Congo Watch: Castrate the rapists or do something to stop rape being used as a weapon of war

Friday, June 03, 2005

Castrate the rapists or do something to stop rape being used as a weapon of war

The following comments were received from Cynthia and an anonymous person in response to a recent post here at Congo Watch entitled Women take brunt of human rights abuse: Amnesty.

As the post also appeared at my other blog Uganda Watch, I have today cross-posted this at Uganda Watch. My reply to the comments took as long to write as a post, so I am using it as an entry for today's post here. Thanks to Cynthia and the anonymous poster. Much appreciated. Although, goodness knows what they or any other readers will think of my reply. I bashed it out quickly and posted it right away without a second thought, incase I talked myself out of publishing it.

Cynthia said...
I agree too that women should rule the world since men have made an utter mess of things. There is no way women can do worst...

6:23 AM
Anonymous said...
I am a man and am so sick of hearing how we should send billions of dollars to Africa to treat AIDS. Very simple: if someone rapes or molests a woman - castrate them! Women are under enormous pressure to have sex even by husbands, and when the husband carries aids from his girlfriend, of course women will be infected at higher rates. How does throwing more money at simple BAD BEHAVIOR change the problem????? Wake up people! I'm sick of paying for crap like this.

12:14 AM
Cynthia said...
You know Mr. Anonymous, I looked at the AIDS number, and they don't add up. African behavior is no worst than all the crap that Americans and Europeans do and they are not bombarded with these fictitious numbers that can’t even be verified. The Internet can attest to these facts. I, on the other hand, get so sick and tire of all the inappropriate moral outrage about things that are not even true. It's all propaganda.

6:31 AM
Ingrid said...
Hey anonymous: castrate them yay! In the olden days there used to be eunuchs. And I've read somewhere that Salt Peter used to be given to prisoners, sailors and troops to stop their "urges". What I am saying here is, now that such actions against men have ceased, what is the alternative within today's society?

I wish more men would speak up about rape like you have but I guess nothing will be sorted because it's not in mens' interest. Imagine if it were the men getting raped by men - no doubt things would get sorted quickly.

Cynthia, if you ever get time to look deeper into what you have just written, I would be interested in writing a post on it. There is so much propaganda around in other spheres, especially when it comes to Africa, I am not surprised it might be used with AIDS too.

It seems to me the sources of propaganda stem from those with a vested interest commercially - and activists - mainly from America. Every day I get steamed up reading American news reports especially when they are connected somehow to organisations that are based on the East Coast of America - to such an extent that I am actually trying to avoid reading American news now.

These days, whenever I read a piece by religious and/or political led organisations, Washington Post, NY Times, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and London-based Amnesty International, I start questioning the degree self interest and political motivation behind each story. UN and aid agencies add to the caucophony of outpourings of emotion in their quaterly fundraising drives.

Please understand, I am not suspecting these organisations of not having good intentions - what I am saying is if you follow the money you will find them on the trail and things get mighty blown out of proportion on the way, sort of like a Chinese Whisper, where everyone adds in their own two cents and interepretation along the way and it gets read as fact.

Much worse things - and the death toll is much greater - in Uganda and DR Congo than is currently happening in Darfur Sudan and yet the spotlight is still on Darfur and hardly alight on the world's worst/most neglected humanitarian crises in northern Uganda and DRC where for starters at least four million people have perished.

These days one has to be so careful talking about Arabs, Muslims, Jews and Africans for fear of being misinterpreted or accused of being racist - it is more trouble than it is worth. [So in a sense, it seeems to me they are suppressing freedom of speech] Frankly, I am starting to add Americans into that mix.

Within the blogosphere I've noticed over the past two years, most Americans take any sort of criticism of their blinkered and insular thinking as an afront to everything they stand for - like an attack on everything that is great and good about America - they get pretty aggressive about it and hold grudges. Sort of reminds me of the story of the Emperor and his clothes...

The point I am making here is there is so much political propaganda in the American media that Americans aren't even aware because they can't be told anything. Sorry, that's putting it bluntly but I have felt this way for the past year.

Another thing too is, this mushrooming of do-good agencies and chartitable organisations and PR companies issuing press releases to mainstream media has to be seen to be believed. I am starting to see people that probably wouldn't fit in elsewhere, starting on a issue, getting donations, and creating a little world for themselves that essentially lines their own pockets, puts food on their table. In some cases I see it as exploitation of people's emotions and misfortunes.

The other point I am making here is in answer to Anonymous: **how does throwing more money at simple bad behaviour change the problem?** It doesn't but it certainly lines a lot of peoples pockets on the journey to Africa. Humanitarian relief supplies and aid workers represent a multi billion dollar industry that nobody is really looking at. "So, what?" I ask myself - what does it matter, at least someone is providing relief to those who are most in need. My answer is, well yes, if it was true. Aid is not reaching those most in need. There is a great deal of super fantastic work being done - but there is a lot of incompetence too that causes wastage like money grows on trees. I get annoyed at the waste and easy come, easy go attitude with nobody questioning it. It's like they are unaccountable.

Right now for Darfur the UN World Food Programme is talking about using costly air drops of food because of lack of trucks and problems of insecurity related to the trucks.

This has now been going on a year. Who knows if the amount of money they'd spent on air drops last year could have been used to buy trucks accompanied by its own security minders. They used air drops last year because, and they admitted this themselves, they were too slow to react before the annual rainy season.

This year, after a whole year of warning and planning, they are using air drops again. China and Russia on the UN Security Council are blocking taking action against Sudan (because they have oil and arms interests in Sudan) and the genocidal regime in Khartoum is blocking African Union troops from being armed to protect civilians (because Khartoum sees foreign troops as a threat to its power base).

In essence, what I am saying here is, when it comes to Africa there is a whole load of corruption and propaganda when it comes to Africa - from within and outside Africa.

It's time people in Africa (and Africans living outside of it too) start working hard and putting their backs into sorting it out themselves and stop taking from the West.

Seems they love meeting and chewing the cud and sitting around talking - or fighting. They need to realise that without education they are going nowhere. If they would stop fighting and stop spending all their wealth on arms, they could afford to get educated over the next 15 years.

4 Comments:

Blogger Cynthia said...

Ingrid,

Those HIV test don't test for HIV. They test for some type of non-specific antibodies that suppose to be against HIV. Now, there are over 60 factors that are known to cause a false positive, i.e., other factor that will cause an individual to test positive for HIV that's independent of HIV.
(http://cdaniels225.blogspot.com/2005/04/factors-known-to-cause-false-positive.html)

In South Africa, a recent study claimed there was an 83% chance that the HIV test mechanism in Africa - called Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay (Elisa) would produce false results.
http://cdaniels225.blogspot.com/2005/03/south-african-medical-research-council.html

Those HIV/AIDS drugs are known to cause the immune system to fail. AZT was first used in the 60's to treat cancer. The idea was to treat a person with this drug half killing the patient, then you get them off as quickly as possible. This drug destroys your DNA.
http://cdaniels225.blogspot.com/2005/04/liquid-plumber-azt.html

PROTEASE INHIBITORS - inhibit the body's natural proteases that are required to digest proteins, which automatically throws your body out of homeostasis. If you look at all the side of effects from AZT and these protease inhibitors cocktail you will begin to see, that they are killing people.
http://cdaniels225.blogspot.com/2005/04/function-of-proteases-and-side-effects.html

How AIDS got started in Africa.
The Bangui Definition of AIDS

In 1985, the World Health Organization called a meeting in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, to define African AIDS. The meeting was presided over by CDC official Joseph McCormick. He wrote about it in his book "Level 4 Virus hunters of the CDC," saying, "If I could get everyone at the WHO meeting in Bangui to agree on a single, simple definition of what an AIDS case was in Africa, then, imperfect as the definition might be, we could actually start counting the cases..." The result was that African AIDS would be defined by physical symptoms: fever, diarrhea, weight loss and coughing or itching. ("AIDS in Africa: an epidemiological paradigm." Science, 1986).
http://www.aim.org/special_report/2767_0_8_0_C/

Lastly, there are 30 diseases classified as HIV/AIDS and among them are TB, malaria, dysentery, etc. Even malnutrition can cause AIDS. All of these diseases and factors are treatable and preventable.

Ingrid, I can go on and on, but this will get you started on your quest for the truth. HIV/AIDS is a big lie. It's all propaganda, but decide for yourself.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005  
Anonymous exiledsoul said...

This looks interesting. How come I missed this? I'll have to read these reports. Thanks for sharing :)

Thursday, June 09, 2005  
Blogger Louis said...

ehhh, these are difficult issues. Ingrid, I appreciate the way you yearn to see outside of the mediatic downpour into some fundamental truths. I suspect that you would find me politically to the far left, but I don't think that politics has much to do with our shared concern for the wider world, and the great lakes in particular. I think you make a mistake, however, when you apply your personal common-sense to situations which my be in some way beyond our comprehension... while we remain outside of them. The ability of ordinary africans-- in their villages, amidst war-- to lift themselves out of their bad situations is in fact next to impossible. Similarly, you've hit the nail on the head when you say that the humanitarian workers may have good intentions-- but that doesn't stop their enterprise from having inherent negative aspects (dropping laptops and SUVs and high paid relief workers into wastelands is in some sense inherently corrupt and corrupting).

But facing reality front-wise shouldn't make us cynical... cheers to you and your continuing efforts.

Friday, June 10, 2005  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Hello everybody, good to see you here, thank you for taking the time to leave word.

From Tuesday onwards I have to stick to light blogging for six weeks, which will give me time to read Cynthia's links and give the comments here more thought.

Hopefully during my hiatus I shall manage one post at each blog. Yesterday (groan) I started another blog:

http://ethiopiawatch.blogspot.com/

Ethiopia Watch is a place to file reports I come across on Eritrea and Ethiopia which tend to get buried at Sudan Watch and difficult to find.

Taking a look at the map of Ethiopia and surrounding neighbours, it is overwhelming to think what is going on in Africa. Recently, I've read he head of the African Union said Africa's population will double in 27 years time and if the continent does not change, it will become unmanageable for the rest of the world.

Most of the time I question why I keep maintaining blogs on Africa. On days when they seem pointless and depressing, I tell myself at least I am learning about the media and Sudan, Congo(es), Uganda and Ethiopia and meeting bright people like yourselves.

Recently, my thinking on Africa is concentrating on the question of poverty being the root of its problems. Seems the root of the problems may actually be to do with law and land/property rights/ownership.

It is too complicated of an issue to describe here in this comment, but since you Cynthia, Carine and Louis are so bright, I would urge you please to read an astounding report I have posted at Sudan Watch. To do the report justice, you need set aside some quiet time to read and appreciate its magnitude.

Here is a copy of the post and report, posted at Sudan Watch on Sunday, May 29, 2005, entitled:

"Exclusive interview with Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto: The poor are not the problem but the solution"

This is an important post. I have been meaning to publish it here for the past two months. The delay is because it needed a few lines of introduction to explain a little about why it is posted at Sudan Watch for future reference.

Here in England, there are some areas where people are experiencing tense situations caused by traditional gypsies and modern day nomads parking their caravans illegally. The travellers* who choose to live 'on the road' in their motor homes have few places to park and live in peace because of past Tory policies that withdrew land where 'travellers' used to be allowed to park and reside temporarily.

Wherever the nomads park their caravans illegally, they - and many are families with young children of school age - are forced to move on by the authorities. Whenever nomads park and settle, it creates an emotive mess for government officials to deal with and sort out. Local residents and homeowners object to nomads settling anywhere near their neighbourhoods. Showdowns between government officials, local residents and nomads are sometimes filmed and broadcast on televison news. Terrible scenes involving bailiffs, police, mothers wailing and children crying. Nobody tells them where they can park. They are simply told to move on. It is awful because you know the same scenario is repeated when they arrive at another spot.

Recently, some nomads resorted to purchasing greenfield sites near homeowners and, without first applying for residency permission, set up camps of sixty or more caravans, afterwhich they applied for residency permission. My understanding is they used human rights laws to avoid eviction while residency permits were being considered - and turned down.

Nomads are viewed as sticking together. Keeping to themselves. Not mixing or trying to integrate into local communities. Locals residents resent and shun the nomads who are seen as not working by the rules. Most nomads are suspected of not paying full taxes or obtaining permits, like law abiding citizens are expected to do. In countries such as the Sudan, the government eliminates troublesome nomads by killing those who fight for and argue over land and resources.

[*See Gypsies and Travellers: The facts [via Laban Tall's Blog via The Adventuress with thanks]

A few months ago, I found an extraordinary interview report that gives an insight into why poor people in Africa are having such an impossible time. I found the report at Stephen Pollard's blog. Here below is a copy in full, authored by Stephen who posted it at his blog March 14, 2005.

The report is an exclusive interview with the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto and covers such a complex issue I cannot summarise it here in a few short lines. Please be warned, the report is long and appears verbose and dry, but the quality of the information is so high, I promise you it is worth taking the time to read and digest it, slowly. Here is Stephen's post and the report:
- - -

I am thrilled to be able to publish an exclusive interview with the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, founder and President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima, and an intellectual hero of mine. He has published two books about economic and political development: The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else - one of, if not the, greatest books ever published on the issue of poverty in the developing world. As Bill Clinton puts it: "De Soto's ideas about how to empower the world's poor represent one of the most significant economic insights of our time".

De Soto's main thrust is that much of the marginality of the poor in developing and former communist nations comes from their inability to benefit from the positive effects that property rights provide. Without legal titles and the necessary property-related institutions, the poor cannot fully exploit their assets. The challenge these countries face is not whether they should produce or receive more money but whether they can identify which legal institutions are required and summon the political will necessary to build a property system that is easy for the poor to access.

Dirk Verhofstadt, of the Belgian think tank Liberales, had an exclusive interview with Hernando de Soto in his residence in Lima, and he has generously allowed me to publish it here.

The Economist calls the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) one of the most important think tanks in the world. How did it start?

At the end of the left wing dictatorship in Peru in 1979, we wanted to bring in new ideas. All we had here were traditional leftist messages, some of which I found very interesting. However, it was also very important to realize that we had nothing that related to a market economy and the more liberal view of democracy. So, the beginning was simply bringing in ideas from Friedrich Hayek, Jean-Francois Revel, Milton Friedman, and original Marxian thinking as well. We wanted to clear the air and explain that there was more substance to the kind of thinking which supports freedom and the efficient economies of the world than they suspected. One of these ideas was the relationship between marginality - where people are forced to live and work outside the system - and the law. At that time, I saw the law as the main factor of exclusion.

Take for example the history of Latin America where liberal ideas have come to government many times, but haven't succeeded. The main reason for that failure was that they never included the excluded. [This was a harder task than it seemed.] We found that most ideas that related to freedom and productivity were well known by think tanks but had not penetrated to the political decision makers and the average person. So, the focus of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy very much became this extralegal sector - particularly on the areas of property rights and free enterprise because they are the trusses to everything else.

Do politicians understand the importance of property rights?

If you are poor, like the majority of the people in the Third World or the former Soviet Union, you have only two things that allow you to survive - where you are living and whatever you are working with to provide you with an income. Poor people, for instance, put their simple belongings on a piece of unoccupied ground in the countryside or in the so-called pueblos jovenes, favelas, ranchos, barrios marginales, bidonvilles or shantytowns around big cities in the developing world. If no one disputes his or her claim, a bit of a roof follows. As time goes by, and as the neighbours come to recognize the newcomer's property, a regular structure will be added. Over time, not only do the neighbours recognize the squatter's property, but also informal organizations may 'register' the ownership - unofficially, of course. The occupants have to dedicate all their time to protecting their possessions against such enemies as poachers, intruders, and, of course, the government.

If you want to understand the importance of property rights, a good place to start is the genesis of property, something that is not controversial for the entire political spectrum. Half of the governments we work for, for instance, are definitely on the left and understand that the poor do not have property and believe that they should. So the law gives a point of penetration were everybody is in an agreement. Property rights are even recognized on a global level in points nine and ten of the Washington-consensus. However, these are the only points that have never been implemented. The objective of these points is to establish free enterprise and property. This big gap needs to be filled in. That is the objective of the ILD.

In your book 'The Mystery of Capital', you write that capitalism is like a private club, only open to a privileged few, enraging the billions standing outside looking in. Can you explain this?

Almost 5 billion people out of the 6 billion in the world live in either developing or formerly communist countries, where much of the economy is extralegal. Capitalism doesn't thrive in these countries because of their inability to produce capital. However, capital is the force that raises the productivity of labour and creates the wealth of nations. It seems that poor countries cannot produce capital for themselves no matter how eagerly their people engage in all the activities that characterize a capitalist economy. In fact, the poor inhabitants of less developed countries do have things, but they lack the process to represent their property in such a way that it can create and transfer capital. They have houses but no titles; crops but no deeds; businesses but no statutes of incorporation. In other words: their property is not registered, not formally legalised. This last fact is crucial, for only through property rights is it possible to obtain credit. Property converted into capital provides the potential to create, to produce, and to grow. Landownership can only be exchanged for a loan if it is registered. The main objective of the ILD is to establish and incorporate the invisible network of laws that turns assets from 'dead' into 'liquid' capital.

One of the conclusions in your book 'The Mystery of Capital' is that poor people are not the problem, but the solution.

They certainly are, and there are very simple reasons for this. First of all, wherever we go, we see that the poor have the majority of a country's savings, which means that they have done the majority of the work. Look at the situation in Egypt. There, extralegals have accumulated up to $ 248 billion in their enterprises and homes. This is 37 times more than all the loans received from the World Bank. It is 55 times greater than all the direct investments in Egypt and 35 times more than the value of the companies listed in the Cairo Stock Exchange.

In fact, the total value of the assets held but not legally owned by the poor in the Third World and former communist nations is at least $ 9.300 billion. So, the poor are obviously the solution.

The history of many countries shows that very poor people have built today's wealth. The poor today form a large entrepreneurial force, but it is a force that cannot leverage its assets. And that is the situation in all of the developing countries and in the former communist nations we have been in. There is no lack of entrepreneurship. There is no lack of a will to build assets. There just isn't the legal system to allow these assets to be leveraged the way you can do so in the West. International financial institutions have traditionally not counted these assets. Poor people have always been seen as recipients of benefits. We are changing this around by saying that whatever you are giving to them is peanuts compared to what they themselves can do. So, the direction should be to enable them, to empower the poor.

So, to solve the real problem we have to make the informal world formal?

Well, that's it, but it's not the old formality. You've got to think of a new formality. The old one has been offered to the poor, but they have obviously rejected it. There is the law. Don't forget that informal and customary systems of property rights exist, but mostly outside the legal framework of the country.

I am now a member of a newly created agency for foreign assistance. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and the Administrator of the UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, have set up a commission targeting private sector development. These kinds of agencies had never focused on the private sector, in spite of the fact that they are a big part of the world economy. So, the agenda seems to be moving in the right direction now.

But isn't the main problem legislation? Don't lawyers stick on to the existing laws?

That's right. The legal and administrative mechanisms for creating live capital either do not exist or are complicated, these take ages to navigate and cost far too much for the ordinary person. Rich people, on the other hand, have easy entry to business; that is, they have easy access to the tools that facilitate their entry, such as lawyers, accountants, and legal advisors who are able to safeguard their interests in the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

If a squatter wanted to acquire a legal title to his or her property, it would take at least 13 years in the Philippines, over 11 years in Haiti, and 6 years or more in Egypt.

Moreover, in business, it takes you 549 days to get a license to operate a bakery in Egypt and that is with a lawyer. Without a lawyer, it takes about 650 days. In Honduras, it costs an individual entrepreneur 3.765 dollar and 270 days to legally declare, register, and start up a business.

To create a mortgage in Mexico it takes 2 years. It takes 17 years to get a title on a house in Egypt; in Peru it used to be 21 years before we corrected that, and in the Philippines it's 24 years. These are but a few examples of complicated ownership legislation. The procedures for getting official authorization to build are so formidable that people chose to build without authorization. The entire phenomenon forces poor people into illegitimate and informal negotiations. It forces them to create extralegal means to gain access to a home or a business.

So, what the people in these countries need are transparent laws and efficient administration. One of the main reasons that laws are so complicated, and procedures are so costly and inefficient, is that legislators in developing countries only want to adopt western rules. They remain blind to the extralegal reality. In fact, they should leave their studies and offices and investigate the extralegal sector because that is where they would find all the information they need to create a legitimate legal system that everyone would understand and accept. By investigating and penetrating the 'law of the people', legislators and regulators can set up a better legal system. Most of the lawyers in developing countries are educated to protect the interests of their wealthier clients and write the law to assist them. However, they have an instinctive tendency to protect the legal status quo instead of to extend it or adapt it to suit the needs of an evolving reality.

You have been working in several developing countries by giving advice to their heads of state. What is your method of working?

To us the most important part of our work is that part that we call the diagnosis. When we are hired by heads of state, we form a team of maybe seven people from our side and a hundred from theirs. Then we draw a line and find out what's inside the law and what's outside the law. In the case of Egypt, we found that 92% of all the constructions and the land and 88% of all enterprises are outside the legal system. This means that the large majority of owners are not registered as such and are therefore not visible to councils, town planners, investors, banks, post offices, water companies, electricity providers, and other firms. The results of our diagnosis show politicians that something is very wrong. It even has a Marxists element of class, an element that has always been missing, even in liberalism. Because people do have specific positions. People in the so-called informal economy are the biggest entrepreneurial class in the world. There are more entrepreneurs in any Third World country than there are in the rich countries.

Over the past fifteen years or so, your Institute has worked in Peru, Egypt, El Salvador, the Philippines, Honduras and Haiti. In which country are you working now?

We are currently working with the Mexican government. We have finished the diagnosis. Seventy-eight million Mexicans - this is almost 80 percent of the total population - is either living or working in the extralegal economy. They produce approximately 35% of the GNP. In total there are about 137 million hectares of rural real estate, 11 million houses, and 6 million businesses that are not registered. Those are assets that can only be used as a shelter or as business tools, but not as a means to obtain collateral for a loan, to generate investment or to create additional functions to obtain surplus value. The whole value of this 'dead capital' amounts to $ 315 billion. That is equivalent to seven times the value of all known oil reserves in the country and 31 times the value of foreign direct investment. So, we are advising President Fox on the ways to reform all of this in order to integrate the excluded citizens. An efficient means is designing a legal framework to transform property and businesses into liquid assets. And by reducing the costs and increasing the benefits of operating legally, they can increase public tax revenues.

Is there a relation between corruption and the lack of property rights?

Yes, of course. Because a great part of corruption is essentially the purchase of the law; that is, you pay somebody to stop looking your way or to draft the law in a certain direction. When I was working in the Middle East, there was an entrepreneur that I got to known so well that I could ask him about corruption and pay-offs - 'baksheesh' is the local word. He explained: "I love baksheesh because it gives me certainty and predictability." They change the law continually. We have calculated that the government brings out about 30.000 new rules every year. None of these is enacted in a transparent manner, with public participation. The result is that the law is totally unpredictable and only serves the powerful and htose who have the means to remain informed. So, from this point of view, 'baksheesh' gives a kind of predictability. All the entrepreneur had to do was pay-off five key policemen either near his workplace, or where he made his transactions. And he knew what his outcome would be.

Now, traditionally that is what the law is supposed to do - give you predictability. However, if the law is inadequate, then your way of getting predictability is corruption. Therefore, when you have property rights - understanding "property rights" as your right to do business, hold shares and carry out business transactions -, it is clear that people will not look to corruption for security and predictability, wherever you go in the world.

Some people say that culture is separating the Third from the First World. Do you agree?

That is a myth. I really don't think culture has very much to do with the fact that some people are desperately poor and others are wealthy. It's an unfair proposition. It predisposes people to do the wrong things. It may even have racist implications. Instead of focusing on culture, let's take away all of these enormous legal obstacles that poor people have to face. We're absolutely convinced it does work because people are actively in enterprise all over the world. Countries that are less occidental than Latin American nations were poorer than us barely 50 years ago - like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea - changed their laws and are now in average 10 times wealthier than we are. Most of the people who say that 'cultural' handicaps do exist don't have much solid facts to prove it. Development will not be achieved by throwing money at the problem but rather by radically changing the legal systems. And I don't think it is primarily an IMF or World Bank responsibility. I think it's a local responsibility.

Despite privatisations and deregulations, the Russian economy is not doing well. Do you attribute this situation to a property rights problem as well?

There is only one way of knowing that and it is by getting the numbers on the shadow economy, which is precisely what we at the ILD do. It's like in medicine: the doctor has to see the patient. You can have the best written law in the world, but if it doesn't work on the ground it is only ink on paper. I wouldn't be surprised if in Russia the law looks good on paper, but, on the ground, it doesn't work. This is why a very important ingredient of any reform towards the market is feedback from the people so that you can create law based on general consensuses and on people's beliefs. There is no way of designing it in the air as bureaucrats of the old class often do. If you want to get law that is enforceable you've got to go get to the street!

How is it possible that those liberal ideas were never popular in Latin America?

Since liberation from Spain in the 1820's, many governments have tried to bring in a liberal revolution in Latin America several times. We have tried to follow the US model or the Western European models. Latin Americans have privatized railways, lowered tariffs to zero, and opened our economies to foreign investment. And we have failed nearly every time. The reforms made sense for a very small group of people at the top, but for the majority, it didn't fit their interests. The big mistake each time has been that although people were inspired by liberal ideas, in fact, they never had much interest for the poor. I would say that these people who pretended to be liberal, were not liberals but conservatives. By not caring for the poor, they gave the opportunity to the populist and communists to gain much ground.

Can we say that capitalism is in trouble?

Of course capitalism is in trouble, because, as usual, it is only catching among the top 20 or 10 percent of the population in Latin American countries that have got their property rights paperized in a way that they can enter the market. Capitalism is in trouble in the sense that it isn't working for the majority. I insist that capitalism doesn't work without universally accessible property rights. Capitalism definitely did not win the battle against communism: what happened is that communism collapsed. The main ideas or concerns held by the early communists and socialists are still around.

Do you agree with libertarians that plead for a minimal state? What is your position with regard to libertarianism and liberalism?

I think that some of the most resourceful sophisticated thinking comes from libertarians. To me, they are the 'avant garde' because, among other things, they point out the dangers of concentrated power. They are a continual source of inspiration to me but it is the gap between their proposals to do a way with government and reality. I am not too sure they understand that government is important to enforcing freedom and democracy -- maybe this is because they do not know what it is like to live without any government like some of us in the Third World. The rule of law has to be managed and enforced by strong government if it is to prevail. In my case, I would say that I am a classical liberal, corresponding to the liberal ideas of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were characterized by being radically opposed to the concentration of power and the causes of the poor.

The reason I study the 18th and 19th centuries of Europe and North America is not because I like the past, but because they provide me with lead to understand the present with regards to developing countries. There is a sense that individualism becomes clearer with the Renaissance. Before, people could not envisage themselves as being anything other than part of a whole. That phenomenon of individualism is now starting to take shape in Latin America. In Mexico, for example, where we are currently doing our biggest project, one of the areas we have to focus on is the ejido, which is an indigenous collective property system. We found out that the average age of the Mexican farmer is 65, which means that most of the young people have already left to the city and are becoming individuals. In other words, we are at that stage of individualization that you in Europe were at a couple of centuries ago. Europe's 18th and 19th centuries intellectual debate are very relevant to developing countries in former Soviet Union nations in the 21st century.

Friday, June 10, 2005  

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