Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Lesson to be learned

Who wrote this?

"Today we must strive for free immigration, liberty of commerce, railroads, the navigation of our rivers, the tilling of our soil, free enterprise, not instead of our initial principles of independence and democracy, but as essential means of assuring ourselves that these will cease being mere words and will become realities. . . . Our revolutionary wars sought to establish liberty from outside oppression . . . what we now need is liberty within. . . . Our leaders want both glory and liberty, and the two are contradictory. . . . As South America has contributed nothing to world civilization except its wars and the victory in its struggle for independence, the only glory which exists among us is martial glory, and our great men are all military heroes. Not a single invention like that of Franklin, like that of Fulton, like the telegraph, and many others which the civilized world owes to North America, has been contributed by our America of the south."

Juan Bautista Alberdi
- father of the Argentine constitution of 1853. Which document - according to this article, quoting from 'Argentina: 1516-1987' - was responsible for a liberal and economic bonanza in that country.

"By 1890 the British had inundated Argentina with an estimated £157 million of investment capital. The great symbol of the new British connection was a burgeoning railroad system . . . most of it in the hands of private British companies — over which were transported 10 million passengers and 5 million tons of cargo. Foreign trade similarly expanded: in 1861 total foreign trade, both imports and exports, was valued at 37 million gold pesos; by 1880 at 104 million, and at more than 250 million by 1889."

"Meanwhile, the nation's population increased from an estimated 1.1 million in 1857 to approximately 3.3 million by 1890. . . . Immigrants arrived in enormous droves: between 1871 and 1914 some 5.9 million newcomers, of whom 3.1 million stayed and settled. Altogether between 1830 and 1950 Argentina absorbed some 10 percent of the total number of immigrants from Europe to the Americas."

"By the outbreak of World War I Argentina had experienced almost twenty years of prodigal expansion. Per capita income equaled that in Germany and the Low Countries, and was higher than in Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland. Having grown at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent since 1869, Buenos Aires had become the second city of the Atlantic seaboard, after New York, and by far the largest city in Latin America. . . . Except entrepĂ´ts like Holland and Belgium, no country in the world imported more goods per capita than Argentina. By 1911, Argentina's foreign trade was larger than Canada's and a quarter of that of the United States."

The Argentineans had proven Adam Smith correct. By using their constitution to strictly limit the power of their government to interfere with their economic activities, the result was one of the most prosperous periods people had ever experienced.

There was a coup, the economic good times came to an end. Nothing lasts, it seems. Why are people so damned determined to take a working process and scrap it in return for moonbeams?
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