Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ideology in Latin America

A journalist at Bloomberg tries to make sense of the continued demand for a state presence even for conservative presidents in Latin America: voting right while leaning left. The premise, however, is wrong, and the reason lies with a comment by Guillermo Holzmann, a well-known Chilean political scientist.

“This government is not in power because of the Right or the Left—these are 20th century concepts—but because they appealed to the frustrations and the expectations of the small portion of voters that decide elections.”
This is right on the money. I've written plenty of times about how we need to stay focused on the pragmatic nature of the Latin American voter. They aren't voting in the "right." They are voting in governments to deal with problems in new ways. That often includes state spending. This isn't the 1980s anymore, when governments ran amok with dismantling the state.

But another point merits mention. The author assumes that protectionism is a leftist policy but the right has used it too, albeit less often. Protectionism was the essence of import substitution industrialization: Brazil pursued it in the middle of the 20th century, partially under authoritarian ("right") governments. The Bolivian military right imposed tariffs that later the civilian right would later cut. Now we see Donald Trump, who is far right in just about every sense, but who puts tariffs at the top of his economic priorities.

So it's better not to talk of left-right waves because that presupposes predictable policy positions that do not exist in practice. Voters want solutions and they do not fit neatly into pre-made ideological packages. Politicians that don't heed that get voted out or, at the extreme, have to use authoritarian measures to stay in power.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP