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Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism Hardcover – June 1, 2010
History To Repeat & Some To Not
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From Publishers Weekly
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(Hernando de Soto, author of The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital)
“Sebastian Edwards's book is a must read for anyone interested in the economy of Latin America--past, present and future. No one knows Latin America better than Professor Edwards. And the experience of Latin America offers lessons for every developing country about what to do and what to avoid."
"This is probably the most important book on Latin America of the decade; a masterly and highly readable assessment of the false starts and political failures—and the occasional successes—that have subverted the promise and potential of a continent. One of the outstanding economists of his generation, Sebastian Edwards explains the success of Chile and the disasters of populism in Venezuela and Argentina, while giving the best analysis available anywhere of Brazil's recent surge and its more cloudy prospects. And it is rare as it is refreshing to find a leading Latin American scholar acknowledging that his peoples' problem lies neither in the stars nor in Washington but in themselves."
(Martin Walker, senior director, Global Business Policy Council)
"Latin America is always promise, never quite performance. In his ruthlessly intelligent analysis, Sebastian Edwards cuts through the myths and obfuscations that have shielded Latin America from the basic political truths that underlie all economic growth. It is not Yanqui imperialism or global capitalism that holds back the Southern Hemisphere. To vary Bill Clinton: 'It's the politics, stupid' Sustained growth requires the rule of law, property rights, a much smaller, but much more efficient state, an independent judiciary, a competitive market with easy access for new entrants—strong institutions, in short. This book is 'political economy' at its very best—in the tradition of Smith, Ricardo, and Schumpeter."
(Josef Joffe, Stanford University)
(SurvivalI Global Politics and Strategy)
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Top Customer Reviews
I feel like I got my money's worth of insight into the historical patterns as well as the cultural and institutional patterns that help to explain the traps that these countries fall in to. The pattern of insisting on import substitution style of development with its attendant high tariff barriers which generally do not decrease with time. Similarly there are generally weak institutions with executives with much more power than the legislatures, power which is frequently used to goose the economy with spending without careful regard to the inflationary tendencies that this creates. The author also explains the pattern of locking the currency in value to the US dollar which if money is printed tends to overvalue the currency and make exporting industries less competitive as well as stoking inflation. Of course there is also the tradition of weak property rights and unpredictable law changes which keeps levels of foreign direct investment low. There is also the recent phenomenon of long constitutions with 430 articles instead of the 7 basic articles of the US constitution.
The information in the book does help me place Chavez, Kirchener and De Silva into the historical context of their countries and explains well the two most recent Mexican currency crises. There is not much information on some of the smaller South American countries such as Uruguay or Paraguay but there is a fair bit on the larger countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina.
Problems with the book; I've been reading about the history, politics and economics of the countries of Latin America since about 1998 at least, and I kinda think that setting up as the main premise of the book an argument of populism vs free markets is a bit of a straw man argument. To be quite frank, it fits some countries more than others, say, Argentina for example vs Mexico. Argentina's experiences of Peronism and ISI smacked of crony capitalism. Mexico on the other hand, well, I've gotten the idea that the rampant corruption that is enmeshed throughout Mexico's history was a deterrent to just about all advancement and efficiency. What's more, there hasn't been much to populism in Mexico since Cardenas in the late 30s early 40s while free market policies have only gotten more extreme. So I wonder exactly where the author is coming from.
There wasn't much new in this book. Chile, Argentina and Mexico have been analyzed by others countless times. The book plays at looking at Latin America, yet only mentions countries like El Salvador or Peru in passing. If the author wanted a challenge, he should have looked off the beaten path, but he didn't. He should have mentioned that on the book cover, I wouldn't have bought it.
His takes on history, were, disturbing. I have never seen any history of Mexico or Chile take on the ideological bent this guy took. Argentina seemed pretty accurate. Chavez and Lula? Nothing too new there.Read more ›
economic history of Latin America since the colonial times. I
particularly liked the discussion on the region's weak institutions. The
discussion of the unfinished reforms of the Washington Consensus is
original and very balanced. Edwards shows in a convincing way that these
reforms were rather timid, and didn't improve productivity in a
significant way. The comparison between Hugo Chavez and Lula (chapter 9)
is extremely interesting. I highly recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a must for anyone interested in the reasons why Latin America cannot create a high standard of living for its citizens.Published 3 months ago by nerak seldnar
This book adds to others, including Vito Tanzi's "Argentina: an economic Chronicle" and Enrique Krauze's history of Mexico. Two critical points should be added. Read morePublished 15 months ago by CuriousOne
Excellent overview of Latin America development flaws and what could be done about it. Well written and interesting.Published 15 months ago by Nelson
I use Sebastian Edwards's "Left Behind" as the core text in a course I teach at Ohio State University on Latin American economic development. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Douglas Southgate
Wow! I love this book. We're reading it in my Political Economy of Latin America class. It is by far the best out of the stack of books that we're reading in that class. Read morePublished on July 24, 2012 by BDMJ
Sebastian has made an excellent job explaining the main causes that has kept Latin America well below its potential. Read morePublished on November 7, 2010 by C. Haeberle
This book was immensely well written, for some time I wondered about the economics of Latin America. Read morePublished on August 23, 2010 by Lauren Pena