Shame on you Argentina

sergio

Registered
The 'similarities' between the US and Argentina at the turn of the 20th century have been commented on endlessly. I'm not so sure they were such similar countries. Argentina's prosperity lasted for a relatively short time whereas the US has been on the upswing throughout its history - with obvious burps here and there such as the Great Depression and possibly the present moment. The ethnic mix of the US until recent years has been radically different from that of Argentina. Anglo-Saxons, Germans and Dutch were the dominant immigrant groups of the 17th and 18th centuries. They came to settle permanently, their work ethic was strong and reinforced by Protestant, especially Calvinist, teaching that emphasized the godly nature of work. Many were in fact religious refugees whose motivation for emigrating was religious, not economic. Pennnsylvania and Massachusetts were two such colonies. From the start education was highly valued by Americans. The Quakers in Pennsylvania (the colony was founded in the 1600's by Wlliam Penn as a "Holy Experiment") established many schools, some of which are around today and are considered among the best in the world (President Obama's daughters attend a Quaker school, Sidwell Friends). By contrast, education in Argentina was limited and poor for a very long time. In the 19th century President Sarmiento saw the need for change, traveled to the US to study education and the American system. He came back with a team of qualified teachers to work in Argentina. I recall reading that when Don Bosco first sent the Salesians to Agentina his goal was the conversion of the Indians in Patagonia however when the Salesians arrived they were appalled at the dreadful conditions under which the Italian immigrants were living; the lack of education was terrible. As a result, the Salesians remained in BA for years so that they could help improve these conditions before they began their task of missionizing the Indians. Many have observed that the Argentine ethnic mix, dominated by people of Italian and Spanish descent, has traditionally lent itself to authoritarianism and to a statist government with all that that entails. Consider that during WW II Argentina remained officially "neutral" though it was well known that the Perons were pro Axis and that there was plenty of pro Nazi / fascist support in the country. Argentina became a haven for Nazi loot during and after the War with many Germans settling here. The strain on relations with the US could not have helped economic development.
 

RWS

Registered
“Sergio” gives a fine summation of what I, formerly an historian, understand to be the prevailing historians’ theories for the different evolutions: broad-based, enquiry-oriented education in North America contrasted with limited, rote education in Argentina; a tradition of self-determination and self-reliance in North America, one of obedience and reliance upon government in Argentina.
 

fedecc

Registered
Well allow me to make some objections to the "education" theory, which was also analyzed in a recent new york times blog entry. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/what-happened-to-argentina/

First of all I think Argentina should be compared with countries like Canada or even more with Australia, which had a similar "starting point" than Argentina.

That said, i think there is a bit of confusion between culture and education (i mean formal education). Both of them are fundamentally important to understand Argentina or any other country, but in contrast to the generally accepted arguments (for example in the blog entry i linked), Argentina is actually prove that a good formal education doesn't necessarily mean or determines progress.

With all the problems and flaws of the argentine education system, it was actually quite good and advanced, certainly the most advanced in the region to the point that the sons of those millions of mostly illiterate immigrants were able to become professionals, and formed a very cultured middle class. However this didn't prevent Argentina to fall into the same old mistakes over and over.

Culture on the other hand explains it better. Unlike many people believe, the culture of caudillismo, populism, disregard for the law, etc. is mostly independant from education. Most of the defenders of such characteristics of our culture were and are extremely educated people. For example, the idea that the people that vote to peronism are mostly the poor illiterate masses is simply not true.

Of course education can shape our culture and its certainly a start, but education alone wont do the trick.
 

sergio

Registered
I almost always agree with Fedec but not quite on the education issue. Yes, Argentina made great strides in the 20th century allowing many of the sons or grandsons of the illiterate immigrants to advance however education in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was nevertheless limited and poor - and that is why Sarmiento sought reform. The high standards that Fedec refers to lasted just a few decades of the twentieth century. The state educational system (primary, secondary and university) has been declining for several decades. I believe a country needs more than a few decades of high educational standards to see sustained progress. Also I have the idea that the Enlightenment took more time to reach the Spanish colonies of America whereas it helped stir revolution in the North American colonies and shaped the democratic system that replaced British imperial rule. Regfarding Fedec's cultural argument, he is basically repeating what I said, i.e. that Spanish / Italian cultures have traditionally encouraged authoritarianism.
 

gouchobob

Registered
I agree with the comments, another aspect of the cultural differences is that generally where the Spanish colonized the primary objective was exploitation, contrasted to North American, Australia, etc. where generally the primary objective was long term growth and development.
 

gouchobob

Registered
talktalk said:
gouchobob, don't forget about the history of child labor and slavery in the States.
I'm not sure what your point is? Of course slavery existed in the U.S. and also existed all over S.A. as well. Child labor was once a big problem, that has been banned in developed countries for many years. Child labor in many parts of South America and other developing countries is still a problem today.
 

orwellian

Registered
The United States of America and their imperialist policies, that is what happened. The CIA has been active staging coups on this continent for over a half a century and Argentina is no different. That is when they can't just bribe the politicians.
Well, now when the empire is crumbling we might, in the long run, see an economic recovery for Latin America. And hopefully the opposite happening in North America.
 

rihornos

Registered
I only would say one word "corruption". I don`t think the rest of Latinoamerica is the same for example Uruguay has less corruption than we do and invest on education and what do we use money for.....? if the most important investment for the future is education...we use the money to corrupt politicians and judges and whoever is in front of us. Brazil left us behind years ago but they help farmers and their policy is to help industry, countryside, is not a surprise that today Brazil is a leading country in the region ...they have been working towards that direction, Uruguay though is a small country receive investments but...they don`t change the rules every now and then just...because.
We hope one day Argentina finds it`s way again but who knows when and how....
 

seeker

Registered
For the last 60 years or so Argentina has followed the route of protection for its home industries, and it’s probably no coincidence that Argentina’s fall from economic grace happened concurrent to this policy. Most of the rest of the world has been moving steadily in the opposite direction, frexample Italy and Spain, once much poorer than Argentina, are now much richer, and this is almost certainly because of the liberalised trade policies followed by those two countries since joining the EU. To demonstrate how odd Argentina is, 1n 1900 its GDP was about $3000 per head, and by 2003 GDP had risen to about $6000. Well, you don’t need to have an economics Nobel to realise that in 1900 $3000 was a lot of money, and $6000 in 2003 was not.

One huge problem with this state of affairs is that Argentina has become almost desperately inward looking. Argentians, as a rule, cannot really afford to travel to anywhere much, and have no idea, really, what the rest of the world is like. It’s easy to assume a kind of superiority when you know of nothing else. Argentineans will sometimes tell you that theirs is the best country in the world, with the prettiest women, most beautiful countryside, and the best education system...or whatever. It’s true that they tend to do this when they’re drunk and quit complaining about their country....but the point is, Argentineans, generally, can’t compare because they’ve rarely been anywhere else to make that comparison. The system of protection from the “real world” is a kind of poison, because it causes misallocation of resources, and it conveys the entirely false message to the populace that they don’t really need to work as hard as other folk. The attitude seems to be..well, we can’t work as hard as the Chinese, or as effectively as the Germans, so we will just stop trying. My own point of view, perhaps obviously, is that Argentina needs to scrap its punitive import taxes, scrap export taxes, scrap various other bizarre taxes such as the cheque tax, scrap non-financial barriers to trade, quit trying to fix prices of foodstuffs, encourage inward investment, encourage exports, and just generally follow the kinds of policies that have worked in say, South Korea, or Japan, or Sweden, or just about anywhere normally functioning. What I’m basically saying is..just let people here buy what they want from where they can buy it at the best price, and let Argentine producers sell whatever they can where ever they want to, without any of the funny business. There’s no reason why this huge country replete with natural resources and its reasonably well educated but small population can’t be massively wealthy once again.

I doubt whether Argentina will change though. The changes I outlined would be enormously painful, and I doubt any Government would ever receive a mandate to do what’s necessary. Shame. It’s not impossible that the country will get so weak that one day they wake up to find that the Chinese have just landed five million troops, and are taking over. Well, something like this could happen, eventually, if the Argentines don’t wake up to just how decadent their country has become.
 
Top