Sunday 27 August 2006

Not the Wright stuff

The Book Festival is almost over and I'm looking forward to getting back to a more normal existence, but I'll miss the Festival (and all the others) when it's gone.

Yesterday we went to hear Amaranta Wright in what the programme promised would be:

A vivid and eye-opening new take on globalisation. Journalist Amaranta Wright was employed as an undercover researcher on Latin American youth for Levi's - but soon realised the full arrogance of corporate globalisation, always seeking to create new consumers, however inappropriately. A passionate and timely polemic.
A "new take" for most of the audience would be one that actually explained and praised globalisation - like these folk do.

But that's not what we got; far from it. Here's an extract from the Guardian's review of Wright's book:

Childhood was punctuated by Crouch End dinner parties, "stroking the long black silky hair of mysterious Amazons as they left bespectacled Anglo-intellectuals in awe of their passionate intelligence".
Oh boy!

The whole talk was like that. Ms Wright clearly had no idea about basic economics, nor, shockingly for someone born in Latin America, about the nature of that continent's political structure. She told us that a free market economy (inevitably described as "neo-liberal") had been imposed on Latin America by military dictatorships. How I wished that a real expert on the continent had shared the platform:

From a staunchly libertarian perspective, this sweeping analysis and history considers the fate of Latin American freedom and the cultural institutions needed to protect it. Llosa looks at the ancient Incans, Aztecs and Mayans and their authoritarian ways of doing things, and asks: Isn't it time to drop this?

In modern times the tragic irony deepens. Throughout Latin America, those who governed the republics liberated from colonizing countries, and the leaders of all the major reform movements since, have shared the same approach to governance as those colonizers. Even the alleged market reforms of the 90s were attempted without the more basic changes, including well-defined property rights, without which "privatization" could only be cosmetic and spurious, mere cover for further corruption.

What must be expunged are the "five principles of oppression" -- corporatism, state mercantilism, privilege, wealth transfer, and political law -- that keep "the people" and their actual rights out of the loop despite everything done in their name. Can this be done? Llosa says yes, telling the inspiring story of how capitalism and a certain conception of rights successfully emerged in the West, and offering proposals for reform that offer genuine hope.

The military cliques in Latin America never "imposed" a free market. Governments can only respect not impose freedom. Llosa's "five principle of oppression", not capitalism, are what politicians have given to Latin America.

Sadly, the audience lapped it all up. Except for one thing. A questioner asked Ms Wright about Chavez and Castro, you know, those leaders who don't like free speech. The speaker acknowledged that there was a problem: Mr Chavez had given a 4.5 hour speech when Ken Livingstone invited him to London!

Ms Wright ended by telling us about her new anti-globalisation magazine. It's going well apart from one small problem: large companies are reluctant to advertise in it! Oh the humanity. Curse that wicked globalisation.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Neil Craig
A century ago Latin America was one of the world's fast growing areas - the east asia of the time. Since then the US, operating through the aforementioned military cliques has pretty much owned the continent. The US treatment of its southern satelites does not compare favourably with that of the USSR. This may not be the sole cause of the area's poverty but it is surely one.

2 September 2006, 12:44:11 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

"The military cliques in Latin America never "imposed" a free market. Governments can only respect not impose freedom."  
u seem to know about Latin American history as much as Miss wright knows about basic economics

31 August 2006, 13:13:34 GMT+01:00