Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’

Full piece here.

Fukuyama provides a good overview:

The reason that Mexico has such a big problem with narco-traffickers, aside from the existence of a huge market for drugs to the north, is the weakness of certain basic Mexican institutions, and particularly its judicial system. Mexico like the United States is a federal state, and responsibility for dealing with drug trafficking is split between federal, state, and local jurisdictions. During the years when the dominant PRI was in power, many state governors and local officials came to have cozy relationships with drug lords. Mexican police are infamous for their corruption and the degree to which they have been penetrated by drug gangs.’

Mexico is no Afghanistan, and as he points out, the rhetoric is a little overblown.  Yet, structural dysfunction can’t keep corruption at bay in the face of criminal/drug activities based on foreign demand (our supply line is their backyard).  While not failed, Mexico is failing in many important ways.

Why does America need a stronger Mexican State?:

‘It will be impossible to deal with Mexico on immigration or any other problem if its government can’t govern, is pervaded by corruption, or is unable to enforce the law in border areas .’

Point taken.

Also, people in America buy a lot of illegal drugs:

‘All of this suggests that without greater demand-side efforts, the United States will never make a serious dent in the drug trafficking problem.’

I’ve always thought that no matter how recreational the drug, potency, and use, there’s moral obligation on the part of the buyer/user.  Now, how that translates into public policy, and how people actually behave, is quite another matter.

He finishes with:

‘There are downsides of increased security cooperation with Mexico as well. Perhaps the most important is the danger that it poses to our own judicial system. The amount of money available to Mexican drug gangs is so enormous that greater involvement by US police and courts will ultimately lead to the danger of the corruption of American institutions.’

Mexican drug gang activity can, and does, spread like a cancer, and the ruthlessness, violence, and murderous tactics of the gangs lines up with the natural incentives of a criminal enterprise (there’s occasionally honor among thieves, but it’s rare enough to surpass the basest motivations for money and power, which are built-in).

I don’t think it’s impractically moral to expect the individual to choose not to use drugs, for various reasons, as this contributes to the social/moral fabric that maintains our institutions.   I do recognize that policy-wise it can lead to a lot of  Federal involvement, like the War on Drugs, with questionable results and unintended consequences.  So, it’s really up for debate.


On a side note, in Fukuyama’s previous post, he writes:

‘As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve come to realize that the emphasis put on public policy is mistaken, and that what we should be focusing on and teaching is basic public administration.’

Well, that could have practical advantages, but it seems pretty Statist.  He goes on:

‘But anyone who has spent time in government realizes that the real questions that preoccupy officials have to do with implementation, or rather, the impossibility of implementing many desirable policies because of the huge number of constraints under which modern governments work.’

Well, isn’t that the main purpose of the separation of powers?  Everyone in a position of power naturally wants an easier way to achieving their aims and consolidating that power (even if they a see a better way to solve a problem or a better way to approach a solution).  Clearly, in a bi-partisan, politically polarized environment, it’s good to try and get people on the same page, but at what cost to liberty on this view?  Even if you’re an expansive, deep, and practical thinker, like Fukuyama, the map you’ve made may not always line up with the terrain.

He could be following some of those Hegelian roots toward Absolute Spirit, via Kojeve:

‘Fixing the public sector therefore has got to be a top priority for anyone interested in public policy. In countries where public services work relatively efficiently, like those in Scandinavia, people are willing to tolerate high tax levels because they think they’re getting something back. In the US, however, as in Latin America, many people object to higher taxes because they are convinced that the government will simply waste their money.’

It also seems like he’s trying to stay on top of current events.   If we’re on the liberty/statist continuum, I generally err toward more liberty, and putting more checks on competing groups and grand visions.

Related On This Site:   Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

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