How Mexico's Bloated Legislature Fuels Empty Politics

Mexico's legislature churns out initiatives, but few become law. This focus on quantity over quality leads to wasted resources and ineffective legislation. Legislative Impact Assessment (LIA) analyzes laws before they're passed, ensuring they are well-crafted and address real problems.

How Mexico's Bloated Legislature Fuels Empty Politics
Statistics reveal a troubling trend: only a small percentage of legislative initiatives in Mexico become law.

The hallowed halls of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, theoretically the heartbeat of the nation's legislative power, reverberate with an odd paradox. Each legislative session witnesses a torrent of proposed laws and reforms – thousands upon thousands of them. Yet, the echo of that activity seems strangely muted. For every submitted legislative change, only a tiny fraction makes it to the finish line.

Take the sobering statistics. In the LXIV legislative session, over 11,000 initiatives were launched, but a mere 650 crossed the line into law. The LXV session appears on a similar trajectory, with thousands of proposals and an approval rate barely exceeding a meager 2%. For critics, these numbers tell a story of institutional dysfunction – of a legislature mired in gridlock and inefficiency. And at the center of it, they see Mexico's deputies, or federal lawmakers, busily churning out vast swathes of legislation that largely vanish without a trace.

Unsurprisingly, the public outcry isn't far behind. Opinion leaders lambast Congress, painting a picture of an institution that gobbles up taxpayer money while delivering little of substance in return. Some take the critique to extremes, calculating a bizarre 'cost per approved law' metric using the chamber's budget. It's a tempting narrative: the idea that each reform comes with a hefty price tag, paid for by citizens who see few tangible returns.

Caught in the crossfire, legislators themselves have, occasionally, fallen into the trap of equating quantity with quality. It spawns a frantic competition to outdo each other in the sheer number of proposals tabled, regardless of their fate. After all, in a climate where raw numbers seem to matter more, proposing ten initiatives that end up forgotten is seemingly better optics than carefully crafting a single meaningful reform.

Meet Dr. Roberto Ehrman, the Man Peeking Behind the Curtain

Roberto Ehrman, PhD., isn't having it. A seasoned veteran of Mexico's political landscape, he currently oversees planning and evaluation within the Chamber of Deputies. Armed with both insider knowledge and academic credentials in political philosophy, he brings much-needed perspective to the debate. For Dr. Ehrman, the problem lies in the very way we measure success in the legislative arena.

He traces the root of the issue to a 2018 reform of the chamber's regulations. This well-intentioned change mandated a system to evaluate the performance of deputies. Ironically, this system never became truly operational, focusing solely on individual metrics and ignoring the ultimate success (or failure) of a deputy's proposed legislative initiatives. The emphasis was misplaced, leading to a perverse set of incentives.

Without a robust system to assess the quality of proposed laws – their potential impact, their necessity, their coherence with existing legal frameworks – the emphasis defaults to volume. Dr. Ehrman notes that both public opinion and the media perpetuate this by focusing on the sheer number of initiatives. A deputy proposing scores of ill-conceived, redundant, or ill-timed initiatives is often better received than one carefully considering a handful of truly impactful proposals.

The consequences of this warped incentive structure are far-reaching. It breeds legislative bloat and dilutes focus, hindering the passage of crucial reforms. With everyone striving to tick checkboxes rather than leave a meaningful legacy, Mexico's lawmakers squander the very real power they hold to shape the nation's future.

Dr. Ehrman isn't merely a critic; he envisions solutions. It starts with a wholesale shift of focus away from raw numbers and onto the real-world impact of proposed laws. Developing rigorous evaluation metrics, ones that examine the need, execution, and consequences of each initiative, is vital. This, he believes, will incentivize deputies to prioritize quality over quantity, and help restore public trust in a vital yet troubled institution.

Mexico's Obsession with Numbers Breeds Ineffective Laws

Dr. Roberto Ehrman cuts a frustrated figure. His diagnosis of Mexico's lawmaking woes is stark, painting a system trapped in a self-defeating cycle of inefficiency and public distrust. “We have,” he declares, “an enormous, wasteful expenditure of precious resources within the Chamber of Deputies, in its committees, among advisors and support centers – all expended without achieving the goal of high-quality legislation.”

At the heart of Dr. Ehrman's analysis lies a seemingly simple yet pernicious trend: the perverse obsession within Mexico's political arenas with evaluating a deputy's worth by the number of legislative initiatives they sponsor. This flawed metric, unfortunately, wasn't born within the hallowed halls of the legislature itself. Its roots lie in the academic realm.

Dr. Ehrman points the finger towards initiatives born within institutions like Mexico's Center for Economic Research and Development (CIDE). Here, the concept of 'Legislative Monitoring' pioneered by one Dr. Benito Nacif gained traction. This system focused almost exclusively on quantitative indicators, measuring a deputy's worth by the raw volume of proposals they put forward. This misguided approach, perhaps well-intended originally, metastasized.

The media gleefully seized upon this flawed system for evaluating legislative performance. Deputies who churned out vast numbers of initiatives, regardless of their merit, saw their public profiles rise. The quality, the very reason for the existence of those legislative proposals, became an afterthought.

In such a system, the inevitable consequences unfold. Precious resources in a developing nation vanish into a black hole of poorly conceived and weakly thought-out initiatives. The sheer volume of proposals creates expectations among the public – expectations later dashed when these initiatives dissolve into nothing or worse, become laws fraught with internal contradictions, unintended consequences, and outright conflicts with existing legal frameworks.

As if that weren't enough, the inevitable constitutional challenges and adverse court rulings that inevitably follow further erode public faith in the very system designed to uphold the law. Dr. Ehrman sees this as the root cause of the deep crisis of legitimacy Mexico's legislature currently faces. The public has seen through the charade of quantity masking a lack of substance.

The political cost cannot be underestimated. Mexican citizens are weary of the empty promises and dysfunctional lawmaking emanating from the Chamber of Deputies. Apathy, even cynicism, can swiftly replace the hope for effective governance, creating fertile ground for cynicism and political instability.

As with most societal ills, diagnosis is only the first step. True to his academic background, Dr. Ehrman has pondered solutions as well as problems. He calls for a fundamental reevaluation of how we measure legislative success. Merely counting proposals must become a thing of the past. Robust systems evaluating the need, the potential consequences, and the internal coherence of each piece of proposed legislation are essential.

In a world where quality counts, deputies will find themselves incentivized to focus on well-crafted, impactful reforms. Resources will be spent wisely, public trust slowly restored, and the lawmaking process will finally start fulfilling its purpose – improving the lives of Mexican citizens.

A Call for Purpose-Driven Legislation

Dr. Roberto Ehrman is the kind of expert who doesn't merely understand laws, he comprehends their weight and their true purpose. With nearly two decades of experience in legislative affairs at every level of the Mexican government, he's witnessed firsthand how laws can shape reality, for good or ill. His unique perspective, honed through both hands-on lawmaking and the academic rigors of coordinating a policy evaluation program at Universidad Anáhuac del Norte, offers a starkly refreshing vision: a Mexico where laws truly serve society.

“We have to escape our outdated, shallow understanding of law,” he emphasizes. A law, he explains, isn't a symbolic parchment meant to gather dust. It's a powerful instrument of public policy, a tool the state utilizes to address the real problems its people face. This means laws must be born from careful consideration and exist harmonizing with the other mechanisms the state employs to improve lives.

Dr. Ehrman stresses a fundamental point: Laws should be a means of last resort. Legislators should only turn to new laws when existing tools and approaches have proven inadequate. And when this step is necessary, precision and thorough analysis are paramount.

This call for thoughtful restraint couldn't be timelier. Mexico, like much of the world, confronts immense challenges. The needs of the people seem to outstrip the finite resources of the state. In this context, Dr. Ehrman argues, meticulous planning, informed decision-making, and ruthless optimization of resources aren't just a 'nice to have' – they are crucial for ensuring the basic foundations of social well-being and human rights that Mexico's constitution and international commitments enshrine.

So how does a seasoned legislative insider and academic like Dr. Ehrman propose tackling this problem? It starts with a seismic shift from crafting laws haphazardly towards an evidence-based approach. Understanding societal issues in their complexity, assessing the likely impact of any proposed legislation, and validating these assessments with rigorous data: these will form the cornerstones of a more effective system.

Of course, this isn't some pie-in-the-sky ideal. The very real challenge comes in implementation. Entrenched practices, political pressures, and a relentless thirst for action can all impede the adoption of a more considered and analytical lawmaking process.

But consider the alternative. If Mexico continues to churn out laws that are ill-conceived, poorly timed, or redundant, precious resources go to waste. Public trust in the institutions of governance will continue to erode, and solving the country's truly pressing challenges will remain elusive.

Mexico's Lost Laws Buried in a Bureaucratic Graveyard

Imagine a vast library, shelves groaning under the weight of untold volumes. Yet, within this repository of knowledge, no catalog exists. Worse, the dust settling on these tomes paints a stark truth: most visitors never bother to crack open a single book, and even fewer understand the contents within.

Dr. Roberto Ehrman uses this unsettling analogy to describe the state of Mexico's lawmaking. He laments the staggering 312 laws currently in force – a morass of directives, regulations, and edicts guiding virtually every aspect of Mexican life. The question he poses is both simple and devastating: does anyone truly know the fate of these laws?

Which are diligently followed? Which fade into obsolescence, rendered useless by a lack of resources, insufficient planning, or even outright conflicts with other established legislation? Mexico is left with a tangled web of 'phantom laws' — well-intentioned perhaps, but ultimately ineffective.

This unsettling lack of evaluation isn't due to a lack of concern. Dr. Ehrman notes that no institutions, academic or otherwise, have taken on the mammoth task of analyzing the impact of this massive body of legislation. We remain blind to the successes and failures of our own legal system.

Like a cartographer drawing up a map of uncharted territory, Dr. Ehrman offers a solution: Legislative Impact Assessment (LIA). It's a structured, analytical approach, an attempt to bring both foresight and hindsight to the creation and implementation of laws. Rather than passing legislation and hoping for the best, LIA encourages lawmakers to consider potential benefits and unintended consequences before a law is finalized. It also offers a framework to look back, evaluating the effectiveness of existing laws systematically.

This isn't some theoretical exercise, Dr. Ehrman stresses. Latin American neighbors like Ecuador, Chile, and Peru have already integrated variations of LIA into their legislative chambers. It's a proven tool across much of Europe, with positive results cascading through countries as diverse as England, Italy, and Switzerland.

The stakes for Mexico adopting a more structured approach to its laws couldn't be higher. Dr. Ehrman doesn't paint LIA as merely a dry, bureaucratic process. Instead, it's about unlocking the true potential of Mexico's legislature. Every misallocated resource spent on a bad law is a resource that can't be used to solve real, tangible problems facing Mexican citizens.

LIA wouldn't just make for neater bookshelves. It's a tool for cutting through legislative bloat and ensuring that every law on the books serves its intended purpose. This isn't about restricting lawmaking – it's about making laws matter.

How Mexico Could Move from Blind Guesswork to Precision Policy

Dr. Roberto Ehrman is the kind of legislative expert who wants to upgrade Mexico's lawmaking toolbox from a rusty hammer to a multi-purpose diagnostic scanner. His passion? The Legislative Impact Assessment (LIA), a rigorous framework designed to give lawmakers a 360-degree view of any proposed law before it's etched into the country's legal landscape.

“Right now,” Dr. Ehrman explains, “we have a system that's piecemeal, lacking the overarching structure to fully understand a law's implications.” Assessments are done – legal checks, budgetary analyses – but these remain disconnected from the bigger picture. LIA, he emphasizes, isn't just a fancy term. It's a systematized powerhouse of analytical tools. Think of it like this:

  • Legal Scrutiny: It examines every nook and cranny of a proposed law, ensuring it meshes seamlessly with existing statutes and doesn't trigger unintended legal conflicts.
  • Global Perspective Upgrade: How have other countries tackled this issue? Are there best practices to incorporate or pitfalls to avoid?
  • Alternatives Considered: Like a strategist playing chess, an LIA demands exploring other potential courses of action. Is a new law truly the best solution?
  • Ripple Effects on Powers: New laws can shift the balance of authority between different levels of government. LIA helps identify these shifts in advance.
  • Money Matters, Both Sides: LIA digs into both the projected cost of a law and the potential benefits. No more 'death by price tag', but informed decision-making.
  • Social Impacts Under the Microscope: How will a law affect society as a whole? Are benefits spread evenly, or will it unintentionally disadvantage certain groups?

Dr. Ehrman isn't shy about the sheer ambition of the LIA approach. It demands a level of coordination and analysis that might seem daunting at first. He argues that this is the crucial upgrade Mexico's policymaking desperately needs.

His frustrations become crystal clear with a simple example: a seemingly well-intentioned law might meet its demise purely on a projected cost basis. But this, he argues, is the worst kind of shortsightedness. Are the potential benefits being quantified? Is a full cost-benefit analysis occurring? Are existing laws being reviewed – perhaps an older law that needs updating would suffice, but with far less investment? These are the questions an LIA approach encourages.

Legislature is Edging Towards Evidence-Based Lawmaking

There's something subtly encouraging within Dr. Roberto Ehrman's assessment of Mexico's legislative landscape. While acknowledging the systemic challenges, he also pinpoints the early green shoots of a more rigorous, evidence-based approach to lawmaking. This isn't empty optimism; it's a recognition that even within vast, slow-moving institutions, change can take root.

Dr. Ehrman traces the first steps to a series of conferences hosted within the very halls of the Mexican Senate in 2021 and 2023. These gatherings weren't merely academic exercises. They brought together international experts and legislative staff, seeding ideas and demonstrating best practices from across the globe. More recently, the Chamber of Deputies hosted its own forum on parliamentary investigations, a key part of the Legislative Impact Assessment (LIA) arsenal.

But where the rubber truly meets the road is within the day-to-day world of Mexico's legislature. Dr. Ehrman describes a vital series of workshops, delivered over several months, reaching over 50 of the Chamber of Deputies' researchers. These are the individuals on the front lines, those who will grapple with the complexities of proposed laws. LIA concepts were introduced, methodologies explored, and most importantly, tangible evaluation projects were launched, applying these principles to real-world problems and existing legislation.

The workshops have sparked a chain reaction. LIA is now part of the mandatory training curriculum for career legislative staff. Dr. Ehrman's passion and expertise are spreading wider as advisors to parliamentary groups, committee staff, and even deputies themselves are gaining exposure to this refreshingly analytical approach to lawmaking.

The key to understanding the LIA push isn't that it's some complex, ivory-tower ideology. As Dr. Ehrman stresses, there's an inherent common sense to the approach. It's about asking the right questions before a law is cemented, rather than scrambling to address unintended consequences after the fact.

Mexico isn't venturing into uncharted territory. Dr. Ehrman's efforts to collaborate with international experts ensure that Mexico's LIA framework will be informed by lessons learned (and mistakes avoided) by countries with a longer history of implementation.

Blueprint for Mexico's Legislative Renaissance

Dr. Roberto Ehrman is a man on a mission. But his isn't a fiery revolution; it's a carefully plotted campaign waged through meticulous analysis and targeted training. His aim? A fundamental shift in the very way Mexico's laws are conceived, crafted, and evaluated.

At the heart of his message lies a blunt assessment: Quantity is the enemy of quality. The obsession with sheer legislative output is squandering precious resources and breeding ineffective laws that ultimately disillusion citizens and hamper the nation's progress.

Dr. Ehrman's strategy starts with a mindset change among Mexico's deputies themselves. He calls for a transition away from the false idols of volume towards laws defined by their rigor, their precision, and their potential for positive impact. This means knowing what battles are truly worth fighting on the legislative battlefield. The Legislative Impact Assessment (LIA) isn't a bureaucratic hurdle, he emphasizes – it's a guiding light to ensure those selected battles are fought with the greatest chance of success.

The deputies don't walk this path alone. Dr. Ehrman recognizes the pivotal role played by Mexico's legislative research centers. His vision is transformative: to arm the 80-odd career researchers within these centers with deep LIA methodologies. This isn't about dry textbook knowledge; it's about empowering these researchers to truly partner with lawmakers, providing the data-driven insights they crave to shape the best possible laws.

He sees a damaging disconnect today. Too often, research exists in a bubble, with an emphasis on academic nuance that misses the urgency felt by lawmakers tackling pressing issues. Bridging this gap is crucial in Dr. Ehrman's plan.

Dr. Ehrman doesn't just focus on the here and now. He's playing a long game, focused on creating sustainable, systemic change. With his eyes on the next legislative term, he advocates for a groundwork-laying approach. Research centers, advisors, committee staff – all need to be brought up to speed in the philosophy and techniques of LIA, not in a rushed last-minute push, but in a way that deeply ingrains it into the legislative machinery.

Rebuilding Trust in the Law

Dr. Ehrman's ultimate goal is one that every citizen can resonate with: restoring faith in the power of the law to solve problems and uplift society. Too often, Mexico's laws fail to live up to their promise, becoming symbols rather than engines of change. LIA, he staunchly believes, offers a way to correct this.

He offers a compelling analogy: increasing vacation days might be an ideologically driven goal, a fight for workers' rights. Yet, such battles can't be fought on ideology alone. The LIA provides the weaponry to examine timelines, economic impacts, and social repercussions, giving legislators the tools to wage their ideological battles more effectively.

This isn't about stifling debate in favor of cold technocracy. Instead, Dr. Ehrman's philosophy places sharp analytical tools alongside the passion that fuels Mexico's legislature, setting the stage for laws that are both ideologically sound and practically achievable.

His legacy, if successful, won't be in a single piece of legislation. It will be a Mexico where laws become synonymous with solutions, where public trust in the legislature rises, and the nation benefits not just from good intentions, but from well-crafted laws that create the change they were meant to achieve.

In-text Citation: (Bahena, 2024, pp. 22-25)