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The Borders of Inequality

Where Wealth and Poverty Collide

By Íñigo Moré; Translated by Lyn Dominguez

Publication Year: 2011

Recently U.S. media, policymakers, and commentators of all stripes have been preoccupied with the nation’s border with Mexico. Airwaves, websites, and blogs are filled with concerns over border issues: illegal immigrants, drug wars, narcotics trafficking, and “securing the border.” While this is a valid conversation, it’s rarely contrasted with the other U.S. border, with Canada— still the longest unguarded border on Earth.

In this fascinating book, originally published in Spain to much acclaim, researcher Íñigo Moré looks at the bigger picture. With a professionally trained eye, he examines the world’s “top twenty most unequal borders.” What he finds is that many of these border situations share similar characteristics. There is always illegal immigration from the poor country to the wealthy one. There is always trafficking in illegal substances. And the unequal neighbors usually regard each other with suspicion or even open hostility.

After surveying the “top twenty,” Moré explores in depth the cases of three borders: between Germany and Poland, Spain and Morocco, and the United States and Mexico. The core problem, he concludes, is not drugs or immigration or self-protection. Rather, the problem is inequality itself. Unequal borders result, he writes, from a skewed interaction among markets, people, and states. Using these findings, Moré builds a useful new framework for analyzing border dynamics from a quantitative view based on economic inequality.

The Borders of Inequality illustrates how longstanding “multidirectional misunderstandings” can exacerbate cross-border problems—and consequent public opinion. Perpetuating these misunderstandings can inflame and complicate the situation, but purposeful efforts to reduce inequality can produce promising results.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix

List of Tables

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii

The ideas discussed in this book have been developed over the past decade, slowly acquiring density. The theoretical framework was first published by the author as the Elcano Royal Institute of Spain working paper “El Escalón Económico entre Vecinos” (2003), and was further developed in the article ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi

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1. Walls, Fences, Barriers

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pp. 1-5

Near the end of winter in 58 BC, Julius Caesar was named proconsul of Gaul. He hadn’t yet arrived there when he got word on March 28 that a horde of Helvetians, the inhabitants of today’s Switzerland, had massed along the banks of the Rhone River and the shores of Lake Geneva. He would later learn that they were an entire ...

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2. Inequality

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pp. 6-26

Geography is a science that has fallen on hard times. It has been overwhelmed by the exuberant technology in our daily lives. The news always shows a map of the area being discussed; children no longer memorize capital cities, just how to find them on the Internet. Even taxi drivers don’t know their immediate ...

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3. The Anatomy of Inequality

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pp. 27-83

When the J. W. Powell tried to berth the ship in Las Palmas, the port authority denied entry, on instructions from the military authorities. This denial was unusual in the history of this or any other Spanish port, and even more so considering that the ship carried the U.S. flag and was registered in Galveston, Texas. ...

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4. How Is a Step Built?

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pp. 84-97

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago of seven islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara; now contested between Morocco and the Polisario Front). It is southwest of Europe, at the same latitude as Miami. This means that life in the archipelago is centered on tourism ...

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5. How Can a Step Be Reduced?

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pp. 98-129

Being richer than the country next door causes similar problems for almost all nations that are in this situation: the problems generated by wealth interfere with its enjoyment. All that’s left is its possession. This is just the opposite of Michel de Montaigne’s recommendation in his essay about inequality, where he states ...

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6. Conclusion: The Step

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pp. 130-134

There is illegal immigration from the poor country to the rich country on all of these borders. On almost all of them the poor country is a significant producer of drugs and has large networks of narcotics trafficking. The majority of these borders have territorial disputes, as their economic differences are always ...

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7. Afterword: Frontiers without Borders

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pp. 135-142

When Michael Jackson wanted to make a video of his social protest song “They Don’t Care about Us,” he went to Brazil. He wanted to find a thousand poor people in the most abandoned place in the developed world. It was 1996, and to do the shoot he went to Rio de Janeiro, one of the few places on earth where misery ...

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Appendix: The World’s Economic Step

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pp. 143-150

Calculations of the world’s economic step are based on GDP per capita data (in U.S. dollars) for 2004 from the International Monetary Fund, available on its Web site under “World Economic Outlook” (WEO). The IMF does not offer data for countries such as Afghanistan and North Korea, which are likely to have an elevated ...


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pp. 151-158


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pp. 159-164


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pp. 165-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780816508396
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529322

Publication Year: 2011