Exceptional Nations

Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French thinker and politician, coined the idea that certain countries would be exceptional, that is, qualitatively distinct from the others. Great myths have been constructed around this appreciation. What makes a society distinctive is the nature of its population, its history and culture, and its way of being. In this dimension, no two societies in the world are alike. But this does not mean that human beings are condemned to be like our predecessors, or that there is no power in this land capable of making us change.


Democracy, a theme that impassionedde Tocqueville, is a perfect example. For decades, if not centuries, only a handful of nations achieved being called democratic; however, today we are able to observe the manner in which democracy has become deeply rooted in societies that are as distinct as those of Korea and Japan, Chile and Spain, India and Mexico. Once these other societies appropriated the institutional structures necessary for democracy to function, it began to flourish. People who some decades ago rejected the possibility that the Mexicans could discern among candidates and exercise their right to vote have been overtaken by the dedication with which the population has responded in the nation’s elections.


We are distinct from other nationalities because of the culinary, cultural, architectural, and historical attributes that compriseMexicanness. These characteristics frequently make us feel exceptional. However, poor understanding of these attributes has become a dogma that holds us back from improving, from developing our economy, and from being successful.Many of the most recalcitrant interests in the country have seized upon the idea of exceptionality, not because they believe it, but because their objective is to maintain the status quo: the more people accept the latter as dogma, the better it is for these interests. Feeling exceptional is very good for our self-esteem, but terrible for development, because it implies that measures that work in other societies would not be applicable to Mexico, such as free trade, competition in the marketplace, good government, absence of corruption, an effective political system, or a richer society.


We are not unique or exceptional in terms of being unable to duplicate the successes of other countries or to adopt better ways of doing things.To accept the contrary would imply denying the freedom that we have as human beings for transforming and developing ourselves, as well as the responsibility for our own expansion. A nation that does not adapt is a nation that accepts that others –their politicians, their interest groups, or, as we call them in Mexico, the de facto powers- decide for the citizenry. Some see a political party as the cause of our ills, others blame individuals.The truth is that it is we the citizenswho have ceded our right, our freedom, to others to decide for us.


The political change of the last several years has been enormous and, nonetheless, insufficient. In the public forum, we Mexicans dream of a “velvet-like” transition toward democracy, as has occurred in some of Eastern Europe, or democracy by the consensus route, as in Spain. Today we know, or perhaps have yet to achieve assimilating, that these elegant solutions did not come about in our country. Our reality is that of a society that moved toward democracy but without the institutional mainstays and the decided participation of all of the political forces, which ended up translating into a great mismatch that does not permit advancement: the conditions necessary for favoring covenants of great depthamong political actors do not exist. However, instead of procuring the best arrangement possible, as so many other societies have done, we have remained mired in the nostalgia of the ideal solution. The alternative would be, rather than seeking an agreement among all the actors, to focus ourselves on a sole goal: the creation of wealth.


What Mexico needs is a new way of understanding its development, of accepting our characteristics and circumstances. Moreover, thepathway into which we are locked makes for a risky future whenever the minimal employment, opportunity, and income requirements that the population rightly demands are not satisfied. This reality propels us to think distinctly, to focus on our problems in novel ways. In a word: to stop aspiring tothe perfection that legitimately drives many grandiose transformation proposals, in order to devoteourselves to resolving the immediate problems that are urgent and necessary. Nothing is lost if, once advanced, the country finds better conditions for construction ofthe underpinnings ofan ambitious transformation, such as those that are mentioned but that are not feasible at this time and under the present circumstances.


The first heading to target for resolution is not that of institutional reforms under discussion, but rather, reactivation of the economy.Our economy has plodded along for decades without growing at the rhythm at which it is capable, but above all, at that which our demographic and social reality demands. A growing economy permits the attenuation of social conflict and contributes to resolving ancestral problems. This can only be achieved to the extent that all of us Mexicans adopt economic growth as the main objective of public administration, and in turn that all political and legal resources are devoted to acceleration of this growth. Thus, instead of dispersing efforts in numberless themes and reforms, we would address ourselves nearly exclusively to making possible the generation of riches, the resolution of problems that directly affect this in regulatory, employment, and political ambits.


The manner of articulating this objective is critical. In a wholly developed and institutionalized nation, the discussion would be carried out essentially in the legislative forum and the pertinent decisions would be made. In our case, the situation is very distinct. Mexico requiresleadership that is strong and effective and whose sole interest and objective is the country’s development. This leader would do his or her utmost to forge the agreements necessaryfor imposing the relevant accords and to join with the population behind a strategy fully dedicatedto the economic transformation of the country. Our experience with strong leaderships over the last decades has not been very good, but I seeno other way of achieving this transformation. Perhaps it depends on us, the citizens, to beready and willing to allow the emergence of a leader with these characteristics, but to keep an eye on the leaderthereafter like a hawk.

Prologue tothebook: Ganarle a la mediocridad: concentrémonos en crecer. M.A.Porrua 2012