Tag Archives: Economics

How a small, poor country became the top economy in Latin America

One way to learn about whether specific economic policies work or not is to look at different countries that have tried them. Believe it or not, patterns do emerge about what works and what doesn’t work, as you look across different times and places. I’ve been reading a book called “Money, Greed and God” with my friend Carla, which talks about what has worked to reduce poverty.

The author basically outlined two approaches. In the first approach, the government 1) confiscates the wealth of the most productive workers, 2) nationalizes (takes control of) the businesses of the most successful entrepreneurs, 3) restricts trading between citizens and with other countries, with minimum wage, price controls and tariffs. In the second approach, the government does the opposite: 1) lowers taxes on the most productive workers, and 2) lets entrepreneurs compete to provide goods and services to consumers, and 3) lowers restrictions on internal trading and trading with other countries, e.g. – eliminating minimum wage, tariffs and price controls.

Let’s take a look at two Latin American countries that went in opposite directions. Venezuela and Chile. Then we can finally find out which policies actually achieve results for the people.

Here is how Chile started out in 1973.

PROBLEM: Price controls and tariffs:

Prices for the majority of basic goods were fixed by the government in 1973. Even though Chile was and still is a small economy, the level of protection­ism was high. By the end of 1973, the nominal average tariff for imports was 105 percent, with a maximum of 750 percent. Non-tariff barriers also impeded the import of more than 3,000 out of 5,125 registered goods. Just as economic theory predicts, large queues in front of stores were usual in Santiago and other cities in Chile as a result of the scarcity caused by price controls.

PROBLEM: Government taking over private businesses:

The decline in GDP during 1973 reflected a shrinking productive sector in which the main assets were gradually falling under government control or ownership through expropriations and other government interventions in the economy.

PROBLEM: Deficit spending and government printing money:

The fiscal situation was chaotic. The deficit reached 55 percent of expenditures and 20 percent of GDP and was the main cause of inflation because the Central Bank was issuing money to finance the government deficit.

SOLUTION: lower or eliminate restrictions on trade:

The most important economic reform in Chile was to open trade, primarily through a flat, low tar­iff on imports. Much of the credit for Chilean eco­nomic reforms in the following 30 years should be given to the decision to open our economy to the rest of the world. The strength of Chilean firms, productive sectors, and institutions grew up thanks to that fundamental change.

SOLUTION: let competing entrepreneurs in the private sector provide goods and services to consumers:

A second fundamental reform was to allow the private sector to recover, adding dynamism to the economy. In fact, important sectors such as elec­tricity generation and distribution and telecommu­nications were still managed by state companies. After we implemented a massive privatization plan that included more than 50,000 new direct share­holders and several million indirect (through pen­sion funds) shareholders, these companies were managed by private entrepreneurs that carried out important expansion plans.

SOLUTION: let people take responsibility for their own lives instead of depending on government:

The 1981 reform of the Chilean pension fund system deserves special mention. Under the leader­ship of Minister José Piñera, an individual capitali­zation account program was designed with specific contributions, administered by private institutions selected by the workers. The Chilean Administra­doras de Fondos de Pension (Pension Fund Administrators or AFP) has been replicated in more than 20 countries, and more than 100 million workers in different parts of the world use these accounts to save for retirement.

SOLUTION: allow parents to choose the school that fits their needs from competing education providers, and push school administration down from the federal government to the municipal level, where it would be more responsive to voter’s needs:

In 1981, Chile introduced a universal educational voucher system for students in both its elementary and secondary schools. At the same time, the central government transferred the administration of public schools to municipal governments…  The financial value of the voucher did not depend on family income.

RESULTS: And I was able to find a nice short, description of how all that worked out for them on the far-left Wikipedia, of all places:

The economy of Chile is a high-income economy as ranked by the World Bank, and is considered one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations, leading Latin American nations in competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption.

In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America. In May 2010 Chile became the first South American country to join the OECD. Tax revenues, all together 20.2% of GDP in 2013, were the second lowest among the 34 OECD countries, and the lowest in 2010. In 2017, only 0.7% of the population lived on less than US$1.90 a day.

According to the Heritage Foundation, Chile is ranked as the 18th freest economy in the world. The World Bank ranked Chile as the 50th highest GDP per capita for 2018, just below Hungary and above Poland.

Now, you can contrast those results with Venezuela. I have been blogging about Venezuela for years on this blog, and documenting how they raised taxes, banned guns, nationalized private sector companies, raised tariffs, and increased regulations. They are now ranked JUST ABOVE NORTH KOREA for economic freedom – #179 out of 180 countries measured. Basically, they did the opposite of everything that Chile did – transferring power away from parents, workers, business owners, churches and municipal governments to the powerful centralized federal government.

Wikipedia explains how Hugo Chavez took over in 1999 and enacted a communist revolution.

More:

Since the Bolivarian Revolution half-dismantled its PDVSA oil giant corporation in 2002 by firing most of its 20,000-strong dissident professional human capital and imposed stringent currency controls in 2003 in an attempt to prevent capital flight, there has been a steady decline in oil production and exports. Further yet, price controls, expropriation of numerous farmlands and various industries, among other government authoritarian policies… have resulted in severe shortages in Venezuela and steep price rises of all common goods, including food, water, household products, spare parts, tools and medical supplies; forcing many manufacturers to either cut production or close down, with many ultimately abandoning the country as has been the case with several technological firms and most automobile makers.

They confiscated private property, took over private sector businesses, implemented tariffs and price controls, redistributed wealth via massive welfare programs, and pushed all decision-making out of families and municipal governments up to the federal government. By depriving the producers of their earnings, the country caused massive shortages of goods and services, to the point where people are fleeing the country, consuming zoo animals, and selling their bodies as prostitutes in order to get food and water.

Application

In the next election, we are not picking a tribe because of how they make us feel about ourselves. We are not choosing in order to see ourselves as “nice” and “not nice”. We need to look at specific policies being proposed, and see what works and what doesn’t work. The examples of Chile (rags-to-riches) and Venezuela (riches-to-rags) are helpful for voters who want to get RESULTS instead of FEELINGS.

I’ll leave you with a list of links from previous posts so you can see how communism worked out for Venezuela.

Related posts

Are feminists right to think that gender-neutral marriage makes women happier?

Male And Female Happiness After Feminism And Socialism
Male and female happiness throughout America’s adoption of radical feminism

I was reading this article by a feminist fiction writer on Vox, where she explains that although feminists have gotten what they wanted (careers, contraceptives, promiscuity, abortion, no-fault-divorce, daycare, etc. it hasn’t made them happier. So, what does this feminist fiction writer think would make feminists happier?

She gives two reasons why women women are still unhappy after feminism has been adopted by our society:

  • men don’t do enough housework
  • women are not as successful as men because they are discriminated against, the so-called “glass ceiling”

I think those complaints are pretty popular among feminists. Let’s take a look at some studies to see if her opinions are supported by peer-reviewed studies.

First study:

COUPLES who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a study has found.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

Second study:

Researchers at the University of Illinois examined data on nearly 1,500 men and 1,800 women, aged between 52 and 60. Their well-being was evaluated through surveys.

The researchers first found that men’s well-being decreased once they had exited the workforce to become home-makers.

Meanwhile, the inverse was not so for women: Women’s psychological well-being was not affected by leaving their jobs to become stay-at-home mothers.

Third study:

A study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year, surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car. It wasn’t just the frequency that was affected, either — at least for the wives. The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.

Regarding the pay gap, that is entirely caused by women’s own choices. E.g. – the choice to study creative writing instead of petroleum engineering, the choice to work 35 hour weeks instead of 70 hour weeks, etc.

Fourth study:  (summarized by AEI economist)

When the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] reports that women working full-time in 2018 earned 81.4% of what men earned working full-time, that is very much different from saying that women earned 81.4% of what men earned for doing exactly the same work while working the exact same number of hours in the same occupation, with exactly the same educational background and exactly the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience, and with exactly the same marital and family (e.g., number of children) status. As shown above, once we start controlling individually for the many relevant factors that affect earnings, e.g., hours worked, age, marital status, and having children, most of the raw earnings differential disappears.

Fifth study:

This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.

I think that women are entitled to make their own decisions, but they aren’t allowed to force the rest of us to subsidize their failures and celebrate their destructive outcomes.

I could go on, but I think enough has been said to show that research is very much at odds with feminist rhetoric. They feel they know what will make them happy and we gave them everything they asked for. They eliminated shaming of promiscuity with sex education. They get preferential treatment in the schools in a female-dominated education system. They are hired because of affirmative action quotas. They get expensive daycare, government schools, welfare and other programs. Taxes are raised to equalize outcomes for divorced women who choose men for feelings, and then nuke their own marriage enterprise. We have been on a long experiment of giving feminists everything they felt they wanted, at the expense of men’s rights and children’s rights, and it hasn’t even produced the results that feminists felt it would.

The social costs of feelings-based decision-making

Let’s look at two examples of policies that feminists asked for in the past, which didn’t work out the way they wanted.

I can understand why feminists would introduce sex education. They felt that “if everyone is having sex, then I won’t be the only one chasing attention from hot no-commitment bad boys by giving them recreational sex before marriage”.  They wanted to eliminate the standards of chastity and marriage-focused dating and normalize fun-focused drunken promiscuity. And they got that. But since they didn’t consult any research and evidence about how that would affect their future marriage stability and marriage happiness, they are even more unhappy than before.

How about no-fault divorce? No-fault divorce was brought in by a coalition of feminists, Marxists and trial lawyers. The Marxists want to destroy the family in order to increase dependence on the state. The trial lawyers wanted to make money. And the feminists thought that the standard approach to courting and marriage was just too much work. They didn’t want to be chaste. They didn’t want to be sober. They didn’t want to evaluate a man for traditional husband and father roles. The no-fault divorce laws gave them an escape from the messes caused by their own feelings-driven choices. But divorce just makes makes men and women much poorer, and passes the costs of supporting single mothers onto taxpayers.

And the costs of the failures of feminism are passed onto taxpayers.

Consider this study:

This paper examines the growth of government during this century as a result of giving women the right to vote. Using cross-sectional time-series data for 1870–1940, we examine state government expenditures and revenue as well as voting by U.S. House and Senate state delegations and the passage of a wide range of different state laws. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns for federal representatives, and these effects continued growing over time as more women took advantage of the franchise. Contrary to many recent suggestions, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s, and it helps explain why American government started growing when it did.

We are already $28 trillion in debt, partly because of feminism’s replacement of husbands and families with higher taxes and big government. Every time we transfer money from tax-paying men to feminists to fix their mistakes, it leaves less money in the hands of the men who actually want to get married. The declining value of marriage after feminism for men explains why marriage is being delayed, and why marriage rates are plunging.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on basic economics

Here is a podcast on basic economics from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse.

About the speaker:

Dr. Morse is the founder of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization focused on keeping the family together, protecting the rights of children and helping the millions of people who have been harmed by family breakdown.

She has authored or co-authored four books and spoken around the globe on marriage, family and human sexuality. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Polish. Her newest book is The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims.

She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and taught economics at Yale and George Mason Universities.

A bit more about her economics credentials: Dr. Morse served as a Research Fellow for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 1997-2005. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Rochester in 1980 and spent a postdoctoral year at the University of Chicago during 1979-80. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years.

The MP3 file is here. (49 minutes)

Topics:

  • The study of economics is anti-postmodern – there is objective truth independent of what people think
  • The study of economics believes in fixed principles of human nature
  • Economics studies the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses
  • Economics studies how people exchange resources
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade always believe that they will be better off
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade both benefit from the exchange
  • How incentives motivate people to act
  • Understanding supply and demand
  • Understanding how “free” government services are rationed
  • Understanding opportunity costs
  • How prices signal producers to produce more or less, and consumers to buy or not buy
  • Market-driven prices versus price controls
  • The role of substitution
  • The necessity of allowing failure in a free market

The requirements of economic growth:

  • private property
  • contracts
  • the profit motive
  • competition
  • free trade
  • entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation
  • the rule of law

If you want to learn more about basic economics, I recommend picking up a book or two by Thomas Sowell – the first book I usually give away is “Intellectuals and Society”, and then next “Basic Economics”. You can find a good list of books on the website of The Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.

I think it’s important for Christians to understand basic economics, because so much of the impact we have depends not only on our personal finances, but on our ability to promote economics policies that will affect our personal finances. For example, whether you have a job or not depends on economic policy. Whether you can get food and other required resources depends on economic policy. Often, big-government regimes with poor economic policies (e.g. – North Korea) will make it impossible for you to have other liberties, like religious freedom.

Just think about how hard it would be for you to pursue a Christian life plan in a place like Venezuela, where your priorities would not be apologetics, but just finding food and avoiding death and theft at the hands of criminals.

Imagine it was you lost your job or couldn’t find work due to bad economic policy. Think of how that would affect your ability to even drive to church on Sundays, or purchase a Bible, much less being able to organize an apologetics event at the university and pay for a speaker to fly in and stay in a hotel. Economics is important for Christians to understand, because so much of our influence and effectiveness depends on it.