International Legitimization of Statist Failure

Foreign relations are essential to any society. Wealth creation through trade and investment flows, along with opportunities to learn from different cultures, are some of the benefits on offer via interaction with other nations.

This does not mean, however, that every society’s specific concerns may be solved through foreign relations. As has been shown by the United Nations’ inability to eliminate or resolve domestic conflicts, societies cannot externalize their sins or wait for solutions from abroad.

Although the so-called international community cannot solve these problems or drive development, it is much more effective at dooming a society to poverty and authoritarianism. Besides the best-known tools — such as military intervention — this damage may be inflicted by two relatively unpublicized means: (1) the economic dependence that stems from wealth redistribution, under the guise of international cooperation; (2) the legitimization of statist or authoritarian regimes.

These interventions are detrimental because they hinder the natural learning and development process at the domestic level, and because they allow bad rulers to perpetuate their dominance. These rulers seek to persuade the population the favor the convenience and success of their bad decisions; then, since international players are endorsing them, citizens are more inclined to believe they should give those rulers a chance — or many — to implement their ideas.

Gustavo Petro Urrego, mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.
Source: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá

The reader might be thinking of the classic examples in Latin America, such as support for the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes, but there are many other instances that merit attention. I would particularly like to raise the case of the mayor of Bogotá, the Colombian capital city. Gustavo Petro, a supporter of the dreadful ideas of 21st Century Socialism — or the “Bolivarian Revolution” — has worsened the chaos created by his socialist predecessors, Luis Eduardo Garzón and Samuel Moreno.

This is why his popularity rates have remained low, to the point where a recall has been suggested. Petro’s administration has been flawed in its entirety: bans, such as the eradication of bullfights; improvisations and errors, such as the shortsighted waste management overhaul; his anti-democratic nature, expressed in the tricks he has used to stop his recall; his contempt for rules, shown when he bypassed all institutional channels to enact his Territorial Ordering Plan (POT); and, finally, the desertion of high-level officials, who resign in trouble with the law or in opposition to the mayor’s authoritarianism.

Despite all of this, some international players seem delighted with Petro’s disastrous administration. Not only has his office received international awards, it has been noted among the best in Latin America and given the opportunity to organize international events. Additionally, this week Petro has been invited to take part in a forum where he will lecture on his illegally approved POT.

It’s true that this should come as no surprise: the invitation comes from probably the most statist mayor in the United States, Nanny Bloomberg. Thus, while Petro destroys the city, he will teach the world how he has done so.

It is also true that the acknowledgement Petro has gained is due to his clever treatment of politically correct issues, such as global warming. However, what those extending all that international legitimacy don’t understand is the institutional damage they inflict on the inhabitants of the city. Over ten years ago, Bogotá stood out as one of the best in Latin America. Today, mobility and safety problems, among many others, show the detriment of the Petro administration’s decisions.

Notwithstanding the actual situation, mayor Petro, in his immense arrogance, is aflutter and energized by the international legitimization he receives. Unfortunately, this renewed confidence will probably affect voter perceptions in the next elections.

Social experimentation, such as that carried out by the Bogotá mayor, has effects that are difficult to reverse. (With regard to the expansion of government powers, Robert Higgs has described this as the “ratchet effect.”) The process entails, first, making bad decisions, and then, generating the wrong feedback. Then the wrong path reinforces itself.

Latin American populism has fulfilled the first condition, with the help of political figures such as the Castro brothers, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, and Gustavo Petro. The international community, unfortunately, seems to take care of the second condition.

Paradoxically, once the destructive consequences of these bad decisions become clear — not that people necessarily connect the dots — the regimes that support Petro’s administration and others like it seek to clear their consciences by sending resources for cooperation. Less development, more dependence: thank you very much!

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