Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Critique of Latin American Leftist Populism by Latinos.

Foreign Policy has an excellent article by Alvaro Vargas Llosa concerning a book he and two other Latinauthors wrote ten years ago Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot which chastises
....distinguished intellectuals in Europe and the United States. These pontificators assuage their troubled consciences by espousing exotic causes in developing nations. Their opinions attract fans among First-World youngsters for whom globalization phobia provides the perfect opportunity to find spiritual satisfaction in the populist jeremiad of the Latin American Idiot against the wicked West......

The academicide professoriat in America and Europe are goaded to their excesses by
...the patronizing American and European Idiots. Once again, important academics and writers are projecting their idealism, guilty consciences, or grievances against their own societies onto the Latin American scene, lending their names to nefarious populist causes. Nobel Prizewinners, including British playwright Harold Pinter, Portuguese novelist José Saramago, and American economist Joseph Stiglitz; American linguists such as Noam Chomsky and sociologists like James Petras; European journalists like Ignacio Ramonet and some foreign correspondents for outlets such as Le Nouvel Observateur in France, Die Zeit in Germany, and the Washington Post in the United States, are once again propagating absurdities that shape the opinions of millions of readers and sanctify the Latin American Idiot. This intellectual lapse would be quite innocuous if it didn’t have consequences. But, to the extent that it legitimizes the type of government that is actually at the heart of Latin America’s political and economic underdevelopment, it constitutes a form of intellectual treason.

I am currently reading Hernando De Soto's brilliant book The Mystery of Capital subtitled Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. The trick to capitalism is the ease with which real estate property rights are recognized, De Soto says, and goes on to enumerate how many government and municipal permits and other bureaucratic impediments make buying and proving property possession in countries like Mexico, Haiti, and choose any other Latin country. Bureaucracy strangles capitalism, just as weeds and parasite plants curb growth of fungible edible plants. But I digress. The key to avoiding the eternal recurrence of idiocy is the sanctity of property. One last quote from the excellent essay by Vargas Llosa on The Problem of Populism:
Populists share basic characteristics: the voluntarism of the caudillo as a substitute for the law; the impugning of the oligarchy and its replacement with another type of oligarchy; the denunciation of imperialism (with the enemy always being the United States); the projection of the class struggle between the rich and the poor onto the stage of international relations; the idolatry of the state as a redeeming force for the poor; authoritarianism under the guise of state security; and “clientelismo,” a form of patronage by which government jobs—as opposed to wealth creation—are the conduit of social mobility and the way to maintain a “captive vote” in the elections. The legacy of these policies is clear: Nearly half the population of Latin America is poor, with more than 1 in 5 living on $2 or less per day. And 1 to 2 million migrants flock to the United States and Europe every year in search of a better life.

Vargas Llosa asks the question:
Does it really matter that the American and European intelligentsia quench their thirst for the exotic by promoting Latin American Idiots? The unequivocal answer is yes. A cultural struggle is under way in Latin America—between those who want to place the region in the global firmament and see it emerge as a major contributor to the Western culture to which its destiny has been attached for five centuries, and those who cannot reconcile themselves to the idea and resist it. Despite some progress in recent years, this tension is holding back Latin America’s development in comparison to other regions of the world—such as East Asia, the Iberian Peninsula, or Central Europe—that not long ago were examples of backwardness. Latin America’s annual GDP growth has averaged 2.8 percent in the past three decades—against Southeast Asia’s 5.5 percent, or the world average of 3.6 percent.

This sluggish performance explains why about 45 percent of the population is still poor and why, after a quarter century of democratic rule, regional surveys betray a profound dissatisfaction with democratic institutions and traditional parties. Until the Latin American Idiot is confined to the archives—something that will be difficult to achieve while so many condescending spirits in the developed world continue to lend him support—that will not change.

Vargas Llosa ends the article by four quotes from caviar leftist Nobel Prize winners for literature and economics whose ignorance is only equalled by their condescension.

Read the whole article and get The Mystery of Capital to get into the intestinal blockage that bureaucracy imposes on economic growth.

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