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Saturday, August 16, 2003

IS THE USA AN IMPERIAL POWER IN LATIN AMERICA?

Last April a Canadian citizen, Ron N, sent the buggy prof some criticisms of US policies toward his native country and toward Latin America. That prompted a three-part mini-series in response to Ron's criticisms. Along with all the articles published between April 19th and July 1st, those published articles lie buried in some desolate cyberspace boneyard . . . lost forever in that haunted unsacred terrain. Fortunately, copies of the buried articles have been sent to the buggy prof by various visitors, and little by little they are being revised, updated, and published anew.

The first article in the mini-series that Ron N's criticisms prompted was published on April 18th . It deals with US-Canadian relations, especially in the run-up period of the war on Iraq, and is available in the archives and for that matter can still be found on the home page here. No more needs to be said about it. That's not true of the the remaining article, lying in permanent cold-storage somewhere in that desolate pc-cemetery, beyond redemption in their original form. Not, however, in an updated, revised version. That's what follows here. Its topic: US policies toward Latin America. Ron N's criticisms of those policies, as it happens, are fairly standard fare on the left: in particular, his claims that the US has been an imperial power in Latin America and bears a large responsibility for that continent's economic backwardness and struggles, off and on, to develop stable and effective democratic systems of government. For an updated version of US policy toward Allende Chile in the early 1970s, plus a link to a very good article on this, see The Neo-Cons II . . . published August 17th.


US POLICIES TOWARD LATIN AMERICA: A BRIEF HISTORY SURVEY

The Swings in US Policies Since 1900.

For a century or so, US policies toward Latin America have undergone various changes in thrust and concrete behavior. Around the start of the 20th century, all across the continent, the US began to replace British capital and economic influence, which, as it happened, been dominant there since there 1840s. The US acquired a colony in Puerto Rico, intervened militarily repeatedly in Central America, and --- despite setting up an electoral democratic system in Nicaragua, where US troops landed several times to protect US property there --- stood by idly as it degenerated into a banana Republic and became a system of organized kleptocracy under Somoza (which lasted until the Sandinista revolution in the late 1970s). Then, under Franklyn Roosevelt in the early 1930s, the US adopted a Good Neighbor policy and ended all military intervention and opposition to the Mexican post-revolutionary nationalization of the petroleum and other industries. In the 1950s, the cold war led the US to be concerned with Communist influence, aided by Soviet money and support, and the brought the US into conflict with Castro in Cuba (largely an American dependency for decades, even though it had the highest per capita income and longevity levels in not only the Caribbean and Central America, but almost all of Latin America), and with radical movements elsewhere, including Guatemala.



That policy then took on a different twist with the John Kennedy administration, which adopted the Alliance for Progress in the early 1960s: it combined active support to anti-Communist governments and huge aid flows, naively based on the Marshall Plan pattern to governments that weren't solidly democratic and were corrupt and nepotistic, to encourage economic development. In the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter then actively initiated a human rights policy, which helped to prepare the introduction almost everywhere after 1980 of democratic government. It was, moreover, a policy that was continued willy-nilly by the Reagan administration, thanks to the impact of the human rights movement in Congress and among the public, not least toward Pinochet's Chile and the pro-Soviet Sandinista regime. (Even Carter, who had sought to cultivate good relations with the initial broad-based Sandinista coalition that included radicals, pro-Soviet leftists, liberals, agrarian reformers, and moderate conservatives came into conflict with it by the end of 1979 and into 1980 . . . not least when the radicals and pro-Soviet leftists in the Sandinista government clamped down on the others and drove them out of the government and movements and sought to spread their revolution elsewhere in Central America, where landed oligarchs and corrupt governments were fighting radicals, with the peasantry caught in between and the Cubans and Soviets were supporting the increasingly narrow-based guerrilla movements.)

The net effect of the US impact, politically speaking? Well, consider . . .

 



The Current Political Scene in Latin America

Fortunately, by the end of the 1980s and on into the 1990s --- right through the 2000 election of Vincente Fox in Mexico --- democratic government has taken root everywhere in Latin America except Communist Cuba.

In some places, it has developed into an impressive institutionalized system approaching a rule of law --- Costa Rico, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay. In other places, it's bogged down in civil war (Columbia) and beset by open class conflict, though not violent (Venezuela), or overcome by economic collapse as in Argentina. Yet everywhere, even in those three countries, electoral democracy is vibrant, and --- one of the most impressive signs of basic change in Latin America --- the media in almost everywhere country is now marked by a strong sense of journalistic responsibility to report in depth on governmental excesses and violations of human rights. And American policy since the end of the cold war has been to support that democratic spread and encourage institutionalization . . . this, despite what you claim, Ron, to be US machinations toward Venezuela, something I'll return to. As I will, by the way, in order to deal with the overthrow of Allende in Chile in 1973; and for that matter, more generally, to clarify the terms here --- electoral democracy, institutionalized democracy, measures of corruption, and the like --- and to provide some hard evidence.

First, though, some historical comparative observations need to be sketched in . . . the aim here, essentially to explain the giant contrast in the political and economic developmental records of Latin America compared to the US.

 

THE CONTRASTING DEVELOPMENT, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC, OF NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

What Happened?

Though what we'd call national income statistics for the 18th century aren't abundant or challengeable by contemporary standards, they can be inferred and rough per capita incomes calculated. In 1700, per capita income in Mexico --- lopsidedly distributed of course --- was about $450 in 1985 US dollars, not much less than in the US's $490. In Barbados, a rich sugar plantation colony, the figure was an astonishing $807. All this quickly changed. By the 1820s, US manufacturing productivity was higher than in Britain, the industrial pioneer, and from the 1880s on until the present, American per capita income has been the highest in the world. Specifically, in 1989, it was $18,300. In the same year, it was $3500 for Mexico and $5350 for Barbados. Again, in 1913, Argentina --- entirely a European-immigrant country (the only one in Latin America, due to the extermination of its native population) --- was one of the five richest countries in the world, with a per capita income in 1985 dollars of $2,370. Canada's was slightly larger, $3,515, Australia's 4,533, and the US's $4,846. By 1989, the figures were Argentina $4,080, Australia $13, 538, Canada $17,236, and the US $18,282. Yet even then, Argentina and Chile were the richest countries in Latin America, Chile slightly behind. (All these figures are from chapters 19 and 20 in David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, published 1998.)

How did this huge divergence occur over three centuries?

 

A Schematic First-Cut Answer:

To answer, recall what we said at the outset here: around 1900, the US had begun to supplant British financial and economic dominance in Latin America, by then 70 years or so in the making. It's a good jump-off point for a comparative response . . . political and economic, the two really inseparable.

In 1900, British capital and trade, to an extent technological transfer too, had been flowing into Latin America since the 1830s, not long after the collapse of Spanish power. For the most part, it helped the continent to undergo a huge spurt of rapid economic growth almost everywhere in the latter decades of the 19th century . . . but especially in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and even Peru. And yet, after 1900 --- and despite even larger flows of capital investment and trade and technological transfer from the US --- Latin American growth began to slow down after 1900 and then to fizzle in the Great Depression, with some off-and-on spurts still noticeable after WWII . . . especially in Brazil and Mexico. Argentina itself fell into the hands of a mock-populist semi-fascist rule of the Peronists, who made terms with the landed and financial oligarchs behind the scene while debauching the currency as his governments pretended to support the urban working classes, especially the urbanized ones --- everywhere, by the way in Latin America, a small privileged group compared to the peasantry and the non-unionized workers.

Why did Latin America not sustain its fast-paced economic development of the late 19th century? In a word, because Latin American elites in all these countries were incapable of overhauling the heavy institutional and cultural burdens of almost 4 centuries of Hispanic rule --- and not just incapable of such changes, but heavily resistant to them . . . with modern capitalist industrialization of the US sort a clear threat to their wealth, social status, and political power.

 

More specifically, Consider the Reasons Why These Contrasts Happened, and in Clear Comparative Ways:

1. Property Ownership and Oligarchy: Distorted Capitalism vs. Transformational Capitalism

Narrow elitism and marked forms of oligarchic property ownership were rife throughout the Continent and in Central America and Mexico. The origins of this heavily lopsided distribution of property --- plantations in much of the Continent, giant ranching dominated by a few landowners in Mexico and Argentina --- extend back centuries to the kinds of people who conquered the native populations and grabbed the land and the mining wealth: bold and brutal militarists, Conquistadors, plus some clerics and soon a small cadre of administrators, who then either enslaved the large Indian populations or killed them off, especially in Argentina, parts of Uruguay, and Chile.

By contrast, the original settlers in the American colonies --- starting in the early 17th century and on into the late decades of the 19th century --- came as farming families and educated craftsmen and merchants. Land was abundant, and the original pattern of land ownership quickly institutionalized: small homestead farming, oriented soon toward the market when towns and small cities began to develop. This was true even in the South, where slave-owning plantations quickly implanted themselves too --- roughly the equivalent of the Latin American pattern, leaving the southern states industrially and commercially backward, also in education, once the slave system was destroyed in the civil war . . . a backwardness that would last right through WWII, since which time the south has undergone a remarkable industrialization and educational boom almost without relent. Nor was that all. Thanks to the Louisiana purchase and then the war with Mexico, almost all the land West of the Alleghenies and initially through the Ohio valley in the Midwest, was in the hands of the US government --- not narrow landed oligarchs --- and anyone willing to homestead could get 640 acres . . . a huge estate by European standards.

 

2. The consequences for political and economic life in North and South America were soon revealed, reinforced by different cultural heritages:

Hierarchical and Catholic Hispanic prevailed on one side --- Spain itself in the throes of the Inquisition, including the extermination in the 1520s and 1530s of all Protestantism, and then the witch-hunting in Spanish and Portuguese intellectual life for the next 3 centuries reinforced by the Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation;

On the other side there prevailed British rule-of-law and parliamentarianism everywhere in the 13 colonies --- both traditions than given the unique US constitutional twist of federalism and a separation of powers at the center --- plus, even in colonial times, a steady encouragement of schooling and literacy, Protestants having an obligation to read and study the bible and, thanks to the Calvinist ethos that spread rapidly, to save, invest, and get ahead economically in life. If anything, economic success --- as Max Weber among others noted in his The Protestant Ethos and the Spirit of Capitalism (around 1900) --- in that outlook was a sign of moral superiority, a strain powerful in American life that goes back to the Puritan colonists in the 17th century and their forbears in France, Belgium and Holland, and England where the 16th century Calvinists fled to after being driven out of France or exterminated there in the blood-splattered religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.

 

3. The contrasting cultural systems had further divergent consequences for political and economic development.

In Latin America, the original political systems persisted for centuries, even when ostensibly democratic after the end of Spanish rule in the 1820s --- that end, in effect, though described as a revolution, little more than the reality of a breakdown of rule that left a vacuum soon filled by macho warlords . . . Caudillos, There was no popular revolutionary struggle anywhere, and none that helped solidify a widespread sense of national identity forged through mass prolonged fighting with the Spaniards. The result? The onset of democracy from the 1840s on into the 20th century was marked by systems of narrow oligarchic politics, the parties dominated by landowners and financial interests in the urban areas (usually working closely with the British), and thoroughly corrupt, nepotistic, and clientele-like in nature, with Chile and Uruguay slight exceptions, not marked ones. Thanks to such clientelism, economic, social, and political advancement in Latin America for hundreds of years continued and still does in most countries to be characterized by family contacts and who you know --- mutual crony services, hierarchically structured --- rather than by education, hard work, and accomplishment.

By contrast, the American colonies underwent a prolonged and mass-based revolutionary struggle against British rule from 1776 until 1782, which also included civil wars between revolutionaries and loyalties . . . the latter fleeing to Canada or returning to Britain in vast numbers. Reinforced by widespread property ownership (except among slaves, about 10% of the 4 million Americans when the Constitution was adopted in 1789) and by mass literacy and a sense of heavily shared national identity, the new country could build on a long heritage of a rule of law, independent courts, parliamentarianism, and rule by consent. The main struggle was how far the vote could be extended to poor people, who had property but lived on largely subsistence farming or as low-paid workers in the towns or emerging cities; by the 1830s, all the same, universal male suffrage among the white population, still about 90% of all men, was essentially established.

The exception here, the emancipated South, resembled Latin America: the black minority was essentially disenfranchised and kept under tight control by racism and social exclusion, official segregation, and the fear of white retaliation, something similar in nature to the serf-like conditions of the Indian populations (and freed African slaves in Brazil and elsewhere after the 1870s and 1880s) found everywhere south of the Rio Grande right through Latin America, with the partial exception of Argentina . . . where the Indian population had been exterminated. The situation for black Americans began to improve only with the huge exodus to northern cities in WWI and again WWII, then the civil rights movement.

Today, as a result, hundreds of American towns and cities are led by black mayors, the police departments are in large number headed by blacks too, black enrollment in US universities exceeds enrollment in several West European countries for all its citizens, and the per capita income of black Americans, roughly 60% of the white, is higher than that of Swedes. Note, to explain the last point, that almost all the big difference here between white and black income is due to the rapid decline in black two-parent families. Where such families exist in the African-American population, as they do among about 40%, black income turns out to be virtually identical to the white; and outside the south was actually higher than the white in the late 1980s (I've seen no figures since). The same, I add, is true of Hispanics and African Americans when you control in statistical studies for IQ: those who have an IQ of 125, roughly the level needed to get into elite universities, income is virtually the same too, the differences that exist, not marked, due to far more whites and Asians in the sciences and engineering and other math-based disciplines. (Black wealth-holding, however, continues to lag behind the white average.)

 

4. A Related Cultural Twist

CAPITALISM AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE USA

To grasp the contrast with Latin America, consider that the first three centuries of US development, even in the south except for the slave-plantations, was marked by a society of smallholder family-farms, and --- owing to a scarcity of labor that last well into the 20th century --- relatively well-paid workers. From the start, then, capitalism of the British sort --- minus the landed aristocracy except again in the plantation areas of the south --- was widely embraced and generally unchallenged . . . with neither reactionary conservatism of the European Continental sort that would eventually degenerate into fascism in the 20th century nor Marxist Socialism, let alone Communism, as mass movements on the left. On the contrary, relative property ownership and high wages tended to engender a sense of self-esteem and equality and individualism as well as a penchant for inventiveness --- which incited, as Landes has noted in the Wealth and Poverty of Nations (p. 297), "technical self-sufficiency" on family farms and the "handyman, fix-it mentality" that flourished in workshops everywhere. "Every farm had its workshop and anvil, its gadgets and cunning improvements. Ingenuity brought not only comfort and income but also status and prestige. Good workers were the envy of their neighbors, the heroes of the community. Meanwhile high wages enhanced the incentive to substitute capital for labor, machines for men." In the upshot, remember, though the British pioneered the industrial revolution from the 1770s on, by the 1820s US manufacturing had already eclipsed it in productivity levels.

The lack of political challenges to industrial capitalism --- on the right after the destruction of the slave-holding South in the civil war --- still leaves you wondering what happened to the attractions of socialism, where even a moderate form developed as the Labour Party after 1900 in Britain.

*Well, high-wages were one reason.

*Another was extensive mobility, geographical and social, which offset the socialist appeal that claimed the working classes could only advance collectively, through socialism and capturing the state.

*As a third influence, the American urban working classes were remarkably fragmented ethnically and racially compared to their counterparts in almost all of West Europe: hence a common class consciousness was blunted by the ways in which Irish, Italian, Polish, Czech, African-American, Ukranian, Chinese, Hispanic, Jewish, and Russian communities congregated together in distinct ethnic neighborhoods, where workers, lower middle class, and middle classes lived side-by-side for decades. (The Scandinavians and the Japanese tended to go directly into farming.)

*And finally, unlike on the Continent of Europe, universal male suffrage was essentially a given in the US for white males, whereas in Europe democracy and the vote came decades later. More to the point, the struggle for democratic citizenship, legal rights for unions, and Marxist socialism were jumbled together in time and by leadership of the working class movements on the Continent . . . something that would exist until the split between Communists and Social Democrats after the Russian Revolution.

 

THE LATIN AMERICAN CONTRAST

In Latin America, capitalism when it came was heavily distorted from the outset . . . first among the rich and powerful and later their prosperous middle class allies, mainly congeries (varying with the geography) of plantation owners, estancieros, racheros, fianancial magnates, professionals, government officials, and boutique trade --- all dominated at the top for decades by the traditions of macho warlordism (caudillismo) that prevailed in every country with the exception of Argentina and Chile and Uruguay in the latter 19th century. There, however truncated and oligarchic, constitutionalism did take root. Otherwise, politics from the Rio Grande south was a dreary story well into the 20th century (essentially the 1980s in most countries) of "conspiracies, cabals, coups, and countercoups", marked by corruption, nepotism, and clientelism. They inspired legacies of bad government, insecurity, and arbitrariness. Societies were riven by marked class and ethnic cleavages. At the bottom of the social hierarchy in 19th century Latin America, the mass majority of Latin Americans, were mixtures of downtrodden Indians, mestizos, semi-serfs working plantations, former African slaves, and drifters . . . mostly illiterate until recently, and largely discriminated against by the rich, the powerful, officialdom, the well-to-do urban professionals and officials and store-merchants, as well as by the privileged urban unionized workers.

Later, early in the 20th century, Mexico underwent a prolonged and bloody revolution, followed by two decades of instability and infighting among the victors, until the late 1930s. During WWII, a new form of political government originated elsewhere: populist demagogy, with Peron's Argentina setting the pace in the 1940s. Other populists emerged elsewhere in the three decades that followed. Wherever they governed, they would offer certain rewards to the growing and feared unionized working classes in the urban centers, themselves a small privileged group compared to the rest of the urban masses, let alone the rapidly growing numbers of poor peasants in the countryside . . . the latter's ranks thinned out only by massive movement to the cities, where slums proliferated along the edges of the sprawling urban belts.

Otherwise, the populist phases of the 1940s - 1980 or so did nothing to relieve the economic and social backwardness of the countries where they took root, ruining in the process the stability of their currencies through fiscal profligacy and monetary mismanagement. At some point, the inevitable inflationary surges --- whether three or four digit annually --- would lead to military coups that sought to end the inflation and discipline unruly urban demonstrators.

The prolonged and bloody Mexican revolution that started just before WWI --- a genuine bottom-up struggle, similar to the American revolution plus the US civil war --- was the first sign that the masses of Latin Americans at least in that potentially rich country were no longer content to be governed that way, and the victorious Institutionalized Revolutionary Party that consolidated its hold on power by the late 1930s promised both equal citizenship and more opportunity and equality in landholding and wealth. Only the first promise was ever kept. The PRI soon degenerated into a typical engine of new oligarchic control, manipulating elections and creating a vast network of patronage and clientelism that co-opted practically every powerful group in Mexican life, even as landholding was again concentrated, education remained a privilege of the well-to-do, and social services languished . . . something that didn't begin to change until the 1990s, with Mexico's new opening to industrial capitalism, NAFTA, and globalization.

 

The Outcome of This Long Latin American History?

Throughout Latin America civil society in the US or British or Dutch or Scandinavian or Swiss sense languished. Mistrust and mutual fear were rife; politics was either dominated by the most powerful and violent save in Chile and Uruguay (Argentina succumbing by the late 1930s to fascist-like corporatism as a disguise for managing the urban working class, and then Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay taken over by militaries in the 1970s as urban warfare with Marxist-inspired radicals erupted); and property ownership remained heavily skewed, a pattern reinforced by lopsided educational inequality and illiteracy.

Then, too, there was the intellectual heritage of Hispanic Catholicism --- countered by a militant anti-clericalism by the late 19th century, which was a common Latin European movement transplanted in blunted form to Latin America itself --- both of which added to the institutional and cultural problems of developing an effective form of capitalist development until after WWII: on one side, a narrow, rigid clergy that began to change only after WWII in the lower ranks, where a kind of grass-rooted populist-Marxist sentiment would grow that was opposed by the hierarchy everywhere; and on the other an anti-clerical tradition that drew on the European heritage of Marxism, syndicalist anarchism (a Spanish specialty), and populist fascism. Both have proved inimical to what North America came to accept as a given: liberal capitalism as a way to prosperity, moderate democratic politics, the belief in compromise as a virtue, and a rich civil society.

Something to note: It usually surprises students to link populist fascism with Marxism and revolutionary syndicalism: all three flourished in Latin Europe, fed by anti-clericalism and revolutionary faith; and all the initial founders and leaders of the Italian Fascist party, the first in the world, created in WWI and seizing power in 1922, were former Socialist intellectuals, Mussolini included. All nurtured a hatred of capitalism and bourgeois liberalism and what Latin intellectuals and political activists on the left and right saw as a narrow and corrupt political system of haggling among small-minded petty bourgeois types, who in turn served the interests of the financial, industrial, and landowning oligarchs. All believed in direct action and the myths of revolutionary justice. All eulogized violence, though the more moderate Social Democrats --- influential only in France after WWI until after WWII --- tried to distance themselves from Communists and other Marxist revolutionaries; again, interestingly, almost many of the leaders of the various French fascist and reactionary parties were former Marxists or socialists, the big exception being the Action Francaise group, rooted in nostalgia for a monarchical Catholicism.)

 

5. Yet Another Cultural Contrast: Trust vs. Mistrust

In Latin America, going back to the Conquistadors, cynicism, mistrust, and even fear have fractured Latin societies --- across family lines, class lines, and ethnic-racial cleavages . . . attitudes that, reflected in dozens of different ways, have reinforced the lack of a full sense of shared national identity and citizenship (though fortunately in much of the Continent that has been changing the last two or three decades in many countries, something I'll return to). The impact of a Hispanic heritage has been no less injurious in intellectual development compared to North America. Specifically, the combination of the Inquisition for centuries, oligarchy, the Counter-reformation, the exclusion of Protestant immigration (save in parts of Brazil in the south, and to an extent in Uruguay and Argentina in the latter part of the 19th century), and a dysfunctional educational system have severely retarded Latin scientific, mathematical, and technological progress compared to Canada and the US.

Few countries can even boast today of a majority population with high school level education (the Mexican government commitment here, adopted in the early 1990s, has never been fulfilled, for instance), and despite some pockets of excellence, Latin American universities don't compare with those in Europe, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, or North America. Essentially, the intellectuals around the Continent in the 19th and early 20th century aped French philosophy and sociology (Comte above all), and did little else for development --- economic or political --- of their countries. And though, starting with the Mexican revolution before WWI, there has been an impressive burst of artistic, architectural, and literary life all over Latin America --- far more impressive than in Spain or Portugal themselves --- none of that has helped political life or economic development either.

By contrast, the self-sufficiency, spirit of individualism, and self-confidence of American farmers and workers from the outset easily nurtured --- along with a sense of common national identity forged by British law and parliamentarianism and then almost a decade of revolutionary struggle, to say nothing of a Protestant stress on literacy --- a remarkable ability all the same at creating a rich civic society based on voluntary associations and widespread cooperation across class, regional, and ethnic lines (even, interestingly, among blacks in the North and then in the difficult decades after the civil war in the South too, where vibrant black churches and businesses and volunteer groups of all sorts existed). A widespread sense of national identity and shared citizenship --- in which most first or second generation immigrants could share --- reinforced these tendencies. All of which were noted by Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited the US in the 1830s. Everywhere, he marveled at the wide radius of trust and spontaneous cooperation in American life at the grass roots and in cities, seeing it as the major counterweight to what he feared would be the excesses of both equality and individualism here.

 

6. Different Attitudes and Roles for Women

Only one civilization, liberal democratic capitalism, has actively promoted citizen and other civic rights for women, reinforced by consistent efforts since WWI at freeing them from traditional limits on property-holding, education, careers, and sexual mores. Essentially, these efforts began in the md-19th century and took decades to bear fruit. Islam remains at the other extreme, and Latin America has been somewhere in between. But note. Since roughly the 1980s, when a new democratic wave --- this time more institutionalized --- occurred in Latin America, the legal obstacles that held back women in Latin America on all these scores have generally drawn much closer to North America. What remains is the cultural gap. Latin machismo --- including huge double-standards in sexual behavior and rampant discrimination against women in most of the professions --- remains a big obstacle. Cultural beliefs and values don't change easily. If they did, they wouldn't qualify as cultural components, for culture is what we inherit from the past, transmitted over the generations by family and other socialization agencies.

Still, cultures do change, and conceivably the handicaps that held back Latin American development owing to widespread discrimination against half of humankind will eventually be brought into line with legal codes. Predictably, when they do, the more advanced countries in Latin America will look much more like Canada and especially the US.

 

THE RESULT OF ALL THESE DIFFERENCES?

Essentially this. By the early 1980s --- a watershed as we'll soon see in Latin American life --- US per capita income, as we've noted, was about 6 times higher than south of the Rio Grande, and it has led the rest of the world since 1880. (For that matter, the EU average per capita income in 2001 had fallen back to its 1965 level, roughly 65 - 70% of the US's.) Simultaneously, the US has been the technological pace-setter in innovation and entrepreneurship in the world, and had been that for 100 150 years, something it would intensify in the 1990s, the pace-setter in developing an information-based knowledge economy. And generally, the US has been an unusually successful democracy, the oldest constitutional one in the world, ranking right behind Britain in low levels of corruption as brought out in comparative studies. Only Chile, among Latin American countries, does fairly well on this latter score. Even Argentina, one of the five richest countries in the world in 1900 --- its per capita income higher than France's in 1929 --- struggled along in 1980 at one-fourth the French level, and it was still one of the two richest countries on the continent.

Then too, something else that rankles with Argentineans and Brazilians above all --- their elites always seeing a destiny for their countries to be great powers at least regionally --- the US has been, along with Britain, the other great liberal democratic country, the most successful great power in the last two centuries.

The End of Part I