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Frequently Asked Questions
Imagine in 1958 an innocent Associate Professor of Political Science spending a summer in Mexico and getting mixed up with these guys:
This is from p. 47 of A Mexican Interest Group in Action, by Merle Kling. All of the names listed above subsequently appear in the index of Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism. Only a few names, that I skipped over, do not, but they might have been in the same mold.
I don't think that my father had any idea what he was dealing with when he chose the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales y Economicas for his empirical study. Kling and a research assistant conducted a meticulous content analysis of the publications of the Instituto, which enabled him to extract what he called 14 "themes." My guess is that he found them too bizarre to dignify them by calling them ideas. They are listed on pages 50-53. Some excerpts:
The ideas of the Instituto may sound reasonable to many of us, but you can be sure that in 1958 they sounded bizarre to Merle Kling. The 14th one, in particular, contradicted what everyone "knew" at that time. Indeed, my mind boggles wondering what would have happened had my father "drunk the Kool-Aid," so to speak (there was Kool-Aid in those days, but the famous psychedelic additive had not yet entered the culture).
Instead, Kling held New Deal, American center-left views, and from that perspective, all right-wingers looked the same to him. My mother had only recently been relieved of the threat of prosecution, stemming from a two-year old indictment for failure to name names at a hearing of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. My guess is that my father found the Mexican propagandists more civilized than the House Commie-hunters, but just as kooky.
He must have gone there thinking that he was going to see a political organization funded by businessmen to promote business interests. That is, he was thinking he would find them within what I call his "rational core" of interest-group politics. Much of the book describes them as if that is what they were, but he does notice a number of anomalies. On p. 57,
In this context, he is referring to Monsanto chemical, whose home corporation official was Chairman Edgar M. Queeny, who Kling describes as "an outspoken advocate of protective tariffs," citing various public statements. Incidentally, one of the wings of Barnes Hospital in St. Louis is Queeny Tower.
Further on p. 57-59
My father saw the ideological commitment of the staff, but he seems to have thought of it as something of a put-on. On p. 10,
Overall, my sense is that my father could not grasp what the subjects of his investigation were saying. He assumed that they were serving the interests of powerful businesses, including American corporations. So little of their ideology penetrated that by the time I started writing similar things he had forgotten that he had seen them all those many years ago.
Anyway, that's my hypothesis. It's too late to test it.
UPDATE: On p. 56, Merle Kling wrote,
That is what I call rational, insider politics, where interest groups fight over power. He saw the Instituto in those terms, fighting for the interests of American capital in Mexico. In his concluding chapter, on p. 65, after documenting the increase in American investment in Mexico since the second World War:
[emphasis in the original] I want to go back and say, "Dad, these guys are not insider politics. They are outsider politics. They are true believers. They are not members of the Country Club. They are extremists throwing bricks through the window of the PRI country club. You were on the right track in the chapter on how the group gets finances, on p. 23, when you wrote about the Institute's key figure, its director, Licenciado Agustin Navarro Vazquez,"
I suspect that after Navarro died, he was reincarnated as Don Boudreaux. Kling continues,
Despite all of these sources of misgivings, Kling was determined to cast the group in the role of insider politics. Returning to his conclusions, on p. 66 Kling wrote,
The next point in Kling's conclusion concerns the issue of foreign capital. In a recent Presidential campaign, the PRI candidate had appeared to side with those who viewed American capital as "economic aggression." In contrast, Kling notes that the candidate attended meetings of an economists (at which Instituto members were marginal participants) and that in the end (p.67) "his administration continued to welcome foreign capital."
Recall that the book's title is A Mexican Interest Group in Action. Kling wanted so much to fit the group into a paradigm of insider politics, representing the interest of foreign capital. What he had stumbled on was a group that would be recognizable today as libertarian freaks (the term libertarian was not in use in those days; nor was the term "freak" employed as it is now). The book is accurate in its details, but the language and the ideology of the group was so unfamiliar to him that he kept trying to put the square peg of their outsider politics into the round hole of insider interests.
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CATEGORIES: Political Economy