Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mexico's "Wars"

Andrés Oppenheimer has a Freidman-esque column in which he says that Mexico suffers not just from the drug war, but five other wars:
• First, what will Mexico do when it runs out of oil? Oil revenues represent up to 40 percent of Mexico's federal budget, but it's rapidly running out of oil. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the country will be forced to start importing oil in 2017.

• Second, what will Mexico do when it runs out of water? Mexico City already has acute water problems, and water shortages are already causing tensions along border states. And global climate change is likely to make Mexico even more arid than it is today, experts say.

• Third, what will Mexico do to better compete with China, India and other emerging powers with better education systems and more skilled work forces? A recent World Economic Forum study into Mexico's competitiveness conducted by Harvard University economists concluded that the country's main problem to compete in the world economy is its bad education system, and that it's not doing much about it.

• Fourth, what will Mexico do with its new generations of unemployed young people if it can no longer "export'' them to the United States because of stricter immigration procedures? An estimated 1 million young Mexicans enter the labor force every year, and Mexico needs to grow at about 5 percent a year -- much more than it has recently -- to absorb them.

• Fifth, what will Mexico do to bring its indigenous people, mostly living in its southern states, to the modern economy? While recent governments have poured billions into southern states since the 1994 Chiapas rebellion, it is not clear that the region is benefiting as much as northern states from Mexico's insertion in the global economy.
If "war" is a bad fit for combatting the drug trade, using the word for problems like water shortages and a weak job market is like squeezing an elephant into a Volkswagen Bug. Ill-fitting, misleading conceptual frameworks like economic policy as war are not ill-fitting and misleading in a vacuum, but rather encourage us to think of problems that require collaboration and can benefit many different groups as simple zero-sum games in which a villain needs to be identified and defeated, preferably with the maximum use of force.


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