When the grass really is greener on the other side, it’s natural for people to want to cross the border. This is the crux of the illegal immigration debate raging in the United States. Mexican nationals desiring greater prosperity go to tremendous lengths to cross the border into a country that promises more opportunity. The Index of Economic Freedom confirms that the U.S., with a score of 78, is economically freer than Mexico, which scores 68.8. The grass is definitely greener in the United States.
Many have suggested building a fence on the Mexican-American border to keep illegal immigrants out. Yet other countries have built fences on their borders to keep their people in. Under the control of the Soviet Union, East Germany built the Berlin Wall to prevent its citizens from escaping to the more prosperous West Germany. Still, East Germans desperately tried to escape, even using homemade flying machines to cross the border. Had The Heritage Foundation measured economic freedom in 1988, West Germany would undoubtedly have had a much higher score than their neighbor to the east.
Today, North and South Korea share both a name and a peninsula, but no one can argue that North Koreans are better off than their southern counterparts. North Korea has a pitiful economic freedom score of 1.0 while South Korea scores 69.9 on the Index. It’s no wonder that the Demilitarized Zone exists. Good fences may make good neighbors, but to those living in a repressed society, the main goal of border fences seem to be to keep citizens from seeing what’s on the other side.
Renee Pirrong is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm