Balance Sheet



Trio Grande. Will Mexico join the United States and Canada in a common market? A U.S.–Mexico free-trade pact grows more likely, as both sides say negotiations should start soon. Mexico's new generation of politicians and business leaders seems willing to consider trade mutually beneficial. The trick will be getting U.S. negotiators to adopt the same principle when it comes to, for example, Mexican-made textiles.

Parting Shots. Signs of gun-control revisionism appear. Michael Kinsley tells New Republic readers that the Second Amendment, like the First, appears to mean what it says. Writes the very respectable Sanford Levinson, of the University of Texas Law School, in the very prestigious Yale Law Review, "The arguments on behalf of a 'strong' Second Amendment are stronger than many of us might wish."

Cold Comfort. Public employees apparently aren't especially enamored of big government. A study in the journal of the American Society of Public Administration finds government employees (excluding teachers and postal workers) somewhat less likely than the general public to favor either more government spending or laws regulating private behavior. Of course, the study doesn't say what the bureaucrats thought about their own bureaus.

Sentence Fragments. The U.S. Sentencing Commission looks ready to back away from its original recommendations, lowering draconian fines and doing away with "corporate probation." (See "Junior Varsity Congress," May.) Business lobbyists prove powerful. Still, nobody addresses the central issue—how you set any penalty for vaguely defined crimes.


Brat Pack. Bush maintains his preppy credentials, backing the nation's artistes in their quest for grants without strings. On some level, cutting the strings is appropriate, but why not cut the grants instead? Their recipients are a loathsome lobby: whiny, self-important, and utterly contemptuous of the people who foot their bills—more nearly resembling spoiled teenagers than heirs of Michelangelo.

Brazil Nuts. Brazil enacts a hodge-podge of austerity measures—some good, some bad, some very, very ugly. Billed as "free-market" reforms, they include "privatization" by forcing institutional investors to buy state-owned companies, five-year prison terms for "exaggerated" price rises and hoarding goods, new taxes, a crackdown on tax evaders, and a 30-day price freeze. No new penalty for deceptive political labels, however.

Gilded Cage. Nelson Mandela finds himself more controlled than controlling, as the ANC pushes him away from any sort of conciliatory role. Out is a joint appearance with Zulu Chief Buthelezi. So (with some justification) are plans for talks with the government. A long-term question, reports Juan Williams in the Washington Post, is whether Mandela will—or can—listen to his old friend Richard Maponya, a prominent black millionaire, and find a role for capitalism in his vision of South Africa.

Dear Prudence. Gorby's nice-guy act ends, not surprisingly, in Lithuania. Bush behaves Bush-like, doing nothing to upset the G-Man. He even tries to stifle congressional dissent. After White House arm-twisting, the usually feisty Newt Gingrich emerges, Dana Carvey-like, to endorse prudence.