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December 18, 2010



Although I've not been to Brazil, I'm inclined to ascribe Brazil's social and economic difficulties to two additional factors: Catholicism and Racism. As everywhere it's entrenched, the Catholic Church siphons funds and effort that could be profitably used for collective betterment, while instilling superstition, fatalism, authoritarianism and self-defeating mores. For example, consider how the Vatican's proscription of contraceptives disenfranchise Latin American women by locking them into the role of Child Breeder, preventing many from pursuing professional careers and perpetuating poverty among their offspring. The ban is also doubtless responsible the AIDS epidemic decimating the flavelas, which also serves to perpetuate indolence, in this case by crippling or killing many of the robust young.

Brazil's endemic racism of course bars millions of Blacks, Indians and Pardos from full participation in society, again perpetuating poverty and stagnation.


What's the problem with positivism?

Americans tend to see as wrong any approach to development that differs from theirs. Since they're successful as a nation -- and still the most successful in spite of the current crisis -- they tend to think there's only one path to national progress: their own. I've seen so many American who are prone to lecture others -- and I'm not talking of particularly learned Americans -- about what kinds of reforms (social, political, fiscal, educational, you name it) a foreign nation ought to implement to cure whatever ailments it might suffer from. The fact, however, is that many countries, successful countries, have done things differently from what the US has preached. State bureaucracies to regulate private enterprises' activity figure prominently in Japan and South Korea. And let's not forget this: during the most successful period in Brazilian economic history (from the late 60s to 1980) state technocrats were even more powerful and more meddling than they are now. Late industrializion countries, like the ones of East Asia, have relied on government activism and central planning to lead them to development. And that includes China. By now, almost everyone in the world agrees that Chinese economy is more solid than the US's. Even Thomas Friedman, an open markets ideologue, thinks so; he is on record saying he wished US economics decision-making was as rational as China's. Perhaps departing a bit from its laissez-faire, anti-planning, let-the-Wall-Street-boys-do-all-for-themselves model would be of help.


@ Ian
I don't think Catholicism has a great influence on Brazilian people's lives anymore. Although it is the biggest catholic country, Brazilian people are not very strict catholics. If women and men don't take contraceptives or use condoms is because their lack of knowledge, not because the church said so. The church has some influence over the government for greater issues, such as abortion. But as for the racism part I agree with you.

The Gritty Poet

@ Rafael

"And let's not forget this: during the most successful period in Brazilian economic history (from the late 60s to 1980) state technocrats were even more powerful and more meddling than they are now"

One thing you did forget to mention is the hyperinflation which crippled Brazil for almost two decades and resulted from the policies those brilliant state technocrats implemented. I should also remind you that Brazilian products in general are not of good quality and that can be attributed to a domestic market shielded from overseas competition. Education also plays a part in this: it is faulty and if Brazil had an aproach which emphasized K12 and technical training our work force would be so much better, but once again our wise overlords from the bureaucracy opted for a system that instead pours billions into state funded "public" universities which cater to those who can actually afford to pay for an education. Genius.
Unfortunetaly the people in charge are the main beneficiaries of such perks and hence those most likely to lose in the short run if Brazil were to drop this terrible positivistic mindset and pursued a more do it yourself, market friendly path which is better suited to the overwhelming part of the Brazilian populace due to their entrepreneurial spirit.
It is very sad that these people and their efforts are held hostage by those intitled few who can´t even notice that in the long run change would benefit them as well. These are our state planning visionaries.
As for Mr. Gonnerman adding his two cents to this topic what exactly is the problem? If his views make sense why is his origin relevant? Gonnerman likes Brazil, but does this even matter? I disagree with the notion that a person has to be sympathetic to a country to offer advice. If it is good who cares?
I personally welcome Gonnerman's views, perhaps because my self esteem will not be shattered if a foreigner has intelligent insight regarding my country.
Yet maybe he should change his name to Adão Gonomen, if it so pleases the general public. If this helps get his points across so be it: they are worth considering.


It sounds like Adam is advocating swapping out a kleptocracy with socialist leaning tendencies for a government with more checks and balances that promotes deregulation of business, free market capitalism, the trimming of the welfare state and personal initiative. This sounds very much like something a conservative would suggest for America. Impressive!

First and foremost, I’d like to see the thievery of Brazil’s government end. We mustn’t forget that is the root of all of Brazil’s problems. That alone would be colossal. From there, it would be interesting to see how the country decides to manage its growth on its own terms. Another point to consider is that while abolition of the excesses of the welfare state sounds impressive for the United States, where many “poor” people own state of the art technology, and are out of work because they choose to leech off the government, Brazil faces the real challenge of moving forward while not totally abandoning all the TRULY down and out people its kleptocratic government has created. Finally, I think deregulation of trade and a loosening of immigration policies as Brazil booms could only help the country’s economy and job market grow faster.

Rio Gringa

@gritty poet I appreciate your attitude toward criticism! I guess I can sympathize with other Brazilians on this point though; it drives me nuts when people give opinions on things they have no facts about, whether it's a country or politics or scientific theories. One thing I've tried to do more as I get older is to shape a well-informed opinion before giving one. Adam is more than well-informed so I was happy to share this piece!


@ Rafael

"And let's not forget this: during the most successful period in Brazilian economic history (from the late 60s to 1980) state technocrats were even more powerful and more meddling than they are now"

Don't forget that that was a period of military dictatorship, when thousands of people were thrown in jail or dissappeared because they sought to express their own thoughts.
Brazil fought a long time for liberty to prevail over economic progress and is quickly slipping back into a police state.


Its the protestant church (particularly the Universal church and their public arm - Rede Record as well as the Assembly of God) that do what you are blaiming on the Catholics - tell people not to take birth control, condem the poor, encourage them to buy God's favor with large donations that end up in the pastors pocket, etc. etc.

A lot of the Catholic priests here are fairly liberal and have fought for decades on behalf of the poor. I attended an eccumenical meeting just this weekend and my Catholic priest spoke in a Macumba temple about the importance of respecting other religions.

Many Catholics here mix and match taking on spiritist viewpoints (either candomble, umbanda or cardicism) or mix it with budhism, methodism, etc. and the church is pretty tolerant. They've started health clinics in various neighborhood, included the poorer part of my own,and most of the "Catholic" volunteers preach birthcontrol, safe sex, family and financial planning, etc. They generally help syphen money from the richer parts to the poorer parts with a lot less corruption then the government.

Racism is a problem here, often masked as classism as classism is often masked as racism in the US, preventing a debate about the real issues at heart. Its a really tough problem to handle in a country where you can declare your child's race at birth as whatever you want. "Regionalism" where white people from the South are automitically assumed to be cultured and successful and people from the Northeast are often judge as dumb, dirty, poor and unable to stop breeding is an even bigger part of this that is difficult to unwind.

Carlos Almeyda

The americans giving hunch on issues about other countries is very funny. They only know their own country, nothing else.


The Gritty Poet

@ Nicole

I think you should try to find data concerning patterns in living standards of Evangelicals and Catholics of similar income level.
A while back, a few years ago actually, I read a paper which demonstrated via statistics that poor Evangelicals move up the economic latter faster than their Catholic counterparts. This ,according to the research, is due to lower birth rates among poor Evangelicals and harsh preaching against behavior such as alcohol abuse and divorce. These things, albeit present in society in general, produce consequences that are specially detrimental on those who have less and greatly hinder their children.
I tried to find the paper online but the author's name escapes me. I do remember first reading about her in Veja magazine many years ago.
Are you sure that Evangelicals preach against birth control? They seem to be much more open minded when it comes to condoms and the pill. Perhaps you are mixing that up with abortion which tends to be frowned upon by Catholics and Protestants alike.
By the way I am Roman Catholic, I am not writting this to endorse a specific denomination. It just seems to me that the data for the statement you made isn't out there.

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