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What's Next For Mexico?

What's Next For Mexico?The Fletcher School's Lawrence E. Harrison co-authored an op-ed detailing how Mexico can work toward economic development and a true democracy.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.18.07] While the easing of trade restrictions brought about by NAFTA and the country's increasingly democratic electoral process represent steps in the right direction, a recent op-ed co-authored by a Tufts professor in The Christian Science Monitor argues that what Mexico really needs to bring it into the 21st century is an overhaul of its "patrimonial culture."

The op-ed's authors-Lawrence Harrison, director of the Cultural Change Institute at The Fletcher School, and Luis Rubio, president of a Mexican think tank called the Center of Research for Development-make this charge and more in a piece that outlines the country's problems and potential.

"Mexico needs appropriate institutions, such as essential checks and balances to protect and advance the interests of citizens, but both its political culture and the interests that its current institutions protect create endless-and vicious-circles," they wrote in the article.

Despite the goals of NAFTA when it was enacted in 1994, Harrison and his colleague contend, "[Mexico's] hang-ups, both cultural and institutional, made it impossible for the country to take advantage of such an exceptional opportunity."

They point at a hindered democracy as the key element blocking Mexico's development.

"A democratic culture is certainly critical to make development possible, but it is equally true that for democracy to take root, all relevant groups in a society must feel that democracy serves their interests," they wrote in the Monitor.

The basis of Mexican culture, Harrison and his colleague argue, precludes a true democracy from taking root and fostering economic development.

Mexico "was founded on a patrimonial culture-a culture of ownership and control more than entrepreneurship and growth-rather than on citizenship and markets." In contrast, the authors say that the United States has throughout its history undertaken antitrust legislation and measures to encourage competition and economic development over concentration of power.

Mexico did not have a democracy until the 2000 election of Vicente Fox, according to the op-ed, and even then it was not fully realized due to Fox's inability to work with the country's Congress. They note that Felipe Calderón, Fox's successor, is aware of the obstacles he faces-but he can't do it alone.

"The real question is whether both the president and Congress can look beyond short-term bureaucratic interests to undertake the sweeping reforms necessary to truly open Mexican society," the authors wrote.

Mexico's heritage of "the universal Catholic monarchy and the Counter-Reformation," they contend, stands in stark contrast to the United States' history of religious reform, democracy and capitalism.

According to the authors, Mexico needs to enact a series of initiatives that would foster a culture of "democracy, social justice, and prosperity."

"Such a program should include, among other initiatives, changes to traditional child-rearing practices;reform aimed at providing quality education to all children through at least high school, and emphasizing character and civic education;and the creation of a first-class civil service, as in Chile," they wrote in the Monitor.

The authors also suggest that the Catholic Church's endorsement of a culture of entrepreneurship would be beneficial, and an increased church presence could help "fight social injustice, crime, and corruption."

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