Not at all surprising is the existence of tensions between the needs of the economy to be able to progress and the demands imposed by the population by means of democratic actions. In order to attract investments and create conditions for progress, governments must restrain themselves in budgetary matters and avoid distortions such as those that produce subsidies, trade restrictions and other discretionary measures. For its part, the citizenry, through its vote, demands satisfiers, solutions, better life conditions, security and peace for its own development and well-being. If the government acts well, there is no reason for both factors to be contradictory, at least if sufficient time is allowed for the former to come about. However, in the era of instant communications and overblown expectations, voters require immediate satisfiers.
The tension between both phenomena –public policy and peoples’ requirements- is something inevitable in human society, but it has been exacerbated in the information era, engendering new wellsprings of conflict.
Throughout the second half of the XX century, the notion that dominated was that liberal democracy was the pattern against which all nations had to assess themselves, which led to the dictatorships and benevolent despotisms of the world adopting apparently democratic measures, such as elections, which in reality were not very democratic but that complied with the formality. All this changed during the last decade due to the 2008 financial crises as well as to the mere fact that China had achieved an exceptional economic advance without even pretending to be a democracy. Today we have arrived at the moment at which innumerable dictatorial governments, authoritarian or, at least, not democratic, feel themselves to be legitimate and do not perceive any need to justify their hard handedness or their non-democratic hand.
In Democracy and Prosperity, Iversen and Soskice argue that democracy and capitalism are not only compatible, but also that one is unviable without the existence of the other. Their approach is based on three elements: first, a government is required that functions and that establishes and makes the rules be adhered to for economic and social interaction; i.e., the market and the State are two crucial components of development. In second place, education is central to development and even more so in advanced societies because insofar as the economic, technological and social complexity rise, the population always insists on there being a competent government: only a highly educated population can aspire to development. Therefore, in third place, development requires particular skills that usually are multiplied through networks and communities, thus possessing a geographic nature. The latter explains why electronic companies have been concentrated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, automotive firms in el Bajío, aviation corporations in Querétaro or the old shoe industry in Guanajuato.
Behind the assessment of these authors lies the thesis that democracy works and is stable to the extent that the government, and the political parties, are capable of satisfying the middle classes, a pivotal ingredient in economic growth as well as in political stability. The key to all this is a basic principle: when a government is democratic, it must provide the population and the enterprises with the conditions that permit them to be successful and in that resides the essence of democracy, that is, responding effectively to the citizenry.
Would this thesis be applicable to the current Mexican reality? On the one hand, the President’s popularity would suggest that the great recognition that he enjoys is independent of the economic performance. However, if one looks at the surveys, the electorate keenly distinguishes between their respect for the President and their support for the decisions and measures that the President undertakes. While support for the person exceeds 60%, approval of his measures ranges between 20% and 40%. That is, the majority of the population are not in agreement with the way that he governs, but massively approves of the person of the President. On the other hand, the population that approves of the President is not homogeneous: there is a cohort that has supported him for years and that concedes to him all of the latitude that he requires, but there are other groups that are more volatile and that demand rapid and expeditious solutions. The common denominator is that everyone expects answers, but some are more patient than others.
The Mexican society continues to be, in many senses, an industrial society, and in industrial societies, say the authors, workers with skills and those lacking these (the product of the failures of the educative system) are interdependent; however, as long as the economy advances toward digitalization, that interdependence disappears and it is here where the political crises and abuses of the interest groups come to light.
The authors affirm that populism emerges when important sectors of the society stop seeing themselves represented by the political system. This explains the triumph of AMLO last year; it also constitutes a challenge for responding to that population on time and in successful fashion.