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Sunday, November 21, 2010


"The Greatest Capacity for Violence" in Northern Mexico

The article “Northern Mexico's State of Anarchy,” which discusses the violence and war in northern Mexico, seems especially relevant to our current Mancur Olson book, Power and Prosperity. The article sights many instances of drug wars that are ravaging the northern cities. Many individuals have fled; those who remain live in constant fear.

As Olson’s theory would predict, northern Mexico has lost much productivity due to the creation of new incentives. “Anarchy not only involves loss of life but also increases the incentives to steal and defend against theft, and thereby reduces the incentive to produce” (Power and Prosperity 64). According to Wall Street Journal’s article, oil fields and farms have been abandoned due to the chaos.

Why are the drug cartel groups so prominent in Mexico? Part of their prominence stems from the country’s instability. Small groups (such as cartels) arise quickly. In areas of instability such as Mexico, small groups are more likely to rise than large ones which need time to become established.

In addition, Olson points out the fact that not all contracts are voluntary; power is also involved. Whoever has the greatest capacity for violence will be the ruler. It seems that the Mexican government is unable to control the drug wars and protect its citizens. Who now has the greatest capacity for violence? The answer is unclear. Multiple drug cartels are warring. Perhaps, one will subdue the others and become the ruler since it will have shown the greatest capacity for violence.

One solution to the problem is for the Mexican government to display the greatest capacity for violence by using its military to exert force over the cartels. However, this requires an even greater amount of violence. Surely there is another solution. Perhaps the government could change the circumstances that allow the cartels to grow, such as targeting those who consume drugs. New incentives would arise and the drug cartels would weaken. Does any one else have ideas?

Does it seem that northern Mexico is characterized by a number of roving bandits, perhaps due to the inability, or perhaps the choice, of the Mexican government to not be the entity with the greatest capacity for violence in that region?
Yes, definitely.
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