December 28, 2005
Bolivia's Stubborn Insistence on Bungling

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

In the presidential election of Dec. 18, half of all Bolivians voted for the coca growers' leader, Evo Morales, a consummate neopopulist on the same political wavelength as Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro.

On the ticket with Morales, as vice president, was a former guerrilla who in the 1990s went to prison for taking up arms to try to destroy the fragile democratic system holding the country together.

During the campaign, the now president-elect promised the immediate na tionalization of the nation's energy resources and communications. He also said his election would convert him into a nightmare for the United States. He will no doubt deliver on both promises.

Morales' beliefs -- statism, state intervention, collectivism, rejection of the market economy and trade openings, protectionism, nationalism and anti-Americanism -- are very much appreciated in that convulsed portion of the planet.

We are witnessing, then, another revolutionary adventure of the many that this troubled continent has experienced this past century, ever since the Mexicans in 1910 engaged in a bloody civil war that didn't end until almost two decades later.

The only shadings contributed by Morales are his defense of the cultivation of coca for national consumption and a vigorous racial commitment to the Quechuas, Aymaras and Guaraníes, all of whom probably account for a majority of the national census.

Morales will fail, of course, just the way Perón, Velasco Alvarado and the Sandinistas failed, and as Chávez, Castro and the rest of the indefatigable revolutionary mob, to the left and right of the ideological spectrum, will fail. The revolutionaries always wind up in a major disaster because the political premise from which they start is wrong.

If anything was learned and confirmed countless times throughout the 20th century, it was that development, general prosperity and social harmony are consequences of juridical security, the market, freedom to produce or consume, education and investments and international cooperation.

The effective interaction of those factors over a long period -- 15 to 30 years -- under a reasonable rule of law, establishes a propitious climate for the creation of enterprises capable of generating profits, safeguarding savings, making investments and multiplying ad infinitum the cycle of development.

That, with some variants, is the economic history of Spain, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan, South Korea and the rest of the countries that have managed to leap into prosperity, substantially reducing their levels of poverty.

Except that those examples have nothing to do with the climate of abuses, violence and arbitrariness that characterizes revolutionary governments, which are stubbornly insistent on finding a shortcut to a success that exists only in the fevered machinations of their ideological fantasies.

Besides, revolutionaries not only flout experience and reality but also lunge obstinately against the very essence of the model of state they conquered, whether by force or by votes.

The truth is that the Latin American republican model for the founding of our nations -- very much influenced by the United States -- was conceived to guarantee property and individual rights by means of powers that balanced each other and by clear limits to official authority.

That model was a form of institutional architecture at the service of Free Man -- the great protagonist of history -- and it opposed the noxious revolutionary superstition that justice, equity and progress depend on the actions of an exceptional and generous person who makes all important decisions in the name of a passive plural entity called ``the people.''

How long will Latin American societies continue to repeat the same blunder? It's hard to tell, but the symptoms indicate this suicidal behavior is a characteristic practically inherent in the formation and information that the Latin American specimen receives from the cradle on up, something that condemns him to make mistakes incessantly.

If one's head is full of errors, one will predictably act erroneously. Bolivia seemed to be the least promising terrain for another walk down the revolutionary path, but that assumption was wrong. In 1952, the country went through a bloody and profound social revolution, paid for, years later, with a humongous mess and an annual inflation rate of 50,000 percent.

In 1985, Víctor Paz Estenssoro -- the leader of that revolution and its finest political leader -- returned to power, having learned his lesson and ready to submit to the dictates of common sense. That enabled him to put the nation on the right track, in the direction of countries that manage to escape underdevelopment.

The Bolivians, however, have chosen to insist on bungling. Inevitably, they'll come to a sorry end.

2005 Firmas Press

Carlos Alberto Montaner

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