Is there a silver lining for Mexico?

by on May 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm in Political Science | Permalink

To be sure, tourism to Mexico is devastated and the country will suffer many economic problems (yes, real business cycle theory still is relevant these days).  But is there any upside?

I hesitate to speak too soon but I'm actually somewhat impressed by how the Mexican government, at least at the national level, has responded.  There have been many failures of Mexican health care systems at local levels but keep a few things in mind: a) some of the problems lie with citizens who won't go see doctors, or who won't go see non-shaman doctors, b) too many Mexicans self-administer antibiotics, and c) when there is so much air pollution it is harder to discover flu cases, especially in the midst of flu season there.  Nonetheless Mexican reporting systems seem to have discovered an unusual flu fairly promptly.

Once the national government discovered what is going on, they acted decisively and without undue panic.  There has been very little denial, a common feature in the early stages of health crises (how long was it until the U.S. government acknowledged AIDS?).  No one is treating the Mexican federal government like a banana republic or a basket case or thinking that the Canadian government would have done so much better. 

Am I wrong?  Could this episode in the longer run bring Mexico closer to the community of developed nations?  Might Mexicans now be more likely to self-identify with a government that is at least partially competent?

Time will tell.

Javier May 2, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Indeed, it has been a bit surprising (and reassuring) the extent of coordination between federal and the city government, as well as the level of citizen compliance. It’s too soon to tell if the government over-reacted. Still, there are some open questions.
Besides detecting a rare virus, it also seems like the government realized something was wrong because of the unusual number of “atypical neumonia” cases. On the first days the suspected death toll was estimated at 150 or so–which probably led to a big first reaction here and abroad. Further lab tests now indicate that the number of virus-related deads is much lower (at about 20 or so), which suggests a more modest outbreak.
But where do the suspect deaths came from to begin with? Those cases were atypically off-season and young adults. Mexico City epidemiologists are excellent but the infrastructure at the bottom is poor. I am troubled with the idea that Mexico’s health services prove more risky than the H1N1 virus per se.

Charlie Sawyer May 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm

There is a lot of world-class human capital in Mexico. Ernesto Zedillo was not some kind of outlier and the professionalism mentioned above is dead on. It’s too bad that it took an epidemic to more widely show display some of that talent.

Alejandro Hope May 2, 2009 at 7:36 pm

As a Mexican and a Chilango, this is indeed the proudest I have been of my country and my city ever since the 1985 earthquake. Even prouder: in 1985, in the midst of devastation and government paralysis, unaffiliated citizens stepped up to the plate and provided a crucial effort in the first few dismal days after the quake. This time around, the Mexican people has also behaved admirably, maintaining discipline and refusing to panic in the face of an invisible enemy; but, equally important, the national government has been there throughout the crisis, providing guidance and leadership. In particular, Health Minister José Angel Córdova has been quite a revelation: for all the initial confusion about the number of infected persons, he has shown himself as an able communicator, the cool and composed face of an acting and effective government.

So, yes, I agree: this week will indeed bring economic pain, but, just maybe, it does portend good things to come for Mexico.

John Locke May 2, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I live in a Mexican state where the virus has not spread. An hour ago, I saw a woman driving alone wearing a mask with the window on the driver side open. Does this make any sense? I think not. The U.S. government says masks are useless, while the Mexican government claims the opposite. I’m not a doctor, but I have a poorly functioning nose, and I tried to mow my lawn while wearing a mask a few years ago, and it didn’t help, probably because I continued to insist on breathing, so I reckon the U.S. is right in this case. Nevertheless, one of the reasons I live in Mexico is that the health care system is better than the U.S., but that’s a discussion for another day.

One of the local stores that sells masks for painters raised his prices by a factor of 10 last week, so one of the local busybodies called in the Gestapo to read to him the Riot Act. Mexico has vague laws that fix prices (or outlaw “gouging”), but the vendor didn’t know how much he could charge. I’d be happier if they allowed the free market to operate and left everyone alone.

Alejandro Hope May 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm

“It might bode well if they met the most basic criterion of a functioning government and established a monopoly on organized violence in the country.”

By that criterion, the United States does not have a functioning government, given that 17,000 murders are committed per year in the US, many of whom (a majority, probably) by organized gangs.

The Weberian criterion you are looking for is “the monopoly on the legitimate use of force”, legitimate being the operative word. Unless you want to argue that organized crime has social legitimacy in large swaths of the Mexican territory (not an absurd argument, but it does require streching the definition of legitimacy), the Mexican government meets the criterion by a wide mark.

Steve Sailer May 3, 2009 at 1:03 am

Tyler writes:

“some of the problems lie with citizens who won’t go see doctors, or who won’t go see non-shaman doctors.”

Thank God that Tyler and Alex have worked hard over the years to promote the importation into the U.S. of even more Mexican citizens who won’t go see non-shaman doctors.

Mick May 3, 2009 at 2:08 am


Am I wrong?

Yes, you almost always are wrong. Especially about your beloved third-worlders.


Could this episode in the longer run bring Mexico closer to the community of developed nations?

Unlikely.

If there was a good performance by the Mexican Gov – a big if, it was probably a fluke due to an unusually capable minister and a few good people around him.

If there is a Mexican entity that consistently performs at First World standards, I haven’t seen it.

Does anyone know an example of a company or some such that is a world class?
It is not a trick question, I really would like to know.

whitebread May 3, 2009 at 3:44 am

“Does anyone know an example of a company or some such that is a world class?
It is not a trick question, I really would like to know.”

Cemex?

“Isn’t Gov always has a monopoly on use of force because Gov declared so?

You are making no sense. By your definition even the weakest govrmt about to fall still has force monopoly because it says so.”

It makes sense. It could be said that Pakistan has areas where the government no longer has the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Colombia and Sri Lanka were previously good examples. And then there are many so-called “breakaway regions” in the world.

k May 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm

So the mexican government is perfect, and you must follow suit. sure:

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/sociedad/servicio/salud/complice/virus/elpepusoc/20090503elpepisoc_4/Tes

Phillip Huggan May 3, 2009 at 11:45 pm

…link: http://www.reuters.com/article/swineFlu/idUSTRE5422NI20090503

Buffett: they are really jacking up the price of blizzards at Dairy Queen. In 2003 in Alberta I could get a blizzard at one DQ for $6 and it was nearly a litre. Now they are closer to half a litre and same price. It’s a recession man. And most franchises don’t even stock raspberry misty coolers anymore. It was a healthier menu item and you could crunch the ice and then eat the raspberry; like getting two desserts for under $2.

Holdie May 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

“What does the self-administration of antibiotics have to do with the flu?”

Flu victims bypass the doctor, take antibiotics, and go about their merry way, passing the virus to everyone else, all the while believing that the antibiotic is curing them.

HP Business laptop battery May 18, 2009 at 8:28 am

I never though of it in this way, but I think you’re correct. I found all this, the response and the information coming out, surprisingly organized. And maybe ,the infrastructure is dated, or they don’t have the lates tech, but they are serious about becoming a player, and they didn’t show anything but professionalism.

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