I’m just another uninformed Argentinean giving his opinion on the country’s economy. But who isn’t? I’ve read Marx, Stiglitz and watched economists all around the world trying to explain the reasons behind Argentina’s poor economic performance. The world unanimously agrees that we have a huge economic potential, which is proven by the fact that we were the most prosperous country in the world in 1895 and 1896. Our people are the most literate in Latin America and our region is very pacific: We’re surrounded by nice neighbors and we’re very far away from imperialist powers such as Russia, England and the United States. So what’s our excuse for falling so low in the economic ranking in the last century?
The most popular answer is: Political mismanagement. But I believe people have the politicians they deserve; mainly because we democratically chose most of them… except for the numerous coup d’état backed by the oligarchy. So let’s address the elephant in the room: Imperialism and oligarchy against socialism. Yes, we were the richest country a century ago, but was the money fairly distributed among the population? : Ehhh, mmm, I think the answer would be: Oops. So, as we all know: Statistics lie. Same as Argentinean fascists used to support the dictatorship by saying: “Now we have a lower crime rate,” Argentinean liberals like speaking nostalgically about our golden past. But organizing a coup d’état seems a drastic measure to control crime in a country, so what can we say about neo-liberalism?
Now we’re in a very tricky position. No one wants to be Russia or Venezuela, but do we want to look good only in numbers? To have a high GDP while half of the population is submersed in poverty? Would we sacrifice equality in order to win the economic rat race the IMF proposes? Yes, it all sounds grandiloquently appealing: Never ending prosperity and we will all be as rich as Germany, but Marx already said it and unless natural resources start growing in trees, I think I still agree with him: Never ending prosperity is a fantasy. Let’s just throw a little of logic into the IMF’s economic equation: What will Ryan Air and all the charters run on when the oil reserves are depleted? What will happen to globalization if we need to go back to carts and horses? Will we burn down the Amazon and start mass-growing sugarcane in Brazil to produce more biofuel? What’s your plan, Mrs Legarde?
So while the world is hooked on capitalism, Argentinians live their own economic civil war. There are some who believe we need to take the capitalistic path, becoming a dirty, smoggy nineteenth century England before achieving prosperity. There are others who prefer maintaining our natural wealth intact and seeking alternatives to wild capitalism. There are some who just follow the values enshrined in our Constitution: Promotion of foreign investment, in detriment of the development of national enterprises. There are others who nationalized everything in a surge of nationalism, bringing the country into recession and alienating us from the rest of the world. If we think about it, economics is a soulless, dirty, perverse business. The most nationalistic countries are the ones who trade the most. Why is that? Because they impose their Mercedes Benzes and Rolls Royces on the world. Capitalism is not an ideology but a base and vile instinct: You see something nice and you want to have it. Capitalism was what drove the Vikings in their raids and what drives the economy nowadays. People like Marx only saw this and cried before a hopeless situation. Because how can we have an egalitarian world when there are people who would pay millions just to have the nicest car? And how can an egalitarian country fight against the rapist approach of aggressively capitalistic countries? They will monopolize the economy with their McDonalds and Carrefours, leaving you no option but to bow down to comfort instead of struggling for equality.
Now let’s go back to Argentina. Yes, capitalism is a pusillanimous economic behavior; yes, we’re much better than that, but no, please NO to Peronism and all its branches. For those who are just breakfasting on Argentina’s history, Peron was basically a demagogue, a military man who granted favors to the people to get votes and power, so again, what in Ancient Greece was already known as a populist son of a bitch. So what Peron did was the same that Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela: To piggyback on great revolutionists such as Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara and to exploit people’s manipulability and laziness. Socialism in Latin America doesn’t mean the same as in Russia. In Russia it means conquering other countries which would work for them, so basically it is just expansionism. But capitalism is very expansionist too, so there is actually no difference between these two apparently different economic ideologies. In Latin America, as in France and other European countries, socialism is more about distributing money. In Europe they do it well, and now very capitalistic countries, such as Germany and France, have also become socialists, which is the best you could do for your own nation, although people in Africa keep dying from hunger because of chocolate companies which pay a few cents per day to African kids to collect their cocoa beans. But in Latin America people aren’t as hardworking as in Europe. They enjoy reaping the fruits without the work involved. Socialism in Latin America is basically just handouts that populist politicians give to monopolize the political arena. Doesn’t it look strange to you that less politically evolved countries tend to fall into fascism or authoritarianism? Be it Russia or Argentina, we seem to like strong politicians who remind us of tyrants.
That’s what Peronism is moaning about now: That they don’t have a tyrant in power to further sink the economy. Just look at how Venezuela ended up: It all evolved gradually towards disaster. First the mad social expenditure based on unsustainable economic policies. Then the demonization of countries such as the United States, which, honestly speaking, hasn’t interfered much in Latin America since the infamous coup d’états in the 70’s and 80’s. And then the introduction of desperate measures to try to prevent the inevitable economic collapse. Do we want a Hugo Chavez in Argentina? Really, couldn’t we possibly think of a better option? Even our current president: Macri, is not bad in comparison to Chavez, or even our previous president: Cristina de Kirchner. Yes, people are suffering, but the president is not responsible for bonanza or drought years. Chavez and Nestor Kirchner were lucky because they came into power during the boom of oil and soy and they had money to hand out. But what can Macri hand out right now when there is nothing left? Populism is the worst bane of society because it accustoms people to wealth the country doesn’t possess. And Latin Americans are not resilient when it comes to economic deprivation: Once they get a certain privilege they don’t want to give it up. We’re not like the Chinese or the Poles who build back their cities after they’re destroyed; we just live among the rubble. Macri can’t do magic with people who go on a strike for the sake of it. The idea of having Unions is to have a strong muscle against heartless businessmen, not to blackmail the country to get higher salaries. Unions should be forbidden from attempting against democracy, and that’s what they do every time they disobey orders from our democratically elected president. Manifestations against our national economic and social policies should be unconstitutional; call me a fascist if you must. These people are only sowing the seeds for another strongman who will be less nice than Macri and send them back home, not only empty handed, but probably with bullets as souvenir.
And that’s where we are now. Peronists aggressively or passive aggressively complaining about lack of food and unemployment. But it’s not the president’s task to feed his people or give them jobs. I think they’re confusing a president with a monarch here. They are more stubborn than mules, either manifesting against the president or making silly jokes about him, and contributing zero to the prosperity of the country. It’s our job to fasten our belts and carry the country through this recession and we need to start by stopping blaming a president who isn’t corrupt and is doing the best he can, whether you agree or not with his measures. And mind you, at last we have a non-corrupt president in power, so let’s take advantage of it instead of putting sticks in our own wheels.
by Juan M.S