Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Free Flowing Capital and A Dammed Humanity...
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   06/15/2007)


Is it moral to allow free-flowing capital to cross all borders, while damming back the stream of human beings at the same borders? Is it even practical?

A world without economic borders is, of course, an impossible dream as long as national borders dam back people. For all its bureaucratic flaws (and there are many), Bush's immigration bill gets that much right.

It tacitly acknowledges inherent imbalances in globalization, which has been a sort of mantra of the past three administrations.

Globalization has transformed the face of Mexico, for example, by moving capital around in such a way that many factories that once located there from America and elsewhere, in pursuit of cheap labor have moved on to places like India and China in pursuit of even cheaper labor.

The result? More cheap goods from India. More environmental degradation. And more Mexicans heading north for a better life. How do we reconcile the free flow of capital across national borders with ancient impulses to dam back human beings not of our tribe? How do we manage economic tensions that result in resource wars, environmental decline and loss of human dignity?

These are defining questions of our age. We'd better get the answers right if we're to bequeath a world worth having to the next generation.

Of course increased trade and development offer obvious benefits, but they've always spawned dark consequences. Rat-infested ships of Europe's many harbors--freshly filled with spices and other bounties--incubated Black Plague many times over, infecting Europe with diseases for which its people had no defense.

It's estimated that at least a third of the population of Europe was wiped out in the 14th Century alone. A far greater percentage died in the Americas a couple centuries later when smallpox brought here by Europeans decimated Native Americans.

If you don't think such issues pertain in these times, just witness the recent TB scare in Atlanta, the spread of AIDS across the globe the past two decades, the invasion of non-native mollusks destroying the ecology of the Great Lakes, the deadly pet food from China. Witness the rush to exploit depleted uranium waste from Oak Ridge and elsewhere by building munitions for use in wars far away. The point is this:

If you want to slow illegal immigration from Mexico, global warming, runaway diseases, environmental decline, the death of native cultures everywhere, then gently apply the brakes to the headlong rush toward a global economy. Insist on equitable sharing of wealth, production standards, a clean environment, and accommodating the flow of displaced humanity.

Specifically, if illegal immigrants infuriate you, then slow their influx by fining or jailing the fat cats who hire them. I have my doubts the problem's as bad as many claim. But unless we find ways to accommodate those seeking better lives, then our only reasonable and humane choice is to dull the magnetic pull of money that draws them here, and dull the forces that drive them out of, say, Mexico.

It's the height of hypocrisy to allow the free flow of capital, which results in a booming economy for many, while damming back those chasing that boom across artificial borders created centuries past. That's nothing short of injustice, given the outsourcing that's led to so many empty factories in Mexico as well as Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Many in my own family moved to such industrial states decades ago seeking better lives. Now the flow is reversing, as many moving south from the rust belt. Such mobility is an essential right in places where today's boomtown is too often tomorrow's slum. Should Mexicans be forced to stew in cauldrons of poverty, or should they be allowed to chase the dreams promised by the global economy?

Increasingly, we have an oligarchy in America--government run for the benefit of the wealthy. It supports cheap labor by socializing costs while privatizing profits. So let's stop blaming the Mexicans. Our ire should be against a system that exploits cheap labor and natural resources the world over for the benefit of a few, without worrying about the plight of the poor, environmental degradation, or the shape of the future.