Laura Hollis

Most people can remember when they read something that was life-changing; an epiphany or “aha!” moment. One such moment for me was the first time I read Thomas Sowell.

Dr. Sowell, who is one of the greatest minds of our time, has written a number of books that are breathtaking in their ability to cut through rhetoric and spin, and clearly explain economic, social, and political realities. All of his books are worth reading (and I’m working on it). But the one that comes to mind right now is Applied Economics. In it, Sowell describes what he calls, “one stage thinking” – decision-making based on immediate (and often politically-calculated) impulses, but with little or no thought to what will happen thereafter.

I’ve come to call this the “And then what?” analysis. And I’ve been asking this question a lot over the past few days, as we have watched the financial meltdown on Wall Street unfold. In all the discussion about the now $800 billion bailout, I have heard virtually no discussion about what decisions will be made, what policies will be adopted (or abandoned) to ensure that this will not happen again.

The current financial crisis reminds me of the heated debate we saw last year over the proper legislative response to illegal immigration. Once it was revealed that the U.S. was home to perhaps 12 million illegal immigrants, some politicians called for immediate deportation. Others protested that that was impossible, discriminatory, or prohibitively expensive. My personal thought was that while we could probably absorb 12 million new citizens, no one was addressing the real question: even if we granted the 12 million who are here amnesty, then what? Conversely, even if we somehow managed to deport all those who are here illegally, then what?

In other words, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what we do about those individuals who are here now, unless we take steps to ensure that 12 million more – or 20 million – or 35 million – don’t descend on our doorstep. Because even if it is true that we can absorb those who are already here, it is also true that we cannot do that indefinitely. But what have we done to remedy the situation? Nothing. And so people pour across our borders.

Laura Hollis

Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.