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A Libertarian Perspective on Argentina:

Reason magazine editor Radley Balko has, like me, recently spent some time in Buenos Aires, and wrote this interesting piece analyzing Argentina from a libertarian perspective. I disagree with one or two of Radley's points, and a few others deal with issues that I don't know enough about to have an opinion. But I definitely agree with his bottom line conclusion that Argentina is a nation whose great potential has not been fully realized primarily as a result of excessive statism.

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really though:
Is there any country about which you *don't* think that's true?
6.14.2007 5:57pm
Ilya Somin:
Is there any country about which you *don't* think that's true?

Yes, there are a number of countries that follow reasonably close to libertarian policies, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Estonia, New Zealand, Ireland, and - in recent years - Argentina's neighbor Chile.
6.14.2007 6:06pm
really though:
whoa, there. free market, not libertarian. some would say singapore, at least, still suffers from an excess of statism.
6.14.2007 7:13pm
Montie (mail):

But I definitely agree with his bottom line conclusion that Argentina is a nation whose great potential has not been fully realized primarily as a result of excessive statism.


The true tragedy is that Argentina seemed well on its to reach its potential in 1900 and even in 1950.
6.14.2007 11:18pm
ATRGeek:
I certainly agree about Argentina's great potential (and any country where the cuisine celebrates grilled meat, pasta, and ice cream will have my personal affection). But its failure to fulfill its potential in the 20th Century is really part of the overall South American story--that continent is just as blessed, if not more so, than North America with great potential, and it is a shame that for so long its growth has been retarded by bad politics.

As for the "statist" claim: I think that is a tough thing to test. For example, suppose most of South America had been occupied by a more or less stable republic like the United States. I think that would have been profoundly beneficial to the development of the continent, and one could attribute that in part to the relatively liberal/libertarian traditions of the United States. But now replace that hypothetical republic with a republic like Canada, or any other Western-style republic which would arguably be a bit more "statist" than the United States. I think that would still have been profoundly beneficial.

Accordingly, to me, at least, the most fundamental problem has been the lack of stable republican political regimes (and along those lines, I think it has hurt to have so many countries dividing up the continent). And while I do believe South Americans would have been even better off with republican regimes more toward the liberal/libertarian end of the spectrum, ala the United States or New Zealand, to me that is still a secondary issue.
6.15.2007 9:26am
Houston Lawyer:
ATR

Ponder why Great Britain, which was very socialist, let Hong Kong develop without socialism, much to be benefit of Hong Kong's residents.
6.15.2007 11:27am
ATRGeek:
Houston Lawyer,

Well, again, I think it is hard to sort out the causal factors in a case like Hong Kong's.

Britain's rule of Hong Kong also provided it with a stable political system in the post-WWII era. Of course, in East Asia that was a real comparative advantage, particularly once the very much unstable and unrepublican PRC took over mainland China in 1949. Hong Kong's fortunes were made in large part from its ability to capitalize on individuals and businesses fleeing from Communist China; from providing the primary point of contact between mainland China and the rest of the world; and eventually from investing in mainland China.

Moreover, some of the same beneficial effects played out in other Asian countries after they acquired stable republican governments, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (the latter three, along with Hong Kong, making up the "Four Asian Tigers"). All of those countries were more "statist" than Hong Kong, but all also did comparatively well.

Finally, Hong Kong was not exactly purely "non-socialist", if by "socialist" you mean investing in public projects. The government in Hong Kong actually invested quite a bit in public housing, public education, and infrastructure projects. All that helped subsidize Hong Kong's economic development.

Again, though, I am not denying the merits of adopting a relatively liberal/libertarian system. But I still think that is secondary to just having a stable republican political system. In other words, I think the importance of the political differences between, say, the Maoist PRC and all of the Four Tigers was of a far greater magnitude than the differences in the state's role within the Four Tigers.
6.15.2007 1:19pm
ys:

As for the "statist" claim: I think that is a tough thing to test. For example, suppose most of South America had been occupied by a more or less stable republic like the United States. I think that would have been profoundly beneficial to the development of the continent, and one could attribute that in part to the relatively liberal/libertarian traditions of the United States. But now replace that hypothetical republic with a republic like Canada, or any other Western-style republic which would arguably be a bit more "statist" than the United States. I think that would still have been profoundly beneficial.

Leaving alone a continent-wide republic, what about Chile? (An ironic flip of an anti-Trotskyite concept of building "socialism in one separate country")
6.15.2007 1:38pm
ATRGeek:
ys,

I'm not sure of the nature of your question, but I would agree that Chile currently has one of the most impressive economies in South America. Part of that I think is tied to getting rid of Pinochet. But I would also agree that a significant factor in Chile's recent economic success is that they have pursued a combination of privatization (although I think the state still owns CODELCO) and free-trade agreements. The latter is of great importance because Chile is blessed with natural resources: a Chilean I know once described Chile as California with copper mines, and they have been successful in adding agricultural exports to copper.
6.15.2007 2:04pm
Ramiro (mail) (www):
The US influence on the contienten has been terrible. All military coups and regimes in the 50's, 60's and 70's had US support behind them. That's part of the problem.
6.19.2007 1:25pm