U.S. ownership of Mexican property

by on January 28, 2013 at 5:52 am in Law, Political Science | Permalink

Morgan Warstler has a question:

On Mexican immigration, I’d like your thoughts on an open door policy conditioned on Mexico changing their Constitution to allow Americans to own beachfront property and companies outright.

The idea being we simply need to get Americans thinking about Mexico like a big Florida, thinking about their boomer parents buying condos and getting cheap medical care. Get entrepreneurs thinking about setting up manufacturing shops in Mexico and generally anything which makes more Americans feel annoyed by a closed border.

Why don’t free market economists that champion the import of human capital and free trade, spend more time pushing Free Market Manifest Destiny? Are we so sure Mexico wouldn’t agree to such horse trading? We push our ideas all over the globe, why not lean on Mexico where it is in our obvious strategic interest?

I believe Mexico would not agree to such horse trading, though it may happen in some lesser form, if the United States simply keeps quiet about the idea.  In particular Mexico is likely to allow greater FDI in its fossil fuels production, if only to prevent a fiscal crash from this revenue source going away.  They need expertise from U.S. companies in this area rather badly.

Beachfront property touches too closely on national pride and the efficiency gains to American ownership are in any case small.  Rent if you must, and Mexico has more wealthy people all the time to buy up that stuff.  I would favor the extension of Medicare coverage to American citizens living in Mexico, at least with some safeguards against fraud or maybe even without.  The U.S. medical establishment would not like that but I think Mexico would find it more than acceptable.

The U.S. does best in Mexico when it allows Mexicans to move the key ideas forward in the public arena.  Free trade in Medicare is the next big step we could take on our own.

1 ThomasH January 28, 2013 at 6:05 am

Why just Mexico? Medicare should be portable internationally. The could even have different paymant schedules for different countries.

2 Ray Lopez January 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

Actually this is a big deal: the Philippines have been trying to lobby the USA to change its rules to allow Medicare to be used internationally (I don’t know the details, sorry, just something I heard). This would encourage more people to live outside the USA.

3 Rahul January 28, 2013 at 7:17 am

An even better modification was if Medicare incentivized people to travel internationally to get treated for big ticket items much cheaper. Even for comparable quality institutions and after factoring in travel costs a substantial saving is likely.

Key problem is what’s the incentive for the patient if Medicare is paying.

4 JWatts January 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

It seems to me this would almost certainly drive up US costs in the short run. There are a certain number of US citizens living abroad currently who forgo some or all of their Medicare benefits. So the immediate affect of any such legislation would be increased costs as that group started charging Medicare for items they currently cover out of pocket. This is on a system that’s already in deep financial trouble.

Furthermore, you would inevitably have more retirees emigrate if they can take their social security and medicare checks with them. How is that good for the US? It’s good for the US to attract high skilled immigrants, I’m not convinced it’s good for the US to facilitate it’s retirees to emigrate.

At the very least, it’s moving a lot of current money out of the local economy to a foreign economy without any obvious benefit. When trade increases both economies benefit. However, this seems like an asymmetrical situation.

The only situation that would seem to make it beneficial to the US were if the overseas health care reimbursements were much smaller and you could prevent retirees from flying back to the US to take advantage of very expensive procedures that are currently covered inside the US but aren’t in the host country. I don’t think you could ever make such an agreement politically plausible.

5 Rahul January 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Numbers I read seem to show that 350,000 American retirees receive Social Security benefits in countries other than the U.S. Assuming that’s a reasonable surrogate of the retirees-abroad pool what percent of Medicare beneficiaries is that?

Also, many of those might have foreign spouses etc. that might make them covered under that country’s health net (not attractive in Mex but in EU for e.g.)

6 Colin January 28, 2013 at 7:05 am

I swear I saw some foreigners purchase beachfront property in Mexico on House Hunters International — am I missing something?

7 axa January 28, 2013 at 7:26 am
8 ElamBend January 28, 2013 at 9:34 am

And those loop holes were created and given the okay by courts to achieve what TC advocated, a sotto voce way to have a cake and eat it too.

9 axa January 28, 2013 at 7:19 am

http://www.patientsbeyondborders.com/mexico The safeguard against fraud can be the same used in US: only JCI certified hospitals are qualified to have Medicare reimbursements.

Considering in 2010 there was 738K US citizens living in Mexico, Medicare extension could be a good experiment. http://www.inegi.org.mx/inegi/contenidos/espanol/prensa/contenidos/Articulos/sociodemograficas/nacidosenotropais.pdf

10 albert magnus January 28, 2013 at 7:48 am

This assumes the government wouldn’t give away amnesty for nothing. Which it will. Then a bunch of people will pat themselves on the back and go back to wondering why we such high unemployment and our schools underperform.

11 david January 28, 2013 at 8:22 am

Mexico has that bit in their constitution precisely because they did not want foreigners thinking of Mexico like a big Florida, don’t they?

12 Brett January 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Pretty much. Back when Porfirio Diaz was in power (1877-1910), US investors and companies owned something like 19% of the land of Mexico, along with huge fractions of its natural resources. The Mexican constitution was in part a reaction to that, and the inevitable nationalizations were as well.

13 RPLong January 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

We don’t need to export “our” ideas to Mexico in the form of emigration, thanks to the observation that Alexis de Tocqueville made 150 years ago: “The gradual development of the concept of equality is a providential fact.”

While Americans waste their time experimenting with the many ways we can use the federal government to boss (or “nudge”) each other around, the world at large is liberalizing. It is inevitable. Mexico doesn’t need Americans to be free. It already has Mexicans.

14 Roy January 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

How about a law that required reciprocity for sales of real property. You allow foreign ownerdhip, we will allow your citizens to buy US real property.

Of course we would grandfather everuone who already bought property.

15 Dana January 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

Yes, why doesn’t the government of Mexico let Americans buy land and settle in Mexico? That worked out so well for Mexico in the 19th century…

16 maguro January 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I thought immigration was always an unalloyed blessing for the country receiving the immigrants. Or does that only apply to immigration into the US?

17 Black Death January 28, 2013 at 11:05 am

I think reciprocity with Mexico is a good idea. How about, in exchange for allowing US citizens to receive Medicare payment for treatments they receive in Mexico, the Mexican government agrees to reimburse US hospitals and doctors for the treatments they provide to Mexican citizens residing in the US (legally and illegally). Can we get a deal?

18 Keith January 28, 2013 at 11:29 am

Yes, the healthcare angle is an interesting one because this is one of the biggest complaints I hear from US citizens about Mexicans living in the US illegally. Been to an emergency room lately? You will see the problem first hand. A large reimbursement from Mexico would be fair and help mollify the anger of US citizens. It will never happen though.

I think opening up the Mexican real estate market in Mexico to US citizens would help too. I “bought” a third of an acre on the Baja peninsula. The process was not horrible, but you get a sense of how much the process has to stretch in order to go around the constitution. A fideicomiso is set up to lease the property for up to 99 years. It can be bequeathed to children but you technically don’t own it. If the property wasn’t so cheap, I never would have taken the risk because of the constitutional provisions against the foreign ownership of Mexican land.

19 david jmichel jr January 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

fuck mexico,fuck the mexicans,do you want that turd world here?in a country where guns are band there were 24,000.00 gun related killings.all we get from mexico is the non English speaking,non skilled uneducated trash.but look on the good side some over educated berkeley college professor,shitbag pompus jackass,like richard lehman of lake co. ca. can get his grass cut cheap.

20 StPaulite January 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm


21 Howl January 28, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Did MR open up to people posting from Facebook? 🙂

22 Steve Sailer January 29, 2013 at 2:18 am

Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda proposed in his 2011 book “Manana Forever” that Mexico start treating Americans better.

Castañeda points out that while Mexico today makes a fair amount of money off tourism and a small amount off American retirees, it should make much more.

He lists numerous reforms that would make American retirees and snowbirds feel more secure and welcome in Mexico, ranging from eliminating the constitutional ban on foreigners buying beachfront property to adding Walk-Don’t Walk signals at intersections.

Most of these reforms would not only be moneymakers, but good for Mexicans in general. Increasing the number of intersections where elderly Americans can feel confident of making it across alive would definitely be good for Mexico.

But the most fundamental change he suggests: Mexicans should stop referring to Americans by the semi-obscene term “pinches gringos”. In fact, he says, Mexicans should just drop the “gringo” ethnic epithet entirely. It’s not so much that Americans mind, but that Mexicans need to teach themselves to be more respectful towards Americans—because they need to learn from Americans how to have a decent country.


23 agm January 29, 2013 at 3:06 am

If we lost half of the US to someone, who also had occupied D.C., wouldn’t we make sure to never forget that? Why reason does Mexico have to change its laws that isn’t vastly overshadowed by the independence of Texas, the Mexican-American War, the Cession, the Gadsden Purchase…

24 The Anti-Gnostic January 29, 2013 at 8:17 am

I know it’s a tangent, but I ask the same sort of questions seeing the US spending the last century cleaning up the elephant poop from the French and British imperial parades. Mexico and Israel don’t seem to have a problem asking cui bono and I wish the US would as well.

25 Bernard Guerrero January 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Because it happened well over a century ago, now well on the way to 2 centuries, that is, well out of living memory? I think if the French can manage to coexist in rough fashion with Germany in a customs and currency union (I said “rough”), this doesn’t seem like quite such a leap. 2013 baby, time to _move on_.

26 The Anti-Gnostic January 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Dear Britain and France:

We’re still dealing with the Mandates in the Levant and a few other places, old chaps. Oh, and you’re welcome for winning the Cold War. Next time save us all a lot of trouble and support the Central Powers.

BTW, we’ve run out of money so when the third one starts, you’re on your own. Sorry you gave up all your guns. See if Switzerland and Italy will sell you any.

— U.S.

27 Yosemite Semite January 30, 2013 at 1:41 am

Let’s not stop with beachfront property. Why be pikers about it? The whole problem with Mexico is the length of the border: It’s just too damn long. We’d be better off if we finished off the border-shortening project that we started in 1847, and shortened the border to the line between, say, Salina Cruz and Coatzacoalcos.

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