Against Nature

Luis Rubio

The saying goes that one defies nature at their own expense and risk. In economic matters, there is ample evidence of the risks involved in challenging the most elementary human principles. Devoting governmental activity to reconstructing an era that remained behind and that is not able to be recreated cannot lead to anything other than failure. In plain terms, no government survives when it disregards the context within which it attempts to conduct public affairs.

Three moments changed the world in radical fashion: the Gutenberg printing press, the industrial revolution and, more recently, the digital revolution. Each of those instances transformed the existence of the population and altered all the patterns and modes of life. As it is indubitable that there was someone who continued to produce whips for horse-drawn carriages when the automobile appeared, the pretension is absurd of rebuilding the nostalgic homeland of the past on the threshold of the digital revolution we are experiencing at present.

Each of those transformative moments was accompanied by dislocations: the most evident and well known is that which employment underwent when the steam engine made its appearance. In a matter of a few years, the way of producing –essentially with persons assisted by beasts of burden- was revolutionized, leaving a trail of suffering in the form of poverty, unemployment and uneasiness. Whoever has read the heartrending chronicles of Charles Dickens can appreciate the enormous human costs that these processes of change impose and their memory explains the reticence to accept the inevitability that change implies and, above all, the impotence of everyone -individuals and governments- in the face of the relentless force of a revolution such as this.

The moment in which we are living implies exactly the opposite of what the government intends to do. To begin with, tomorrow has become today; everything is interdependent, and nothing waits; what happens in China or France affects us and can trigger actions that a minute prior to their occurring can seem to us unimaginable. Like Brexit practically annihilated the traditional British political parties, Morena in Mexico emerged as a movement that, in a few years, displaced the existing political forces. Nothing is permanent anymore: the only constant is that there are no constants any longer.

In second place, the traditional educative system has ceased being relevant in the world in which the skills demanded by the productive world change inexorably. The old teachers’ unions will continue to protect the interests of the petty mafias or of the extremists of the current government, but they are nothing other than impediments to the adjustment that today’s children require for being successful in the world  they will confront much sooner than anyone can imagine.

Similarly, the government that was formerly all-powerful has no other remedy today, if it wants to be relevant, than to manage its weakness, a structural weakness having nothing to do with the immediate juncture,  but with the way that communications, the markets and the citizen demands work. The key lies in strengthening and rendering efficient the primary functions of the government (such as security and basic services) because the pretension of controlling everything is just another chimera that defies mother nature, that is, reality. Peña tried it and one can see where he is today.

The challenge is flexibility and adaptability, not control and dogmatism. Certainly, wealth is poorly distributed and everyday life leaves much to be desired, all of which is manifested in a nearly total shutdown of social mobility, the factor that conferred on the country decades of progress and stability in the past century. The solution is not to be found in more spending or greater austerity –or in the phantasmagoric expectation of a fix-it-all fiscal reform- but (rather) in a very different use of the resources. If the key component for success resides in added value through knowledge, it’s impossible not to conclude that what is urgent is a radical change of direction in the nature of the educative system and what that implies for the justice and security systems, as well as for the functioning of the markets.

The changes that Mexico requires to build an accelerated development platform are many and they are doubtlessly complex, but, for them to achieve their objective, they must be compatible with the digital age. Authoritarianism, control, contempt for education and rejecting the nature of the productive world in the XXI century are reactionary formulas that will do nothing other than impoverish the country. The series of reforms that the government has undertaken and those that it proposes to carry out in the upcoming months are the product of nothing more than nostalgia and resentment.

All this will do is impede progress, however it is measured, and will give rise to what is contrary to what is sought because it implies, at the end of the day, ignoring -thus defying,- reality. Not a viable port of departure, to say the least.

However praiseworthy it might be to return to a less hurried and convulsive time, it is an effort in vain that flies in the face of the power of nature, therefore entailing incommensurable risks.