Monday, March 21, 2005

I've been waiting a long time for a backlash against the greed and stupidity of Republican policies. It's hard to be patient, but I believe the backlash will materialize--with a lot of help from us. And occasionally, I see signs of it. Paul Krugman's Friday column about the appointment of Wolfowitz to head the World Bank includes several of those hints. Latin America, having wandered for decades in the wilderness of our free trade policies, now seems headed down a more populist road. Krugman believes they're unlikely to listen to the Ugly American Bank.
Through much of the 1990's, they bought into the "Washington consensus" - which we should note came from Clinton administration officials as well as from Wall Street economists and conservative think tanks - which said that privatization, deregulation and free trade would lead to economic takeoff. Instead, growth remained sluggish, inequality increased, and the region was struck by a series of economic crises.The result has been the rise of governments that, to varying degrees, reject policies they perceive as made in America. Venezuela's leader is the most obstreperous. But the most dramatic example of the backlash is Argentina, once the darling of Wall Street and the think tanks. Today, after a devastating recession, the country is run by a populist who often blames foreigners for the country's economic problems, and has forced Argentina's foreign creditors to accept a settlement that gives them only 32 cents on the dollar. And the backlash has reached our closest neighbor. Mexico's current president, Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, is a firm believer in free markets. But his administration is widely considered a failure. Meanwhile, Mexico City's leftist mayor, Manuel López Obrador, has become immensely popular. And his populist rhetoric has raised fears that if he becomes president he will roll back the free-market and free-trade policies of the past two decades.
Krugman also describes how our insistence on a free market template in Iraq has contributed to the disaster there.
In Lakoff's terms, the Bushies are trying to bully the world like an authoritarian father. That can have unintended consequences when the children come of age.


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