There has been recent talk about fulfilling a campaign promise to build a wall protecting the 2,000 mile border between the United States and Mexico from mass immigration and terrorists. A big part of the argument is who will pay for it. It has been suggested that Mexico put up the pesos for the wall.
Oddly enough it was this month in 1848 the United States and Mexico signed the peace Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican War. Part of the treaty gave Mexico $15 million and the U.S. got its Manifest Destiny “from sea to shining sea” fulfilled.
The U.S. took parts of or all of the present day states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas. Ironically, it was same year that gold was discovered in California that set the ‘49s off on the same quest for Eldorado that had the first Spanish Conquistadors two centuries earlier tramping about the Southwest in search of the lost city of gold.
The treaty basically set the borders of the two countries and set up terms of trade and commerce along the new border. It also allowed Mexicans in the newly acquired territories to remain in what is now the United States. Within a year these Mexicans would become citizens. Of course that was 169 years ago.
This campaign-inspired 2,000 mile wall would be the most ambitious under taking of constructing a wall since the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, ordered nearly 300,000 soldiers, peasants and convicts to begin building the 3,000 mile wall known as The Great Wall. The Great Wall was started around 220 BCE and it would be safe to say this was not a jobs project despite the longevity. It took centuries to complete, rebuild and maintain. The wall was intended to keep back invading hordes. Later it was to protect trade and commerce along the Silk Road. It is believed that 400,000 people died building the wall and according reference.com to this centuries-long construction project set the Chinese back about $360 billion. Now, China is cashing. The wall is a tourist destination with more than 10 million visitors a year.
Another tourist destination is on the other side of the Earth is in England: Hadrian’s Wall. Roman Emperor Hadrian came to the outer most reaches of the empire in Britannia in 122 AD. And again it was to keep the uncivilized rabble out. He decided that a wall was needed to keep Britannia barbarians at bay.
Although not as ambitions as the Great Wall, this 73 mile wall runs from sea-to-sea and was designed in efficient Roman style. Roman military engineers and soldiers of three legions systematically placed gates, mile castles, observation points and forts along the wall to allow rapid deployment of troops.
It took 14 years to build the wall. It is probably safe to say this was not a jobs project any more than the Great Wall Romans had no problem putting conquered people to work. Hadrian’s Wall was one of the biggest building projects undertaken up by the Romans. That is saying a lot because the Romans were not shy about civil engineering, or the use of slave labor for infrastructure projects like aqueducts and roads, public baths and sewer systems. Today tourist can take a 10 day walking tour along the paths trodden by legionaries and barbarians alike.
Historians have debated how successful these walls were in keeping people out. But if a wall keeps people out the converse is true. East Germany, under Soviet Union’s control, saw the exodus of nearly 3 million people from 1949 to 1961 into West Germany. In June of 1961 19,000 people left East Germany through un-walled portions of West Berlin. On August 12, 2,400 people, the most ever to leave in a single day crossed over to West Berlin.
The East Germans had had enough of this mass exodus. On August 13, East German soldiers, policemen and “volunteer” construction workers began sealing off the two halves of Berlin with barbed wire and concrete block walls. It only took the Germans two weeks to get the make-shift wall up. By 1980 there would be 90 miles of walls with, electric fences, and barbed wire and watch towers splitting the two Berlins and surrounding West Berlin. According to CNBC this splitting cost $25 million or $200 million adjusted for inflation. Today, ten to twenty million people annually visit Berlin, and no doubt a few stop off to see sections of what is left of the Berlin Wall.
East Germany said the wall was designed to keep the fascist West out.Official figures list 139 people were killed trying to cross the wall. There is no record of a West Berliner climbing over the wall to get into East Germany. The grim reality was to keep East Germans in.
Walls by their very nature attract people. When these walls were built they were not designed to attract tourist but were built with a military purpose to keep people out. When it comes to building “The Wall” on our Southern Border maybe we should skip the security aspect of “The Wall” and go right to the tourist attractions.
Instead, make it a “jobs” project. At a recent press conference President Donald Trump said he was going to be the “greatest jobs producer that God ever created.” Creating “The Wall” could send tens of thousands of unemployed and underemployed Americans to the border for jobs. Politician from California to Texas and then some could join the president in boasting about how many new jobs they have created.
But jobs are just the beginning. It seems apropos that a real estate mogul, a builder of sky scrapers, golf courses and casinos would propose building a 2,000 mile wall. A recent estimate is it will cost more than $21 billion dollars to build and take at least four years to complete. A simple solution to defer some of the cost is to privatize “The Wall.” Instead of strategically placed forts let developers and corporations bid to build casinos, spas, amusement parks and golf course that could attract international tourists.
Companies could lease out sections of wall plastered with their logos much like cities do with football and baseball stadiums. Wall artists could buy sections and paint “The Wall.” There could be Mexican Wall Marathons. Hollywood could use sections of “The Wall” for outdoor theater openings for movies. There are endless possibilities. Building “The Wall” creates jobs and could be a prefect public/private partnership that could be profitable for everybody — even Mexico.
We should all remember the words of our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge: “The business of America is business.” No country in the world does business better then US.
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