Posts Tagged ‘international politics’

“[D]reams of perfecting human society always runs smack into human nature.”

— Thomas Lifson, editor and publisher at American Thinker

When I hear people from other countries bad-mouthing the U.S., it bugs me. Don’t they see that we’re the good guys? Can’t they see what a great society we have here? But, what really bothers me is when Americans bad-mouth America. These people actually live here, yet, to hear some of them talk, you’d think we were the equivalent of Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany. Why is that? Why do these people only see evil and corruption and all the imperfections?

In a debate with Gore Vidal and Richard Higgs about why America is hated, Hoover Institution scholar and author Dinesh D’Souza was asked by the moderator why he thought that very bright, literate, and well-spoken people such as Vidal and Higgs could feel so profoundly “alienated” from the United States as it exists now.

Dinesh D'Souza

A very youthful-looking Dinesh D'Souza

D’Souza’s response:

One reason they are alienated is that they are Americans. And, by this I mean it is a peculiarity of America to generate within the country a kind of anti-Americanism that I don’t see other countries generating. And I’ve asked myself why that is. I think one reason is that I’m comparing America to other countries. I’m using an historical or comparative standard. Americans tend to use a Utopian standard. They tend to judge America by a standard that no other country could survive, and therefore they smearingly say, ‘Well, Americans are only pursuing their self-interests. They’re only after oil. They’re only after resources.’ But we expect everybody else to pursue their self-interests. So, the very fact… I mean, if the Chinese or the Arabs killed 10,000 of their own people, what is the world reaction? Most people sigh and then they go back to eating their breakfast. And why? Because people kind of expect the Chinese and the Arabs to do that. But, if America in the middle of a war accidentally kills 200 people — bombs a school or hospital — it’s a worldwide outrage, there are protests, there’s an investigation, people are halled before the Hill.

What does this mean? This, to me, testifies to the moral superiority of America, because it is judged by its own residents (and by others) by a standard that no other country could meet.”

I think D’Souza is definitely onto something here. (Although, I might have qualified that it is more often those Americans on the political “center-Left” who tend to use a Utopian standard. The farther Left, the more irrational the expectations. But, I digress….) Despite all the good the U.S. has done and continues to do — e.g., provide its citizens unmatched freedoms and opportunities; fight fascism and remove brutal dictators; donate billions of dollars’ worth of food, medicine, construction materials & labor, and other aid (from both the government and private citizens & organizations); forgive debts of poor nations; etc. –, it is never sufficient for those looking for perfection and constantly suspicious of our nobler motives.

Of course (and D’Souza has said as much elsewhere), this is not to say we should ignore the shortcomings of the U.S., both present and historical. President Obama certainly likes to apologize to the world for America whenever he travels, just as he continuously pointed out America’s shameful imperfections — or, at least, what he perceives them to be — while on the campaign trail. (Which he still seems to be on, come to think of it.) But, whereas the Left tend to harp on the negative and accuse and self-flagellate and dwell in the past, the Right tend to acknowledge — that is, when it can be agreed that injustice has been done — and press forward, striving to do better. (Ironic that the Left likes to be called “Progressive”, huh? Who are they trying to convince?)

Alright, I’ll stop before I get off on a tangent. (F.y.i., I am planning a multi-parter on American exceptionalism in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that….)

Now, maybe my “right-wing bias” is showing, and I am generalizing, but that’s how I see it. Anyone agree? Disagree? Half ‘n half? Is D’Souza off his rocker? Am I? (No comments from my relatives, thank you very much.)

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Outside of South America, I would be willing to bet that most people think of Chile as just another developing, “third-world” country with a handful of (relatively) wealthy people lording it over the peons. And, a few years ago, that would have been a fairly accurate description. Inflation was skyrocketing, the people were dirt poor and many (most?) of them unemployed — sort of like pre-quake Haiti.

Map of Chile (general)

Map of Chile

But, surprise! Last month, Chile became the first South American country asked to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), consisting of the (now) 31 wealthiest and most stable economies of the world. Chile has also now moved into the Top 5 in the Cato Institute’s ‘Index of Economic Freedom’, outranking even the U.S. [Note: The U.S. ranks a close 6th, not #17 as Glenn Beck (who got it from an IBD editorial) mistakenly reported a few weeks ago.]

What happened?

In the mid-1960s, center-left President Eduardo Frei Montalva initiated widespread social & economic reforms, focusing on housing, education, and agriculture. But, due to ever-increasing resistance from the political Left AND Right, Frei was only able to achieve some of his goals, while his country fell into an economic depression. When Socialist Salvador Allende took office in 1970, Marxist policies including nationalization and collectivization were instituted, resulting in decreased worker productivity, price freezes & wage increases, withdrawal of bank deposits, and runaway inflation. Then, in 1973 the U.S. assisted in a military coup by General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet turned out to be a brutal dictator of an oppressive regime. But,…

If one good thing can be said about Pinochet, it is that he recognized the failures of socialist economics and he resolved to do something about it. Pinochet gave de facto control of the Chilean economy to the “Chicago boys”, a group of 10 economists who had studied the theories of John Locke (not the one on Lost), F.A. Hayek, & Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. Beginning in the late 1970’s, they were authorized to begin implementing a long-term plan based on free-market principles — not an easy thing to do in a corrupt regime, under a dictator’s rule (even with his OK), and surrounded by similarly “difficult” neighbors. Chile began deregulating markets, opening up trade and courting agreements with multiple countries around the world. The economy was de-politicized and bureaucratic red tape was eliminated (well… somewhat). They cut taxes and removed wage & price controls. A balanced budget was instituted and private property once more respected. Eventually, the rule of law took root, as well, thereby greatly improving the safety and freedoms of the Chilean people.

The past two decades since Pinochet was defeated in 1988 have seen several left-wing presidents, but they have pretty-much stayed the course — while expanding government-sponsored social services, as well — and Chile’s economic growth has continued. Once a “closed” economy dominated by labor unions, Chile is now one of the most open economies in the world. Foreign trade with the Americas, Asia, and Europe brings in tens of billions of dollars to the Chilean economy. Chief exports include copper, wood products, fresh fruit, seafood, and wine. Many government-run enterprises have been sold off. (Some, like copper giant CODELCO, are still owned by the state, and there remains one government-owned bank.) Foreign investments, banking reform, increased personal and corporate savings, and the privatization of pension plans have all contributed to strengthening Chile’s financial stability. Poverty rates have dropped by more than half, and Chile’s per capita GDP has risen from $1300 (1980) to $15,000.

In addition to terrific economic growth, Chile now gets high scores for political & civil liberties, democratic governance, safety & security, etc., by groups like Freedom House and the Legatum Institute.

Chile's new President-elect Pinera

Chile's new President-elect Pinera

Following closely on the heels of its induction into the OECD, Chile’s people elected self-made billionaire Sebastian Pinera as their new president. Pinera is the first truly conservative leader Chile has had in decades. The current global financial woes have affected Chile, with unemployment inching up and a “contracted” economy, but the government has been able to dip into reserves from its copper revenues. With Pinera’s great personal success in media, sports, & airlines, some think he can bring even more financial & economic wisdom into the government, guiding Chile out of its current slowdown. The president-elect has vowed to be an “entrepreneurial president”, working to improve efficiency in the government by cutting red tape and demanding bureaucratic accountability, encourage private investment (e.g., partially privatizing CODELCO), revise employment law, make the business environment more attractive for local start-ups. Oh, and he’s got some ideas about fighting crime, too. (Do they include a cape & cowl, I wonder?) In short, he wants to make Chile “the best country in the world.”

So, obviously Chile’s economy still has problems. (Most countries do, especially these days.) There is room for improvement. But, it is still inspiring to see the amazing progress this once-impoverished and bankrupt nation has made in just 30 years. It is a case study of how Marxist theories and policies simply don’t work, whereas free-market capitalism and conservative policies bring people out of poverty, giving many (not just an elitist few) the opportunity to become quite wealthy, and improving the standards of living for all who participate. Or, as one expert on Latin American politics & economics, Andres Martinez of the New America Foundation, put it:

If trends continue, Chile will soon be considered one of those rare countries that has graduated out of the developing world, according to plenty of living-standard indices. The country is also the poster child for those who believe globalization and free trade can lift living standards, as Chile’s economic course has long been anchored in its free-trade agreement with the U.S. and its dynamic export sector. It also stands out among South American countries in that its governing socialists have pragmatically been the ones embracing this pro-business, market-oriented economy.”

I’ll support this kind of growth and progress over Leftie “hope and change” every time.