Walls don’t work?

This weekend, one of the “big” news items was that – shock! – people are cutting holes in the border wall. The implication is that this is yet another example of how stupid Trump and his supporters are. “$100 saws make quick work of Trump’s “virtually impenetrable” border wall” according to the Detroit News:

“He’s building a wall — and they’re cutting holes right through it. Migrants and smugglers have succeeded in cutting through President Donald Trump’s ‘virtually inpenetrable’ [sic] border wall using cordless saws that cost as little as $100 apiece at hardware stores, border agents and officials told The Washington Post. Trump administration officials admitted being aware of ‘a few instances’ in which human smugglers managed to breach rebuilt sections of the $10 billion wall that Trump once promised Mexico would pay for, the paper reported. The widely available saws can cut through the wall’s steel bollards within a matter of minutes. The 30-foot-tall panels can then be easily pushed forward, allowing people to pass through.” (11/03/19)

Well, it would seem to be obvious, despite your position on open borders, border walls, or related political matters, that ANY wall can have holes cut in it.

History tells us that has been a “problem” with walls since the beginning of history. The Great Wall of China, the Roman walls built in Britannia, Offa’s Dike, the German Westwall of WW2, the Berlin Wall, and every wall ever built around any city or fort. Or for that matter, every jail and prison.

It is ALSO true of every wall ever built into a building. Whether it is a store, a storehouse, an office, or a house. My wife’s office wall – built of steel and concrete block, had a hole cut into it (using a pickup, near as they could tell) to steal about $100 in cash-register change.

Yet we don’t stop building walls as part of buildings. We don’t stop building fences. Because despite their drawbacks, they serve a purpose.

Cities and nations learned (mostly) their lessons about how people can cut holes in fences and walls. Walls by themselves – however fancy and strong – are no good if they don’t have two key elements.

The first is “observation” (to use a military term): someone has to watch the wall. To see if someone IS cutting a hole it – or climbing over it, or digging under it, or knocking it down. Duh. That might be direct or indirect observation: security alarms and cameras, or… boots on the ground.

The second is “response” – again a military term. Walls by themselves do NOT keep criminals from breaking into houses and businesses. They slow things down, they make the opportunity cost of getting in greater. They “keep honest people honest.” But by themselves, they do little more. There needs to be some response when some lowlife does break through, cut down, or whatever.

That response may be the homeowner with their personal weapons. Or a security guard, or a guard dog, or even some automated system (like a poacher-gun). It may, if you are foolish, be police.

Walls are NOT stupid. They are NOT useless. Any more than a hull around the outside of a ship are, or a roof on a building is. Even if there are leaks in the hull or the roof. Because they protect, even if they aren’t perfect. Having a leak in your roof is a whole lot better than not having ANY roof to protect your furniture, computers, papers, etc.

And honestly, are property rights even possible without walls and fences?

At the same time, I think we need to look at the other side of the coin.

Border walls do NOT prevent us from having “open borders” any more than walls, locks, or fences, keep us from having an open house or welcoming visitors or customers. Indeed, these things make it possible for us to HAVE customers and visitors. And for us to have nice things. Both physical things – like food and clothing and computers. AND intangible things – like privacy and peaceful homes.

But like building walls, border walls don’t work by themselves. You have to have systems of which they are a part. A way to welcome people who are peaceful, honest, and wanted visitors and customers. Observation and response are therefore implied. As well as justified and moral. Even (and especially) for lovers of liberty. And even on borders.

The problem with the border today is largely because we let government get away with not just not having walls, but not having systems to support that wall and be able to welcome and nicely treat visitors who are honest and peaceful. Just as the walls and doors and gates in a convenience store helps keep out those who come not to buy but to steal. Having a wall around a store does not mean that you are treating everyone who wants to come in as a criminal, It is recognizing that SOME of the people who want to come in are there to steal, and you have a right to try and prevent that.

But (as usual) government has done a worthless, abysmal, job of protecting communities and individuals (especially property owners) from external threats. An even worse job of providing for free and open travel for people who ARE not threats. And still worse, government has created “attractive nuisances” in the form of the massive welfare state and minimum wage laws and insane employment and contract law that makes the Fifty States highly attractive for the very type of lowlifes which are creating the problems. (As well, I point out, a lot of very hardworking, talented, and peaceful people just looking for a better life and a way to help their families back home.)

Media hype and government incompetence together mean that the border situation is not going to be solved quickly or easily.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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7 Responses to Walls don’t work?

  1. Herman says:

    The pics I’ve seen of The Wall look like vertical 6X6 square tubing; since it’s hollow, it’s capable of being filled with concrete. Using 3/4 red granite aggregate, and lots of it, in the concrete should give any saw blade a good workout.

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  2. Darkwing says:

    When Trump was beating the drum on building HIS wall, I told a lot of people that it would not work, plus you cannot build a wall down the middle of a river.

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  3. Pingback: Walls don’t work? – Rational Review News Digest

  4. “The problem with the border today is largely because we let government get away with not just not having walls, but not having systems to support that wall and be able to welcome and nicely treat visitors who are honest and peaceful.”

    The problem with the border today is that for about 140 years the federal government has been ignoring the Constitution’s unambiguous ban on it regulating immigration in any way, shape, manner or form other than a small head tax.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Tom, you are right. I lumped all government together, but the onus was on the States, not the FedGov. For a century, Texas more or less did keep things in good condition on the Rio Grande. The mess in 1915 in New Mexico should have been dealt with by the (still new) State of New Mexico. No doubt bad habits from being a territory for 60+ years kept Santa Fe from doing anything much more than whine to DC.
      On the northern border, I don’t know much about the Great Lakes and east of there, but the States and Provinces got along pretty well without problems until, really, the last couple of decades.

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      • Well, just to be clear:

        While I’m pointing out that constitutionally it is the states, not the feds, which are allowed to engage in vile, wicked, authoritarian schemes to regulate immigration, I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that I approve of such vile, wicked, authoritarian schemes just because it’s the states doing them.

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      • TPOL Nathan says:

        Understand, Tom, and I don’t think anyone who knows you would think otherwise.

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