The forms you fill out have many fields, just one of them would make any member of this audience fail in your attempt to have justice done. That field is called “pre-existence.” If someone stole the tire of your pickup truck, in order to file a complaint successfully you must demonstrate that:
a. the tire exists and
b. that it is your lawful possession.

Now, could someone in the audience please demonstrate to the group that your stolen spare tire:
a. exists and
b. that you are the legitimate owner?

Of course, this all assumes that the office behind the counter will be honest and diligent. It assumes that he is not in the pocket of organized crime.

Getting into this pocket is not easily evaded. During the campaign, an emissary of some Trans NAFTA Corporation, dressed in a smart suit, walks into the candidate’s office carrying a briefcase full of money. He is bearing good wishes – no strings attached – for a successful political career. Once that happens, there is no choice. The Mayor must collaborate. Plata o Plomo. Silver or Lead.

Many political leaders pay lip-service to the assumption that if drug users on this side of the border were taken off their addiction and consumption stopped, the problems on our side would be solved.

Not so. They run deeper.

The real damage the drug trade has done has been to the rule of law and to our fledging democracy. It has rendered it impotent.

What has been exposed by the success of the drug trade is the fact that we are powerless to stop criminal activities – in general. Once lawless people see there is no rule of law, you have an altogether bigger problem.

If you can run drugs without fear of being caught, then you can also kidnap, extort, rape and kill, and disregard any law that impedes you, all with impunity.

How has it come to this?

Perhaps the answer is rather less complicated than we might imagine. Perhaps is lies in this motto of many criminals in Mexico: “I rather live a week like a king than a lifetime eating shit.”

Make no mistake: for millions and millions, daily life in Mexico can be one daily spoonful of manure after another. At times, it feels as though it is the national sport, not only of the government, to make your life difficult.

Even the best days can be lousy. Your team finally gets into the national championship! And now for the bad news. If you want to buy tickets, you’ll have to get up at 2 a.m., stand in line and weather the elements.

Red tape is everywhere, and it is so thick on the ground that daily life is Kafka-esque.

Wages can be meager … prospects bleak. Who can be surprised that a young man will risk a bullet for the possibility – at least a short time – of liberty from a joyless grind?

Of course the answer, we’ve been hearing, is supposed to be simple. Change your economic settings. Free the markets, privatize, open the borders, unfetter the invisible hand and let all the boats rise.

For many years it has been regarded as all but heretical to question this wisdom in many political and economic circles. This argument has been blunt: get these macroeconomic settings in place, stick to them and you will soon be on your way to first world prosperity.

Perhaps the turmoil of the past few weeks in the First World might persuade everyone to reconsider. Perhaps simple recipes may not be enough. Perhaps we ought to look more closely at the human beings involved in the economy.

Let us ask what motivates them to work hard and contribute, and what discourages them from taking part. Let us ask what work we can all do, and how we might better share the proceeds.

Let me put it this way: the person who stands on the South side of the border can look like a lost cause: lawless, disaffected, unwilling to work, unwilling to contribute.

Move him just three meters forward, across the border and into the United States, and witness a transformation that is quite remarkable.

No longer does he have his hand out for money; he has it out for work. He toils, he applies himself, he does – all he can – to embrace his new life. He flourishes. Sends money back home.

Who is this man who changed fundamentally by moving just three short meters?

The answer is obvious: Most human beings are not innately bad or lazy, or incapable, or lawless. Given the right circumstances and an opportunity, given the hope of a better life, they respond.

The Editors