At least three good things and five not so good things silently cross a country’s borders each day.
The three good things are; ideas, financial capital (investments, money, payments) and skills (held by highly sought-after employees and entrepreneurs).
The five not so good things are: smuggled drugs, smuggled weapons, cyber-crime, pollution and people (smuggled across borders).

Even amongst the three good things, can you have too much of a good thing moving between countries? If skills migrate too rapidly between countries, perhaps there is a loss of stability, a loss of momentum, a loss of investor confidence and/or a loss of a country’s ability to differentiate itself from others (a threat to its tourism industry?).

Offsetting the ‘fast follower’ duplication of skills, you can also have skills migrating one way and ideas migrating the other causing specialisation. For example the growth of a highly-skilled research and development industry (including higher education) in one country and the growth of a mass-production economy in another country.

Perhaps governments need to re-form the debate about border controls to separate the three favourable things from the others. That would lead to re-focussing border-control resources to be effective in limiting the five not so good things, but streamlining the flow of the three good things.

To limit the flow of the not so good things, you can try and stop the flow at its source, in transit or at the destination. Perhaps trading blocks should re-form around the wider border necessary to limit the flow at the wider border level and also pool the ’border control money’ from the bloc membership, to spend the total amount more effectively at source, in transit and at destination, to get the best outcome. Also, it almost goes without saying, that rationally, the laws applying to the trading block should support this approach and not undermine it.

Interestingly, four out of five of the not so good border flows; smuggled drugs, smuggled weapons, cyber-crime and people (smuggled across borders) are driven by economic incentives, while pollution is the result of production (or commuting), which itself is driven by economic incentives. That said, some people smuggling may be as much because the people are social-value migrants (escaping persecution, sexism and prejudice) as much as they are economic migrants, seeking a higher standard of living for their families.

So how do you fund a more effective border control service?
Firstly, use the proceeds of crime (and pollution taxes) from those five not so good border crossing things, to reduce the economic incentives for the initiators.

Secondly, return smuggled people to their home countries and penalise those same home country governments who cause their citizens to flee, by withholding foreign aid money. In addition, perhaps a more effective way to distribute aid money is to donate it directly to the relief charities (and strongly encourage them to convert it into goods at the first opportunity) who are committed to cope with welfare problems created for people fleeing the home country.

What it that isn’t enough money to help?
Another source of funds is the foreign aid money otherwise going to countries who are not using it effectively (corruption), or choosing to spend scarce government money building nuclear weapons arsenals and prestigious space programmes. Suggest that if the trading block as a whole pools their foreign aid money, the actions and impacts will be maximised and not work at cross purposes.

What about failed-nation states, that have simply ceased functioning as a nation and instead fractured into a series of small tribal fiefdoms?
Perhaps an opportunity exists to set up walled UN cities in such locations, using donated green energy infrastructure, defended by UN troops, with UN funding to rebuilding the state around them into some kind of environment that allows the failed-nation citizens to enjoy the freedoms as outlined in the UN charter of human rights. Such UN cities could also become the final destination for the select group of refugees escaping their home country on humanitarian grounds (not economic or social value).

Wouldn’t building UN cities on sovereign land amount to an invasion?
If build in desert type locations, the land use is limited in any case. Also, by establishing defence, education, health and infrastructure services, it’s likely the majority of the failed-nation citizens would see the benefits as at least matching the loss of land to UN control. A side benefit is that holding future UN meetings at such city locations would bring the issues into close personal focus for the attendees.

Food for thought?