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Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression Hardcover – January 27, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (January 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374185743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374185749
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,541,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Peruvian journalist and research fellow at Oakland, Calif.'s Independent Institute, Vargas Llosa proposes that the shortcomings of Latin America's recent experiments with neoliberalism-which have left the elite and poor further apart than ever-reflect a deep-rooted and unshakeable pattern of state intervention in the economy, privilege and laws that have plagued these countries since their early colonial period. Despite the apparent push toward democracy and free markets, he argues, the most recent era of reform failed to address the root of the problem and ended up reinforcing governments' suppression of economic liberty and individual responsibility. Vargas Llosa offers the massive potential of the region's bustling informal economies as a sign of how far out of step the law is with economic and political realities. Not surprisingly, he calls for the abolition of unwieldy business regulations that keep ordinary, enterprising folks out of the legitimate marketplace. A short section of almost blithely outlined solutions disappoints, coming as it does after so much engaging and well-reasoned analysis, particularly since many of his proposals (tax code rewrites, school vouchers) have faced stiff resistance even in the developed country he so often holds up as a model for the region: the United States.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

What stands in the way of Latin American prosperity? According to Peruvian-born journalist and political commentator Vargas Llosa, the answer is 500 years of oppression and stagnancy, most recently defined by the "oligarchic legacy of statism." The solution? Skirt the political economists' chicken-and-egg problem by reforming both economic institutions and their underlying culture, and remove the inertial legacy of state power perpetuated by what the author calls the "five principles of oppression": corporatism, state mercantilism, privileged elitism, rigid and unjust mechanisms of wealth transfer, and the political denigration of legal authority. Vargas Llosa's is essentially a free-market, libertarian argument pursuing independence through individualism, which would dovetail comfortably with much of the last decade's rhetoric of economic neoliberalism were it not so boldly, and justifiably, critical of botched recent attempts at privatization in Latin America that actually reinforced the privileged status quo. Such willingness to criticize the regional failures of the Right, the Left, and the U.S. is refreshing, as is the author's clear concern for the poor. A work of unabashed capitalism unashamed to speak truth to capitalists, this is an important work of political economy. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Alvaro Vargas LLosa is a non-fiction writer and journalist. He was born in Peru in 1966 and lives in Washington DC. He writes in Spanish and English, and his books have been published in several languages. He also authored a documentary series on Latin American contemporary history for National Geographic that has been shown in some 100 countries. He has won numerous awards and was nominated Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He is a Senior Fellow of the Independent Institute and a champion of classical liberal ideas.

Customer Reviews

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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on May 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As someone who lived and worked in Latin America during one of the region's recent attempts at major economic reform, I found myself frequently mumbling "right on" while marking up my copy of Alvaro Vargas Llosa's "Liberty for Latin America." One of the most refreshing elements of the book is that the Peruvian journalist does not blame European colonizers for Latin America's seemingly insurmountable struggle to pull its population from poverty. He takes the root of the problem back to the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas, when the sacred nature of authority was first instilled in the population. People existed not as individuals, but as members of social strata with specific functions, with the number one function of everything being to support the group on top. This fit in perfectly with the kind of top-down hierarchy practiced by Iberian colonizers. Independence and revolution put governments in charge, with peasants working land that now belonged to their government as opposed to a big landowner. In one way or another, the state kept its fingers in every possible pie while the majority of the population remained infantilized, expecting the government provide for them, to be the biggest patrón of all.

What a relief not to have all the region's woes blamed on Spanish or Portuguese colonizers, and to recognize that many of the practices that still hold Latin America back were institutionalized long before Cortez dropped anchor. But while Vargas Llosa's analysis is intelligent and thought-provoking, his recommendations for reform don't fit with what he's just said. We've read how the population has been conditioned to expect a higher authority-God or the government-to take care of everything.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ricardo Cazorla on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vargas Llosa's book is not about a perfect recipe. It is an honest insightful review of the Iberian world in the Western Hemisphere, well researched and documented by a Latin, who like his colleagues in arms, Carlos A. Montaner and Alberto Apuleyo are trying to tell the politicians, businessmen and others in the developed countries, to divest themselves of the pink glasses through which they, for decades have looked at Latin America. Even today, as I pore over the reviews on our countries (I am a Latin) I continue to feel disappointment in the intense focus given to growth rates, GDP, exports and imports and other matters that wind up creating economic charts and indices. Latin America cannot be, and any country for the same reason, assessed by simply reading its economic numbers. Liberty as the developed Western World understands it is not a reality in the Hemisphere and the book does a brilliant exercise in explaining why, though the steps to gaining it are only a suggestion and not a mandate as other reviews seem to conclude. This reading is a must for any Latin or foreigner needing to understand....why? Democracy is a hollow word in the region when the definition is placed against the realities found in most of our countries with some exceptional rays of hope. Latin America needs to be understood and its societies given the support wherever real democray and the support of human liberties can start to gain a solid, permanent foothold. The stability of the entire Hemisphere is at the end, what is at play.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By fdoamerica on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I live in South America, and, de facto, I am a student of Latin America. Thus, for me Liberty for Latin America was a `must read'. In the four parts, Alvaro Vargas Llosa has written two distinct books - Social/Historical & Economic.

The first part of the text deals with the oppressive history of Latin America. For hundreds of years, Latin America political and economic power, have benefitted only a small elite. This oppressive and privilege status has a history that dates to the Spanish and Portuguese conquest, virtual slavery and mass exploitations under the guise of Catholic paternalism. The concentration of power, status and wealth has not ceased. Today, the struggles in Bolivia, Equador, Venezuela and other countries continue to `luncha' against the systems of privilaged-power that was established more than 500 years ago. Vargas Llosa's explains how the concentrated economic, political and social power, which sustain these oppressive inequalities, continues today. Excellent. He maintains that the enduring legacy of Iberian colonialism continues to sustain and serve the next generation of privileged leadership and that these systems of privilege and power have retarded Latin America's social and economic progress.

The other part of the text deals with his zealous evangelical promotion of `free-market, capitalists'. It is clear that he sees capitalism as the savior of the world'. Everything, should be privatized: education, health, and services of the state. Minimize government, maximize privatization.

His statements can make even those who support a free-market economy cringe. Yet, often in radical expressions, there are seeds of truth. In the end, it is about redistributing wealth.
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