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Mexico: More Free Than You Think
... not the 'consensus reality' of kidnapped
Americans and drug war slayings
by Gabriel Land

Another new guest writer, whom I contacted via the Lew Rockwell circuit. Nice to get unconventional views from people who walk the walk. — bw

I have been spending a lot of time south of the border lately in Tijuana Mexico, allegedly the most non-Mexican of all Mexican cities. Yet the differences between San Diego and Tijuana are so glaring that they are impossible to ignore. A simple walk outside of the tourist zone and red light districts of Tijuana will paint an interesting picture. Anyone with an inquisitive, observant intellect will see that Mexico might not be the doom and gloom land of kidnapped Americans and drug war slayings that is the consensus reality among American citizens who utilize major media outlets as their primary source of information.

I am continuously enamored with Tijuana. It is invigorating to me when I see how easy it is for Mexicans there to drink on the beach, drive without a seat belt (and in many cases a license and in some regions, plates), j-walk, buy drugs, hire hookers (against the law but unenforced), and start small businesses.

In the cross walks during a red light street performers spit fire and break dance for donations from stopped motorists. Similar activity would get one arrested in the U.S., where it is only permitted to hold a sign begging for help. The options for entertainment alone make the land of green white and red such an interesting experience that heading back to the corporate controlled homogeneity of the U.S.A. often requires more motivation than I am able to muster. A simple walk down the street to the grocery includes an array of sights and sounds that make most areas of Southern California look like a ghost town.

Instead of relying on the corrupted, inefficient police, people in Mexico take their safety into their own hands. They protect their own homes with vigilant dogs and glass embedded into concrete atop the walls around their property. While gun laws are more strict than in the U.S., most of the violence in Mexico is related to drug trafficking, and in the neighborhoods I frequent (lower to middle class), I feel as safe as most neighborhoods North of the border.

With a lack of exacting building regulations, people are free to customize their homes to their whims and fancies. The results are a visual array of different architectural compositions, rather than the bland monotony of suburban U.S.A. (I should note, there is an increase, from what I have seen in Tijuana, in the building of cookie cutter neighborhoods based on identical blue prints. However the pattern I have observed is that families will purchase these homes then add on to them according to their unique whims.)

The anti-state feelings of distrust and doubt are rampant. Citizens often roll their eyes at police posturing. People seem to concede that the only authority government agencies have is firepower. That is the only thing that keeps them in power. Not some sort of innate legitimacy, and certainly not fair elections. But, (like all States), weapons of death are what the State employs to maintain power over the populace. And many people in Mexico agree that the government there has done nothing for the good of the country. No one ever accuses the Mexican State of being anything near efficient. I take comfort in a place where the population is well aware that their rulers are illegitimate shams.

Small businesses flourish in Mexico without strict and/or enforced licensing necessities. The population gushes with ingenuity. In every cranny there is someone who has started a business to serve the needs and wants of anyone. Private companies drive down residential streets announcing sales of propane (decentralized power source), filtered water, heater repairs, junk removal, and foods.

I come from Seattle, where street vendors are largely non-existent. With only a few dollars in my pocket there were few options for eating because only restaurants were at hand, and that meant dropping at least 10 or so dollars. I can walk down a street often in a U.S. city and grow hungrier as I wonder what my options are for a small bite to eat other than the McDonald's dollar menu. In Mexico I can access a variety of tasty, authentic local dishes, cooked in front of my eyes by a smiling vendor, for pennies on the dollar. (And I have yet to get sick, as the legends of Mexico claim is a categorical imperative of indulging in the cheap food down there. To the contrary, I feel healthy as I have been eating more fresh fruits and vegetables from the local markets.)

In Mexico the poor, while there are so many, seem to have more options because of this lack of regulation. I rarely see someone simply begging. Everyone is selling something. Even by Mexican standards, a trip in a group taxi or a few tacos at a local stand is not a great expenditure. And I haven't even mentioned the availability of cheap medical care here. Got an ache or pain or feeling sick? Go to a pharmacy and buy what you need. In Mexico, one's health is in one's own hands, not dictated by the AMA, insurance companies, and the FDA.

I was visiting Seattle recently, and utilized mass transit while there. I was struck with a cold reality when I looked at a bus schedule and the next bus I could catch to my destination was not due to arrive in half an hour. On my way to the airport at the end of my stay I was informed by a cab company that they did not serve the neighborhood I was in due to expensive licensing fees. I contrasted this with Tijuana, where I had recently grown spoiled by the transit options there, as rarely do I have to wait more than one minute for a bus or a group taxi. And taking the faster group taxis is only a tad more expensive than taking the buses, the latter of which is at times mostly utilized by school children going to and from classes.

Yet from all my research, it appears a near consensus among libertarian-oriented individuals Stateside that Mexico is a "socialist" country. And indeed, the higher one climbs the social ladder in Mexico, the more the officials come a-calling demanding their cut. Similarly to the U.S., the more money you have, the harder the authorities will try to take it from you. But I am left with the unavoidable conclusion that despite the drug-trade-dominated Mexican economic environment, upper-income mobility is wide open to an entrepreneur with some creativity, certainly more so than in the U.S.

I have met many people who work for the Mexican State in some capacity, and enjoy the monopolized fruits of their labors. It seems that the middle class is made up greatly of people who work for the State, and the upper class is made up of politicians and narcos (drug traffickers). The lower classes meanwhile are the small business operators and agrarian workers who seem to thrive while providing the locals and tourists there with goods and services, unhampered by strict infringement by State bureaucracies.

Contrast this with the U.S., where enforced bureaucracies impede anyone from doing anything without a license, bonds, and business insurance. These obstacles to doing business on a small scale do more than undermine the entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity, and economic potential of the United States. They suck us dry of our culture. We lose not just our business sense but also our overall creativity. Our neighborhoods become a wasteland of strip malls and chain stores, rather than colorful habitats for a vibrant culture.

I have read that the Mexican economy is 50% drug-trafficking related. And I can't shake the feeling that if the U.S. ended the drug wars, the class divide in Mexico would evaporate. After all, without prohibition in the richest nations, drugs become less of a commodity. In such a case as Mexico, if the black market dried up, the middle class would likely grow due to a lack of government regulation and enforcement. Meanwhile the richest narcos and officiales who fattened their wallets on cocaine- and herion-smuggling associations would be brought down to the level of everyone else, unable to tap into the fast and easy corruption funds availed to them previously.

Presently, there does exist an unavoidable Mexican State, and it does tend to clamp its fist, as all States must to maintain their monopolies. Yet I feel more comfortable there than I do with the current U.S. government, especially since 9/11. In theory I would rather bribe the less oppressive Mexican authorities than pay legislated taxes to American authorities. As a minor example, in the U.S. if I am pulled over for speeding I am issued an expensive ticket. In Mexico I have the option to give the policeman $20 and be on my way. There is a factor of convenience alone that sways my opinion on this matter.

Overall there is a dearth of information on the regulations in Mexico. The country is rife with gray areas. An enforced law in one region is unheard of in another. The city and State governments are constantly at odds with the Federals. This is another feature I like. I feel more comfortable in a country where there is a distrust and chasm between different branches of the State. Of course I would prefer no State, but the lesser of two evils would be a State that is divided and disorganized, not one that is interwoven and networked and cooperates across agencies to coerce its citizens.

Mexico remains largely agricultural and manufacturing driven. In a poor global economic environment, I can see it thriving on self-sufficiency. Paired with multiple ports on the world's two biggest oceans, only the United States and a few smaller countries in the American continents are blessed with such favorable geographic features for trade and commerce. I predict that in a collapsed global economy, Mexico would weather better than the U.S. Certainly her citizens wouldn't starve. I shudder to think of how a more service-oriented economy that imports a large percentage of its food might fare should the world see darker days.

In the end I hold no less admiration and fascination with the cultures, diversity, and people of the United States. Truly this is a beautiful country. But few would argue that she has not seen better days. For the time being, I hold on to a hopeful vision of her potential, should she be allowed to thrive on liberty, free of domination and control by the few.


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