Corruption [Part I]

Corruption is, in some form or another, endemic to human societies and has been throughout history. The only question seems to be in what forms it exists and to what degree it impacts societies and individuals.

At present, the United States is facing a heated political issue over immigration, but what I find disheartening about the debate is that it is centered almost entirely on the symptoms of a larger set of problems, rather than on the problems themselves.  The estimated eleven million illegal immigrants that have flooded into the entire United States, but especially into and through the American Southwest are a problem, yes, but they’re symptoms of a far larger set of problems that the majority of individuals and politicians are ignoring with various phrases along the lines of, “We have to stop the illegal immigration and deal with it first before we can address the other problems.”

Duh!  Given that we share a border of over 2,000 miles with Mexico, there is no cost-effective and practical way to seal that border.  Doing so will require spending tens of billions of dollars erecting and manning guard towers and shooting people – or doing the equivalent with RPVs and technology.  Among other things, I really don’t like the idea of the United States, the land of the free, being reduced to creating the western equivalent of the Berlin Wall, while instituting a police state within those walls to determine who’s here “legally” and who’s not.

The second problem is that it’s still not likely to work, because the pressures that have created that massive flow of immigrants still remain and are increasing. One of those pressures, like it or not, is that a significant percentage of the Mexican government, especially on the local level, is so corrupt that the drug cartels are often considered more honest and reliable than the government. The associated problem is that the drug cartels operate one of the most profitable lines of business in the world – and the most affluent customers in the largest single national market happen to be Americans.  Because corruption in Latin America has rendered government often powerless, the various cartels are fighting for market share of the drug market there – and in parts of the American Southwest – and unlike American commercial enterprises, they’re fighting for that market share with guns and bullets.

One of the other aspects of governmental corruption is a proliferation of paperwork, regulations, etc., that cannot be surmounted except through some sort of bribery.  This makes any sort of business growth extremely difficult, and often dangerous, and without business growth the economy and people suffer.  While the United States has its share of regulations and paperwork, our form of “bribery” is a “legal” combination of bureaucrats, lawyers, and politicians [it’s more complex than this, but the extended principles still hold in the more complex reality of U.S. commerce and law].  We have more bureaucrats than we ought to have because, without them, we’ve discovered over our history, the business and moneyed interests have tended to work people into an early grave under unsafe conditions.  To combat the excessive zeal of the bureaucrats, we have attorneys.  And we have politicians, who respond to both campaign contributions and voter ire.  It’s frankly, a form of legalized bribery and interest pandering,  but it does get the job done without having every petty official demanding a bribe under the threat of shutting down a business or sending someone to jail for violating this or that minor rule.  It also tends to keep competing for consumer dollars and market share confined to the economic arena and political arenas, rather than fighting it out with guns.

The problem is that, for whatever reason, very few Latin American governments have been able to institutionalize within a legal framework the power-struggles of competing interests or to control “corruption,” and as the economic stakes get higher and higher, so does the level of violence.  Thus, given the increasing lack of safety in Mexico, the ever-increasing number of deaths and kidnappings, not to mention the lack of economic opportunity, is it any wonder that people want to leave?  And since the problems exist to some degree or another in all too many Latin America countries, what destination is the logical choice?

“Merely” building a wall won’t solve the problems.  Nor will ignoring the fact that one of the driving factors behind all this is the apparently insatiable appetite of Americans for illegal drugs.  The United States imprisons a greater percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation in the world, the vast majority these days for drug-related offenses, and all that imprisonment doesn’t seem to have put more than a small dent in the drug trade.

So… in a very real sense, our own “drug corruption” is fueling the chaos and fighting over drug market share in Mexico and the American Southwest… which in turn fuels the pressures for immigration to the United States.  [To be continued]

2 thoughts on “Corruption [Part I]”

  1. hob says:

    Would the United states really be able to sustain domestic prices of production/labor and keep real estate prices stable and increasing as well as maintain high birth rates without the non unionized worker within her borders?
    Governments, or more importantly the armies they direct, which in turn control/occupy geographical terrain, have two primary jobs–control/tax the goods/labor coming in and out of ones area of control and to restrict goods/labor going in or out. From a larger perspective this also provides leverage visa vi with ones trading partners or geographical areas which one is not in control of, i.e sanctions, i.e non attack based re- negotiations.
    The Mexican government would have a great deal of re negotiating with the United States if they had full control of their border. After all it is the primary gate through which labor moves from south America into north America and as stated above effects a great many other things–especially considering Canada is a resource/agricultural based economy with a small population. But as is obvious the drug cartels are better armed and informed than their counterparts the Mexican army/government. The better weapons/Intel also obviously American in origin. And to remain better armed/informed than the army it is natural that other forms of economic gain available to the government be leaned on or taken over resulting in poverty/insecurity/helplessness, factors which ironically promt people to go to a better place.
    An even more interesting aspect is the large amounts of money left over after Cartel daily expenses. Large amounts of money that will sit in large respectable banks who will lend it to large respectable business, employing respectable hard working people, giving the Cartels a respectable return– with the small provision that all this respectability not take place in non American banks.
    So, the border/drug problem?
    Or the union/labor problem?

  2. Speaker says:

    The Great Recession has revealed an oft overlooked and concealed fact: we haven’t had an illegal worker problem, we’ve had (and still have to a much less degree) and illegal employment problem. The cry of “I can’t get any U.S. citizens to do the work” was and is “I can make more if I can pay employees less”. Now that the housing boom has burst in the Atlanta area, those transient Latino workers have gone home (or somewhere). Even the Latino groceries and other merchants have gone out of business because their customers aren’t here anymore.
    In other countries (Mexico and Canada, for example) it is next to impossible for a non-citizen to get a “regular” job. If the U.S. classified illegal workers the same as illegal drugs and imposed the same types of penalties for possession, I think we would go a long way to take care of our illegal employment problem.

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