Where the Romans meet the Barbarians

Where the Romans meet the Barbarians


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Mexican-American_border_at_Nogales-1024x399It is one of the few places on earth where nothing but a line on a map separates the third world from the first. A line that allows some to live in abundance while condemning others to a life sentence of squalor.  A line that separates the land where the dreams can come true from one where dreams are the exclusive domain of a wealthy few. A line marking the have from the have-nots.  A line that marks the transition from a nation that is recognized for its economic and political stability to one that is just as renowned for its instability.

That line is the border between the United States and Mexico.

But it is more than a line separating two countries.  It is a boundary separating two philosophies that can trace their origins back to the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes that resisted their autocratic rule.

As Alexis de Tocqueville observed nearly two centuries ago, colonies inherit their political mores from their colonial masters.  Unfortunately, for the people south of the border, this meant the Spanish and French Empires.  These empires considered themselves the descendants of the Rome .  Their kings having the power of Caesar, who was perhaps the purest and most absolute monarch the world has ever seen. These values would evolve eventually into the principles of Devine Right and Absolutism that would dominate the politics of  continental Europe far into the 19th century.  From it would stem the Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, and tyrants such as Napoleon.  The citizen would remain a peasant living in abject poverty and servitude.

These mores did not go away once a colony has gained its independence.  As we have seen throughout the history of Latin America, local despotism immediately replaced that of their former masters.  Politics of the cuadillo, or strongman,  became the dominant form of government with little Caesars having unlimited power over their people.  The people themselves were nothing more than chattel to be exploited by the elites.  As one Mexican adage puts it, “Mexico is a ranch and the president is the owner.”

Such a political culture could not produce a Washington, a Jefferson, or an Adams.  It would give birth to despots such as Santa Ana, Iturbide, and Porfirio Diaz in Mexico and, more recently, Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela.

Fortunately, the cultural values of the United States and Canada came from a different source.

The Germanic tribes to the north of Rome resisted Roman subjugation. One of those tribes were the Saxons who had a very different set of values.  Their leader was often elected and his authority was limited by a body of elders. The king was considered the first among equals and subject to the same laws as the common man. Although taxation existed, especially in times of war, there were limits on the power of the king to impose taxation  and he had very little influence on the economic activity of his people.

The fall of Rome provided the opportunity for the Saxons to expand into Britain. There they mixed with the Angles and the combined peoples would become known as the Anglo-Saxons. Over the centuries, their style of government would evolve into the classical liberal principles of limited government, individual rights, private property, and free-market economics. It would be these principles that would unleash the potential of the common man and make Anglo-Saxon based societies the most free and prosperous societies the world has ever seen.

It is no accident that the freest, wealthiest, and most stable democracies in the history of mankind are based on the principles of limited government, individual rights, private property, and free-market economics. It is also no accident that these nations have  been, until recently, immune to the state-centered ideologies of Marxism, Socialism, Fascism, etc. that still plague Romanized Europe.

This is why there is so much disparity between the Saxonized United States (and Canada) and their Romanized neighbors to the south.  One side unleashes the potential of the individual, creating freedom and prosperity for the society as a whole. The other sees him as nothing more than a subject, there to serve the needs of the elite controlled state.  One becomes a flourishing modern democracy with a vibrant financial system, while the other remains stagnant with a peasant-style economy.

A Mexican anecdote tells the tale of a girl who was visiting her cousins north of the border for the first time. As they drove around sightseeing, her cousins explained that it was all once part of Mexico but that the Americans took it. The girl, upon looking at the affluence, sorrowfully remarked, “And they took the best part, too”.

Unfortunately, that is how most people see the differences between the two nations; never understanding the root causes for the economic inequality that exists between the United States and Mexico.

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