Order and progress?

Posted: 4 April 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,


According to mainstream economists, like Jeffrey Sachs [pdf], all Brazil needs to do is learn the lessons of China, stop looking to the domestic market, and set their sights on becoming competitive internationally.

Brazil, I think, has everything that it takes to do it, if there is a strategic focus on being a competitive world leader. However, it requires a change of emphasis and a change of strategy from what has been typical for several decades. Most importantly, with a Brazilian population that is increasingly centered in the working age, with slowing population growth, and with an increasingly educated population, Brazil has the chance to follow the same trends as China, and to achieve the same kind of growth rates that have eluded this country for the past quarter-century.

Sachs’s formula for success makes a perverse sense, given the fact that internally Brazil is being pulled apart. We all know that Brazil has one of the most unequal distributions of income on the planet (the chart below is the percentage of income received by the top 20 percent):

Then, there are all the other signs of disorder and lack of progress in Brazil, such as the cocaine boom in the new “cracklands.”

And, of course, the story that symbolizes the poles of wealth and poverty in Brazil: Thor Batista, the son of Brazil’s richest man, driving his father’s $1.3 million sports car, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and killing Wanderson Pereira dos Santos, who lived in a shack on a highway in Rio de Janeiro.

Two Brazils also met head-on: one in which a small elite live with almost unfathomable wealth, and another in which millions eke out an existence on the margins of that abundance.

“There have been so many people run over that I’ve lost count,” said Caubi Lopes, 49, a manual laborer who knew Mr. Pereira dos Santos and lives near the site of the car crash, in Duque de Caxias, on Rio’s outskirts. About 100 families live there in shacks wedged into a slope near the highway.

“It’s only this case that has gotten so much attention because of that man,” said Mr. Lopes, referring to Mr. Batista’s father, Eike Batista, a mining magnate with a $30 billion fortune who used to park the McLaren in the living room of his mansion.

  1. Magpie says:

    I lived in Brazil for a few years, during the late 70s/early 80s and I never went back. But I do keep contacts there and occasionally read their newspapers on the net.

    The impression I get, and it might be just my personal bias, is that things change in the surface, just to remain essentially the same. Seeing the chart above, this impression appears confirmed, at least in what refers to inequality.

    And it’s curious, but I’ve felt this way for a long time.

    When I was in Brazil, I happened to read Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of the World (which I highly recommend, by the way).

    At least in the North-East of the country, at the time, people lived pretty much like they lived in the 19th century.

    They probably still do.

  2. […] with the Oberlin students’ concerns. I have called Sachs to task on many occasions (e.g., here, here, and generally […]

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