Reciprocal Vistas


I've received about 50 emails so far in response to my LA Times piece yesterday—of which my favorite subject line is the succinct and easily satisfied "Shut Up!" There were many more positive responses than I had expected, though they were still far outnumbered by the negatives. Two different people have asked whether there is any group or lobby advocating the visaless intra-NAFTA exchange I proposed, so maybe there's a movement starting! My favorite response was one that took Keynesian economics to where it would have ended up if John Maynard Keynes had been Dr. Strangelove: "We have to eliminate the jobs to eliminate the incentive."

A guy named Mark Sethre said he was going to post my exchange with him on his blog, and I said I'd throw him a link, but it turns out to be pretty much a caveblog and our exchange didn't make it in. Anyway, Sethre raised an issue that was common to most of the dissenters: lack of reciprocity by Canada and Mexico. According to this claim, our neighbors to the north and south will never allow Americans to settle, work, start businesses, or otherwise come and go freely. So why should we?

I'm not too well equipped to address this issue, because I don't know if it's true. I can say I went through more document searches and security rigamarole getting into a press screening of Fellowship of the Ring than I did getting into Canada: They asked to see my passport and I showed it, but I hear tell that I could have just shown them a drivers license, and in any event Mrs. Cavanaugh, in a different line, did not have to show a passport. I've never been to Mexico at all, and am still working off my vision of it as the great lawless frontier where Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw can disappear with their hundreds of thousands of stolen dollars. Is there really anything preventing an American from going down to Mexico, staying indefinitely, working, or starting a business?

If so, I'd be interested in knowing how much of a barrier such regulations actually present. In any event, reciprocity works the same way in law as in oral sex: One partner has to go downtown first.