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Is There a ‘New Path to Liberty’ for Latin America?

By: Adriana Peralta - @AdriPeraltaM - Nov 5, 2014, 10:02 am
The New Path to Liberty is a short but profound book which analyzes liberalism in Latin America.
The New Path to Liberty is a short but profound book which analyzes liberalism in Latin America. (Flickr)

Español“The history of mankind is the history of ideas. For it is ideas, theories and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends,” wrote the Austrian economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises.

To fight dictatorships of single systems of thought, and address many of the myths surrounding liberalism, comes The New Path to Liberty, a collection of four essays by Dante Bayona, Christian Guzmán, Raúl Mendoza, and Héctor Ñaupari.

Héctor Ñaupari compiled the four essays of the book.
Héctor Ñaupari compiled the four essays of the book. (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru)

The book is not easy reading, and as Ñaupari explains, the essays within it are unambiguous and do not aim to be impartial: they have the objective of creating more followers of libertarian philosophy.

“Is Liberalism ‘Right-Wing?’ What is Liberalism?”

In his essay, Peruvian economist Dante Bayona aims to explain the alleged contradictions within the libertarian system, and in particular the assumption that libertarians are necessarily “right-wing.”

According to Bayona, this stems from current confusion around the term. To illustrate that liberalism is an essential part of being human, he uses one of the first lessons we’re taught in school as a way of establishing rules of fair play: “Our parents teach us: don’t hit other kids, and don’t take their toys.”

The author shows that to be a liberal is not to defend all businessmen blindly. Rather, liberals are opposed to mercantilist businessmen, those who take advantage of their friends in the government in order to face less competition for their businesses.

Bayona ends his essay by noting socialists had the courage to be utopians, thus winning support from intellectuals and public opinion. Therefore, he invites libertarians to take the fundamentals of a free society and convert them into a lively intellectual debate. “If we can regain that belief in power of ideas, which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost,” he writes, quoting Hayek.

Errors within Marxism

Marxism, according to Christian Guzmán, contains fundamental flaws which have affected Latin America.
Marxism, according to Christian Guzmán, contains fundamental flaws that have negatively affected Latin America. (Amazon)

The writer and lawyer Christian Guzmán Napurí begins his essay by explaining his objective: to describe the six most deficient aspects of Marxist ideology.

Among these, Guzmán criticizes one of the erroneous assumptions of Marxism: that the interests of groups (states, social classes, or society) operate independently from the individuals that constitute them, and in order to achieve their objectives, they often rely on social utilitarianism — sacrificing the well-being of certain individuals to achieve a supposedly greater well-being for the rest.

Guzmán clarifies that we shouldn’t have to confuse this utilitarianism with social efficiency, which improves the circumstances of individuals without hurting anyone.

The author closes with the example of China, and how the traditionally communist country has transferred many economic decisions to the market. Despite the enviable economic growth that China has enjoyed, it has a long road ahead in terms of civil and political rights.

“The Invisible Republic, from Aristocratic Order to Democratic Populism”

The writer and lawyer Raúl Mendoza begins his essay explaining the conceptual framework of government policies Latin America has adopted since the 20th century. For Mendoza, one fundamental mistake committed after independence was assigning political value to the concept of “the majority,” rather than establishing a foundation for limited government and a firm separation of powers.

To analyze the current context, Mendoza explains how the idiosyncratic politics of the continent are configured, and recounts the principal political mistakes of Latin Americans.

He concludes that Latin America suffers from a “majoritarianism” that makes it lose sight of the rule of law, allowing constitutional reinventions time and again through which governments infringe democratic rules.

“The Pendulum Continent: Reflections on the Possibility of Liberty in Latin America”

Ñaupari compares liberty in Latin America to the myth of Sisyphus.
Ñaupari compares liberty in Latin America to the myth of Sisyphus. (Wikipedia)

Héctor Ñaupari describes Latin America as a perverse pendulum that has moved throughout its history between corrupt dictators and weak democracies, as well as between a form of conservative protectionism and a sui generis form of socialism.

The myths of Sisyphus and Procrustes are brought to life on the continent, alongside useless debates in which “liberty” has served as a pretext for abuses of power.

Unlike the previous essays, Ñaupari proposes steps to increase liberty in Latin America. Among them are facilitating tools which create wealth, the reduction of taxes, and spreading democratic culture among the poorest groups within society.

He also advocates placing limits on Latin-American politics to return it to its former prestige, thus moving it away from socialist or conservative demagoguery — something which, in the words of Ñaupari, is “the task of liberals.”

The essays invite the reader to understand the ideas behind liberty so that Latin America can spread its wings and develop. The prologue is written by Chilean historian Ángel Soto, who quotes Octavio Paz to note that “liberty is not defined, it is exercised.”

The book, published by the Instituto Democracia y Mercado, is short in pages but profound in ideas, and as a whole analyzes the new route that liberalism is taking in Latin America.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Adriana Peralta Adriana Peralta

Adriana Peralta is a freedom advocate from El Salvador and a @CREO_org board member. She is a PanAm Post reporter and blogger, a 2005 Ruta Quetzal scholar, a trained engineer, and an SMC University masters student in political economy. She is also a Pink Floyd fan. Follow @AdriPeraltaM.