Monday, December 19, 2005

Looming Large

In Latin America, Left-wing and anti-American leader Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia by a substantial margin. According to the International Herald Tribune:

Morales, 46, an Aymara Indian and former coca farmer who also promises to roll back American-prescribed economic changes, had garnered up to 51 percent of the vote, according to televised quick-count polls, which tally a sample of votes at polling places and are considered highly accurate.

Publius Pundit, a blog that closely watches developments in Latin America says it wasn't even close. "There was nothing fraudulent about it, and voter turnout was an amazing 80%. Bolivians who are celebrating this are happy because Morales is the first-ever indigenous Aymara president the nation has ever had. For people who have been shut out from the existing system, for whatever reason, it’s a great step forward to see one of their own in the highest office in the land." In These Times has an interview with Evo Morales in which he claims that he is 'like Che' except that he doesn't believe in the armed struggle. Marc Cooper argues that Morales, as well as the ascent of left wing leaders in Brazil and Venezuela, portend the end of the Washington Consensus' in Latin America characterized by "free enterprise, free trade, a rollback of the state and social services, a sort of trickle-down economics for export". Cooper asks whether this is cause for jubilation -- or alarm. Indeed, Morales is likely to go down the same road as Hugo Chavez, who is rapidly ruining the very Venezuelan economy he promised to rescue from the oligarchs.


Politics in the Third World has long been principally a synonym for plunder. The sole variation from this boring theme lay in finding new and innovative alibis under which to commit the intended looting. Throughout the 1990s traditional elites operated under the banner of the free trade, economic liberalization and privatization -- while doing nothing like that. Each time, the local elites were at pains to emphasize their theft was at the behest; indeed the compulsion of international lending institutions. Though economics in the Third World very often consisted of banditry planned locally; it was always attributed internationally, preferably to Washington; and for decades no one was overly concerned at this sickening charade because these dens of corruption were distant from the centers of world power. Until September 11.

While radical Islam is the best known form of chaos from the Third World it was merely the worst -- but not the only -- form of dysfunction. There were many other countries where things simply didn't work, and where their overlords made a career of covering their crimes by claiming subservience to an 'international' program, as simple misdirection. The post-colonial world fell to pieces in a million ways; united only in a single, agreed-upon scapegoat: the USA. Chavez can be depended on to destroy his own country; as did Castro and as probably, will Evo Morales. Yet in the end, they too, will attribute their failings to America. What's needed is some way to make each nation consciously responsible for its own destiny. Whether in Iraq or elsewhere, that's the only way to go.


Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

What's needed is some way to make each nation consciously responsible for its own destiny. Whether in Iraq or elsewhere, that's the only way to go.

start with palestine...

12/19/2005 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...


What type of strange delusion is this? Why would any third world leader even deign to attempt to be responsible?

Nothing could be further away from their individual goals. Plunder and steal, that's the way to personal success - and the rest of the country can just 'lump it'.

Great read, W.

12/19/2005 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Winnows said...

Excellent comments. We cannot blame Britain, France, America and other colonial powers for all the problems in the world today forever adnauseum.

Certainly they did create many problems, especially the Brits, France, Spain and even the Dutch in Indonesia.

But at the same time we must be honest that many countries over the last 30-40 years and large corporations looked away as corrupt leaders in the third world stripped their people blind.

And many of our world organizations failed us in not recognizing the level of corruption of these failed states or their leaders and holding them accountable when found to be criminals.

Transparency, ethics, open society based upon rule of law and not bribes? I am amazed at the level of bribes and under the counter cash flows today in Russia. People that you would trust as normal good people there daily work the black-market for survival still because their leaders have failed to curtail corruption internally and the normal citizen ends up taking anything that is offered to them or is afraid to complain for fear of losing a job or worse. It is a sad situation.

There are few ways to do this.

1) Education
2) Politics
3) Religion
4) Work
5) Media
6) Groomed Leaders
7) A new organization of United Free Nations? That meet standards of free speech, transparency and self-government? Who work together specifically in tandom to lift out nations from the third world who agree to fully sign on to a free and open society? This is not just about trade, it would be governmental reforms, open media, etc., and as a result free trade would flow with free nations of the world?

I will leave it to others to discuss the merits of each. But none of these work without visionary, strong and vibrant leaders with character in place of the third world nations.

What can outside organizations do? Demand free and open media for any loan guarantees?

Should the leading nations be grooming nation leaders for the third world of whom they can trust to lift such nations out of corruption?

I think organizations such as the WTO and the World Bank have their own problems in that they themselves work off of profit risk scales for those doing the lending and the trade.

Therefore, only in the most dire of consequences do they pull back and usually after it is to late because the financiers want their profits regardless of the peoples conditions.

Some of it has improved somewhat, but not really.

Also, we still have nations such as China and Russia who do not care what the leaders do in other countries to their own people.

So not only are we fighting internal power struggles and corruption, but we are also up against the external corruption of larger corrupt nation states.

That is half the battle in countries like Sudan where we cannot get the UNSC to go along with even a simple Genocide statement.

I enjoy your blog tremendously...

12/19/2005 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

I fear that Chavez, Morales and their ilk are merely emulating their models in the West. The Western variant of such thievery thrives because it preys on basically healthy, robust, productive, and primarily capitalistic societies. A Jesse Jackson can promote all sorts of transfer-of-payments schemes because also he can use his influence to secure sweetheart deals for himself and his friends in the real economy. When there is no robust economy and strong nation to prop up absurd ideas, the result is disaster.
Parasites don’t do well without a host.
In one sense it is “our” fault that the Chavez’s and Morales of the world come to power; when we allow their counterparts to thrive here, we are providing bad examples.

12/19/2005 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

And please note. The persons of the year according to Time magazine are those who have become best at giving away Capitalist money to prop up Third World failures.

12/19/2005 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger moderationist said...

The politics of victimhood (always blame others to deflect the reality of your own self inflicted failings) is almost as destructive as islam and communism.

12/19/2005 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I think part of the problem has always been that we assumed other people could as easily get rid of their deadwood leaders as we are able to shuffle off our own. It's that respect thing, where we would never presume to tell someone else how to live their lives, as long as they are not infringing upon us.

As we've seen repeatedly, however, with Iraq a sterling example, these people are *not* able to do it on their own. For whatever reason, a country of millions can be terrorized by a strongman and 20 murderers.

I'm not terribly interested in educating, civilizing, introducing the concepts of democracy and capitalism, and physically over-throwing every tinpot dictator in the world. It's expensive and it really stretches the definition of being a Good World Citizen.

In Zimbabwe right now, we have a country that has been so raped by its leader, its citizens are eating grass ... and they *still* seem unable to do anything about getting rid of him.

I don't want the U.S. to become responsible for these countries. It's simply not within our purview. If the UN were even partially functional, defining and intereceding would be a good role for that organization. But I think to (once again) nominate "Washington, DC" as the end-all, be-all Cop of the World is a mistake.

The world wants us to be more multi-lateral? Well, wouldn't this be a good place to start?

12/19/2005 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger WildMonk said...

I think that you have hit on something more important than you (may) realize. The common thread linking the Islamofascists, the "Che" left in South America, the American academic left and the European post-modern left is its critique of global Capitalism and the economic, religious and cultural freedoms that nurture it. The classic presentation of this critique (not counting Osama's droning perorations) is Immanuel Wallerstein's epic "The Modern World-System" (first world wealth is the result of third-world exploitation).

In all cases from Osama to Che, the free consort of autonomous individuals is conflated with "exploitation" in order to justify the expansion of the complainant’s power. The formula is obvious by now: they start with the observation that a free worker/employer relationship is lop-sided in its power structure because the corporation is so rich. From there, they need only appeal to greed and envy. They fail, of course, to admit that the alternative for the weaker party is an even greater disparity of power in the existing power structures in their society (be they religious, clan or governmental). That is, a manufacturing job for Nike may not be ideal but it empowers the individual with an autonomous wage that is far less exploitative than the alternatives offered by those who critique the system. Worse, from the leftist/Islamofascist perspective, such autonomy in the subject population directly threatens those who would rule by force.

The problem, of course, is that few defend global capitalism on its own *relative* merits. In contrast, there is always someone to defend the prerogatives of the ruling class; they just need to cast their appeal in the language of "the people." As long as they do so - and as long as they blame the failure of their world view on the "corruption" of their predecessors and America - they seem always to capture the hopes of their subject populations. It is not that the left (or the Caliphate, cult or commune) has failed, it is that the predecessor(s) did not execute the plan with sufficient purity of spirit!

I’d love to think that we could solve the problem that you pose by enforcing an open and transparent regime of intercourse between nations but this just doesn’t work: no one bothers to sift through the complexities of trade – no matter how transparent – when it is easier to simply buy the language of greed and exploitation. The only approach that seems even remotely likely to work is a positive, aggressive one: finding a louder, more aggressive voice for those willing to state the simple truth that most commerce is a win-win situation. We need to make it far clearer that the alternative - control by the political, clan or religious elite - is always a zero-sum game that results in broad economic and often cultural decline. For freedom to win, it needs leaders willing to speak clearly and forcefully in its defense and not defensively or from an apologetic crouch that admits the central critique of its assailants.

12/19/2005 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Here are a couple of good papers on Bolivia that provide some background. This one from the International Crisis Group, and this one (PDF) from the CSIS.

12/19/2005 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

rwe: to amplify on your statements on oligarchs and "elites": in every country, the US included, you have people whose power and wealth comes from their "connections" within the political class. They use these connections to generate more wealth, by skimming funds from the productive classes.

They also try to ensure that non-elites have a difficult time working their way into the "elite". While whichever ancestor of theirs may have been very smart and energetic in order to make his fortune and become a member of the elite, the current descendents are often no smarter than the average person. So they must work hard to make it difficult for newcomers, by implimenting ever-more-complex and onerous regulations and taxes. The current decline in our educational quality may also be a symptom of this

12/19/2005 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

About 35 years ago, I spent close to two years backpacking through Latin America including Bolivia and Peru. This election brings forth a number of issues (some touched upon by other commenters) including race, class distinction, politics, economics. The indigenous people of Latin America have traditionally been screwed over by their Ladino ‘elite’ who, by and large, have failed their countries miserably. This is a general truism over most of Latin America with the possible exceptions of Chile and Costa Rica. The term Ladino is used most often in Central America but the term applies to the south as well.

I don’t know much about Morales but he strikes me as more naïve than malicious (as compared to Chavez) but this still doesn’t bode well for Bolivia. For what it’s worth, Bolivia has always been an economic and political basket case, even by Latin American standards. I traveled through Bolivia shortly after a 1971 coup – even Peruvians (hardly a politically mature country) used to joke about Bolivia. One editorial cartoon noted the new Bolivian record (to those old enough to remember vinyl) that played at 33 1/3 revolutions per second.

It’s somewhat ironic that Morales election comes just as I’m reading the Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot (see Amazon link below). The authors must be rolling their eyes and thinking “here we go again”. It’s all so sad, the Aymara Indian population deserves better and Bolivians at large deserve better.

BTW – although I haven’t yet finished the Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, I highly recommend it. This election and its aftermath will likely deserve an addendum to the book.

12/19/2005 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

There is nothing we first-worlders can do about the problems of Latin America because the problems are rooted in the basic character of these latin societies. The corruption of the latest wave of leaders is just another version of the corruption of earlier leaders. This is nothing new.

We heirs of anglo-saxon tradition and culture have a strong aversion to tyranny and a tradition of individualism that spurs us to demand that our leaders not be corrupt and is basically incompatible with collectivism. We won't stand for public officials that demand bribes or for government infringements on property rights. This is not the case in the latin world. And there is nothing we can do to change that. Nothing.

And, what do we care if they want to blame things on us? They will do it whether we like it or not because it assuages their sense of inferiority. That is none of our concern, however. We cant', and don't need to, "make each nation consciously responsible for its own destiny." We have not been appointed keepers of the global conscience, you know. These other countries are as responsible for their own destinies as we are for ours. They were backward, corrupt societies in the past and they will be in the future. It's the nature of their national characters and their economic situations will not change until their character changes.

12/19/2005 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Past US of A hegemony in the Banana Republics pales in comparison to the likes of Hugo Chavez who is busy radicalizing the region of South America. One can draw an arc from Havana to Caracas only to see where this vector of nihilism will tally its’ dues. His art is easily seen in its’ elegance and its’ innate utility. One is reminded of the colonialism of the Republic of Iran and their regional hegemony. Oil in both cases will ensure that the new crypto-fascist insurrection will leave many a pregnant widows.

What can the followers of Che’ expect to learn if not the necessity of craven murder when it strengthens the social state against the chaos of capitalistic individualism?

I can hardly wait for the T-shirts.

12/19/2005 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

John Keegan says a bunch soldiers from a large but thinly populated Commonwealth territory showed up at Gallipoli, got mowed down, and returned to their countries Australian.

Regional war is obviously a brutal thing - but it also makes nations. That is obviously the root of our own - I mean Western - current structure at least since Westphalia and certainly in the post-WWII environment. I wonder whether it is possible to forge such a thing as a nation out of legislation. It strikes me that in the absence of such a thing commonly agreed upon the kleptocratic normalcy of Third World regimes derives from what Theodore Dalrymple describes when Rhodesia became Swaziland upon transfer from British authority to independence: whoever gets to the top regards it as a prize to be enjoyed and to increase the tribe at the expense of the other tribes, his competitors. Sounds like a natural and inevitable thing. Now, what can change that habit. Is it even possible? Iraq is not Australia.

12/19/2005 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

"Though economics in the Third World very often consisted of banditry planned locally; it was always attributed internationally, preferably to Washington..."

Many people will assume that the Westerners who collaborated damagingly in this, to the extent there were any, were working for private corporations. My own experience however was that the ones who did so most cynically in furtherance of their own careers were in fact the people from the World Bank and the IFC. The ones who flew in briefly to the developing country where I was working as an economist quickly proved that they had zero concern for the impact on the country or its citizens. They had quotas to meet and all they wanted was to get back on the plane with signed documents.

The people who worked for Western corporations were in contrast much more concerned about the long term or at least medium term impact of what they were doing. Not hard to understand why - at least it was their corporation's own money they were committing, often for periods of many years. I never saw World bank or other aid agency personnel treat the money they were spending 'as if it was their own' (except when it came to their expense account practices).

I realize your main point is that politicians in these countries routinely invent the US bogeyman where he doesn't exist, as do US and EU academics, which is true enough. I feel I should point out though that the reality is even worse, in that they have been actively assisted by ghastly transnational bureaucracies of our own making and which we still pay to support.

12/19/2005 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Morales campaigned on a promise to nationalize Bolivia's oil and natural gas industry. Now that he has been elected he will have the opportunity to show the superiority of his vision and bestow all the implied socio-economic advantages. His people are waiting.

It puts him in a potentially tough spot, really. Who will he blame once he has kicked out all the evil foreign-owned companies and life still gets no better--likely gets worse--for all the credulous number now celebrating this victory?

And how will it be the fault of the USA if Morales succeeds in transforming his country not into a land of milk and honey but someplace decidedly less palatable?

It should be an interesting act to watch.

12/19/2005 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

The counter-example that should be recognized is the success of the Asian economies. Note: All the successful economies did not elect socialists or marxists. All the successful asian nations are almost wholly commited to the free market(well, more or less), and understand the advantages of capitalism, state or otherwise.

With all that evidence, why do people still think otherwise? There are none so blind as those who would not see.

12/19/2005 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

In Bolivia it's no longer about the Revolution.

It's about the Evo-lution.

12/19/2005 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Mark and Sirius Sir: Aside from the apparantly to-be-eternal problem of failed states and all that implies, in the case of Bolivia, the proposal to make Coca growing legal has serious implications - and not just for the U.S.
Given the problem that unrestricted Coca production will present to the U.S, and other countries, Morales essentially proporses to ally himself with crimminals.
Currently U.S. and Bolivian Coca eradication efforts are cooperative. A few miles from where I sit is the HQ of the Department of State Air Wing (did you know that DOS had an Air Force?) that supports this effort. But eradication efforts do not have to be cooperative. Napalm will work at least as well as herbicides - and DoD has a much more effective and vastly larger "Air Wing." The potential consquences for Bolivia will be, shall we say, rather serious.

12/19/2005 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

excellent post and comments all. picking up on wildmonk's points and mark's view that nothing can be done, evenif that were true i would settle for those in the first world achieving that understanding. a wildnmonk suggests, the contrary opinion serves as a serious drag on our own economies in many ways.

the world bank has just released a highly revealing report on development as reported here:

12/19/2005 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger foxenburg said...

john b
(to those old enough to remember vinyl) that played at 33 1/3 revolutions per second.
when Rhodesia became Swaziland upon transfer from British authority to independence:
c'mon, get a grip, guys!

12/19/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The US cannot come to terms with the situation in Syria and Iran. The idea that we would be about to stage airstrikes in Bolivia is funny. Do we strike at the cocca fields before or after the Iranian centrifuges.

How large a Global War do you envision?

The US has but shut down the MONEY that supports the Bolivian Army, presto chango there will be a new Government in La Paz.

The country in the tri borders region, well that could be up for grabs. Chavez did not buy those 100,000 AK's to collect dust and rust in an arms room.

Funding for Revolution comes via oil & cocaine purchases in the US.

Gear up for the
"new & improved" War on Drugs.

12/19/2005 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The major economic challenge in the undeveloped world is

Title to their property is not available to the majority of the disenfranchised. Squatters rights are all they have or are permitted to have, in most locales. Even after decades of residency. Property Rights would be foremost on the list of ways to improve the "lot" of many.

12/19/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

sirius_sir said..

"Morales campaigned on a promise to nationalize Bolivia's oil and natural gas industry.... It puts him in a potentially tough spot, really. Who will he blame once he has kicked out all the evil foreign-owned companies and life still gets no better--likely gets worse--for all the credulous number now celebrating this victory?"

The Bolivian people will blame the United States. Nationalizing everything in the name of populism and then helplessly watching the economy self destruct was standard Latin American operating procedure in the 60s and 70s. Bolivia and much of the rest of South America have allowed that previous experience to go down the "memory hole". The fact that they have done this to themselves again will also go down the memory hole. They'll blame the developed world out of simple reflex.

Learning experiences are useful if people can remember them.

Before dismissing these people as complete idiots, keep in mind that our own moonbats would put us in exactly the same situation if given half a chance. Our secret to success has been in not allowing the moonbats to run the country.

12/19/2005 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...


"Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups"

Perhaps not quite 33 1/3 RPM but not too far off.

12/19/2005 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

Desert Rat:

Re: Property rights - you are bang on the money. Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has written extensively on this topic. Here is an article on de Soto but I expect you are already familiar with him.

12/19/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger AK said...

Oh Ho! I'm sure the "dens of corruption" in Latin America were far, far away from "western centers of power" and that Multi-National Capital derived no benefit from the regional deregulation fiascos of the 90s. I'm sure such episodes as the collapse of the Argentinian telecom industry, which Wretchard somehow overlooked, were simply financial anamolies and Latin American economists are deluded in their distrust of neoliberal nostrums and the foreign corporations that allegedly raided their industries. If only we could dialogue more with these benighted men of monetary science to convince them of international capital's good intent. How have they gotten recent history so terribly wrong?

12/19/2005 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

I wonder if it is time to legalize drugs? I have always been an opponent of that, but from a practical aspect, it would do away with a lot of the problems, both domestically and internationally. How profitable would cocaine be if it was sold at a price reflective of its production costs? Just a fraction of what it is now. That would instantly take away a huge source of revenue for our internal and external enemies.

12/19/2005 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

There are many in the Public that agree with that idea. WFBuckley is the most well read.

But I think we have nothing but a "Complete Victory" in the War on Drugs to look forward to.

When annoy mouse's arc is drawn, forget not southern Columbia, home of the FARC, eastern Eucuador, El Salvador home of MS-13, on up to LA in California and Nuevo Laradeo just south of Texas.
Just google 'mexico drug shooting'

Hope the War on Terror goes better then the Federals War on Frugs has.
It has been what, forty years of defeat?

12/19/2005 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

exhelo: Do you know that cochaine is a legal drug - if you have a prescription for it. And it is legal for a Dr to issue a prescription.
Cost of the legal, prescribed drug is a bit lower than it is on the street -

12/19/2005 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

eggplant, I agree we shouldn't dismiss these people as idiots. I'm hopeful, despite the historical record you cite and other evidence to the contrary, that they'll be able at some point to discern the true source of their difficulties. (Not that, to take ak's point, the influence of international capitol has been forever pristine and pure.)

Morales is at least talking as if he wants to be taken seriously. That means taking responsibility (or credit--I'm sure he'll take whatever he sees as his due) for the outcomes of his decisions. I'm simply observing that if he follows through with his campaign promises he will be eliminating many of the easy outs that would remain available were he to maintain, and work within, the status quo.

Of course, there is always recourse to all the other usual subversive bogeyman influences: the CIA, homegrown 'wreckers', as a last resort maybe even an appeal to a conspiracy by the Jews.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Maybe the Bolivians are all moonbats and/or rubes, maybe they're not. Personally, I'm not going to lay down any bets either way.

12/19/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

When booze was illegal in the US it gave rise to criminal dynasties of power and influence well beyond those of normal criminal enterprises.
The Kennedy family comes 1st to mind.
What perverse family of trafficers are we empowering today, with the Drug Prohibition?

I think I heard Steve Harrigan of FOX News say Coke costs $15,000 USD per lb in the US.

Quite a spread from $20.

12/19/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Will Pepsi be able to compete?

12/19/2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Living hand to mouth, and all that entails, does not lead one to an innate belief in the power of the individual. Historically, men in such condition blamed their ills on the Gods, and credited any good fortune they received on their successful appeasement.

Well, we're all dialed in now, and everybody who wants one has a hotline to Mount Olympus.

When the dirty poor of the world turn on the tube and watch scenes from America's newly minted space-tourism industry, or scenes from one of our many Bacchanalia, we will be blamed for their misfortune.

Our power--and their impotence--demands it. They are, after all, only human.

12/19/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Fernand_Braudel said...

I appreciate your desire for perfection, but can any of you name a perfect country in the past?

Republican Rome? (Livius says 'nope')
Ming dynasty? hah
Elizabethan England? ...
Philip II of Spain? ..
King Kameamea? .
Fredrick Barbarossa?
Carolingian France?

Let's put this gripe in context, and work through the systems that we have. Afterall, we don't have a perfect vision to lament, except our own imagination of "the good ol' days when I was a kid".

People get the government they deserve.

12/19/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

RWE and Desert:

Here is your answer to what to do with the cocaine:

" A group of Indians in southern Colombia have created a new soft drink made from coca leaf extract and plan to market their product as an alternative to Coca-Cola."

"Coca Sek, a golden, carbonated drink, will go on sale this week in parts of Colombia. But its makers expect they won't be able to export to the United States due to rules blocking the entry of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine."

12/19/2005 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...


People more often get the Government that is imposed upon them by force of arms.

Whether they are deserving to be victims of genocide in Darfur, or not, the genocide is the result of their Government policy.

Same holds true for the Indians of South America. They are the victims of poor colonial and post colonial Governments over which they had no say.

While the Nationalization of Industry and the industrialization of cocca production may be counter to US interests, those policies will not damage Mr Morales's constituents, in the least. The Wahington Consensus policies have kept them improverished.
They have been down so long, it looks like up from there.

The real challenge occurs when the Army steps in. Civil War could easily be the result, with non-Venezualean SA oil production in the cross hairs.

Makes Mr Chavez's position all the stronger.

12/19/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger WichitaBoy said...

As usual, this is an excellent post and analysis, Wretchard.

But it is a mistake to lump all "third world" countries together. In the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union it is my opinion that we should eliminate that outmoded term altogether. There are many formerly "third world" nations in Asia that now look quite wealthy.

If we want to understand what's happening in Latin America, we have to analyze it in the context of it's own culture and history. Latin America has a long Latin tradition, and the Roman Republic set the archetypal example years ago in the figure of Marius. A dictator who takes all power unto himself fof the sake of the "people". The Latin culture has only very seldom produced any other models. This model results in coup after coup after coup as a powerful general decides there is no particular reason that he shouldn't be the dictator "for the people".

So what it really comes down to is not property rights per se, but rather basic religious/social beliefs about the fundamental nature of the state and its relationship to its subjects. In Anglo-Saxon culture there is intense dislike and distrust of the state and of corruption. This may be due to the Norman conquest, or it may be due to the English Revolution, or other things, it's hard to say. But that Latin shrug of "c'est la vie" when viewing corruption just doesn't cut it in the English-speaking world. It is no accident that the most corrupt State among the United States is the only one following the Napoleonic Code.

Even in Bolivia there are clearly at least two "social waves" reinforcing each other, the Latin one and the general movement toward empowerment of the indigenous peoples. With a pinch of good-old "Yanqui go home" thrown in for taste.

What is really required to "fix the world" will be nothing short of religious conversion. As we live in societies which are still struggling with their own belief in themselves, I expect no particular progress in the foreseeable future.

12/19/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

It would seem with the political problems of South America, Brazils’ socialist de Silva, Argentina’s perennial economic woes, Columbia’s narco-war, Bolivia’s socialist back-slide, and if I am missing some shining democracy like Chile, sorry, that the Marxist interests of Chavez, Castro, et. al, will be neatly accommodated by the empowerment of the people like it has worked so nicely in Venezuela. Chavez’s new found power is aligning itself with the very anchor to the axis of evil in Iran.

““Khatami said both Iran and Venezuela will stand firm against any aggression and lamented "the injustice of the great powers that try to control the world".

"Iran and Venezuela, these two brothers, are and will be together forever," Chavez said. "Iran, confronted by the United States, has our solidarity."

"Like you, we are willing to be free from imperialism," he added.”

The West may not be serious about the global consequences of South Americas slide into a financed insurrection against Western policies but al Jazeera has no such reservations… alas, it is part of the plan.

12/19/2005 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

Worst case scenarion is that Chavez seduces SA with his oil money. They all proceed to wreck their economies all the while blaming the US. Trade with SA goes down the tube while the refugees head to the northern hemisphere.

12/19/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

That is not worse case at all.
That is the sitrep for today.

It would take days of searching to find all the links, but they are not hard to find.

12/19/2005 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

to wit,
I can’t begin to imagine what a worst case scenario is other than the fact that we seem to be moving towards one.

Consider this. Iran passes on refined uranium, enough to make thousands of dirty bombs, they give ample portions to Hezbollah who in turn uses their world wide network to smuggle such to their counter parts controlled by Chavez and backed by Castro.

It is more likely that this is happening as we speak. Prepare to live off the un-irradiated land. Better yet prepare to live off of the wealth of those who have not armed themselves.

12/19/2005 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Well Presidente Chavez must be quite relieved to know that there is another country in the running for the decade's US Navy-Marine Joint Landing Exercises (Western Hemisphere).

It shouldn't be any surprise that these old Governates of Spain, which was not the biggest fan of rule-of-law and education for all (or at least, low financial barriers to basic ed), suffer from the symptoms of Third-Worldism.

Now, if Presidente Morales was pushing for school teachers in every remote mountain village and satellite internet connections for same, I'd sell out the drug war in a second. Allowing an unrepentant coca farmer to head a country whose hinterlands have played host to FARC, IRA, and possible PLO/Al-Qaeda/Hamas seems like a bad idea.

My only hope is that the POTUS in '09 is as committed to nation-building as the current one. Because, much as the Marines seem to get out of the 'South and Central American Catch-and-Release Exercises', I'd just as soon stop this almost 150 year-old tradition. Bolivia or Venezuela would be fine places to start.

12/19/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Hard to land an amphipious force in a land locked country.

12/19/2005 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

Want to stop the drug war, and get serious about it? Install the death penalty for it. Or don't have any drug ban at all if people aren't serious about it.

Poof, no more catch-and-release operations. Drug dealers who get caught die. Remarkably effective way to implement a policy. However, for political reasons, the US was never about to fight the drug war effectively.

I'm not really against or for drugs personally, but I do believe in only having laws that are effective. Laws which would be lax, or worse, ignored, do not need to be laws at all.

12/19/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger fjelehjifel said...

Just think, at the rate Venez. is going down in flames, the United States will be able to buy it at "fire sale" prices in a few years.

12/19/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Meme Chose,

My own experience with international lending institutions is that they are next to useless. Nearly all the projects they fund are ultimately adjusted to the political realities on the ground, which often means diverted to local corruption, and they are too afraid of the rocking the boat to ever stop a loan's tranches in its tracks unless a stink is generated from an external source. The atmosphere among international aid and financial institutions, I have found, is very close to one of Somerset Maugham's descriptions of a "whites only" club in the 1920s, except it is "internationals only". As I'm sure you know, they cast eyes enviously on each other and make invidious comparisons on the basis of per diems, salary rates, quasi-diplomatic status, etc. There is no smaller mind than that of a successful international bureaucrat.

These are the institutions the world relies on to manage problems in the post colonial world and it is a broken sword. Sometimes their policies are theoretically correct but they are almost always so mangled by the incompetence and corruption of their execution that they prove the opposite of their intent.

12/19/2005 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

" ... Meanwhile, the excellent Knight Ridder reports that industrious Santa Cruz province is more defiant than ever about seceding, and taking its natural gas with it, setting a stage for potential civil war. Green flags of independence are being noted amid victory speeches in Santa Cruz. This is getting scary. The story is here.

"...One of Morales' biggest challenges may be addressing the increasingly vocal demands for greater independence in eastern provinces such as Santa Cruz and Tarija, where Bolivia's gas reserves are centered.

Ruben Costas, the leading candidate for the governor of Santa Cruz, offered an impromptu victory speech Sunday night putting the central government in La Paz on notice that provincial governments would be going their own way.

"Today begins a new Bolivia!" he said to a crowd waving green flags - the symbol of Santa Cruz's independence movement.

Costas immediately called for a summit of all the governors to chart out the future of regional governments in Bolivia. ..."

Another Insurgency the US Army is not ready for.

Venezuala supplys how much of US oil imports?
When compared to Iraq?
A War for Oil?

12/19/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The first quote was from Publius Pundit which can be linked to
here, same link as in our host's post.

12/19/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger raymondshaw said...

A problem that I have with legalizing illicit drugs is that it will serve as a source of new revenue for various levels of government. In Philadelpha, I can buy a half-pint of inexpensive vodka for about $3.25, after tax. Or, I can buy a half-pint of squeeze (corn liquor) for $1.00, no tax. Given the number of new addicts legal drugs would induce, I'm not so sure illicit revenues would decline, at least, not at the producer level.

12/19/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Milan Oskoryp Sr. said...

What's needed is some way to make each nation consciously responsible for its own destiny. Whether in Iraq or elsewhere, that's the only way to go.

start with palestine...

Small problem:mechanism for realization of it.

12/19/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...


Thanks for the kind words. I see we appear to have run into some of the same sorts of people around the world.

There is a further irony in your words: "Chavez can be depended on to destroy his own country; as did Castro and as probably, will Evo Morales. Yet in the end, they too, will attribute their failings to America. What's needed is some way to make each nation consciously responsible for its own destiny."

This is the central problem in dealing with very poor countries. Either you get heavily involved trying to determine what is going on there, in which case you soon become directly responsible for a lot of bad stuff, or you stay well away in an effort to get them to take responsibility, in which case you become responsible for the awful things which happen when you don't intervene. Or you muddle down the middle, in which case you end up with some of both kinds of responsibilities.

Academics and other leftists enjoy the responsibility-free firing zone they think this gives them, carping away endlessly at anything Western governments either do now or did during the colonial period. What they don't bother to take on board however is that these issues were often quite well understood during the colonial period by many of those who wrestled with colonial policy. Imperial policymakers during the colonial era, sad to say, in many instances had a better grasp of both the practical and the ethical dilemmas they faced (and we face) than our 'intellectuals' do today.

So what is the best way to proceed? A certain amount of 'muddling through' is I think imposed on us by the 'back and forth' nature of our democratic politics. Personally I think the key lies in recognizing that a single one of our generations cannot take on, seriously enough to really make a difference, the problems of the whole world. We ought therefore to pick our shots carefully, and on that basis GWB seems to me to be doing a pretty good job.

12/19/2005 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Christian Adams said...

Enjoyed the posts. Politically and economically, the whole Latin American experiment has been frankly aggravating and persistent almost always since Independence or the Mexican American War (or as they say south of the border- La Guerra de la Agresion Norteamericana). I wouldn't call myself a complete historical idiot, but it's hard for me to sort out the murky hispanic past: to what extent has South and Central America/Mexico ruined itself politically and economically through self-imposed cultural corruption, and to what extent has this stagnation been imposed on them by non-hispanic, especially American, forces? Does anyone know of any good book(s) that tries to objectively and conclusively bring up a wide body of facts to support one way or the other?

On the other hand, I don't think we should be too negative. Anyone who has spent a good amount of time in any hispanic country and gotten to know the people well can say they have their own way of pursuing happiness.

12/19/2005 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

One could argue that the totalitarian rule of the Mexican PRI, founded in the blood of the 1910 revolution, was a reactionary response to US of A meddling, and all around hubris, at least that argument has merit in Mexico who has fostered the air of hyper-nationalism that exists in Mexico (and especially in the US) to this day. Whether the PRI could have ever stopped General John Pershing from encircling Mexico City in 1916 and 1917 is besides the point… like a victorious Saddam after Gulf War I, their stock rose and so did their stake of national power.

No body ever had their pride hurt by denouncing the US and circling the wagons to gain popular support.

Apparently, Mexico’s Fox has successfully black mailed the US into going along to get along, less the Mexican government fall into the hands of Marxist revolutionaries and the US assume the ensuing debt.

Why has the US Border Patrol been ordered to hide when the Mexican Army invades the US of A?

12/19/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

The third world: historically-speaking, really only the condition of all humankind prior to the truly vast and amazing transformation wrought by the enlightenment project in the West. The so-called third world is merely the modern equivalent of Hobbes's brutal, short and nasty life in its unfortunate natural variety.

Why should the West be pilloried when the Third World has made a full frontal, dirty-necked choice to reject all those important Western values? Whose fault is that?

12/19/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

It's possible that the only way to develop the Third World is to let it fail; thereby burning out its own cancers and allowing it to create its own functional institutions. In a word, to let Darwin take care of it. That would entail cutting the Third World off from trade, preventing their elites from visiting the First World, seeking medical treatment or depositing their money there; letting millions die from the loss of access to the "oppressors" of the First World, allowing man-made starvation to reign unchecked, quarantining warfare. In a word, it would take too much. No one would actually stand for watching the Third World take the consequences of its own mistakes. That's why billions of dollars in aid is sent to North Korea, far more than is sent to Costa Rica.

The motto of international aid is 'reinforce failure and never reward success'. Why? Because failure creates trouble and headlines, and that's where the money will go. It was said long ago that arms merchants were the Masters of War. Someone, I forget who, wrote a book two decades ago describing aid agencies as the Lords of Poverty.

12/19/2005 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

Although I have little doubt that Chavez will bring Venezuela to some sort of ruin, I couldn't find anything in the Marc Cooper essay that addressed just HOW Chavez is "ruining the very Venezuelan economy he promised to rescue from the oligarchs" Those are Wretchard's words, not those of Cooper who made no such claim.

Not that I'd mind learning more.

12/19/2005 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


You are right. I linked the wrong article to the reference, linking Marc Cooper's article twice. The link has been corrected. It now points to a fairly even handed assessment of Venezuela's economy by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, which consciously does not try to blame Chavez. However, I invite you to examine a table contained in it provided by the Venezuelan Bureau of statistics. Recall that Chavez has been in power since early 1999, so they are his statistics.

Year % households in poverty
1999 42.80
2000 41.60
2001 39.10
2002 41.50
2003 54.00
2004 53.10

CERP has suggested out that this increase in poverty may be due to local unrest, presumably fueled by the US. What's really interesting is that Venezuelan oil revenues have spiked upward by almost 40% due to price increases, and that should, via the multiplier, pushed the rest of the economy up with it. Look at this historical graph of world oil prices from 1947-2004. Chavez came to power when Venezuelan oil revenues were at their nadir, in 1999. Since then, the Venezuelan petroleum engine has accelerated rapidly, and yet the poverty rates have been going in the opposite direction. Yeah, give Chavez a little more time and the poverty rate should be getting up into the 60 and 70 percent areas, whatever oil does.

12/19/2005 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Zeno said...

I'm writing from Latin America.
It's true, the common objective of Latin American political elites is usually mere plunder, disguised under different names and politics.
In the 90s, under the guise of "free-market reforms", Collor in Brazil and Menem in Argentina robbed millions from their tax-payers.
Now, Lula in Brazil and Chavez in Venezuela are robbing millions from the tax-payers in the name of social equality and revolution.
In any case, a good scapegoat is always convenient, and, given the history of the region, the USA is the most convenient of them all.
However, I think that the winds are changing. The clear disapointment of the Lula government in Brazil (and Chaves in Venezuela) will, I think, make the countries grow up and start to feel more responsible for their own mistakes. Well, one can only hope.

12/19/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

WRETCHARD -- I am sure you are merely being rhetorical in saying, that perhaps we should let the Third World fail, to let Darwin take care of things. My take on evolution is that no one has a choice in the matter. It just happens by a process of natural selection in the spectrum of possible leaders and policies adopted by any nation. How can anyone obviate centuries of slavery and racism in America as part of its evolution to what it happily is today, a model for the future? Evolution is a punctuated process, not gradual. At unpredictable times and places, in the right conditions, revolutionary mutations occur. For example 1776, 1898, 1945 and 2002. It is the promotion of those conditions in every country that will lead to self-reliance. Then we can all luxuriate in mutual apathy, because mutual prosperity will take up all our time. It's One World. I think, we have to live with that, in whatever artificial conceptual fraction of it we happen to be.

12/19/2005 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/19/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wretchard's 3:13 PM comment:
I guess a leftists ability to deflect blame must be the prime requirement for office.

12/19/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

The corruption that persists in the Latin New World has its roots in China. There, the tradition of Red Day has been going on for centuries. On red day, businessmen wrap money in red paper to give to their preferred customers as a symbolic reinforcement of their trading relationship. Although Mao's revolution mostly made the tradition disappear on the mainland, it is still in evidence on Formosa where capitalism survives.
Mexico was the overland portage on Spain's ancient trade route to the Orient for the centuries when Spain ruled the seas. The Spanish Main (trade route) included the Phillipines and the West Indies which were also influenced. Many traditions we see as Mexican - think spicy foods and sombreros - had their origins in China as well.
The soft bribery of Chinese Red Day (nothing to do with communism) was literally corrupted in the new world and has its lingering effect on the Spanish speaking colonies.

You want my attencion? Show me the danero!

The forgiveness of debt by first world lending agencies in the Latin emerging markets magnifies corruption there.

12/19/2005 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Christian Adams: Look at it this way. The United States and the rest of the West are part of the real world, just as much so as are earthquakes, droughts, and hurricanes. Dealing with such powerful nations is all part of the environment. The West has had to deal with a variety of threats, in addition to the traditional Human problems: Nazism and Communism, both of which were to some extent products of its own culture.
The power of the U.S. and the success of our culture are one of the factors the South American nations have to deal with. We did not get rid of the Nazis and Commies by whining about it, and except for providing a very small amount of help, South America virtually sat out those wars but nonetheless reaped the benefits. Both the "Anglo" culture of the north and the Hispanic culture of the south started at the same time and at the same level of technology. I think that we did more with what we had. But in any case, whether any of their problems are our fault or not, it is all part of the world they have to deal with. If we were able to oppress them because they were not very good at the world power stuff, thn that is just too bad. The Nazis and Commies tried to oppress us and we dealt with them, quite effectively.
Aside from that, I think the direction of the immigration flow between the south and the north says it all. Do people flee toward their oppressors? I think not.

12/19/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

The American ideals of limited governance and individual liberty were birthed in England. The English Civil War, fought for religious freedom as much as anything, established a truly unique mindset amongst Britons who brought it with them to the Colonies - America.

Latin America was totally separated from these events due to Spanish domination. We share little more than geography and a semblance of historical timeline with our neighbors to the south.

12/19/2005 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Looming large indeed!The alliance of neo-Marxists,narco-gangs,and Jihadis is alarming enough,but what about the elephant in the room?
What I refer to is our leaking borders .Right now we have a steady stream.What we're seeing here in the southeastern US is not some guys from Sonora or Chihuahua who leaped over the border,but Guatemalans,Salvadorans,indigenous people from Chiapas in southern Mexico who are making a trek of several hundred miles to get here.
Let South America turn to chaos and see that stream become a tsunami of refugees.If we struggle to control the Iraq-Syria border think what it will take to secure our southern border.This world might get interesting in 2006.

12/19/2005 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

enscout, 6:04 PM,
Great point:
Much though we might wish it were not so.
That is one of the fallacies of the unlimited immigration gang's arguments.
Esp given today's Anti American Educational Establishment, new arrivals have little opportunity, much less incentive, to begin to understand what being an American has meant in the past.

12/19/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Legalizing drugs will lead to a depth and breadth of social destruction only dreamed of by the most vampiric of coca plantation owners. Period. The costs of the social problems that will arise will dwarf the current expenditures in the war on drugs. And THEN try to make them illegal again.

12/19/2005 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

The Hispanics coming here seeking the opportunities our Anglo culture affords must be amazed at the amount of trust that is manifest within our system. Trust in our way of life, our system of merit rather than priviledge has to be an invigorating experiance to thaose who see it on such a massive scale.

Our ability to trust our leaders -and hold them accountable through the ballot box - has shown itself to be pretty reliable throughout our nation's history.

Unfortunately we have reached a near tipping point where trust in that system is declining. The systems of the old world order are rearing their ugly selves simply due to ignorance on the part of a populace.

12/19/2005 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

the land bridge south of Panama City, through the Darien is a tough piece of country.
Not a road, barely a trail from Columbia north.
But you are right, they are coming from WAY south, Guats and Hondos both. Those Mayan looking guys, shorter and rounder. The Guats we trained in Panama were red haired and white skinned, not at all Mayan looking. More like Brits, actually. Desendents of English Pirates, or so the tale was told, in spanish.

I have some business associates in southern Brazil, those fellows are quite German, not at all your stereotype of a South American.

There is a large ethnic English population in Argentina, left over from the pre Peron days, when the country was vibrant.

12/19/2005 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

Wretchard, thanks for finding the correct link to the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

Those are the sorts of useful stats I needed and had hoped to find.

12/19/2005 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


It's One World but some people get to choose what parts they live in. This reduces to incentive to keep their home grounds clean. I recall from my brief time in Africa how the wives and mistresses of the Government Ministers were always in Paris. And the first thing crooked Filipino politicians do with their boodle is buy real estate in the Bay Area. Now if every person seeking the post of deputy minister and up had to renounce the possibility of living abroad after leaving office, the Third World would be run a lot differently. Let me put it this way, if Kofi Annan knew he had to spend the rest of his days in Ghana it would change his attitude completely.

If anything good came out of September 11 it was the message that the First World no longer provided complete protection from the demons raging in the Third. That in turn required military action against the very worst elements of dysfunction. But unless America plans on invading every country on earth, a more general method is required. That means I think, making the Third World elite existentially more accountable to their constituents, which is another way of saying that real, and not simply formal democracy, is necessary to keep the world spinning on its axis.

I was being only partially facetious when I said the Third World had face the consequences of its misjudgements. What I should have said is that their leaders should be made to live with the consequences of their ways. For example, do you think that Hugo Chavez would agree never to leave Venezuela?

12/19/2005 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Great, great thread. Hi, opotho--long time no see!

12/19/2005 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Wretchard, you continue to come up with unexpected combinations. How simple. The physical self stays in town. What a success that would be, to have the competing candidates race each other to the top of THAT issue!

12/19/2005 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

But unless America plans on invading every country on earth, a more general method is required. That means I think, making the Third World elite existentially more accountable to their constituents, which is another way of saying that real, and not simply formal democracy, is necessary to keep the world spinning on its axis.
Hernando de Soto's ILD is doing the work around the world to put into place real property law.

12/19/2005 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

I believe Wretchard has actually worked with HdSoto, back a ways, in the Philippines.

12/19/2005 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

...U.S. unease over Morales remains strong, as he has spoken most harshly against the coca eradication aspect of its anti-narcotic drugs policy (proposing lifting all constraints on coca leaf production) and is close to Chávez.

See: The December Elections

RWE Gets to the heart of the problem - narcotics production:

...the case of Bolivia, the proposal to make Coca growing legal has serious implications - and not just for the U.S.
Given the problem that unrestricted Coca production will present to the U.S, and other countries, Morales essentially proporses to ally himself with crimminals.

Currently U.S. and Bolivian Coca eradication efforts are cooperative.


Do you know that cochaine is a legal drug - if you have a prescription for it. And it is legal for a Dr to issue a prescription. Cost of the legal, prescribed drug is a bit lower than it is on the street -

Desert Rate states:

Funding for Revolution comes via oil & cocaine purchases in the US.

Gear up for the
"new & improved" War on Drugs.

The narcotics tends to bring out the worst behavior in people. Either the amount of street cocaine will increase or Bolivia will be force to reduce its out put (possibly by air attacks).

A few years back I performed audits of pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors and yes, cocaine is a schedule 2 substance which can be used by doctors (mostly in oral surgery). The cocaine in a pharmacy is usually mixed with an agent to bind it to the immediate site of injection (Street cocaine without the binding agent 'cocaine hydrochloride' spreads very rapidly through out the bloodstream when injected - producing a rush or a high addiction profile). All other form of cocaine, such free base cocaine, is a schedule 1 drug and is prohibited for distribution (except for experimental purprises).

Cocaine is very addictive. I read that cocaine, when given to a group of monkeys on demand via a button, will cause the monkeys self administer until death (basically, the cocaine was inject each time the monkey hit a button in the cage - and he just kept hitting the button till death). The average street user can use up to 2 grams per day. So, it's the street cocaine that is the real problem.

Further, cocaine has a unique economic supply demand characteristics where the as the supply to a group of users increase so does the demand (as they become more addicted and need to use ever increasing dosages). The greater the supply the higher the demand is called inverse price elasticity or others call it market imperfection). None the less, legalizing drugs or flooding the system with drugs may not solve the social problems of drug abuse. Hence, I am against that idea.

But, if some of you believe that legalizing drugs would help then I suggest an incremental tactic (I do not see the authorities legalizing crack cocaine or LSD). This tactic would involve changing the DEA Schedule of certain drugs. Such, as lowering cocaine from a schedule 2 to a schedule 3. In the case of pot, the active ingredient (THC) is legally dispensed as a Schedule 2 drug. One should then try to influence lawmakers to lower it to a Schedule 3 drug. In the case of codeine which in America is generally a schedule 3 or 4 depending on the mixture - influence legislators to lower it to a Schedule 5 or an over-the- counter medication (as it is in Canada). The idea is to lower threshold to make the drug(s) more readily available. I would think that this would be the least of two evils (total legalization of all drugs vs. incremental legalization). Otherwise it's back to bombing the coca fields.

12/19/2005 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger WillBlythe said...

I think the USA should tell its diplomatic core to stop bending over for uneducated third world countries and their crooked leaders.

Its time we went on the public offensive and called things like they actually their own press and in ours. We should call out leaders by name. We should uncover idiotic policies by other counties to their own people and lay it out in a way that makes sense to them.

It is also time we spent a great deal of money on funding propaganda-ish types of international TV stations and radio programs.

Other nations can either explain themselves or continue to live the lie. But in the end, we at least took the effort to explain it in an open arena.

12/19/2005 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


I never worked or even met Mr. de Soto. I hope some day our paths cross.

12/20/2005 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Sorry, Wretchard--I thought I'd read that somewhere. Maybe because it's an association that 'fits' philosophically, I just went ahead and imagined it.

12/20/2005 05:16:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

Another bloody communist. Great. Watch the purges, watch the blood run in the streets yet again.

The average age in the third world is near twenty years old. The people know nothing. Even if their IQ was higher than 80, they would not have enough experience to learn to rule themselves.

Good neighbors need good fences.

12/20/2005 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger opotho said...

Hi Buddy!

The mention of de Soto was germane in another respect, that among Chavez's several projects is a push to grant land titles (but with a catch). "To gain title to barrio homes built on squatted land, people must band together as neighbors and form land committees", according to Chavez shill Christian Parenti (writing in The Nation, 4/11/05).

As with so many issues a la Chavez, the vagueness of this claim (as well as with most of the counter claims) leaves me with little but a sense of some kind of reverse co-optation, but with no further evidence or description of what such a collectivized "title" might mean? De Soto's views would be instructive here.

Parenti was also able in the same paragraph to write something like this: "In fact, private property is protected in the new Constitution promulgated after Chávez came to power. ... Chávez has created a land-reform program that ... punishes those who do not [increase productivity] with the threat of confiscation." That's some real clear thinking.

The oil graph that Wretchard provided was useful, but as Mark Weisbrot (at the Center for Economic and Policy Research link) stressed, the poverty figures don't take other significant data into account, such as subsidized food, etc. It seems that every analysis of Venezuela and Chavez that I come across is marred by some sort of major incoherence or merely circumstantial allegation (e.g. election debacles re: Carter Ctr.) and nearly every criticism of Chavez depends on his spectacular character flaws in the end, or the odd quote of his which may or may not match the reality of what he's actually doing.

But following Weisbrot's June 2005 footnotes I was able to find more recent, and for anti-Chavezists like myself, more satisfying material from Andres Oppenheimer, writing in the Miami Herald in October. Weisbrot made no comment on this:

"The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said in its recent 'Millennium Development Goals' report that extreme poverty in Venezuela -- the poorest of the poor -- soared from 15 percent of the population in 1992 to 23 percent in 2002. The percentage of the Venezuelan population that is undernourished rose from 11 percent to 17 percent in the same period, the report says."

12/20/2005 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

That gets into some heavy stuff, Opotho. Caracas is a stunning visual example of why the Venezuelan upper classes had to eventually create a Chavez. Built high up the mountain spine (to avoid the mosquito coast--malaria), the fine haciendas run right up to the sunward ridge line, where a wall separates them from the worst cardboard-hut shanty squatterville you can imagine. Flying over this huge anomaly--as an American oil-field consultant to CorpoVen--always made me feel a little ill--a little guilty.

Compound that with the fact that the poor are the Indians, and the rich are the Spanish (the physical differences are striking), throw in the OPEC distortions, and you have a polity so complex that it matches the whole raw thrown-together appearance of the nation itself. It's a mean, exploitation-based place.

The only way a free-marketer can square it is that, if there ever is a solution to the distortion, it will certainly come in as sunlight-disinfected transparancy.

Chavez had a choice, even after Carter thumbed his nose at the election results to install him, to be the beginning of a solution.

But, responding to who knows what (Castro--but WHY?), he's now making a huge mess of the needed process of lifting the poor via market forces.

12/20/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

or at least, he seems to be, from here.

12/20/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

It would be helpful to know if the constitution he is destroying was a good document in the first place.

12/20/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger opotho said...

"It would be helpful to know if the constitution he is destroying was a good document in the first place."

Agreed, and our shared ignorance therein is a good example of one of those vaguenesses I was complaining about which menace otherwise reasonable conversation. Too many wrong assumptions, and Chavez himself doesn't help since he'll say one thing in the worst kind of imflammatory rhetoric and then do another, far more reasonable thing instead. The poverty figures that don't include subsidized food and housing figures is a little too vague and problematic for me, which is why I like the figure I quoted above on "undernourishment". Now that's a sturdier baseline.

I've also had a good long look at the barrios of Caracas, and also had feelings of what I now believe was a misplaced guilt. What surprised me most about that city was not just the extent, but the variety of European blood in the nation's population. The CIA Factbook lists the key ethnicities thus: "Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people."

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Why Latin Nations Are Poor", Mary Anastasia O'Grady recently (11/25) wrote about the World Bank's "Doing Business in 2006" survey:

"Why hasn't democracy in Latin America produced change? The answer can be found in public-choice theory -- a school of economics made famous by Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan. Public choice views politics as a market, where the highest bidders have the power to "purchase" what they want. Deregulation may be best for the majority, but politicians don't have an incentive to do it ....

"On reviewing the World Bank study, it is worth noting that external forces also militate against reform. The International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Agency for International Development, World Bank loan officers and the United Nations provide easy money -- "aid" -- to support failed governments and an entrenched ruling class. "Conditionality" has been a dismal failure. IMF assistance to Argentina worked against challengers to Peronism in the 2003 election and ensured victory for the present anti-market government. ..."

12/20/2005 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Opotho, thanks for a valuable meditation. Can't help but recall Wretchard's gut-wrenching nowhere-to-go posts about the morally similar politics facing any Filipino reformer. Nowhere to go, nothing to do but try to elect people who most seem to give a fig.

There is somewhere--I'll try to find it--a well-reasoned current report on the apparant Latin/South American slide leftward, that posits the slide as mere froth atop a fundamental move toward fair markets and clean politics. If I can find the link, I'll come back and put it here.

12/20/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

Hey Buddy, it would be a pleasure to learn that it was all "a mere froth". I'll check in on this same thread every so often in case you find that link.

12/20/2005 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


What makes these "group ownership" schemes that are tacked on to land reform different is that they create second-rate and non-negotiable titles to property. You can frame title, but you can't use it as collateral. I don't know the specifics of Sanchez's program, but I suspect it's one of those, though I hope someone will prove me wrong.

The usual justification for limiting the negotiability of title is that the "poor will just waste it" or "they'll sell it back to the hacenderos". So in the end these schemes basically issue nominal certificates and life goes on as before.

12/20/2005 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/20/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

Yes, non-negotiable titles. I knew it had to be some such nonsense.

I found this from the 'Land Research Action Network' posted in September:

"... the full title does not mean that the [new Venezuelan] owner can sell the land, only that it can be passed on to his or her descendants. The prohibition against selling titles acquired through the land reform is another issue that land reform critics find fault with because it can lead to a black market in land titles. And, just as with all black markets, because the trade in titles is not legal, the titles end up being traded below their true value and thus can lead to making poor farmers even poorer than they otherwise would be. The Chavez government insists, though, that land should not be a commodity to be bought and sold, and that a market in agricultural land inevitably leads to greater land concentration and inequality, and thus to rural poverty."

In other words, and now from the critics of reform, "'the poor will just waste it' or 'they'll sell it back to the hacenderos'", however unwittingly.

I also found this bit in the "New Left Review" (may '03):

" ... where De Soto and Primero Justicia view urban land reform as essentially a means to encourage the accumulation of capital in the barrios, Chávez’s supporters see it as a path to participatory democracy and self-help in the communities."

Or just reinventing flawed wheels?

12/20/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

No matter where the game starts, no matter what the system, smarter and/or harder-workers will get more out of it, won't they? And if the system is jiggered to avoid that, then there goes the needed incentive to make the thing work. If a Martian dropped in to help, whatever design flowed forth would probably look a lot like constitutional democracy and open markets, tho. Erk, sorry for the thundering obviousness--here ya go, Opotho.

12/20/2005 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

I enjoyed the Bruce Stokes piece, though I'm not sure it captured all of the reasons for the continuing Latin American "swing to the Left" since he wrote it.

At that time 'only one in eight people [thought] income distribution [was] fair'? That seems pretty hard to believe, though if ever it was true would undeniably attest to the 'mere froth of discontent' theory.

On the other hand, I wonder about the effectiveness of Anti-globalization rhetoric since then? I'd like to see some polls charting the uses and frequency of terms like "neoliberalism" in Latin America households, and corresponding studies revealing whether anyone has any idea what such terms mean?

12/21/2005 04:05:00 AM  
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