Was this article by Peter Singer successfully utilitarian? It seems to be a bit of a philosophical muddle. When it comes down to it, the question is - whose side are you on? I'm on the side of the rational underdog with a principled prospect of prudent progress and probity. In an irrational premodern region, that's undoubtedly Israel.
I received a First Class Honours degree in Latin American Studies at a UK university in 1984. Despite the fact that Latin American Studies is and always has been an extremely leftwing academic sub-discipline in every Western country you care to mention, and despite the neo-marxist propaganda I was subjected to in those 4 years by highly-qualified well-intentioned but themselves brainwashed (or brainless) university teachers… despite all that even then it was becoming clear to me that the aggregate pervasiveness of leftwing ideology in the Latin American region was the basic reason for Latin America’s ineluctable and tragic 20th century UNDER-development.
We don’t want more of that now. So I’m disappointed to read this sentence by Andrés Velasco implying that a ‘better’ left will eventually save Latin America from its never-ending stagnation:
“The emergence of a modern center-left regional leadership in Latin America will have to wait”
Forever… one hopes. The rest of the article is a useful indictment of the habitually pompous rhetoric of left populism, which makes Latin America the laughing stock of the world. But the notion that the center-left is a solution is grossly vain and unimaginative.
What Latin America needs is a fresh centre-right regional leadership, smarter than previous ones, more aware of the institutional reform imperative. Of course there should be no return to the hard-right leaderships of yesteryear which, with few exceptions (e.g. the Chicago Boys), were largely incompetent bureaucratic-authoritarian governments which (please remember) arose directly in reaction and response to the very real threat posed by marxist and maoist movements rampant throughout the region in the 1970s. It is precisely the idiocy of the left in power now which could provoke extreme reactions again in the future.
This week it’s easy to dress-up Argentina’s umpteenth debt crisis default in technical niceties which make it look as though Argentina has been placed in an impossible position. That is hogwash. Marxist-Keynesian pig-headed isolationism has prevented Argentina from solving the ‘vulture’ problem in the past 5 years.
The reality is that Argentina has repeatedly placed itself in the position of bancarrota (bankruptcy) every half-decade since the mid-20th century. I always quote Argentina’s 19th century liberal intellectual and statesman, Juan Bautista Alberdi, who even then was aware of the persistent attitude and interest which blocked all long-run paths to prosperity.
Alberdi noted that the causes of the economic crisis of 1876 seemed to be the same as those of the crises which preceded it at intervals of about ten years since independence, in 1840, 1852, 1860, 1865 and 1870. Although all were banking and debt crises, Alberdi argued they were “not economic but rather political and social”. Argentina seemed not to learn from its errors. Its people lacked the classical liberal ethics of work, thrift, saving and commerce without which emerging economies cannot sustain progress. Argentines did not realise that lasting wealth creation also meant sacrifices. Borrowed money was wildly misused. Credit, especially when it originated from overseas, rapidly disappeared on luxuries and political patronage. Periodic prosperity was illusory.
Each crisis, wrote Alberdi, was “sudden generalised impoverishment produced by the frenzy of sudden enrichment”. Misuse of credit was “the abuse of a noble effort” and reflected all that was wrong with Argentine political and economic life. This was a modern view of crises. Alberdi wrote: “It is well known that all crises explode at end of a period of prosperity. That is not the reality, but rather the way it appears to be… What was taken for prosperity was profligacy, the squandering of capital investments in bad businesses and vain possessions.”
You don’t need to be a genius like Alberdi to recognise the pattern today. Argentina returned to crisis after 50 years of stable liberal-economy growth. Multi-class political alliances, social mobility, and a decade of reformist technocracy and financial discipline during the ‘Concordancia’ in the 1930s ensured the benefits of Argentina’s globalisation could be felt until as late as WW2, in spite of the world depression, and in spite of domestic political troubles and a growing antipathy towards growth-promoting exporters and foreign business interests. After 1945, however, a populism-crisis-correction pattern set in. With the election of Juan Peron as president, Argentina began its ‘long decline’.
The Kirchners and the clowns and scoundrels of the ‘Mercosur Left’ are descendants of Peron and all subsequent Latin American socialisms … bar one ... the Chilean Socialists, which are here represented by the often-wiser-than-today’s-eulogy-to-the-centre-left -- Andrés Velasco. Their great achievement, which unfortunately the present government in Chile may not now be so capable of repeating, was, like Tony Blair’s new socialists in the UK, to explicitly adopt and cultivate the obvious virtues and successes of Thatcher-era neoliberalism. Notwithstanding the occasional short-lived neoliberal rhetorical flourishes, for example in Mexico, the Chilean success story remains unique in Latin America.
When I was a university teacher and economic adviser to the presidential candidate José Octavio Bordón in Argentina in the mid-1990s I tried in vain to explain to people on the left that East Asia’s industrial activism, which they then worshiped like a secular god, could not be replicated in Argentina because the institutional dysfunctions and inefficiencies were too great. The way forward was the route proposed by the centre-right, which itself was impossibly constrained by its unwillingness or inability to do root-and-branch institutional reform. It struck me then, as before and since, that the primary task was ideological.
Somehow or another, beginning in elementary school, intelligent Latin Americans, the intelligentsia and litterateurs (there are more of them in Latin America than perhaps any other region of the world), must decouple Latin America from its marriage to leftwing ideology. Today, by putting false hope in a modern left, Andrés Velasco reveals to us still how persistent the problem is.
There is an alternative, it should be said. The ‘classical liberal’ smart thought-leaders of late-19th century Latin America were such a modern, promising, lively, and adaptive generation compared with their twentieth and twenty-first century leftwing counterparts. Latin America’s emergence from red-faced embarrassment in the shadows will depend on picking up again from where those inspiring 19th century ideologists like Alberdi left off.
Very thought-provoking article from Ricardo Hausmann. But, upstream and downstream - isn't this conceptually reminiscent of the disappointing Latin American structuralism? I'm not so convinced that governments will be much good at deciding which upsteam -- oops I meant upstream -- activity to productively invest the precious tax revenue in.
Even so, I wholeheartedly agree that the ambition to process raw materials, or create and add value in new activities using domestic capital accumulated via raw materials, is one that all developing countries must be thinking about constantly.
When they are ready -- ideologically and institutionally -- they will do it naturally. There's the double 'i' 'i' policy driven by the third 'i' intelligence that *precedes* the fourth 'i' industrial policy. I say.
Unfortunately the "the huge uncontained negative spillover effects of regional tensions, conflict, and competing claims to spheres of influence" are completely unpredictable in their consequences, and radical shifts could quickly undermine preexisting assumptions and sources of order.
The world is reliant on US leadership. While the USA does remain the superpower (as we say, this could change very suddenly) it behooves it to lead in muscular single-minded fashion -- as the prime exemplar of democracy, capitalism, and rule of law -- towards the rapid creation of various priority elements of world government.
There is no puzzle about the components of world government. It is only a matter of scaling up the US governance model to the world. Granted, it could be the Belgian model, or the Congo model, or the China model. But I think it makes sense to choose the US model. It's tried and tested and immensely successful on a large territorial scale.
Why don't people nowadays even want to talk about 'world government'? It beats me. My grandfather favoured it passionately, and I admired him for that.
Be bold and proud USA. Take the decisive initiatives and unrelentingly push to create the structures enforceable global rule of law. There is no other power on earth capable of doing that.
Martin Feldstein provides wonderfully clear summary of the issues, with additional useful comparisons between UK, EU, USA monetary policy frameworks. Rules vs discretion in economic policy is possibly the most important debate on the planet now, so the public needs to know (from people who know).