Tag Archives: Tariffs

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

South America Map
South America Map

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

How a small third world country became the top economy in Latin America

South America Map
South America Map

So, I’ve been watching the Democrat debates, and I’ve noticed that all of their candidates are proposing economic policies that they say will improve the lives of Americans. But have the candidates ever been able to try out these policies, and proven that they work? One way to evaluate policies is to look at other countries that have tried them, to see if those policies are proven to work.

I’ve been reading a book called “Money, Greed and God” with my friend Carla, which talks about what does and does not work to alleviate 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

 

Who pays the cost of raising taxes on imported goods?

The Heritage Foundation explains the consequences of tariffs for all the groups who are affected.

Excerpt:

“Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires,” asserted President Obama in his State of the Union Address. President Obama referred to steep tariffs that his Administration imposed on tires imported from China.Not everyone sees it that way. According to the Tire Industry Association (TIA):

TIA believes this was a politically motivated decision that will end up costing more jobs than it saves. These tariffs will not bring back the jobs that the union claims have been lost; it will not create any new tire manufacturing jobs, and it will most likely result in the loss of thousands of retail tire industry jobs here in the U.S., affecting everyone from the shop that services your tire to the tire wholesalers—many of whom are small businesspeople struggling to stay afloat in this economy. This, all during a time when we can ill afford to be losing more U.S. jobs.

The Association pointed out that there is more at stake than dollars and cents:

This tariff will price these tires out of reach of many consumers, and will lead to a tightening in the remaining supply of lower-cost tires. Also, given that the lower-cost tires imported from China help those most vulnerable in this current economy—working-class citizens—we are deeply concerned that many consumers may delay or even defer replacing their tires when necessary, thus creating a potential safety hazard on America’s roads.

When you put a tax of lower-priced goods, the people who are hurt the most are working class workers. During a recession, people have even less money to spend and they need to be able to have the option of buying cheaper foreign goods. Tariffs take away that option, and force families to pay higher prices for the things they need.

FARC terrorist leader Alfonso Cano killed by Colombian armed forces

Map of South America
Map of South America

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

The armed forces of Colombia have scored a major battlefield victory. They finally hunted down, confronted, and killed the leader of the narco-terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Guillermo Leon Saenz, widely known by his alias Alfonso Cano.

A guerrilla for decades, Cano assumed the top leadership of the FARC following the natural death of founder Manuel Marulanda (2008) and the elimination of senior figures Raul Reyes (2008) and Jorge Briceno (aka Mono Jojoy, 2010).

Seen by some as a modern-day version of the “good revolutionary,” Cano—a life-long advocate of armed violence and terrorism—fell in combat with the Colombian armed forces as they rappelled their way into his secret jungle hideout. Cano was also indicted in a U.S. court for drug trafficking along with dozens of other FARC leaders and had a $5 million price on his head.

FARC is a Marxist terrorist group.

The Economist reports that the Colombian economy is also doing well.

Excerpt:

WHEN the figures are finally tallied, Colombia may prove to have weathered the world recession better than any other of the larger Latin American countries. After a slight contraction at the end of 2008, the economy has been growing modestly this year. This resilience stems from continued foreign investment, an increase in government spending on public works and easier money: since December the central bank has cut interest rates by six percentage points, to 4%, a steeper drop than anywhere in the region outside Chile.

[…]President Álvaro Uribe’s security policies have helped to restore confidence. Investment soared, from 15% of GDP in 2002 to 26% last year, says Mr Zuluaga. Private business has retooled. After many delays, the government has issued licences to expand several ports; this month it hopes to award a contract for the first of four big road schemes, costing a total of $7.5 billion over four years. It hopes for investment of up to $50 billion in mining and oil over the next decade.

And liberal MSNBC has more on the booming Colombian economy.

Excerpt:

…Colombia’s revival is benefiting U.S. economic and political rivals as much as or more than the U.S. itself.

The long delay in signing the treaty allowed Latin America’s fourth-largest economy to strengthen ties with China. It also damaged U.S. credibility in the region, says Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas in Washington. “The delay in passing this called into question the United States’ reliability as a partner,” Farnsworth says. “There’s a strategic component to this. It’s not just about economics and trade.”

[…]As talks between the U.S. and Colombia dragged on, Colombia and China forged plans for a rail link between the Pacific and Caribbean that could draw freight away from the Panama Canal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos aims for a trade deal with South Korea. To tighten his connections to high-growth Asia, he’s also seeking membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. “While Washington was debating whether the accord with Colombia was opportune, we advanced in our foreign policy strategy,” says Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados.

Santos has cooperated more with his South American neighbors, organizing a meeting of finance ministers to discuss ways to protect their currencies and economies from the debt crisis in the U.S. and Europe. He supports a stock trading platform with Colombia, Chile, and Peru and wants to bring Mexico and Panama on board. Exports to Brazil have surged tenfold. While the U.S. remains Colombia’s biggest export market, with $16.8 billion in 2010 sales, up 30 percent from a year earlier, sales to China more than doubled last year, to $1.2 billion. Sales to the European Union are also rising, to $5.4 billion this year through August, more than in all of 2010. An EU trade accord could come next year.

The government has reduced cocaine cultivation 37 percent and halved the number of insurgents to about 8,000. Improved security has spurred enough growth to win an investment-grade credit rating from Standard & Poor’s as well as investment from billionaires. Colombia’s victories over the guerrillas opened up swathes of countryside to exploration for oil, gold, and coal. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s push into crude has helped fuel foreign investment that the government says may reach a record $12 billion this year. The economy grew 5.2 percent in the second quarter.

The U.S. faces more competition from Colombia’s neighbors and Canada. In 2010, U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia fell more than 50 percent from 2008, to $827 million, as Argentina’s more than doubled, to $1 billion, according to a report by Senator Richard Lugar’s staff. Diaz-Granados attributes the U.S. setback to the delay in the free-trade agreement.

An August accord reduces or ends Colombian tariffs on Canadian wheat, paper, and machinery. Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third-largest lender, agreed in October to buy 51 percent of Banco Colpatria Red Multibanca Colpatria for about $1 billion—Scotiabank’s largest international takeover. “This is not the Colombia of old,” says Brian J. Porter, group head of international banking for Scotiabank. “The more we looked at Colombia, the more excited we got about the economic potential.”

We really should have signed that trade deal 3 years ago – it would have helped out economy a lot.  But unions got Obama elected, and the unions decided that the trade deal needed to be held up for 3 years. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve had over 9% unemployment. Our economic policy is being set by unions, not by economists. But in Colombia, economic policy is set by economists, not unions.

House passes free trade deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

The biggest free-trade pacts since NAFTA were passed by the House Wednesday night, with the Senate likely to follow. As a result, America will reap 250,000 jobs and $13 billion in exports. Where are the celebrations?

The strangest aspect of the passage of free trade treaties with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, with final votes taken after five long years, is the disconnect between the big economic gains expected for the U.S., and the reticence of congressional Democrats and the White House, both of which finally got something right on the economy.

As we went to press, the pacts had been passed by the House, with the Senate expected to vote soon. With bipartisanship like that, lawmakers should be cheering loudly for a true “jobs bill” that costs nothing.

Yet as a Democratic aide told Roll Call on Wednesday, “Republicans don’t want to give the president a victory, Democrats are split and everyone is distracted.”

Excuse us, but this is some of the best economic news in three years. It deserves a victory dance.

It’s a fact these treaties will bring new orders for factories, save family farms, strengthen strategic alliances with countries well worth having as allies, and open up breathtaking new opportunities in fast-growing markets. It needs to be acknowledged.

[…]President Obama paid lip service to the treaties, but wasted nearly three years attaching protectionist amendments and dithering. It harmed the economy and never changed this fact: Free trade had to pass if there was to be a real recovery.

Economist Greg Mankiw of Harvard University lists free trade as the #2 top item that economists of all ideological stripes agree on. This is a no-brainer.

Passing the free trade deals is important because it would make up for other anti-business policies of the Obama administration.

Excerpt:

Obama appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have not only blocked Boeing from making planes in South Carolina, but they have greased the speed of union elections, made decertification votes impossible, changed the requirement that a majority of workers vote for a union, and required almost every workplace in America to put posters up advising workers of their unionization rights.

The Obama Administration claims to want to double exports and support free trade, but it took it nearly three years to send the pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to Congress. Which means that in all this time American companies have been paying higher tariffs for exports.

The Obama Administration has proposed 219 new rules affecting industries, each of which will cost at least $100 million to comply. While the Washington legal business is growing, every industry and business is affected, scared, and confused by the massive new proposals. Small businesses are especially overwhelmed and must hire lawyers to understand and comply with the massive amount of new regulation.

The Obama crown-jewel “achievements” of the new health care and Dodd-Frank financial laws adversely affect almost every American business, totaled almost 3,000 pages of statutory language, and will result in huge costs on employers.

Let’s hope the Senate passes these deals and Obama signs it. We need lower priced goods in a recession, and we need more markets to sell into. If this passes, it will be the first pro-growth action taken by the administration in three years.