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Una rebelión de Atlas?

28 April 2011

(Leopoldo Ramos, “Empresarios amagan con no pagar impuestos por crimen de socio de Lala”, Jornada, 24 de abril de 2011. My translation)

Saltillo, Coah. If there is no resolution by this Friday of the murder of Grupo Lala executive Carlos Valdes Belanga, shot down last Sunday by at least three gunmen, Lagunera [the Torreón-Gomez Palacios-Lerdo metropolitan area], businesses will stage a work stoppage and tax strike.

The ultimatum he was released Tuesday morning, by local representatives of the Employers Confederation of Mexico (Coparmex) and the Lagunera Council of Private Initiative (CLIP, for its initials in Spanish). Also demanded is that the Federal and State governments provide a security plan for employers, workers and their families, within one week.

“In the Laguna nobody feels safe, at home or on the job, and we’ve had it,” said Oscar Sanchez Soto, president of the public safety committee of the regional Coparmex council.

Coparmex president, Roberto Cruz Rodríguez, said the escalation of insecurity in the area where more than 250 people have died violently in 2011, “there is fear among employers” and new investments are at risk.

“Enough already! They [the government] either gets to work, or they resign. We want a safe community. We’re putting the authorities on notice that every one of them is responsible, and if they don’t respond to our demands, we will act,” warned CLIP President, Ernesto Llamas Sotomayor.

He said that given the current uncertainty “Employers cannot stand idly by and do nothing.”

Going Galt?  Not hardly, but classic Capitalism á la Mexicana:

The man whose whole life is spent thus … naturally loses the habit of exerting his understanding or invention, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become … [hence] not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life [as well as] of the great and extensive interests of his country … This is the state into which the great body of the people must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.

(Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776)

Thus the “father of Capitalism” describes those forced by circumstances into a narrow world-view, mistaking their economic activity for their life… sort of like the Ayn Rand groupies, who are seen here  (in the words of one almost admirer of her work) as:

…  teenagers or radical right, those who hate communism. Objectivism is linked with the rebellious attitude typical of teens.  Overwhelming naivete and innocence are the great assets required to believe in what Rand says…

It would indeed be naivete and innocence to assume that rugged individualism is going to resolve the violence.  If anything, the narcos are the Randian heroes of Mexico.  As it is, Mexicans tend to speak of “individualism” as a negative trait, one associated with Randian “values” like selfishness, amorality and the pursuit of personal satisfaction (in other words, our stereotype of a narcotics user).     Not that Rand is much read here.   The economic theories of the last 25 years have been associated with government leaders educated in the United States, not Mexico.  While there are problems with Mexican education, higher education usually begins with the classics… for business students, that would be Marx and Smith.  Being capitalists, and all, we can assume our business leaders are more attuned to Smith than Marx, but more than either of those two European worthies, they are grounded in Mexican tradition.

Mexico remains, as it was officially up the Salinas Administration, and still is in most senses, a communitarian society with a capitalist economy.  Even at its most socialist (in the 1930s and up through the 1970s), private capital for the most part saw the state as their protector, and the source of their collective prosperity.   This does not mean unblinkered support of the state.  While Mexican business executives, like everyone else, is loathe to pay their taxes under normal circumstances, at least in theory, they adopt the grown-up attitude of Adam Smith:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

Despite twenty-five years of the largely Anglo-American theories of neo-liberalism ( savage Capitalism on a global scale), Mexican, even Mexican capitalists, remain good communitards at heart, defining their interests collectively.  Unlike the permanent adolescents of Atlas Shrugged, when Mexican don’t withdraw, or  “go Galt”.

The threatened Lagunera business strike is another action in the growing ¡No mas sangre! movement — the demand for radical change in politics and for a more effective judicial system in response to weaknesses and downright failures exposed by the Calderón Adminstration’s bungled and bloody “war on drugs” — is not just a lefty intellectual exercise. While I don’t fault foreign commentators for their narrow focus on the day-to-day mayhem that has resulted (“if it bleeds, it leads” and most of the foreign commentators are trying to sell a product), I’ve been bothered by the “un-Mexicanness” of the whole “drug war”, the entire prosecution of which has seemed more in the spirit of Anglo-American individualism (witness all the “Brave President Calderón, facing opposition… blah, blah, blah leads in U.S. and British publications about Mexico), rather than the traditional Mexican sense of community and compromise.

I don’t see the narcotics war (or the narcos) as outside Mexican history any more than 19th century social banditry or the history of  commodities exploitation in this part of the world, and am not surprised so much by the reaction, but am surprised (and pleasantly so) by the creative non-violence of people in response to a situation that in the course of Mexican history, has too often led to a violent response.

(And besides, flinging snark in the direction of the Rand-roids is a lot of fun!)

One Comment leave one →
  1. 28 April 2011 7:24 am

    “(And besides, flinging snark in the direction of the Rand-roids is a lot of fun!)”

    Amen Richard!
    Hmmm, no, not just Amen but rather “AMEN!”

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