Recently, great levels of attention have been focused upon the possible placement of Tesla Motor’s first “gigafactory” within the boundaries of New Mexico. Galvanized by the excitement surrounding the decision, I decided to make a mental list of all of the facets that would look attractive to the company—after some time, a very meager list developed. It was actually much easier to delineate the reasons placement of a Tesla factory in any town, village, Pueblo or stretch of barren wasteland within the state is highly unlikely. Anyone having lived any amount of time within these borders will possess ample anecdotal and statistical substantiation for such pessimism. Poverty, substandard education and lack of a skilled workforce are a few of the reasons any functional company would look elsewhere. Then, of course, there two interrelated issues more prominent than the typical socioeconomic and demographic impediments for their pernicious impact to this state, and deserving of the most malicious criticisms possible—nepotism and cronyism.
Having not been born and reared in the Land of Enchantment, I was astonished with the ubiquitous acceptance of antiquated familial and acquaintance-based hiring practices. Hiring practices that exist not just in private business, but also in the publicly funded institutions the state is so dependent upon for tax revenue. Where one would assume knowledge, skills and abilities determine the most appropriate candidate for a position or promotion, the primary criteria is family and social connections. If, while filling out an application, you encounter questions on whether or not a family member currently works within the organization, and logically suppose they are asked to prevent a conflict of interest, you would be wrong. Someone reviewing a directory of employees at a research lab noticing a significant number of staff sharing the same last name and suspect coincidence would be incorrect. In New Mexico, business meetings and family reunions are indistinguishable.
Economically, such pervasive nepotism and cronyism is debilitating. One could justifiably juxtapose the state of “red or green?” with that of a developing country where extreme income inequality, reduced skill levels, unexpressed creativity and low productivity are representative of preferential treatment of kin. The paucity of meritocracy exacerbates inefficient use of resources, placement of under-skilled and inexperienced individuals into positions ill-suited to their knowledge base, and the migration of skilled individuals from the state who possess the passion and knowledge befitting those positions.
Such cultural norms illustrated within New Mexico generate an environment dismissive of outsiders and unwilling to adapt. Hopes to attract the skilled and creative to the state will be met with perpetual disappointment. The pervasiveness of inept job placement will continue to degrade the quality of the workforce and New Mexico’s chances of economic diversification and growth. Needed is a thorough public examination of nepotism and cronyism in government, which is an unlikely initiative as many in government benefit from such favoritism, which solidifies its continuation.
The New Mexico economic model is ravaged by illness and plagued with ineptitudes. Such disillusionment is my catalyst to search for more fruitful and enlightened lands, where hard work and whetted skills are an asset—not my cousin’s uncle’s nephew's brother-in-law.