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Pity Latin Americans (and Us Too)

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You can’t help but feel sorry for Latin Americans. They inevitably end up with either a right-wing
“capitalist” dictator or a left-wing socialist dictator. The right-wing dictator tends to favor conservative economic policies while, at the same time, using his military and intelligence goons to round up and incarcerate unpatriotic critics and socialists, torture them, and even execute or disappear them. The left-wing dictator tends to favor socialist economic policies, which bring nothing but chaos, crisis, impoverishment, economic misery, and even starvation to the citizenry, while oftentimes also engaging in things like indefinite detention, torture, and disappearances.

A good example of this phenomenon is what just happened in Brazil. After several years of suffering under the socialist regimes of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor Dima Rousseff, Brazilians now get to suffer under the regime of a right-wing dictator, Jair Bolsonaro, who has just been elected president. He’s a former Army captain who sings the praises of the military coup that ousted Brazil’s democratically elected left-wing government in the 1960s and installed a brutal military dictatorship in its stead. Like other right-wing military dictators, Bolsonaro endorses torture and a fierce “law-and-order” crackdown in the country.

To get a good sense of how Brazilian left-wingers are viewing what life will be like under a Bolsinaro presidency, read this article by the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald or watch this short video by Greenwald. To get a good sense of why Brazilian right-wingers are happy that Bolsonaro won the election, see this article published last week by The Foundation for Economic Education entitled “Why Bolsonaro Won Brazil’s Presidency in a Landslide” by Mauricio F. Bento, an analyst at Instituto Mercado Popular in Brazil.

On the other hand, we have people in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, who continue to suffer under brutal leftwing socialist dictatorships, regimes where people are on the verge of starvation because the government is determined to bring economic equality to society by using its tax-and-spend policies to equalize wealth.

Another good example of this left-wing versus right-wing conflict in Latin America involved Chile in the 1970s. The people of Chile democratically elected a leftwing socialist physician named Salvador Allende to be their president. Upon taking office, he immediately began implementing socialist economic policies, which, not surprisingly, threw the nation into economic chaos. It also didn’t help that the CIA was secretly contributing to the chaos in order to prepare the political ground for a military coup that would oust Allende from office and install a right-wing military dictator in his stead.

The U.S.-inspired coup occurred in 1973, when the national-security branch of the Chilean government initiated a military attack on the executive branch of the government. At the end of what turned out to be a very short war, Allende was dead, and his leftwing socialist regime was replaced by a right-wing military regime headed by an army general named Augusto Pinochet.

To this day, conservatives, both in Latin America and the United States, sing the praises of Pinochet because he brought conservative economic policies to Chile. At the same time, his national-security state goons rounded up and jailed 50,000-60,000 people, tortured most of them, raped and sexually abused many of them, and killed or disappeared some 3,000 of them. What had all these people done to deserve Pinochat’s wrath? They had committed the cardinal right-wing sin of believing in socialism.

While the left and the right in Latin America inevitably extol their respective regimes as bringing “freedom” to their country, nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, as least insofar as we libertarians are concerned. For us, a genuinely free society is one in which there is a genuine free-market economic system (i.e., not a  conservative economic system), in which civil liberties are protected, and in which there is a limited-government republic in place rather than a national-security state.

I would be remiss, however, if I failed to point out that this tragic situation in Latin America isn’t really any different from the right-wing, left-wing dichotomy under which we suffer here in the United States.

In the 2016 presidential election, we had the leader of the right wing, Donald Trump, versus the leader of left wing, Hillary Clinton. Whoop dee doo! What a fantastic choice for the American people! How is that choice any different, in principle, from the right-wing and left-wing choices that Latin Americans have?

While Americans right-wingers and left-wingers have convinced themselves that they stand for different philosophies, the truth is that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two of them. They both believe in socialism, as reflected by their joint devotion to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, foreign aid to dictators, and all other welfare-state programs. They both in government regulation, as reflected by their joint devotion to programs like the minimum wage and the drug war. They both believe in immigration central planning and an immigration police state. They both believe in a national security state and foreign meddling and interventionism, along with the mass surveillance, torture, coups, assassinations, and disappearances that come with them.

So, why do Republicans and Democrats spend so much time fighting with each other given that they both believe in the same statist philosophy? Control and money. Like the left-wing and the right-wing in Latin America, American right-wingers and left-wingers are fighting for the power and largess that come with the welfare-national-security-state way of life that exists in both Latin America and the United States.

Of course, there is but one solution to all this left-wing and right-wing statist morass. That solution is libertarianism. Unfortunately, despite their suffering, neither Latin Americans nor Americans are there yet.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.