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By: William A. Shields

In Joseph Wambaugh’s Lines And Shadows, a book about law enforcement incidents near the Mexican border area south of San Diego, the author made an important and sometimes overlooked observation. That is that the line we call our southern border separates two economies even more than it separates two countries.

People cross lines every day for a lot of different reasons, some honorable and some not. Some are taking advantage of favorable economic conditions and some are seeking the benefits of a more tolerant jurisdiction for whatever activities they feature. Post World War II Cuba had a thriving tourism industry because it offered a venue for Americans to do things that were illegal in the states. Then in 1959, a party pooper named Castro pulled the plug on capitalism and hedonism and now Havana nights just aren’t as fun as they used to be.




Until 1972 my home state of Delaware maintained a whipping post. “Red Hannah” was last used publicly in 1952, but was locally viewed as an effective crime deterrent as long as it was a legal punishment. I clearly remember my father remarking that Delaware criminals would cross the state line into Pennsylvania to rob gas stations simply to avoid a possible whipping, should they get caught.  “So we’re exporting crime.” I said. “That’s a bad thing?” he asked.


As Cuba once made itself attractive to gamblers and tourists, Delaware has enticed its neighbors in surrounding states to leave home and purchase merchandise in The First State. Since there is no sales tax in Delaware, the retail industry thrives. The shopping mall parking lots are full of cars with Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey license plates. What’s better than your neighbors coming into your state, leaving their money and going directly home, taking consumables and merchandise with them and leaving jobs in their wake?




I’m sure by now the reader has caught on to the formula. Economic freedom and deregulation attracts consumers and businesses and the result is prosperity. Punishing truly bad behavior tends to convince those who would burden us in that fashion to ply their trade in another jurisdiction. But Delaware lawmakers are not quick studies. In a veritable declaration of war on private property rights, Delaware legislators and Governor Minner have made it illegal to smoke indoors in any bar or restaurant in the First State. And now that giant sucking sound heard around Delaware is the sound of dollars being vacuumed out of state and being spent on the other side of the line where smoking freedom prevails, and private property is respected. Ocean City Maryland will now benefit at the expense of Rehoboth, Delaware. The sleepy towns of Pennsville and Salem, New Jersey, just across the bridge from Wilmington, suddenly look like a good place to open a small tavern or a restaurant. Once the bar and restaurant patrons leave, the businesses won’t be far behind. 




Delaware’s size and location, along with some other favorable numerical characteristics, is drawing the attention of one particular group of political activists who may soon cross into Delaware en masse. They call themselves porcupines (hands off) and they are the members of Free State Project. When they get here (if Delaware is chosen as the target state) they plan to make over Delaware in a small government, libertarian fashion. 20,000 (initially) libertarians suddenly making themselves heard politically within Delaware’s small voting population will surely look like a political bayonet charge to the establishment’s big government parties.


Perhaps these porcupines can show Delaware how to use its strategically suited size and location to attract the good and export the bad. Maybe we need a porcupine to show us what lines, borders and jurisdictions are for, and how to use them to advantage.



William A. Shields is a USA Daily columnist. He has also been a contributor to the American Reformation Project. Willie is a "once and always" U.S. Marine with 19 years experience as an air traffic controller. The former chairman of the Delaware Reform Party, and a past president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, EWR Local, he has held positions in the rail, aviation and marine transportation industries. A freelance writer, Mr. Shields owns and operates a small business in Wilmington, Delaware. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

William A, Shields can be reached at: wshields@comcast.net

Published in the January 2, 2003 issue of  Ether Zone.
Copyright 1997 - 2003 Ether Zone.

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