them in various ways. Imagine an ad in Spanish featuring the parent of a Narcos victim describing how these monsters murdered his/her son/daughter, and then cut to Donald Trump promising that as president, before he builds a wall, he will use the US marine force to bring these vile creatures to justice and in so doing also solve a lot of Mexico's corruption problems. "I'm Donald Trump, and I approve this message because I want to give Mexico back to the Mexican people" - such an ad alone would easily add 15-20 points to the GOP's support among Latino voters.

And as if that wasn't good enough, Hillary Clinton would have a very hard time responding to this, since she has to find a way to get the basement-dwelling hippies who supported Sanders to vote for her in the general election, and supporting military intervention - regardless of the circumstances - would be unacceptable to this crowd.

For those of you who think a military intervention cannot work; citing Afghanistan and Iraq, please understand that the Narcos are not driven by ideology or any fanatical religious beliefs - it's all about money & power for them and for everyone who aids them. If being in the Narcos isn't profitable anymore (and in fact comes with a death sentence), no-one will join up and they will dissolve as soon as their current members have paid for their crimes in blood. In fact, I believe an intervention like this would provide Mexico with a very necessary shake-up, make their people stop in the track and ask what they are doing (when you have to have your neighbor country intervene to deal with your criminals, things are pretty bad) and start turning things around. This may turn out to be exactly the kind of “rock bottom” moment Mexico needs to make the changes in their society & political system necessary to escape poverty.

I do not support Donald Trump, but I do believe that this has been his plan all along that he will announce when/if he locks up the nomination. And if so, he's a political genius.

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