Archive for ‘Argentina’

February 16, 2009

Don’t cry for us, Argentina

Phillip Jenkins:

The United States is a superpower with a huge economy. Argentina is a political and economic joke, a global weakling legendary for endemic economic crises. Between them and us, surely, a great gulf is fixed. Yet Argentina did not always have its present meager status, nor did its poverty result from some inherent Latin American affinity for crisis and corruption. A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s emerging powers, seemingly destined to outpace all but the greatest imperial states. Today it is … Argentina. A national decline on that scale did not just happen: it was the result of decades of struggle and systematic endeavor, led by the nation’s elite. As the nation’s greatest writer, Jorge Luis Borges, once remarked, only generations of statesmanship could have prevented Argentina from becoming a world power.

My daughter’s boyfriend was born in Argentina and immigrated here with his parents. I jokingly call him “The Argentine Romeo” or “Lothario of the Pampas,” and threaten to call ICE to have him deported. Really a nice kid — both of his grandfathers are ministers of the gospel, and his parents are fine Christians.

But Argentina! Such a mess! They’ve got a bad case of “revolution envy,” and every minor political dispute results in mass protests/riots. My daughter attended college in Argentina last year and when she told me about the idiotic agricultural policy of Cristina Fernandez — “People in Buenos Aires are starving!” — I could scarcely believe it: A tax on exports! The most absurd thing I’d ever heard of, but a classic expression of envy-as-policy, which seems to be the norm down there.

Jenkins writes:

Could it happen here? The U.S. certainly has very different political traditions from Argentina and more barriers to a populist-driven rape of the economy. On the other hand, events in some regions would make Juan Perón smile wistfully.
California runs on particularly high taxes, uncontrollable deficits, and overregulation with a vastly swollen bureaucracy while the hegemonic power of organized labor prevents any reform. Thankfully, the state has no power to devalue its currency, still less to freeze bank accounts or seize pension funds, and businesses can still relocate elsewhere. But in its social values and progressive assumptions, California is close to the Democratic mainstream, which now intends to impose its ideas on the nation as a whole. And at over 60 percent of GDP, U.S. public debt is already higher than Argentina’s.

Equality in misery: We have seen the future, and it dances the tango.