Saturday, August 27, 2016

America and Mexico, Success and Failure

Given that I have, for some time, been rather vocal about the superiority of government based on natural development and traditional authority, I have at times been asked to explain why two close, neighboring republics, the United States and Mexico, could be so different from the other with the United States being so successful that it is the longest-lasting major republic on earth and a global superpower while Mexico is, roughly speaking, a failed state that its own people flee from and regard the prospect of being sent back to as a fate worse than death. After all, Mexico has, in many ways, been more "traditional" than the United States of America. It has had two monarchs of its own (both of whom were murdered by their own subjects), it had for quite some time recognized hereditary titles, maintained an established church and, frankly, started out in the colonial period much more advanced than the British North American colonies that became the United States. In a world where, loved or hated, so many focus obsessively on the U.S.A. we tend to forget that colonial "New Spain" had hospitals, institutions of higher learning and a printing press when the English-speaking colonists to the north were huddling, half-starved, in ramshackle huts on the New England coast. Why is there such a huge contrast between the success of America and the failure of Mexico?

The answer would require more in-depth explanation than I could possibly give here as one could take into account the immense number of centuries of the development of both populations going back to their very long and immensely different histories in England and Spain, however, there is one difference I will highlight here, even though, given my political views, I do not like the sound of it, nevertheless, I cannot believe other than that it is true. First of all, one thing that most monarchists will probably agree on is that stability for a country is extremely important. Human beings can adapt to a wide range of extreme hardships and difficulties so long as there is stability. You can put considerable hurdles in the path of humanity and so long as those hurdles are fixed, people will usually find a way over or around them. Stability matters and, I think, it matters a great deal that the history of the United States, other than one extremely brutal four-year period of mass fratricide, has been a very stable country whereas Mexico has not. In fact, the longest period of sustained stability in Mexico was, I hate to say, probably the better part of a century the country spent as a socialist dictatorship under the PRI and that stability was based on government force, brutal violence, deception and corrupt agreements with organized crime. Not an ideal sort of stability by any means, nor one that could possibly be sustained (as it wasn't).

Tories land in Canada
How then, can this difference in the stability of each country be accounted for? My proposal for today is that it all goes back to the Tories. Yes, those long-suffering and much vilified American colonists who remained steadfastly loyal to King and country during the War for Independence. I think the U.S.A. owes much of its stability to, and this is the hard part for me to say, their absence from the political scene (it hurts every time). As we know, the American War for Independence was, in origin, a civil war within the British Empire between Whigs and Tories which later escalated into a world war as numerous countries tried to take advantage of the unhappy position the British found themselves in. So, there were royalist Americans (the Tories) and there were republican Americans (the Patriots) and, in the end, the republicans won the war (with thanks to France, Spain and the Netherlands). The American loyalists, for the most part, were not prepared to carry on living in the independent United States of America, both because of how they had been treated by their rebel countrymen and because it simply was a violation of their principles to even consider such a thing. These loyalists therefore packed up and set sail for the Bahamas, for England or for Canada. In fact, they provided the foundation for much of English-speaking Canada as we know it today since, prior to that time, Canada had predominately been French.

Because the Tories left the United States, the population that remained was dominated by the other two-thirds (as John Adams famously estimated it) who were Patriots or had no problem with the Patriots. Although there were certainly plenty of these early Americans disagreed about, by and large, they all agreed on the fundamental foundations of their new country such as republicanism, egalitarianism (as understood at the time) and a level of democracy. They may have argued, as the Federalist and Anti-Federalist factions emerged, about exactly what sort of constitutional republic they were to have, but that they were to have a constitutional republic rather than a constitutional monarchy with an established church and titled aristocracy was beyond question. After all, everyone who passionately favored those things had left the country, doubtless shaking the dust from their shoes as they came aboard ship. I think this played a very critical part in why the United States was as stable as it was, for as long as it was, until the states' rights and slavery issue boiled over, resulting in a unity that was, certainly in the immediate aftermath, based on armed force by overwhelming military might. Mexico, on the other hand, had a very different set of circumstances.

The Embrace of Acatempan
Mexico, like the British colonies, had republicans and royalists as well. They also had an established and politically involved church, the Roman Catholic Church, which supported the Spanish Crown. Mexico became independent quite a few years later than the United States because the Spanish or pro-Spanish Mexican royalists had a stronger position in the country. Essentially, in Mexico, there were Mexicans who favored a republic and Mexicans who favored a traditional monarchy. When the republicans, such as under the heretical priest Father Hidalgo, rose up in rebellion, the Spanish were able to count on the support of the Mexican monarchists in suppressing such troublemakers. Yet, in time, the Mexican monarchists were alienated from Spain and, after having fought in defense of the Spanish Crown, decided to make common cause with the pro-independence republicans so long as the independent Mexico would be a monarchy rather than a republic. This coming together of the two sides for the cause of independence has long been represented by the legendary embrace of the conservative Don Agustin de Iturbide and the revolutionary Vicente Guerrero, the famous 'Abrazo de Acatempan'.

The result was the success of the anti-Spanish forces, the independence of Mexico and the short-lived first Mexican Empire with General Iturbide as Emperor Agustin I. It was short-lived, however, because the republicans were still there and soon fought to overthrow and ultimately kill their Emperor. Likewise, when Guadalupe Victoria assumed office as the first President of Mexico, those who had favored the empire were still on hand. They could not, as the Tories had done, simply move in a mass exodus to some other part of the Spanish-speaking world because they were, as far as the Spanish were concerned, just as much traitors as their former republican comrades had been. Iturbide, for example, had gone into exile in England rather than Cuba or Spain itself because the Spanish authorities would have executed him for treason. The Tories in America had, as their most fundamental principle, their loyalty to the British Crown and King George III whereas in Mexico, the monarchists had broken away from the wider, global Spanish empire in favor of having an empire of their own so that, even had they desired to, there was no way they could turn back from the path they started down with Iturbide.

So, these two irreconcilable forces remained in Mexico and continuously fought for control of the country. The factions changed names or shifted back and forth from federalists versus centralists, clericalists versus anti-clericalists and so on until the monarchists were restored to power thanks to the intervention of the French which gave us the second Mexican Empire under the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian of 1864-1867. It was only after that tragedy that the power of the Mexican monarchists was broken for good, though some elements still remained. One could also argue that the original period of instability between the monarchists and republicans set the pattern for future instability even after the monarchists were wiped out as a significant political force. Different styles of republicans carried on trying to effect change in the way that had been established. One could, perhaps, even see the horrific Cristero War as a sort of last gasp or perhaps after-shock of the old republican versus monarchist rivalry in Mexico. The U.S. was very different in that the political divisions, while certainly serious, were never so irreconcilable as those between ardent republicans and monarchists.

This is, of course, simply my opinion, bolstered by historical facts but some may draw other conclusions from the histories of the two countries. However, it seems to me that this played a major part in why the U.S. was so much more stable compared to Mexico. I do not doubt that, in this day and age, many will disagree. After all, if the argument I have made is correct, it would be rather in defiance of the current popular slogan that "diversity is a strength". However, I do not see the historical record as supporting such a notion. The outbreak of the Wars of Religion in France or the Thirty Years War in Germany after the birth of Protestantism brought about more "diversity" of views on Christianity would seem to support such a position as would the lack of such wars in places like Spain, Italy or even Russia, which lacked such diversity. To me it seems a rather obvious point of view that one cannot have a great deal of conflict over politics or religious if everyone holds essentially the same fundamental beliefs about such things for the same reason that there are no race riots in Japan or clashes between Christians and Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Diversity, I would think, tends to necessitate divisions and few things can cause instability like divisions regarding something so fundamental as the very form of government one is to submit to.


  1. For me Geert Hofstede has said everything which needs to be said on this topic. The metrics he established are helpful in putting these differences to rest.

    As a long term expat in a less 'developed' country, I see these differing outcomes as largely cultural. Although it is important to note that errors are made on an individual basis. When you see a 3rd world street covered in litter, individuals made the choice to do that.

    Of course this does not suit politicians, who opine for diversity on one hand and pit populations against each other via identity politics in the next. All of their solutions are necessarily collectivist. I would not blame diversity its self as much as the phony promotion of it in the political sphere.

  2. We, Latin Americans, tend to blame our Iberian heritage as source of all our malaise and failures. The fact that no ex-Spanish/Portuguese colony ever became a developed country makes that theory even stronger.

    The British can take some credit for USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong; whereas the Japanese can do it for South Korea and Taiwan.

    1. My immediate reaction is to disagree with such a suggestion. I would be more inclined to blame the native heritage given how numerous Latin American countries were relatively prosperous and successful when the criollo populations were still in charge. I have heard, though I don't know how well it would hold up as it is impossible to find a dispassionate study of this, the theory that it was the extent to which the Spanish and Portuguese mixed with the native population that caused them to fall behind British colonies which simply imported their own populations rather than creating a mixed one.


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