Buy a ticket to freedom

By ART CULLEN

Ideas drive prosperity. That’s the thesis of Dr. Deidre McCloskey, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois in Chicago, writing in The Wall Street Journal an essay entitled “‘How the West (and the Rest) Got Rich.” She points to the Great Enrichment in Europe of the 1700s born of the Enlightenment philosophy. It was, as Adam Smith put it, “allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice.”

Many of the great inventions were made by immigrants or their children, from Einstein to Ford to Iowa’s own father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug. The Great Enrichment inspired Tom Paine and made America what it is. We believe that what is going on today is its extension: the great waves of immigrants coming to the USA over the past 30 years bring ideas crashing onto our shores with them.

When we shut out people, denying them their liberation, we are the losers for it. But that is what we are doing because the USA cannot figure out how to sort immigrants.

It occurs to us that we are sorting them now by cash. Immigrants must come up with thousands of dollars to hire a coyote to smuggle them to the United States border. They then cross with the risk of being returned immediately without recourse. People willing to risk everything are the kind of people we want — people who want to be free.

So let’s figure out how much these people must pay the coyotes, on average, and set that amount for your ticket into America. You pay $3,000 and you get in. Under the current system, we tell people to wait about 13 years and then we will let you in for free. They then come illegally, but they remain hiding with their ideas that could expand on Einstein’s if given opportunity.

If, after you send your money order for $3,000 to the US State Department, you clear the FBI database for known drug cartel members you get a green card for residency. If it is shown that you do not have a job or started a business within 90 days, you are rounded up and sent back without your $3,000 deposit.

It is the ultimate American standard: If you have the cash, you can buy it.

It’s libertarian thinking, without a doubt. The classic progressive and conservative ways of managing our porous borders — and keeping our nation the world’s most dynamic — have failed us. That’s why we have 10 million or more undocumented immigrants. Charge them each $3,000 and you can build a wall as high as you want. But you will not need it. The flow of ideas and prosperity will be so great we will forget why we ever thought about that wall.