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The free market at its most adaptive

August 16, 2007

Re "Mexico's princess and the paupers," Aug. 13

Competition may be fierce in Mexico's urban center, but street hawkers have clearly found a way to coexist successfully with "legitimate" merchants by using resources differently. Biologists call this "niche differentiation," and it helps diversity thrive. The informal sector is a growing reality that exists everywhere. Instead of treating it as an obstacle to fair competition, we should view it as an adaptive response to various social, economic and political pressures, one that provides jobs to people who would otherwise be unemployed, increases household incomes, places cheap products and services in the local market, expands trade in innovative ways and channels funds into the formal economy. We should also question who distorts the market more: vendors of goods or corrupt government officials.

Fatma E. Marouf

Los Angeles

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