Do our Latin American friends ever wonder what magic is up here north of the border? Is there something in our air or water? Why is the United States so economically successful while their countries are not?
Two hundred and twenty two years ago, in 1800, the United States, Mexico, and Argentina were in many ways identical. Per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was very similar. Each was blessed with incredible natural resources. Each was blessed with a hardworking, intelligent and vibrant people. Each was blessed with an open frontier just waiting to be discovered. Although smaller in area, Honduras and Guatemala were also equally blessed.
Yet now, a little over 200 years later let’s reexamine these cousins of the Americas: The World Bank reports 2019 U.S. per-capita GDP is $65,297. In Argentina it is $9,912 and in Mexico it is $9,946. Guatemala is $4,620 and Honduras is $2,574.
If we could mentally take these results and turn them into some sort of medicine, which would you take? If their lives depended on it, all would take the U.S. “medicine.” None would take the other’s medicine. This is proven every day as people vote with their feet and their feet seem to point in only one direction: to the north and to the United States.
So what drove these tremendous disparities in results? Is there something wrong or inferior with the citizens of these other countries? The question is, of course, repugnant. Some of the finest people I have ever met are from Mexico. Some of the finest people I have ever met have Spanish surnames.
The source of the problem lies not with the population but rather with their political and economic systems.
Hundreds of years ago the scientific revolution began and it has transformed the world. There is not a person on the planet who hasn’t benefited from discoveries driven by this revolution. But more than discoveries, the scientific revolution was about changing how we looked at and interacted with the world. It was a profound paradigm shift in the clearest meaning of that word.
No longer would opinions and beliefs drive our thinking about facts. Instead just the opposite; facts and a search for reality would drive our beliefs. The dreams of alchemy disappeared under the facts of reality. This change in thinking has raced around the globe to the benefit of all. By its very nature it is clearly a self-propagating paradigm.
Yet on the political front we still cling to the childish beliefs of the past, somehow believing our desires and opinions actually shape reality. The United States was based upon an idea of individual freedom and limited government—and look at the results. The only superiority here is one of a better designed political system. Mexico, Argentina, and the rest of the world have no problem taking discoveries in science, technology, and medicine wherever they come from and using them as their own.
It is far past time for them, and for that matter the United States, to put the failed paradigms of the past in the dustbin of history. Some things work better than others. There is no moral aspect to this, it is simply true. And the more we discover these truths the more successful we will be. This is true in Mexico, the United States, and across the globe.
It is time to move forward with a fact and reality-based paradigm, rather than the childish opinion-based one that has wrought so much damage and hardship around the world.
It is said that George Washington was America’s greatest president because he had the chance to be king and turned it down.
Latin American countries need their own George Washingtons. To find them will require that the people of these countries put the interests of their country above their own, don’t attempt to line their own pockets, and that they have the courage to follow the facts wherever they may lead, whether gringo-inspired or not.
I have no doubt the courageous people from south of our border can do these things in their own good time. Two centuries have been wasted and far too many lives have been impacted, but that is the past. Don’t look to others to lead this paradigm shift, look in the mirror instead. The great people of these countries deserve nothing less.