Vi plejer ikke her på stedet at gøre meget ud af fotoreportager, men denne uges farverige indstættelse af Perus nye præsident byder dog på muligheden for at gengive billeder af, hvad der desværre må anses for mere end blot Latinamerikas ideologiske svar på Rip, Rap & Rup–de tre born-again socialister Chavez (Venezuela), Morales (Bolivia) og Correa (Peru)–samt deres naturlige allierede, Irans præsident Mahmoud Armageddon-out-of-here. Det eneste, der vist rigtigt forener de fire, er deres kærlighed til en stor statsmagt, afsky for Vesten (og i særdeleshed USA) og manglende respekt for privat ejendomsret og andre basale frihedsrettigheder. Billederne ville næsten være grinagtige, hvis de ikke lige var så umådeligt triste.
Det har Wall Street Journals velskrivende Mary Anastasia O’Grady en dagsaktuel kommentar til–“Making Lenin Proud”–i dagens WSJ:
“The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.”
— Vladimir Lenin
Mexican historian and author Enrique Krauze has written that he believes that the “last Marxist in history [will] die at a Latin American university.” At a minimum, Mr. Krauze seems to have gotten the geography right.
Most of the rest of the world has stuffed communism into the dustbin of history but, as events over the past week remind, Latin America has not. Earlier this month, President Hugo Chávez officially took control of Venezuela’s central bank and declared himself a communist. He then traveled to Ecuador to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his latest and perhaps most promising protégé, Rafael Correa, as that country’s new president. Mr. Correa has lost no time emulating his mentor. …
In his first week on the job, he has already demonstrated a profound understanding of Lenin’s dictum that power over monetary matters is a revolutionary essential. To that end, he has begun an effort to destroy Ecuador’s dollarization. From there, taxation and inflation will do much of his work for him.
At his inauguration last Monday Mr. Correa put on quite a show. Most extraordinary was his not-so-subtle admission that Mr. Chávez is going to be the power behind the Ecuadorean throne. Most Latin governments guard their independence as a matter of national pride. But Mr. Correa appeared quite happy to let the world know that he will be outsourcing Ecuadorean sovereignty to Venezuela.
Ecuador, the new president declared, is “leaving the night of neoliberalism behind” and the new “Bolivarian” government will pursue “21st-century socialism.” He denounced competition and called for cooperation instead. He held up a sword that Mr. Chávez had given him as a gift and cried, “Look out, look out, Bolívar’s sword is passing through Latin America,” a reference to the Chávez agenda, which calls for South American integration under the thumb of the continent’s largest energy producer. The Venezuelan president was perched behind the new president, eyes narrowed, enthusiastically applauding the performance. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was also an honored guest, sitting next to Bolivian President Evo Morales. …
Rewriting the constitution is so central to his agenda that on inauguration day he decreed a March 18 national referendum on the issue. The only problem is that Mr. Correa hasn’t the power to call a constitutional referendum. Changes to the constitution fall under congress. Since Mr. Correa’s party has no members in the 100-seat chamber and his coalition is shaky, it is not entirely clear that he will be able to push through the constitutional changes he seeks. His socialist revolution via a constitutional coup could be delayed.
Still, that doesn’t leave the aspiring authoritarian without options. He has Lenin’s millstones to fall back on, if only he can resurrect a local currency. This explains the assault on dollarization now under way.
The adoption of the greenback as Ecuador’s currency seven years ago has been extremely popular among Ecuadoreans of all classes. A long history of repeated bouts of hyperinflation, which destroyed both wages and savings, has finally come to an end and been replaced by a new sense of stability. Mr. Correa knows full well that he cannot strip Ecuadoreans of this one economic gain without facing the kind of rebellion that brought down previous governments. Yet the control he yearns for will not be his as long as the dollar reigns.
To reverse dollarization and introduce a fiat currency, Mr. Correa will have to undermine the dollar economy. One step in that process is stifling commerce with the U.S., his country’s largest trading partner. He has already pledged that under his guidance Ecuador will move away from trade liberalization with the gringos and throw its lot in with Mr. Chávez’s Bolivarian Alternative for America trading block.
Protectionism will help weaken the dollar economy but it may not be enough to provoke a crisis. A forced restructuring of the country’s $10.3 billion in external debt will provide further assistance by damaging the country’s creditworthiness and discouraging new investment, particularly because it is well known that Ecuador’s debt service as a percentage of gross domestic product is lower than Colombia’s or Brazil’s. Creditors understand that paying what is owed is a matter of willingness. Nevertheless, Mr. Correa’s finance minister, Ricardo Patino, last week proposed a haircut of 60% on the country’s debt and invited a team of Argentine officials — otherwise known as the world’s most experienced deadbeats — to Quito this week to act as advisers.
It will be claimed that the “savings” on debt service will be used to help the poor. This will boost Mr. Correa’s populist appeal but politicians never have enough revenue to meet their goals. Low growth rates and disappointing oil prices will exacerbate revenue shortfalls. In a fiscal crisis it is easy to imagine a government like Mr. Correa’s issuing script or a new currency in parallel to the dollar.
The new president seems to be prepared for just such an outcome. In the past he has called for a regional currency and he has now announced that he will end central-bank autonomy. Once foreign investment and trade dry up and the bottomless pit of corruption and social spending drains public coffers, dollarization will be the scapegoat. Mr. Correa can then begin to print his own notes and make Lenin proud.”
Ja, det lyder jo inspirerende. Vil man have et forvarsel om de langsigtede konsekvenser af den nye Latino-Leninismo, kan man såmænd kaste et blik i den nye udgave af Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journals Index of Economic Freedom (let at forveksle med, men ikke identisk med Economic Freedom of the World-indekset)–og så tænke i “negative” termer. 2007-udgaven af det kom i sidste uge med bl.a. en artikel af en af verdens førende forskere udi økonomisk vækst, den spansk-amerikanske Xavier Sala-i-Martin. Denne–som absolut ikke er en teoretisk økonom, men nærmest kan kaldes en ultra-empiriker–viser, at den øgede vækst, som globaliseringen repræsenterer, fører til mindre ulighed og mindre fattigdom. Så kan man jo spørge sig selv, hvad man tror de kommende år vil byde på for de almindelige mennesker i Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia og Iran.
Det har selvsamme O’Grady også skrevet om i “The Poor Get Richer” i sidste tirsdags WSJ:
“Here’s bad news for t
hose who oppose global fre
e trade: Not only did the world-wide trend toward greater economic liberty hold steady over the past year, but the incomes of poor individuals across the globe are rising as result. The world isn’t only growing richer. The gap between the per-capita income of have-not populations and that of the developed world is narrowing.
This good news for human progress is documented in the 2007 Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal 2007 Index of Economic Freedom, released today. Neither another year of Islamic terrorism, nor record high oil prices, nor fear mongering on Capitol Hill about the China peril have been able to reverse a gradual global shift that reflects the basic human longing for individual liberty. While not all of mankind is participating in this advance, in those places where freedom has increased, people are becoming decidedly better off.
The average freedom score this year for the 157 countries ranked is the second highest since we began measuring economic freedom 13 years ago. It is down a fraction from last year, but each region of the globe enjoys greater economic freedom than it did a decade ago. Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are the three freest economies in the world this year, in that order. The U.S. ranks No. 4. Among the 20 freest economies in the world, Europe holds 12 places. (The rankings are here.)
As it has in past editions, the 2007 Index also looks at income levels around the globe and finds that economically free countries enjoy significantly greater prosperity than those burdened by heavy government intervention. The per capita GDP of the top quintile of countries, ranked according to economic freedom, is now almost $28,000 while the bottom quintile is less than $5,000. The associated higher GDP rates that come with economic freedom “seem to create a virtuous cycle, triggering further improvements in economic freedom. Our 13 years of Index data strongly suggest that countries that increase their levels of freedom experience faster growth rates,” says the report.
This year the Index again includes important essays on world economic trends. In a piece titled “Global Inequality Fades as the Global Economy Grows,” Columbia University professor of economics Xavier Sala-i-Martin destroys the myth that the income gap is widening. While it is true that some countries are being left behind, when population weights are factored into the equation, the evidence shows that “individual income inequality declined substantially during the past two decades. The main reason is that incomes of some of the world’s poorest and most populated countries (most notably China and India, but also many other countries in Asia) converged rapidly with the incomes of OECD citizens.” Of course both China (ranked 119) and India (104) have a long way to go toward economic freedom but both have made big gains in recent years. Mr. Sala-i-Martin finds that the inequality gap would be even narrower if not for the “dismal performance” of African countries.
A second essay is by Swedish economist Johnny Munkhammar on “The Urgent Need for Labor Freedom in Europe–and the World.” The more advanced economies in Europe restrict labor freedom at the cost of low growth and high unemployment, he argues, while “many Eastern and Middle European countries experiment successfully with freedom.” Contrary to socialist views, labor freedom and improving social conditions actually go together. What he concludes could be applied to the rest of the globe in all areas of economic policy: “If the world wants to achieve both more jobs and better living standards, freedom is essential.”