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Customer Review

27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine analysis, uncertain resolution, May 16, 2005
This review is from: Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression (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. People who feel they have no power are not going to know what to do with school vouchers or how to apply for credit when their squatter communities are granted legal status-two of his recommendations. Have school vouchers actually worked anywhere? So much wealth is concentrated in so few hands in the region that it is hard to imagine that the oligarchs will voluntarily give any of it up, and we've seen that revolution doesn't work, and outside prodding backfires . . .Even after reading Vargas Llosa's intelligent work, liberty for Latin America still seems a long way off.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 16, 2008 7:22:38 AM PST
Anthony says:
School vouchers have been tried and work in Eastern Europe (I think the Czech Republic, not sure.) His recommendations 'fit' if one is actually informed on free markets.

Posted on Jun 22, 2008 6:25:43 PM PDT
A. Lindberg says:
Regarding school vouchers I would suggest you check with the results in New Zealand, as I understand it they dismantled the public school system a couple of years ago and went to a voucher system. The only attempts here in the US are continually under attack by the vested interests of the public school monopoly, and are not given much opportunity to prove their effectiveness.
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