Walls.  What are they good for?

Anything that impedes the free trade between neighbors is a bad thing for both parties. Even the open demonstration of a lack of trust with a neighbor breeds an often inhospitable relationship and let's face it... You can't just move a country because you have an issue with a neighbor.

Over the past few years, I've been lucky enough to spend time in Europe. I love history. The lessons we can learn from it often dictate the future. One city I was blessed to visit was Venice, Italy.

Of all the cities and cultural places I visited, including Paris, Rome, London, Florence, etc., Venice is special. The history there is best told in the subtle, less obvious. But when it comes to wealth, no city I have ever visited demonstrates opulence like Venice. Why? Because Venice represents how trade generates wealth.

Not only was Venice the key city that controlled trade in the Mediterranean, but it represented Marco Polo and his journeys eastward to eventually create the Silk Road and trade with China, etc. It was the Venetians that understood that opening trade up to other cultures, other countries, other languages, created the greatest of wealth for them - they never restricted trade. They didn't attempt to isolate themselves from it.

The Venetians also demonstrated that finding ways to thwart the system created opportunities that benefited us all.

In a small back-water part of the city lies the Cannaregio area - and within it, the Campo del Ghetto (Jewish Ghetto).

It is a simple area - nothing noteworthy to the eye. But the history there defines our modern world in the 21st century. You see, this is where modern investment banking was invented.

How the Jewish Venetians "hacked" the system

The Italian people were strict followers of the bible. In those teachings, they were strictly followed the rules as stated in Deuteronomy ("You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it."). Without an incentive to spread around the wealth, the money was horded by the traders or the royalty. There was little circulation.

But here's the problem. On the mainland of Italy, lies farmland. In order to feed the people, the farmers grew crops. Those crops are seasonal. You have to buy seed and plant, with the hope that the weather will be kind and you will yield your crops 3, 6 or 12 months later. This requires a leap of faith on behalf of the farmer. How do you survive through the periods before your crops can be picked? How do you begin the process without funding to purchase seed and labor to plant, knowing that you are punting on the future crop yield for your profits?

The Venetians didn't have walls - they had "finance walls"

If you can't get access to credit to obtain money to buy seed, or a ship to sail and trade with, or to purchase goods as they come into the ports, etc. then you cannot participate in the economy. You are subject only to find meager wages as a laborer and you are forced to remain poor.

Sure, you are free to travel anywhere you want. But how do you fund that journey? The lack of available money is a "wall" that restricts your ability to roam.

But then the jewish people had a brilliant idea. Take the bible verse literally and therein lies the solution:

The Bible further permitted lending money on interest to a “stranger”, but prohibited it to a fellow Jew (“your brother”).

So a Jew could lend money at interest to a Gentile, but not to a fellow Jew. And Gentiles could not lend money at interest to fellow Gentiles, but could to a Jew. There's the hack. The word "stranger".

And so began the practice of what we know of today as the banking industry. Money was clearly available for trade, farming, other investments, etc. if you could pay the interest on the loans and you could borrow from someone considered a stranger. And business thrived. Wealth distributed and everyone won. The farmer could now invest in seed, plant crops and harvest - paying off the loan and interest so that he had capital for the next season.

Sometimes it takes radical thinking to break free of any wall

The history of Venice has taught us that the western world would not have been able to grow at the pace it has in history without credit. It is the key to having a prosperous and wealthy country vs having a "third world" country. That those that have access to capital, even if it is not their own, can use it as a tool to generate wealth yet those that do not have such access are cursed to live in poverty.

Smart wins here. Risk taking wins here. We have to begin to understand that celebrating the "hacker" is better than to demonize them.

What we often forget is that hackers come in all shapes and sizes. Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak funded some of their early years selling "blue boxes" - devices that would let you illegally make phone calls by creating tones that played into the mouthpiece of a telephone handset, and tricked the phone exchange into believing you had deposited coins or routed calls around exchanges to give free calls to anyone. It was a playful "hack" trick that was popular. Selling these devices out of a van in a back alley made money. With that money, they eventually funded what today is the most profitable business in the United States.

We celebrate Jobs & Wozniak as heroes. Yet when hacking is used for "evil" (and your definition of this may vary due to subjectivity), then we demonize it. Kevin Mitnick, for example, was demonized, jailed, put in solitary confinement, etc. for the identical playful hacking of systems in the 1980s and 1990s. There is no evidence that anything he did created any harm or financial loss. Yet it was easier for politicians and courts to demonize and jail him.

Prosecutors would tell judges that Mitnick had the power to whistle the launch codes for nukes into phones and this was used as the basis for solitary confinement and reducing access to telephones while incarcerated. Clearly this was false, but if you create fear, you can say anything to anyone to try and paint a picture of someone. Whether truthful or fiction.

Today Kevin Mitnick is free. He is a wealthy man. Why? Because he took his notoriety to create a company that would teach other organizations how to protect themselves. He has authored countless books on the subject and his contributions to society far outweigh anything that he did against that society in his younger years. In fact by "hacking" his notoriety, he created a booming business in a time that we need as much cyber protection as we can get.

Why walls won't work and will hinder, not help

Fast forward to 2018. Donald Trump is the President of the USA. He was elected on promises of "Build a Wall", among other issues. The wall is a barrier with the southern border of the USA, restricting the free flow of people between Mexico and the USA. At the time of writing, congress has not (yet) approved the budget for doing such a wall and this remains a hot issue between the White House and Congress.

I hate the wall. I hate all walls. They never work. But to many that believe in securing borders, mainly out of fear, they believe it is the ultimate visible demonstration of what needs to be done. They are told that millions will flood into the USA from central America if we don't build a wall. That our freedom and way of life is at risk. That some illegal will kill you, rape your wife, steal your job, etc. if we don't "build a wall". And as a further insult to our southern neighbor, he tried to tell his followers that "Mexico will pay for the wall". WTF? You on drugs dude?

History has taught us that progress often comes in spite of poorly thought through laws. Like the Jews in Venice. Like Steve Jobs & Wozniak. Without their blatant disregard for law, or seeing it as a challenge to get around rather than an immovable obstacle, wealth and progress is created. Would Apple be as big and powerful today if it was restricted from exporting its products to the rest of the world? Would it be able to produce products at its price points without partnering with external trading partners in far off lands?

But even when walls are created, it just makes "hackers" more creative. And they are super smart to begin with. You won't stop them. Many hackers have law degrees and are "attorneys". Their job is to read the law and find holes in it to exploit on behalf of their clients. Business leaders are "hackers". They find opportunities by looking under the rocks that most of us walk right past. We celebrate entrepreneurs who are the risk takers and creators of new inventions, but aren't they also just "hackers" of sorts?

So let's look at what is really going on

We, in the USA, benefit from the shadow workforce that are illegals that managed to hack the border system and get in. They mow our lawns, they clean up our tables at the restaurant, they look after our elderly in nursing homes, they paint our houses, they build our buildings, they pick the produce on the farm. Jobs most Americans won't take due to the low wages. Without this workforce, we would be poor. Because the costs of not using this labor force would drive key labor costs sky-high and this would trigger a run on effect in inflation, etc. We are seeing this with new threats of "tariffs" on goods & services from other countries. Everything begins the upward pricing and gets more expensive.

The wall won't restrict any smart "hacker". They will simply tunnel under it. Or they will scale it. Or they will fly over it. Or they will deliver over it with drones, etc.

But what they fail to tell you is that the majority of illegal immigrants in the USA didn't come over the border like that. They flew in on an airplane and overstayed their VISA. I've met lots of them. I remember when I first came to the USA, I played in a band as a guitarist and our lead singer was from Ireland. Although he was in the USA under a permanent residency VISA, many of his friends from Ireland were not. Through him, I met that community. They welcomed me in because I, too, was an immigrant. But I met people with stories to tell of how they flew into Canada, stowed on board (sometimes underneath) trains that came into the USA, and then they were in. The level of creativity here was amazing.

No wall would stop that. Yet the Irish population are not considered a threat. They have given much more than they have taken from US society.

Another example, that directly relates back to the Venetian experience is farming. Farming in the USA is definitely in a "bear market". Farmers, particularly in regions that have weather that will allow the growing of produce that we eat everyday (California for example) have been subject to droughts for a very long time. Then recently, extreme weather events have brought upon them fires and floods that have further destroyed their land.

But worse is that if you plant crops and take on all that risk, then you go to pick them and you can't get labor. The immigrant workforce is limited or non-existent. Even the shadow economy won't show itself for fear of mass deportation. So the crops die on the vine. What does make it to your dinner table is 3x more expensive.

How do you meet the needs of the population, if you can't get the food from the vine to the table?

Easy. You go to a region that has an abundance of labor and great weather and you grown there. And that is what Californian farmers are doing. Either by buying land from private land holders in Mexico, or by partnering with said landholders, they are moving their farms south of the border where there is an abundance of labor, and similar weather, and they are farming there. They will sell their land to make condominiums in the USA, take the proceeds and buy farming land in Baja, or Sonora or wherever and return back to what they were born to do - farm.

Then they ship the produce on trucks back into the USA. I've seen this with my own eyes and I filmed it. I will be releasing a documentary on this subject in the near future via d.tube. They realize that Mexico doesn't impose a wall to restrict US persons from coming in, but we do everything against our own best interest to restrict and stifle trade coming back. This is just plain stupid.

So the choice is pretty simple

If you want to live in a land that has the wealth of the Venetians, you have to realize that the "system" doesn't work for you and that the only way to break free of it is to take the "hacker mindset" and find creative ways to thwart it. Hopefully you realize that doing this legally is the best approach. After all any attorney worth their salt is simply a legal hacker.

And if you want to do the greatest good for your country, it is to not restrict the free flow of trade between regions. Tariffs are simply taxes - nothing more, and they stop trade. They force business leaders to become "hackers" to get around the increasing price of goods & services, and find more creative ways that ultimately may leave a lasting negative legacy on the country. Once those farmers started to move south into Mexico, those farms are not coming back. The condo complexes built on their lands are not going to be bulldozed to return to farm land anytime soon. Mexico wins because now they get a tax base for the income, and we now pay for the same produce anyway.

Really poor government policy is illustrated best in the "drug war" that has created more death and the rise of cartels that still are able to move their goods into the USA based on supply/demand rather than realize this is a war that can't be won. The legalization of marijuana (and its popularity) demonstrates that we are progressing into a time where prohibition on this is being removed. States are enacting legalization of recreational weed all the time.

Portugal, for example, decriminalized pretty much all drugs and it didn't fall into a state of despair. I'm not a fan of drugs personally, but I also do not believe that I have the right to tell anyone how they should live. I don't want to see anything negative affect my community but I certainly don't see anything positive how the US government is currently addressing this problem, other than creating a major wealth jackpot for privatized prison investors. With the annual cost of between $85K-$100K to house a prisoner in a prison, you can see how our tax dollars are going right back to the private sector to do this work, and with such a huge percentage of the prison population in there for non-violent crimes, often around drugs, this is simply a war that isn't working and a private sector laughing all the way to the bank on the dysfunctional government policies.

The same will be true of the "wall". When people start to realize that this wall only keeps US people jailed in, and doesn't work to stop the inflow of people and trade (because smart people will be "hackers"), it will be too late to see the reduction in US economic interests and widespread negative impact, that it could be too late.

Take a lesson from history here. Walls don't work. Just ask any German. Just ask the Venetians. Having a better relationship with your neighbor, showing them respect, learning from their culture and bettering yourself is the only solution.

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