Brazil is still the country of the future

That is my latest Bloomberg column, and here is just one bit from it:

Third, Brazil’s political history has been an odd mix of dictatorship and extreme decentralization. Until the late 1980s, a series of autocratic leaders took power but failed to govern outlying regions successfully. Governance remained based on a colonial model with an authoritarian leader at the center and autonomous power blocs throughout the regions — a system that, for all of its periodic dynamism, proved ill-suited for modern times.

That colonial legacy is being dismantled, in fits and starts.  Brazil now has a real democracy and some degree of political accountability, though it falls short of a well-functioning federalism, as illustrated by the fiscal troubles of Rio de Janeiro and many other parts of the country. Income inequality has been falling (contrary to the trend in most countries), extreme poverty has virtually been eliminated and Brazil has moved up the rankings in terms of education.

I love to visit Brazil. I have been chased by aggressive pre-teens wielding sharpened sticks and even shot at, yet I remain an unreconstructed optimist. It’s actually a major achievement to remain “the country of the future” for so long. Can you say the same about Argentina or Venezuela? If there’s one thing we know from Olympic competition, it’s that if you remain in the game through successive rounds, your chances of winning only go up.

Do read the whole thing, there is much more detail at the link.

Comments

" and even shot at"

Do tell

Yeah, no kidding. Where's the blog post on getting shot at in Brazil?

On a different note, I thought this piece on cosmopolitanism and the Olympics, by a Brazilian political scientist, might be of interest to the optimists out there...

Maybe its because the host has shown enough decorum not to showboat for once.

The host always has the decorum not to impersonate others, especially the hideous middle-aged women who frequent his comboxes.

"Spontaneous order" =/= "how the Olympics comes to be held in a city"

That's how he knew it was a good restaurant.

Ha!

"Having my dining partner's brains splattered across the table added to the authentic feel and flavor of the experience. Five stars. Would visit again."-Tyler Cowen

Hmmmm,,, shot at? I smell a serious embellishment here.

Like HRC in Bosnia?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1582795/Hillary-Clintons-Bosnia-sniper-story-exposed.html

To be fair, this a bipartisan problem. Man, I would hate to live in a country where politicians lie. What kind of people elect those guys? America needs to clean up its act.

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/07/ronald_reagans_wartime_lies_the_president_had_quite_a_brian_williams_problem/
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/charity-president-paul-ryan-did-nothing-at-soup-kitchen-photo-op/

Won't the Brazil-bashing stop? Isn't there other contries in the world to excite American pharisaism? Those "agressive pre-teens" probably just wanted an autograph. Visiting foreign celebrities usually are hunted by ardent fans in Brazil.

Hey, Thiago,

I'm teaching a class in Santiago next month. I can't wait to hear the locals' opinion of your assertion that Chile is just a wayward Brazilian province.

In their heart they know I'm right.

....said every aggressor ever.

I spent 3 weeks riding a bright orange motorcycle all over Chile as an obvious tourist and was suprised at all the memorials to O'higgins, Mackenna and other Irish names.

Chile is in the first rank of countries to visit, the rank where the great mass of citizens strive to make tourists enjoy and love their country, like Israel, Turkey, Chile. Second rank is tolerate-to-despise tourists, like Mexico, Greece. Third, countries where tourists are most likely to be mugged, raped or kidnapped for ransom when straying from safe-zones, like North Korea, Guatemala, Lebanon. What's Brazil?

Brazil is not an aggressor, we are liberators.
Brazil is a great country. Tourists who visit our country never go away, but we are a proud people, we are not fascist bootlickers like the Chilean.

Many South Americans are descended from British immigrants. My mother's family emigrated from England to Portugal in the mid-1300s.

"You mean their corpses never go away after they’ve been killed in a botched mugging."

No, I mean Brazil's spell is too strong. Many tourists decide to stay and become Brazilians themselves.

Autógrafos ? Agora que é engraçado

Dude, Brazil is in the spotlight right now, for obvious reasons. This is what you wanted.

There is nothing funny about the fame cult that has taken over Brazil's youth. And we did not sign up for watching our country become the world's punching bag. Our goal is to show the world our nation is brighter and more glorious than the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps. Yet, at every step we are met with malice and radical incomprehension.
We greeted the world with an open hand and all we got in exchange was a clenched fist. We spent untold billions, introduced draconian security measures, postponed the riots, downplayed political infighting and strained our infrastructure to a breaking point. All to please a bunch of ungrateful, whining, holier-than-thou foreigners.

If you had a time machine, would you warn your brothers and sisters not to host the Olympics?

There were plenty of people warning about it. This was decided when Lula thought he was the new FDR. Even if the whole event "works great" this will be a major fiscal disaster for Brazil.

What good would it do? The government decided to host the Games. "It will show us in a good light", they said. "We must share our gifts with the world", they said. I think no one could have predicted how ungrateful foreigners would turn out to be. Pleasing them is an exercise in futility.

LOL yeah I hear American economists are all the rage in Brazilian favelas...

Famous Anglos are all the rage here. Ask Paul McCartney or Queen Elizabeth II.

You are mixing the actors. In the early 90's Jack Palance ("Ripley's Believe It or Not!") was hired to present São Paulo City propaganda shorts.

Up with Brazil!

http://www.theonion.com/article/woman-who-loves-brazil-has-only-seen-four-square-m-343

Not sure what the joke is there

"Those “aggressive pre-teens” probably just wanted an autograph."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
You are a funny man, Thiago!

The "Brazil bashing" shouldn't be so upsetting since Brazil, as you say, is a tourist magnet, who, as you say, end up staying in droves. People are smarter than to believe the international news, I suppose.

I guess the fact that, according to the UN, in a list of 191 countries, we are ranked 13 in Intentional Homicides per 100.000 people is just an anomaly in this highly developed and functional country...

Evidently not everything is perfect and mistakes have been made, but things are getting better and you can always go live in Somalia (half as many homicides per 100,000 as the USA in 2004) or Cameroon or Laos.

"(...) you can always go live in Somalia (half as many homicides per 100,000 as the USA in 2004) or Cameroon or Laos."

The alternative countries that one chooses to build one's argument are a good indicator of one's true worldview about Brazil, despite what one attempts to convey.

What can I say? All those countries are as safe as -- or safer than-- America. It shows how much your reasoning is useful when comparing countries.

"What can I say? All those countries are as safe as — or safer than– America. It shows how much your reasoning is useful when comparing countries."

No, it shows your misunderstanding of the data. Homicides per 100.000 do not include all kinds of intentional killings, like killing in armed conflict, for example.

"No, it shows your misunderstanding of the data. Homicides per 100.000 do not include all kinds of intentional killings, like killing in armed conflict, for example."

So do you think, say, Malawi, Mauritius, Laos, Sao Tome and Principe and Cameroon are being engulfed by war?

To compare Western democracies, with high urbanisation levels, relatively stable governments, similar judeo-christian cultural inheritance, similar institutions, good universities, similar industrialisation levels, etc, etc is a sensible first approach to compare socio-economic conditions between countries.

What you are doing is mixing everything just to try and get a point across: authoritarian regimes, countries with a long past of Civil war, Developed countries and communist governments with no human rights.

To bring up Laos, Cameroon or Somalia in order to mitigate the horrible problem of violence that is Brazil is so intellectually dishonest that this must be my last post in this discussion.

I really don't know what past civil wars have to do with a country having low murder rates. You think Pol Pot is Cambodia's benefactor?
Sao Tome and Principe was colonized by the dame folks who colonized Brazil. It is as fair to compare it to America as it is fair to compare America to Brazil.
I really don't get your point. Do you think "high urbanisation levels, relatively stable governments, similar judeo-christian cultural inheritance, similar institutions, good universities" would make those countries more violent? I don't see how. I think it is clear America has a serious violence, an unprecedent one among rich countries, that they can make go away just by blaming Brazilians.

Won't the Kansas bashing stop?

No. No it won't. Thiago, look at this as an opportunity! Kansas is a dystopian hell-hole, where we bang rocks together and marvel at the magic of aeroplanes. And the upshot of this, is that it keeps out all the whiners who can't handle low crime, wide open spaces, and liberty. Yep. It's a dystopian hell-hole, stay away.

In a way, a negative bias can maintain a culture, and too high of a positive bias can damage it - see Iceland, for example. No bias would of course be ideal, but play to the strengths of the cards you're dealt.

I think it is unfair, after all sacrifices we have made, we are bashed by a bunch of ungrateful foreigners.

Your trolling is excellent. You perfectly split the divide between dispicible liberal nationalist and pessimist about Brazil.

Never stop!

I am not trolling. The point is, Brazil is a land of contrasts and a work in progress. We virtually rebuilt a city to please the Americans and imposed on our own people useless draconian security measures to make them feel safe (who wil pay for all lost bags the police has blown up because better safe than sorry? -- https://www.google.com.br/search?q=detonated+bag&oq=detonated+bag&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l2.5345j0j4&client=tablet-android-samsung&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8 ) and yet all they seem to care about is how small paper coffee cups are in Rio de Janeiro and how sharp the sticks children wield are. It is a tiresome and frustrating affair to bend over backwards trying to please people who decided beforehand they would rather be cantankerous than enjoy the greatest Olympic Games since the times Milo of Croton used to carry a bull around as a warming-up exercise.

Straussian reading: America's future looks a lot like Brazil.

Of course, that's not such a bad thing to Mr. "Let Them Eat Beans".

I am eating black beans as I read this! (And eggs, cheese, smoked chicken sausage, sriracha, cheese, in a flour tortilla)

After a morning run it does indeed not seem a bad thing. With that second big cup of French Roast.

A somewhat different view. https://newrepublic.com/article/135819/brazils-long-history-faking-progress. I don't follow closely Cowen's posts that identify his favored countries, but I don't seem to see a pattern. Brazil isn't China and neither of them is Singapore. One common feature is that all of them have very high levels of inequality. As for falling income inequality in Brazil, the study Cowen links tracks the period 2000 through 2010. Anyone see a problem with that?

Pity that he is showing such reluctance to give documentation of success in minimizing the Taxes he pays.
And such hair-raising tales of generosity.
http://www.snopes.com/trump-tower-air/

"I do think countries with more inequality have better futures it shows they care about rewarding success rather than trying to make people ashamed of success.". But what if the inequality is due to success in manipulating a corrupt political system. That is also nothing to be ashamed of?

An high-IQ and low time preference population is prerequisite for first-world labor productivity. Where will Brazil import Whites and Asians from to become a "country of the future"?

Yesterday's enemy is tomorrow's anonymous gay sex partner.

There is little or none homosexual activity in Brazil.

No, it is not! There are no Anthony Weiners and Larry Craigs in Brazil.

Probably none, you're surely correct.

"Anthony Weiner wasn’t gay he sent his pictures to women."
Sorry, I was thinking of Mark Foley. Weiner seems to have become a catch-all word for sexual indiscretions in high places, like Clinton was for an older generation.

"Also there doesn’t need to be in Brazil because the gayness is all out in the open."
No, it is not!

It has nothing to do with sex at all. It is tectonic plates' doing.

Isn't the gay parade in Rio or Sao Paulo the biggest one in the world?

Not to mention I go to Brazil regularly to sleep with Cabana boys. They can be had quite cheaply, *WINK

"Little boys are cheap today, cheaper than yesterday" -- Guy Burgess, British spy

"Isn’t the gay parade in Rio or Sao Paulo the biggest one in the world?"

So what? No one makes sex at parades. And tourists from all the world come. The real proportion of Brazilian homosexuals is very low. And Brazil's evangelical parades are among the biggest in the world and we are not a protestant country.

"Governance remained based on a colonial model with an authoritarian leader at the center and autonomous power blocs throughout the regions — a system that, for all of its periodic dynamism, proved ill-suited for modern times"

That sounds be bit like I understand the Chinese political structure is like. Are they as ill suited to modern times, my perceptions way off or are there other factors that would be more important?

"extreme poverty has virtually been eliminated..."

Great. Now I have to clean the diet coke off my screen.

hahahahhahah

Macri deserves more credit than that. Argentina may be much smaller but it has definitely moved in the right direction.

As it did when Americans used to praise the junta or Menem (a free market Peronist, how delightful!). The outcomes we all know.

The Argentinians I've met are brighter and more successful than the Brazilians I've known

They are not representative of their peoples. Argentina is an unmitigated disaster no matter how much their American masters try to prop its failed regime up. Lawrence Summers spent an entire meeting with then presidential candidate Lula praising to the skies Menem. A few years later, his Potemkin village collapse.

You're one to talk Brazil is in an economic death spiral right now.

The economy is rebounding and we surely never experienced anything like Argentina's early 2000s collapse.

You're like Baghdad Bob. We should start calling you Rio Ray or San Paulo Sam.

I live in Campinas. There is way more to Brazil than Rio.

The point is, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. You can't compare it to Argentina's Potemkin Village of an economy. Brazil has got a diversified and competitive industry, a booming agriculture and an energetic services sector.

Brazil has a booming sham construction industry and nothing else

Brazil has of of the biggest economies. Argentina's is an empty shell. Brasil sí, Argentina no!

Look, you're clearly like a 15 year old kid so I want to go easy on you but my advice is to leave Brazil ASAP if you want any kind of future.

When Movimento Brasil Livre runs the show, Brazil will fully live up to Tyler's rosy prognostications.

"Look, you’re clearly like a 15 year old kid so I want to go easy on you but my advice is to leave Brazil ASAP if you want any kind of future."

"I've seen the future and it works". Brazil shall rise again.

Thiago: "I live in Campinas".

Do you or did you attend UNICAMP (a reputable University in the Southeast of Brazil)?
That might explain a lot in regards to your defensive stance when it comes to international news about Brazil.

I completed my B.A. course there, yes. Campinas is a great city even if the university is a little more to the left than most Brazilian universities. The weather is great, people is awesome, oversupplied markets nearby.

Most people would say that Brazil is the country of sewage in the water

TYLER: It’s actually a major achievement to remain “the country of the future” for so long.

Is it an even bigger achievement to permanently remain “the country of the future”?

Third, Brazil’s political history has been an odd mix of dictatorship and extreme decentralization. Until the late 1980s, a series of autocratic leaders took power but failed to govern outlying regions successfully. Governance remained based on a colonial model with an authoritarian leader at the center and autonomous power blocs throughout the regions — a system that, for all of its periodic dynamism, proved ill-suited for modern times.

In the world in which we actually live, Brazil has only a cricumscribed history of autocracy. From 1822 to 1889 it was a constitutional state run by conciliar bodies chosen by local grandees. From 1891 to 1930 it was dominated by a cartel of cattle and coffee interests; there was no autocrat. From 1946 to 1964 it was a messy constitutional republic. From 1974 to 1985, managed pluralism was the order of the day, with the military sharing power with a corps of elected officials. The only candidate for the title of caudillo would be Getulio Vargas. The military manifested a corporate personality and there was nothing resembling a cult of personality. Vargas tenure (1930-45) and miitary regimes holding power during 1889-91 and 1964-74 have been the only examples of unadulterated authoritarianism.

How to quantify the incredible vibrancy of these people and this country? Hang in there Brazil

Are you sure decentralization is really the problem? Brazil sprawls over a vast area, with large change in latitude. Some of the higher elevation regions in the south have climates very pleasant for Europeans, and they indeed have near European-level accomplishments.

It would seem like decentralization of large countries, such as India and Indonesia, is one of the contributors to the decline in coups and civil wars by lowering the stakes from controlling the central government.

"Some of the higher elevation regions in the south have climates very pleasant for Europeans, and they indeed have near European-level accomplishments."

So what? My state is crowded with obsolete immigrants and their children. What are Pomeranians good for?

They're a cute, yapping dog. But I wouldn't get one either.

I don't think any country has gone wrong with having Germanics inserted into its economy.

Very superficial article. I have done business in Brazil over a period of years and found it to be corrupt, inefficient and lawless. The problems there seem to run quite deep, and I am dubious that they will be solved in the foreseeable future.

Jack, your observations about corruption, inefficiency, and lawlessness point exactly to the way the USSA and the rest of the soi-disant "civilised" West is heading. Brazil is just ahead of the curve, doing warm-up laps while everyone else is still tying up their shoes.

"I have done business in Brazil over a period of years and found it to be corrupt, inefficient and lawless."

No, it is not.

Brilliant retort!

It is too!

Tyler, I read the article. It seems to have lost something in translation. "Its gross domestic product per capita falls about 4 to 7 times short of the U.S." Huh?

"If there’s one thing we know from Olympic competition, it’s that if you remain in the game through successive rounds, your chances of winning only go up."

Why isn't this just one more example of the gambler's fallacy?

Because sooner or later Brazil will hit the jackpot.

I would like to add that speaking in terms of very long run Brazil's growth has been very robust. From 1913 to 2013 GDP growth on aggregate was about 90 fold (using Maddison's estimate for 1913), compared to 18 fold for US, 10 fold for EU and about 35 fold for Japan and China (using Maddison's estimates). Per capita growth in Brazil has been higher over the past century in Brazil than in EU average, Russia, US, the rest of Latin America, Africa and most of Asia. Only in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc) has per capita growth been higher but aggregate growth of the region has been lower than in Brazil. The only countries that grew more on aggregate than Brazil over the last century are small Asian countries like Korea and Singapore, but it would be fair to compare growth in the more dynamic regions of Brazil to those countries (like Sao Paulo).

Overall, I have been very optimistic about Brazil's long term prospects and I think the country is progressing very well. This crisis right now is good for the country because it destroyed the credibility of socialist parties in the country which will lead to improvement in the quality of policies and institutions.

"This crisis right now is good for the country because it destroyed the credibility of socialist parties in the country which will lead to improvement in the quality of policies and institutions."

No, it won't. It will be just throw into poeer the same "colonels" (oligarchs) that ruined the country in the 90's (and made a star out of previously thrice-beaten Mr. Lula). Then it will be back to the socislidts again. It is the eternal return concept.

In the 90's with FHC Brazil had their best president ever. In fact, FHC was the only actually good president Brazil ever had. Temer, however, appears to be walking down through the same steps if he manages to do what he has promised to do.

The difference now is that the Judiciary is working better and even politicians are being prosecuted for corruption in a way that's unheard of in Brazil; also the riots and people's public demonstrations against a corrupt government was the main political force behind the impeachment and it's a force that's also new to the brazilian politics, that's being channeled by non-partisan organizations.

It's such a relief to hear a president and its finance minister talking the truth about the countrie's situation, even if it's grim; it's good to see that privatization isn't a forbidden word anymore; the tendency is being able to implement most of their proposed reforms, once Dilma is impeached. For all these facts, I think that Brazil's recovery is being underestimated by the public in general.

Comments for this post are closed