The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

A Silk Purse?


Living close to the water in a coastal community, sea level rise is not an academic issue to me – it is personal.  I know we cannot just build a wall to hold back the sea, nor can we elevate entire cities, but I have been impressed with how effective “improved drainage” can be, including large storm water retention ponds.  It is not a simple matter of raising all roads and structures or fleeing the coast.  We must manage the rising water level, not run from it, nor ignore it.

I recall the stories my father told me about how effective the Work Progress Administration (WPA) was during the Great Depression, when large numbers of unemployed men were put to work clearing forests, building roads and campgrounds, etc.

As a small boy, I recall old-fashioned “gangs” of 15-20 prisoners, cleaning out drainage ditches in my neighborhood, under watch by a guard with a rifle.

As long as America is a rich country, people will try to get here – both for jobs and for safety.  Rather than just building a wall or lining the border with armed guards, can we manage the inflow and control it and benefit from it?  No wall will hold back the sea, and no wall will hold back the flood of people looking for jobs and safety.

Does a new WPA make any sense?  We could relieve pressure at the border by busing the refugees directly to pick crops, pick up litter, to dig new ditches and clear old ones.  Every county in America needs something done.  Or, they could rake leaves in forests from coast-to-coast?

Our security could be cheaply maintained by inserting an RFID into each arm.  We could then identify the location of each person immediately.  (Any scar indicating its subsequent removal would be grounds for immediate deportation.)  If temporary tent-cities are good enough for kids, these movable camps are good enough for adults.  We could also require language training each week.  Lots of details!

There must be some useful way to manage all that manpower.  It is an economic sin to waste either money . . . or manpower!