Latin America's Foremost Political Journalist Makes a Brilliant and Passionate Argument for Real Reform In the Economically Crippled Continent
In Liberty for Latin America, Alvaro Vargas Llosa offers an incisive diagnosis of Latin America's woes--and a prescription for finally getting the region on the road to both genuine prosperity and the protection of human rights.
When the economy in Argentina--at one time a model of free-market reform--collapsed in 2002, experts of all persuasions asked: What went wrong? Vargas Llosa shows that what went wrong in Argentina has in fact gone wrong all over the continent for over five hundred years. He explains how the republics of the nineteenth century and the revolutions of the twentieth-populist uprisings, Marxist coops, state takeovers, and First World-sponsored privatization-have all run up against the oligarchic legacy of statism. Illiberal elites backed by the United States and Europe have perpetuated what he calls the "five principles of oppression" in order to maintain their hold on power. The region has become "a laboratory for political and economic suicide," while comparable countries in Asia and Eastern Europe have prospered.
The only way to change things in Latin America, Vargas Llosa argues, is to remove the five principles of oppression, genuinely reforming institutions and the underlying culture for the benefit of the disempowered public. In Liberty for Latin America, he explains how, offering hope as well as insight for all those who care for the future of this troubled region.
A Peruvian journalist and research fellow at Oakland, Calif.'s Independent Institute, Vargas Llosa proposes that the shortcomings of Latin America's recent experiments with neoliberalism-which have left the elite and poor further apart than ever-reflect a deep-rooted and unshakeable pattern of state intervention in the economy, privilege and laws that have plagued these countries since their early colonial period. Despite the apparent push toward democracy and free markets, he argues, the most recent era of reform failed to address the root of the problem and ended up reinforcing governments' suppression of economic liberty and individual responsibility. Vargas Llosa offers the massive potential of the region's bustling informal economies as a sign of how far out of step the law is with economic and political realities. Not surprisingly, he calls for the abolition of unwieldy business regulations that keep ordinary, enterprising folks out of the legitimate marketplace. A short section of almost blithely outlined solutions disappoints, coming as it does after so much engaging and well-reasoned analysis, particularly since many of his proposals (tax code rewrites, school vouchers) have faced stiff resistance even in the developed country he so often holds up as a model for the region: the United States.