Wednesday, October 29, 2003

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Links on Latin America

Wondering how I know what I know about Latin America in my latest TNR Online piece?

For my gloomy mood on the Bush administration's foreign economic policy, see my previous TNR Online column on "hypocritical liberalization." On the current state of the WTO, Philippe Legrain sounds a pessimistic note (subscription required).

A good source on Brazil's behavior during the WTO and FTAA talks is Peter Hakim's Financial Times op-ed on Brazil's trade policy from a few weeks ago. Hakim is the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, which is a fine source on the politics and economics of Latin America. For example, their report on "The Troubled Americas" is typical of the concern mounting about Latin America's direction. On the rise of more market-suspicious leaders, see this St. Petersburg Times news analysis.

On Bolivia being an example for the anti-globalization movement, see this New York Times article, from earlier this month, entitled "Bolivia's Poor Proclaim Abiding Distrust of Globalization." Here's an even more effusive account from earlier this year.

Here's a link to the Washington Post editorial cited in the column. The information on Mexico came straight from Virginia Postrel's first-person account of a speech by former Mexican Finance Minister Francisco Gil Diaz.

Never heard of the 1879-1884 War in the Pacific involving Chile, Bolivia, and Peru? Shame on you, and click here. On the notion that there has been a new solidarity among indigenous third world peoples, see Moises Naim's latest in Foreign Policy.

The RAND Corporation has some economic analyses demonstrating the futility of pursuing a supply-side strategy in the war on drugs. Here's one from 1993; here's another from 2001.

Finally, Winds of Change has a link-rich briefing on the latest in Latin America. Go check it out.

posted by Dan on 10.29.03 at 01:10 PM


I find it maddening that the poor Bolivias of the world are exalted by the anti-globalist left when those nations engage in self-defeating behavior.

When a poor nation exports its natural resources for a market price, this is not exploitation, but sensible policy. Now the Bolivians will not have that foreign exchange. A pity.

And here is what I find even more maddening: when left-wing nitwits define trade as bad per se. Sometimes it is believed that trade has winner countries and loser countries, as if Ricardo's law of comparative advantage was repealed.

Not only that, but left wing antiglobalists define imports into the US from Third-world countries as bad for BOTH the Third World and the US. How can a voluntary transaction have two losers?

Jeez, if only these guys were mercantilists, I could see some reasoning, even if I did not agree with it.

But they seem to be against all exchange with people in countries with lower incomes than we have in the US (which is most countries).

Do we really want to stitch our own clothes? Do we really want to tie plastic flowers together?

If they are against all exchange between countries, shouldn't they also be against all exchange within countries. Am I not losing the opportunity to build my own car when I buy one from the local dealership? Wouldn't my employment go up if I was required to grow and cook my own food? No doubt these insufferable anti-globalists are not using any product they did not grow or make themselves.

I suppose that someone could argue that Mugabe or some corrupt dictator sells his countries assets and uses the $ to buy toys for himself and his cronies, the trade does not benefit the poor. But still, it is a stretch to imagine that all trade is this way. Look at the standard of living and lifespans of any people anywhere in the world compared to the lifespan of their grandparents. In most places not suffering from some huge temporary social shock (like some former Soviet states or whatever), people are better off.

But still, the Bolivia debate has little to do with trade, and everything to do with the threats to traditional societies from modernism. This threat is technological, as it is now so easy for the outside world to intrude upon even a small, landlocked South American countryside like Bolivia.

Has anyone read the books by the awful Naomi Klein? Ugh.

OK. Rant over.

posted by: Mark on 10.29.03 at 01:10 PM [permalink]

Mark - I'm totally in favor offree trade too, but to just dismiss this as self-defeating behavior on the part of the indigeous Bolivians is to miss a big part of the picture. These people have been exploited by the West for 500 years, and they're supposed to start trusting us now? It's not just a matter of economic logic... there are huge historic and cultural barriers here that have to be overcome, and then to top it all off you have the US down there destroying people's crops, telling them to grow pineapples instead? Read Dan's article, it's very sensible on this point.

posted by: paul goyette on 10.29.03 at 01:10 PM [permalink]

Dear Mark,

I highly doubt that thousands of cocoa leaf farmers making hundreds of millions from the drug trade are likely "traditional indigenous farmers". It's more likely Third World big business. I or no one else who is sane has any interest in stopping Bolivians from growing cocoa leaves to give as a greeting to their neighbor. However, when Bolivians cultivate tons upon tons of it in order for pharamaceutical processes to artificially extract the cocaine concentrate for export to America, that does become my problem.

The problem with the legalization argument, which I sympathize with, is how far does one go? Personally, I couldn't give a rip if someone tokes some cannabis so long as they do it off the job and off the road. But Opium? Heroin? Crack Cocaine? PCP? Meth/Crystal? Ecstacy?

Hard drugs - the refined artificial products of chemical laboratories - are never going to be able to be legalized. Cocaine took a stint as a quasi-legal substance for a while, but that was before mass-importation. Even pure white powder coke couldn't make the legalization cut.

However, there is a difference between legalization and decriminilization. If Rush can get sympathy and the detox treatment at a clinic, we should look toward minimize incarceration of drug users and emphasize treatment. Instead we should change our cultural outlook toward drugs. It should go from being a weird dirty thing to something we discuss as potentially dangerous but an accepted risk of growing up and potentially taking risks in life. It should never be publicly condoned, but it should be emphasized as a choice of personal responsibility and most emphatically potentially terrible consequence.

We do not need to demonize drugs to deal with it, and the cultural shift alone would help the problem immensely. So long as we have emotional and philosophical vacancies in people's lives, people will be tempted to turn to drugs to deal with them. Even if they have to turn to Oxycotin/Vicodin.

posted by: Oldman on 10.29.03 at 01:10 PM [permalink]

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