Tag: auction

Reforming the Diversity Visa Could Pay for the Wall: Here’s How

Any bipartisan deal to reopen the federal government and deal with DACA would have to legalize some of the DREAMers, increase border enforcement, amend the diversity immigrant visa program, and fund the construction of a border wall. Democrats have compromised on the border wall but they are still only going to fund about half the lowest estimated cost of about $8 to $10 billion. There is a way to fund construction of the border wall without using taxpayer money or for Congressional Democrats to allocate a penny more than the $8 to $10 billion that they are considering: The Border Wall Investment Visa Program (BWIVP).

As proposed here, this new program would take 10,000 green cards from the 50,000 currently allocated diversity immigrant visa program, or whatever successor program Congress creates to replace it. Congress could then shift those 10,000 green cards to a new immigration category called the Border Wall Investment Visa Program (BWIVP), which would auction them to the highest bidders each year. Under such a system, each green card could sell for at least $100,000 and potentially much more. At that high of a price, the BWIVP would raise $1 billion each year to fund the construction of a border wall without raising taxes. Congress should write into law that all funds raised through the BWIVP should automatically go toward wall construction and maintenance. Of course, Congress could also auction more or fewer than 10,000 green cards a year but this is a nice round number for the purpose of an example.

The $1 billion a year raised through the BWIVP would fund the construction of an additional 46 miles of fencing a year without taxpayers spending a dime, if the recent estimated cost of replacing the border fence were any guide to the costs of future construction. An extra $1 billion a year raised through a BWIVP would significantly stretch the eventual length of the wall relative to other funding options. Nobel Prize Winning economist Gary Becker proposed a $50,000 price per green card in 2011 but suggested selling a million annually. Prices will have undoubtedly risen since then and the BWIVP would only auction 10,000 green cards a year, so the price for each one would be higher. 

How’s that Big-Government Environmentalism Workin’ For Ya’?

I don’t know what conclusion the correspondent who sent me this pair of articles meant for me to draw, but I think they nicely illustrate how centralizing power with the federal government fails to advance environmental values, while eroding others.

First, there’s the AP story showing deep and extensive ties between offshore oil and gas companies and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation. That’s the renamed Minerals Management Service, the agency that was supposed to prevent things like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last summer.

Everyone dreams of a “real regulator” that will clean up industry, protect public values, and smartly manage economic activity. What you routinely end up with is a pro-industry self-dealing agency that fails to protect the values it was assigned while mismanaging productive activity. Case in point.

Next, woe be it to the environmental activist who goes monkey-wrenching government-industry plans. Tim DeChristopher has been sentenced to two years in prison and fined $10,000 for derailing a government auction of oil and gas leases near two national parks in Utah. DeChristopher ran up bids on 13 parcels totaling more than 22,000 acres near Arches and Canyonlands national parks, then failed to make good on his bids.

I suspect I would find DeChristopher’s environmentalism at least overwrought, but when did it become a criminal offense to default on an auction bid? When the government got into the business, that’s when. Instead of, say, pre-qualifying bidders, it evidently just uses its monopoly on coercion to lock up people who mess around with its action.

Command-and-control is probably the simplest way to advance environmental values, but it has failed so dramatically so many times, and it fosters a punitive state that jails its citizens. The simplest way to advance environmental goals may not be the best.

If you prioritize the environment, and if you’ve read this far in this post, I suspect you might be willing to consider more harmonious ways of pushing for a greener planet, ways that respect and use private property rights and that don’t put people in jail. Free-market environmentalism exists, though it’s a ways off from here.