Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mexican Hat Dance

We we're a bit bemused in yesterday's post about the mayor's poverty quest to Mexico. It is hard for us to believe that a program implemented in one of the hemisphere's poorest and politically dysfunctional countries could serve as an exemplar for New York. A more detailed discussion of the Mexican effort can be found in Ray Rivera's good piece in today's NY Times.

It turns out that the Mexican program, called Opportunidades, has been lauded by the World Bank. Boy, that makes us feel a lot better about all of this. As it turns out the effort down south has been implemented primarily in rural areas and only recently has the Mexican government expanded it into smaller cities.

One of the government's worries is that the program does not insure that anyone will get a job. The founder of the program describes it as an effort to "improve human capital; it is not a job-creation program." Still, the human capital aspects are important if they are able to truly change consciousness. We're back it seems to the old culture of poverty argument, and whether the cash nexus can be used as a lever to change the hearts and minds of the under class.

We believe that it does all begin with instilling the proper attitudes to succeed. That being said, however, we're extremely skeptical that a large bureaucratic government effort will be able to accomplish this daunting task. The old saw-"We're the government and we're here to help you"-comes to mind in contemplating this grand scheme.