Mexican View of Government

John Seiler:

We can learn about government from our Mexican friends just across the border. Millions of them now live here in California, as well as the rest of the USA. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that Mexico’s government committed human sacrifices, their version of taxation.

By contrast, most of us in the US of A have a dreamy view that government is here to help us solve all of our problems, and that the solution to every problem is even more government. Even “conservatives” believe this, as seen by how they want even more spending on “defense,” even though the current expenditures have bankrupted us.

A recent traveler to Mexico, Mike Denny, writes on about Octavio Paz, one of my favorite writers:

Ottavio Paz won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1990 for his book The Labyrinth of Solitude. After 20 years of being in print, current editions have several epilogues, the last of which is The Philanthropic Ogre.  Here he says:

“The twentieth-century state has proved itself a force more powerful than the ancient empires and a master more terrible than the old tyrants and despots: a faceless, inhuman master who functions not like a demon but like a machine. Civil Society has almost completely disappeared: nothing and no person exists outside the state. It is a surprising inversion of values that would have made Nietzsche himself shudder: the state is Being and exception; irregularity and even simple individualism are forms of evil, that is, of nothingness.”

And he continues…

“The state is neither a factory nor a business. The logic of history is not quantitative. Economic rationality depends on the relationship between expenditure and production, investment and earnings, work and savings. The rationale of the state is not utility nor profit but power — gaining it, conserving it and extending it. The archetype of power does not lie in economics but in war, not in the polemic relationship of capital to work but in the hierarchical relationship of commander to soldier.”

Having spent much of the last two years in Mexico, it’s interesting to observe the indifference many Mexicans have towards the state, seemingly much more so than in the US. Perhaps it’s because of their longstanding experience with it. According to the plaque introducing visitors to the Monte Alban ruins in Oaxaca, it is one of the earliest sites in the world where “the rise of the State is clearly shown.” It is the first urban plan in the Americas and existed for 13 centuries (500BC – 850AD) when it’s “gradual abandonment began, for reasons still unknown.”  When discussing this with my guide he said it was easy to understand why the site was abandoned. “The state doesn’t work. After the demise of Monte Alban local people went on living their daily lives just like they did before. Except now they were free from carrying water up the mountain either to pay tribute to the rulers or as outright slaves. They were free of the obligation to bring rulers food in homage to their power and build structures at their command. The state took from them without offering anything in return except the promise of temporary exemptions from the state’s violence through murder, ritualistic sacrifice, or enslavement. It’s only a matter of time before a society motivated like this collapses.”

How many centuries will pass before US citizens can be as clear in their understanding of the state as our Mexican neighbors?  Hopefully not the 1,300 years it took the people who lived around Monte Alban.

(I just realized I wrote this while drinking a Mexican Pepsi, the kind with real sugar, instead of that crud sold in the USA that’s made from the HFCS poison.)

Jan. 13, 2011


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  1. Art Pedroza
    Art Pedroza 13 January, 2011, 18:08

    I was at Ralph’s yesterday and I bought to 12 packs of Pepsi – with real sugar. Apparently this is some sort of promotion. Pretty cool.

    Reply this comment
  2. GoneWithTheWind
    GoneWithTheWind 14 January, 2011, 07:51

    It is a common misconception that somehow the constitutional mandate for national defense is bankrupting us. Without the war on terror our national defense costs about $400 billion. At the same time welfare costs us about $1 trillion (federal funding and about another $1 trillion from all the states). It is unconstitutional for the federal government to spend tax revenues on welfare and it is constitutionally mandated to spend money on our defense. Arguably it is welfare and the many extra-constitutional federal programs that are bankrupting us.

    Reply this comment
  3. Bruce
    Bruce 14 January, 2011, 09:11

    On the one hand, you have an empire established by military conquest that practices human sacrifice.

    On the other you have a Republic established with the consent of the governed that builds roads and schools and helps old people pay for the doctor.

    Gee, why would anyone see those differently?

    Reply this comment
  4. David in Irvine
    David in Irvine 14 January, 2011, 12:58

    From Democracy in America by Tocqueville:
    The emperors possessed, it is true, an immense and unchecked power, which allowed them to gratify all their whimsical tastes and to employ for that purpose the whole strength of the state. They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or of life; their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the many; it was confined to some few main objects and neglected the rest; it was violent, but its range was limited.
    It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question that, in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands and might interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do.

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  5. John Seiler
    John Seiler 15 January, 2011, 13:21

    GoneWiththeWind: I agree that welfare and most other domestic spending is unconstitutional. But so are the expensive undeclared wars; the last declaration of war, as required by the Constitution, was World War II.

    And the real costs of these wars is much higher than you write. Economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the cost of the Iraq War alone is up to $6 trillion. You have to figure in the costs of veterans’ care, very expensive over the long term; interest on the money borrowed to pay for the wars (all of it was borrowed), etc. Here’s Stiglitz; and, yeah, he’s a liberal Democrat, but he has his numbers right; and now a liberal Dem is running the wars:

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    Smithd720 3 August, 2017, 21:55

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