The Hollowing Out of Mexico

A pair of related items caught my eye this morning. In the first, brought to my attention by Zenpundit Mark Safranski, Fabius Maximus notes that, emboldened by the ease with which we have pacified Iraq, Stratfor contemplates bringing stabilizing Mexico with the use of military force. I agree completely with FM’s assessment:

Belief that we could stabilize Mexico is amazing, on several levels. Mexico’s population is over one hundred million people, roughly one-third the size of ours. Their long-standing hostility to us, with considerable historical basis, would make intervention potentially explosive. But most of all, this displays no awareness of how the world has changed.

Since Mao brought fourth generation warfare (4GW) to maturity, foreign interventions have a low rate of success. As 4GW’s go, operations in Mexico have many favorable characteristics. We have many Spanish-speaking people in our government and military. If done at the request of Mexico’s government, with them taking the lead, the damage to their legitimacy might not be terminal. Still, Stratfor shows no awareness of the terrible risks involved.

I simply can’t understand the appetite for military adventurism I’m seeing these days. On the one hand, any number of people are urging humanitarian military intervention on behalf of the Burmese. I won’t repeat myself at length on this subject. On the other, I’m hearing people who want to invade Iran as futile and counterproductive as that might be. Now it’s Mexico.

The other item is a piece from the Wall Street Journal on immigration, primarily illegal immigration from Mexico :

The media offers up a steady diet of data about current immigration from Mexico, and much of it consists of “averages” regarding English-language skills, income, home-ownership rates, education and so forth. But while digesting these figures, it’s important to keep in mind that Latino immigration is ongoing. These averages are snapshots of a moving stream and therefore of little use in measuring assimilation. To properly gauge assimilation, we need to find out how immigrants in the U.S. are faring over time. Only longitudinal studies that track individuals can provide that information.

Just looking at averages can give you a very distorted view of who’s learning English or dropping out of school or climbing out of poverty. How so? Because overall statistics that average in large numbers of newcomers can obscure the progress made by pre-existing immigrants.

The WSJ can always be depended on to come out in favor of open borders.

The pieces are related in a number of ways. First, the enormous movement of population from Mexico to the United States is itself a manifest sign of the declining legitimacy of Mexico’s government, bound and determined to undermine itself by encouraging the flow. Second, it seems to have escaped all of the parties that you can’t move that many people without social disruption, particularly in the sending country see here:

Migration has caused significant social disruption in Mexico, though research is scant, said B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.

“We do know that it can break up families, and has done so in many traditional sending areas,” he said. “The husband comes to the United States and stays for many years. His wife is on her own with the children. In some cases, the couple comes to the United States and leaves their children behind with relatives.”

and here:

In both cases ofmigration and cases of divorce, children experience physical and, to some extent, psychological separation. For children of migrants, the duration of separation from parents can be substantial. In these cases, children are certainly missing out on the perceived benefits of daily interaction with parents and the stable presence of role models and authority figures in the household. Likewise, the remaining parent faces added responsibilities of maintaining a household and caring for children without the help of a spouse; these time constraints may have an important impact on children’s well-being.

See also fester of Newhoggers’s excellent post on the subject of the “hollowing out” of Mexico.

While I think that perennial proposals like border security and workplace enforcement might comprise part of a solution I also think that they largely miss the point. A stronger, economically more vibrant Mexico won’t send such a large proportion of its population in search of jobs far away. And a stronger Mexico will be better prepared to deal with its own social, economic, and security problems. We need to pursue policies targeted at strengthening Mexico rather than accelerating its decline.

3 comments… add one
  • “First, the enormous movement of population from Mexico to the United States is itself a manifest sign of the declining legitimacy of Mexico’s government, bound and determined to undermine itself by encouraging the flow.”

    As you said sign and not cause, this is strange.

    Is the enormous movement of capital from the United States to Mexico itself a manifest sign of the declining legitimacy of America’s government?

    I do not see how equilibration of the factors of production are “manifest signs” of “hollowing out” (whatever that is).

  • I’m not sure that this is relevant to your argument, but for some months it’s been reported that remittances to Mexico are declining. Some of it is no doubt due to the inflation we are currently experiencing, though it seems to have preceeded the price increases of the past couple of months. Some of it is due to increased immigration enforcement.

    I’m not exactly sure how to strengthen Mexico, but it does seem that our current mix of policies (and circumstances) seems to have made America a less attractive destination.

  • Dan, capital is just capital, just a “factor of production”. People have traditions, customs, roles in families, societies, and political systems. They’re a lot more than factors of production.

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