Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The economics of a border wall

The economics of a border wall

"The wall would require $711m worth of concrete and $240m worth of cement. Including labour, the total cost of between $15 billion and $25 billion is a bit more than Mr Trump's suggested $10 billion."

I'm not sure whether I think this wall is necessary, so don't put me in the "pro" corner, but I don't see any great downside if these numbers are correct. $20 billion is not that much in today's world, even if it isn't really possible to get Mexico to pick up the tab. According to Trump's own estimate of his own wealth, he could pay for the entire thing himself!! $20 billion only amounts to about sixty bucks per American, and it would keep a lot of people employed building it. In addition, many (American?) businesses would get healthy contracts.

My own guess? The wall would cost far more than that, plus ongoing maintenance, and would involve additional costs (and controversy) because of eminent domain issues. A wall is a physical structure, not an imaginary line on a map. You have to put that structure somewhere in the real world, and in many areas private property owners currently control that somewhere.

"As it is not economically feasible to transport cement and concrete across great distances, the biggest business beneficiaries will likely be within 200 miles of the border."

Just in passing - I wonder why we don't strictly enforce punishments for the companies and individuals who illegally employ undocumented workers. The vast majority of "illegals" just come here for jobs, right? So if people in that job-seeking group were never hired, there would be no reason to come. When I employed low-wage workers in convenience stores back in the day, I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure that anyone I hired had a legal SS#. Why doesn't every employer have to do the same? It seems to me that we deliberately look the other way to assure a supply of low-cost labor - and therefore to reduce the cost of the goods they help to produce. But maybe I'm just a dreamer.

Full disclosure: When I lived in Texas I often employed Spanish-speaking people to do yard work for me. I did not ask them for any ID's and I paid them in cash. They did great work without complaining, kept me out of the blazing Texas sun, and did so at a low price. Using this kind of laborer probably makes me a criminal, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say I was not the only American guilty of this particular criminal behavior. So I really can't be the sin-free citizen who casts the first stone.


  1. "Why doesn't every employer have to do the same?"

    Because they pay lobbyists very, VERY well to ensure that no such thing happens.

  2. Yeah, John, I reckon so. While I haven't ever researched the issue, my guess is that would be the #1 answer if we were playing Family Feud.

    1. Chamber of Commerce, right wing, pays big and fights hard for cheap labor. Democrats, left wing, think they can be converted into a deep blue electorate. This is why the right hates amnesty that leads to citizenship: they want them to stay illegal, uneducated, and therefore cheap.

      Neither side wants what many Americans want, which is for illegals to stay home and immigration law fixed.

  3. As you noted, concrete cannot be transported long distances. The largest cement and concrete company close to the border is the US branch of CEMEX, the Mexican concrete firm. So while it's unlikely we would get Mexico to pay for the wall, it's nearly certain that we would be paying them.