In one way or another, the free flow of ideas, culture, trade, and people is at the heart of this year's national debate. Not surprisingly, the debate comes with its fair share of divisions, most of which revolve around an economic populism, a resurgent nativism, and a growing isolationism.
The debate also involves many corners of the world. One of the most critical is North America, the neighborhood where Americans reside with their contemporaries in Mexico and Canada.
In this issue of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute, we look at this neighborhood. Specifically, our contributors concentrate on the people and policies that can make this the North American Century. They also examine the challenges that stand in the way of North America realizing its potential.
President George W. Bush kicks off this edition with a conversation exploring how he became interested in the potential of North America, why relationships across the United States, Mexico, and Canada matter, and how North American leaders can work together even when they have differences.
We also present a discussion between Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke about the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. The Texas legislators come from different places on the political spectrum, but read this interview to see how these leaders think alike about the border, its own heated issue. And we offer an interview with former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who explains how a strong neighborhood leads to growth and stability.
In our essay section, Matthew Rooney, director of the Bush Institute’s Economic Growth program, makes the case for how the North American neighborhood can grow stronger. Three members of the Institute’s Working Group on North America, one each from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, present specific policy recommendations to bolster the continent. And experts from all three nations address the educational challenges that stand in the way of North America realizing its potential.
Pia Orrenius of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and SMU’s John Tower Center for Political Studies explains why a legal flow of people across borders can help us realize that potential. Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza, who grew up along the Texas/Mexico border, writes about how North America not only expands our economy but also our culture. And 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar Dean Fealk, an international attorney in San Francisco, details how millennials and North America are made for each other.
We asked longtime Dallas Morning News Mexico City Bureau Chief Alfredo Corchado, who currently directs the Borderlands Program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, to report on Mexico’s young innovators – and what stands in their way. We also asked Raja Moussaoui, an architect who is a graduate of the Munk School Fellowship in Global Journalism at the University of Toronto, to explain the rise of Toronto -- and what lessons in urban development that vibrant city offers North America.
To be sure, not all Americans agree that forging an open society is the best way forward. In our Quick Take section, two leading political thinkers, Republican Mark McKinnon and Democrat William Galston, analyze why some Americans resist modernizing immigration laws and expanding international trade. They also sketch out narratives that could turn around this resistance to these issues that matter greatly to North America’s progress.
In a few months, we will know the outcome of this tumultuous election season. But the underlying forces at play will likely remain in place for some time, making a North American Century a challenging goal. We can realize it, though, with the ideas, policies, and people presented in this Catalyst offering a roadmap.
Editor, The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute
P.S. In early June, look for Catalyst interviews on North America with former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings, and University of Texas at Austin President Gregory Fenves. They will be part of The Catalyst After Hours, our new name for the specialized editions that will come out in-between our quarterly publications.
P.S.S. And thank you for reading the first edition of The Catalyst. The number of readers and subscribers has been strong, and pieces about The Catalyst or excerpts from Catalyst essays appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Roll Call, Politico, Dallas Morning News and Philadelphia Inquirer. If you enjoy our digital journal, please pass along this link to a friend who might want to subscribe.