Bret Stephens’s WSJ column today argues that Mexico’s not a failed state yet, and its economy is actually growing reasonably well; we’d better hope he’s right, because if our southern neighbor really falls apart, we’re frelled. This excerpt was especially striking, if only because it’s not every day you see libertarianism dissed on the Journal’s editorial pages:
Then there’s the idea that Mexico would have been better off had it never picked a fight with the cartels. I grew up in that Mexico, in which a corrupt and authoritarian government made its peace with—and took its cut from—the cartels.
That Mexico, built on conspiracies of silence and fear, could not survive the country’s transition to democracy. It’s no surprise that, even now, in the fifth year of his presidency and after 34,612 deaths, Felipe Calderón has an approval rating of 54%. Mexicans have no shortage of misgivings about his methods, but not many are proposing a viable alternative to taking the cartels head on. And by “viable,” that means something other than the fantasy of expecting Ron Paul to win the presidency and end the war on drugs. Not that libertarians will ever stop proposing that utopia as their sole idea in what otherwise amounts to a feckless counsel of despair.
I’m in favor of legalizing marijuana but I’m under no illusions that would do much to weaken the cartels. Part of the reason is that they’ve gone into other business, like video piracy, as described in today’s Washington Post. This part was interesting:
Mexico has become the pirate capital of Latin America, exporting so many bootleg movies to Central America, for example, that the major studios no longer bother to sell their products on the shelves there, according to industry watchdogs.
And in Cancun or Monterrey or Tijuana, when you buy a bootleg Disney movie for the kids, it is as likely as not to bare [sic] a stamp that shows it was distributed by the Zetas (a stallion) or La Familia (a butterfly).
So the cartels have a branding strategy for DVDs. What’s next, radio ads?: “When you think of intellectual property theft, think the Stallion!”
[The story, both on paper and online, did indeed say “bare a stamp”. Does no one edit this stuff? I pasted the text into Word and it didn’t flag “bare” (though it frequently flags perfectly proper usages). So I guess the Newspaper of Record in Our Nation’s Capital just runs any text that Word doesn’t flag as grammatically incorrect? We really are doomed.]