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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: "Go to Bed or the Neoliberal is Coming to Eat You"
“'Neoliberalism' does not exist," writes Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner about the battle for the hearts and minds of Latin America in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina. "It is an empty label used by socialists of all kinds to disqualify their adversaries. Ricardo López Murphy, a brilliant Argentine economist, threatens his grandchildren with that dreadful fabrication, 'Go to bed or the neoliberal will come to eat you.' The spooky neoliberal is the modern version of the bogeyman."

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Diario de Cuba detected 22 diction mistakes in Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s 17-minute speech to the “Non-Aligned”. It is true, he speaks “with a cigar in his mouth”, although he does not smoke cigars, like some people from the Cuban province of Villa Clara, and sometimes confuses the letter “r” and the “l”, something common in certain areas of Andalusia and the Caribbean.

But 14 y Medio, another publication of the opposition, pointed out something worse, a huge mistake in the field of homophony or paronymy. Díaz-Canel confuses the Spanish verbs “propiciar” (propitiate in English) and “propinar” (to give in English). The Cuban President congratulated Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner and wrote on Twitter that their “deserved triumph propitiates” a defeat to neoliberalism. I guess he meant “propinar.”

Nor does he know that “neoliberalism” does not exist. It is an empty label used by socialists of all kinds to disqualify their adversaries. Ricardo López Murphy, a brilliant Argentine economist, threatens his grandchildren with that dreadful fabrication, “Go to bed or the neoliberal will come to eat you.” The spooky neoliberal is the modern version of the bogeyman.

What really exists is some sensible economic measures that we liberals defend, although let’s make clear that liberalism is, first, a moral conviction; secondly, a legal issue; and, finally, certain economic proposals arising from experience. For example, controlling inflation (the most devastating phenomenon against the poor), having low fiscal pressure, limiting public spending and the number of officials in line with the level of income, and having few regulations (the indispensable ones), given that experience tells us that regulations create the crack through where corruption usually enters.

It is not about the disappearance of the State; it is about the State doing well the tasks we have entrusted to it. Basically, that it protects the safety of individuals and their properties; that crimes and violations of the law do not go unpunished, including hooded destroyers and looters; and that it protects and impartially stimulate the presence of open markets totally friendly to entrepreneurs.

Regarding health and education, it is very important to strengthen them as a joint effort of society, but without placing them directly under state control. It is preferable to pay for these services through “vouchers” so that families choose the best hospital and school, as they do in Sweden since the failure of statism in the early 1990s, to get institutions to compete and not rest on their laurels.

That is the true distinction between liberals and socialists. We liberals think that individuals are able to make personal decisions better, while socialists are sure that it is preferable that the State makes that selection.

The work of Nobel Prize in Economics laureate James M. Buchanan should have put an end to that eternal debate. Buchanan and his disciples demonstrated with their studies (Virginia School) that officials and politicians, like anyone else, make their decisions for their own electoral and economic benefits and not for the sake of a hypothetical “common good.” [The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock].

That is why private capitalization and pension savings accounts (for example, US 401Ks or Chilean AFPs) are a thousand times preferable to public funds, always within the reach of the “creative accounting” of dishonest politicians and officials interested in fostering their client base with the money of others.

This does not mean that individuals always make the right decisions.

Argentinians have been systematically making mistakes for seventy years.

We Cubans deliriously applauded the arrival of Fidel Castro to power.

Venezuelans did it mostly with Hugo Chávez and, later, with Nicolás Maduro.

The dictators Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales of Bolivia have the support of at least 20% of the national census.

To err is human, but much more human is to persist in error.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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