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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Texas Landgrab... by the Government

Last week a law was signed by the president that forces the creation of a 700 mile long fence across the border between the US and Mexico. The aim is of course to lesn the number of immigrants coming to our country illegally. This particular issue hits on a couple great hot button issues, eminent domain and illegal immigration. Since I am not sure how to apply the ideas of Pareto Optimality to the illegal immigration dispute without adding in another value judgment or two lets look at the Fence itself.

Eminent Domain allows the federal government in this case to take up over 700 miles of this mostly privately owned land to use at it sees fit while only providing "just" compensation. Much of the value of the land that is to be taken is not in the land itself but in the location of the land. Since it borders the Rio Grand the land is used for irrigation that may be cut off by the fence. Should that irrigation be cut off then the rest of the land attached to these pieces becomes worth much less sine they cannot support crops without the water.

It seems that a huge scale benefit cost analysis could lend some insight into this program. Whether the proposed cost of the fence (estimated to be on the order of 2 to 9 million dollars) as well as the cost of "just" compensation to all the land owners along the proposed 700 miles, all the lighting and electronic sensing equipment, maintenance and the loss of productivity by the farms and business along the path of the fence. With the astronomical costs of this proposal I would hope that somewhere there are some damn good benefits to this to be able to offset them.

Story: http://www.mcall.com/news/opinion/all-editorial1oct31,0,1624792.story?coll=all-opiniontop-hed

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