January 23, 2019


Brazil takes an Austrian turn (SILVIO SIMONETTI, JANUARY 23, 2019, Acton)

Everything started to change when Keynesian intellectual hegemony broke down because of the economic turbulence caused by stagflation in the 1970s. In 1983, Donald Stuart, Jr. founded the Liberal Institute in the city of Rio de Janeiro with the purpose of publicizing the ideas of the Austrian School. The Liberal Institute was the first in a series of think tanks which emerged at the beginning of the 21st century dedicated to defend the market economy. Guedes, for instance, is one of the founders of the pro free-market Millennium Institute.

Like everything else in Brazil, intellectual revolutions are slow. It was the economic chaos engendered by the erratic policies of Dilma Rousseff's leftist government (2011-16) that provided the countless free-market advocates with an opportunity to move new ideas to the center of the political debate. Surprisingly, it was Bolsonaro, a former champion of big government, who decided to adopt economic liberalism as his platform.

Nevertheless, the influence of libertarian think tanks goes beyond the political discussion. Today, they are providing the government with new names and new thinking to help restructure Brazil. For example, the new Minister of Education, the philosopher Ricardo Velez Rodrigues, is a member of the Liberal Institute. Salim Mattar, who is leading the privatization program of the new government, was in the Institute's executive council. The Bank of Brazil, the country's largest public bank, is now headed by Rubem Novaes, another member of the Institute. Adolfo Sachsida, secretary of Economic Policy, and Roberto Ellery, who was part of the Bolsonaro's transition team, are two other prominent members of the Liberal Institute.

The popularity that libertarian ideas have gained in Brazil and the central role that many adherents of this doctrine hold in the new government do not mean that libertarianism has won. On the contrary, it means that libertarians have been given the opportunity to show that the virtues of the free market go beyond theory and can be proved in practice.

Jair Bolsonaro is not a libertarian, but a conservative populist who has been converted to a free-market apostolate by the immediate needs of a country that has lived, for the last four years, through an economic nightmare animated by bad ideas. The success of libertarians will be directly associated with both their ability in reshaping public policies and in delivering positive financial results to people that are tired of unemployment and loss of purchasing power.

Posted by at January 23, 2019 5:25 PM