It seems it has become a national pasttime for Americans to compare Mexico to the United States, with the usual goal of demonstrating how much better the US is than Mexico, and demonstrate that Mexico remains a third world country. However, such a comparison is a Sisyphean task.

For one thing, for the typical proud Mexican, such comparisons fall on deaf ears. Mexicans, politicians in particular, have a laundry list of worn and hackneyed responses to anything bad that Americans can say about Mexico. These responses all center on the concept that whatever problems Mexico has, it is NOT Mexico's fault. It is America's fault. The United States took Texas...the United States took the Southwest...the United States has meddled in Mexican affairs...the United States wants Mexico to remain poor because its needs a supply of cheap labor to pluck chickens and pick lettuce...and the excuses go on forever.

Mexicans are very good at placing the blame for all failures elsewhere. It is their national pasttime.

So, let us be fair. Let's compare Mexico to Japan. There is good reason to make such a comparison. The two countries have many similarities, at least on paper. The United States is Japan’s number one trading partner. The same for Mexico. Japan’s population is 99% Japanese – Asians. Mexico’s population is 90% indigenous peoples and mestizos – Asians and part-Asians.

After World War II, Japan was basically just a skeleton of a country. Japan had spent almost all its capital on prosecuting the war. Much of its infrastructure was destroyed. On August 15, 1945, the United States Navy sailed into Tokyo Harbor to accept Japan’s unconditional surrender, and then the US actually wrote Japan’s new post-war constitution. How’s that for meddling?

In 1950, the per capita gross national product (GDP) of Mexico was actually greater than Japan’s. Mexico, in 1950, had a per capita GDP of $2,085, while Japan's per capita GDP was $1,873. Mexico had a leg-up on Japan. Mexico had natural resources, such as oil and minerals. Japan had almost none. The arable land in Mexico was more than the entire land mass of Japan. Japan has a land mass slightly smaller than the state of California. Mexico is over five times larger.

While Mexico started out with the advantage, in 60-years Japan's per capital GDP has grown to $32,600 while Mexico only reached $13,900.

What happened? There are some clues. Japanese have more education, almost 2.5 years more than the average Mexican. The Japanese are far more successful in technological achievement. The term “Technological Achievement” requires some explanation.

The Technology Achievement Index is calculated from indicators in four categories: creation of technology; diffusion of recent innovations; diffusion of old innovations; and human skills. The indicators for creation of technology are patents granted per capita and royalty and license fees received from abroad per capita.

Diffusion of recent innovations is calculated from the number of Internet hosts per capita and the share of high- and medium-technology exports as a percentage of all exports. Indicators for diffusion of old technology are telephones (land line and cellular) per capita and electricity consumption per capita.

Human skills are calculated based on the average number of years of schooling and the gross enrollment ratio at the tertiary level in science, mathematics and engineering.

On the Technology Achievment Index, Japan is rated .70 to Mexico's .39.

Is anybody old enough to remember when the phrase “Made in Japan” was a joke? Now it means “quality”. Japan has eight major auto makers. Mexico has none, only subsidiaries of foreign auto makers where cars are assembled, not designed nor engineered. Japan has 16 major electronics manufacturers, Mexico has none, only foreign-owned subsidiaries where assembly is done with cheap labor on electronics designed elsewhere. Japan has an aerospace industry that has designed built and launched its own satellites, on Japanese-built rockets. Mexico has nada.

Another interesting fact. In 1950, Japan's population was 84 million. By 2010 it had increased by 52% to 128 million. In 1950, Mexico's population was 26 million. By 2010 it had increased by 415% to 108 million. Can't blame that on the United States. Mexico produces too many people and too few jobs. This accounts for why one of Mexico's largest exports is its people. 10% of the people who were born in Mexico now live in the US.

Mexico’s failure to keep up does not have one damned thing to do with the United States. The proof is Japan.


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