Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Someone studied comparative government and politics.

Journalists are renowned for using the terms government and regime as synonyms. At least one of the editors at The Economist studied comparative government and politics long enough to learn the difference.
[Thanks to Paul Fitzpatrick in Texas for pointing this one out.]

Mexico’s new president sets out to change his country’s course  
But did voters want a new regime or just a new government?
[W]hen Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that he would be the first Mexican president since 1910 to use the [National Palace] as his workplace, he was making a statement that was both political and historical. Mr López Obrador (known as AMLO to Mexicans), who won a landslide victory in a presidential election on July 1st, promises a “fourth transformation”, after those of political independence, Juárez’s assertion of national sovereignty and the revolution in 1910-17. “This is a change of regime, not just of government,” says Lorenzo Meyer, a historian sympathetic to AMLO.

Although he does not take office until December 1st, some of the contours of this change are already clear… Mr López Obrador is steeped in a particular version of Mexican history (about which he has written several books), from which he derives his inspirations and world-view.

His first hero is Juárez, a liberal but one in whom the new president sees a leader who “proposed a new Mexico based on honesty and republican values”… Second is Lázaro Cárdenas, who in the 1930s nationalised the oil industry and carried out a state-controlled agrarian reform. He stands… “for bringing social justice to a society that still has colonial characteristics”, of racism for example…

What all this means is that AMLO will be economically moderate, socially bold and politically centralising— but not necessarily democratic…

He thinks he can fund a big increase in public investment, mainly for transport projects in the poorer south, by eliminating waste. The first law approved by the new congress (in which AMLO has a majority) involves a swingeing cut in the salaries of senior officials. Federal “delegates” will police spending by state governors…

Like Juárez, AMLO is personally austere. His recipe for fighting corruption and crime seems to be to restore the authority of the federal government. That may well be popular. Historically, Mexico has floundered when power is dispersed. But the president’s “delegates” look to some like a device to turn his Morena movement into a party of the state. AMLO mistrusts “civil society”, the pressure groups that call for stronger checks and balances. Even some of his supporters worry that his aim may be to strengthen the state rather than democracy…

[AMLO's] vision of history may not accord with a country which many Mexicans do not think is still “colonial”, but who voted for him out of despair at crime and corruption. It is still unclear whether Mexico wants a change of regime, or just of government.

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