Too Big to Democratize? Monopolies and Subpar Political and Economic Performance: The Case of Mexico

Zocalo Square, Mexico City


Denise Dresser
Professor of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)


February 21, 2013


12–1:15 p.m. PT


RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA

About the Program

Mexico’s business elites and powerful public-sector unions constitute important obstacles to change in the Mexican economy. They have become “veto centers” that concentrate economic and political power at the tip of the socioeconomic and political pyramid, while blocking competition and enabling massive wealth transfers from consumers. They perpetuate an economic system that isn’t based on reforms but rather on their avoidance. As Frances Hagopian has argued, where traditional elites are strong, democratic governance is the least effective and accountable, political parties are captured, Executive-Legislative relations are at their worst and economic reforms tend to lag. In the Mexican case, government gridlock and policy immobilism can be attributed to traditional elites using their power to block reforms that affect their interests or assure those initiatives that protect their privileged status.

About the Speaker

Denise Dresser is a professor of political science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), where she has taught comparative politics, political economy, and Mexican politics since 1991. Dr. Dresser is the author of numerous publications on Mexican politics and U.S.-Mexico relations including "Exporting Conflict: Transboundary Consequences of Mexican Politics," and "Treading Lightly and Without a Stick: International Actors and the Promotion of Democracy in Mexico." She has published articles in the Journal of Democracy, Current History, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics and Foreign Policy.

She edited a bestselling collection of essays by prominent Mexican women entitled Gritos y susurros: experiencias intempestivas de 38 mujeres (Grijalbo 2004), and also produced a television documentary based on the book. She has been named one of the 300 most influential people in Mexico by the magazine Líderes Mexicanos and she won the National Journalism Award in 2010. In 2012 she wrote the book El País de Uno, Reflexiones para enteder y cambiar a México, which became one of the best selling books during all 2012, the kind of book that is a "must-read" for everyone interest in Mexico.

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