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The Minister of Happiness Is All That’s Wrong in Latin American Politics

By: Vanesa Vallejo - Jul 19, 2016, 5:24 pm
Were a new presidential candidate to propose a new position such as Minister for Women, they would gain the support for many who consider their lives could improve with a new bureaucratic position (Sipse)
Latin American voters delude themselves thinking that something like a “Minister of Happiness” will not become just another bureaucratic self-serving agency. (Sipse)

EspañolLatin American governments have always pushed to expand their powers along with their budget.

Reducing the size and scope of the state is never an option for the region’s leaders, especially since bureaucrats benefit personally from an ever bigger government. They have clear incentives, therefore, to assign more and more power to the quangos they control.

Ask any minister and he will say that his office is important and absolutely necessary to the proper functioning of the country.

He will always come up with different tasks and “problems” to make it seem invaluable. A minister will never say he needs fewer employees; on the contrary, he will demand more resources.

Nevertheless, not only politicians are to blame for our enlarged Latin American states. It is clear that in most cases people are actually happy that there are more and more government entities.

If anyone running for president were to propose, for example, the creation of a ‘Ministry for Women’, many voters would be thrilled, even though a new bureaucratic post would hardly increase their quality of life.

Latin Americans often accept any political appointment that seems to be created with good intentions.

That’s why when the authorities of Cali, Colombia, decided to create the office of the “Manager of Bicycling,” many residents thought it was fine, claiming people needed to use alternative means of transportation.

But good intentions should not be enough reason to expand an already costly bureaucracy. As should be obvious, not everything that is necessary or desirable should be managed by the state.

For instance, stairs can be very dangerous and people must know how to use them. In the United States, 43 percent of lethal falls in the past decade involved stairs. But that doesn’t mean we need a “Manager of Stairs.”

Contrary to popular belief, in most cases creating a new government office creates more problems. Latin Americans wrongly accept that the state can solve everything through lawmaking.

When Venezuela began suffering from high inflation and shortages, what did the government do? It created a Ministry of Fair Prices. Now it has the world’s highest inflation rate.

Instead of reducing state interventionism and allowing the market to function, President Nicolás Maduro scared off the few entrepreneurs and businessmen left, imposing price ceilings which don’t allow for producers to cover costs.

Similarly senseless bureaucratic positions in Latin America are all too common. Read on for a few examples:

Vice-presidency for the Development of Territorial Socialism, Venezuela

Not satisfied with plunging into poverty what once used to be one of the richest countries in the region, Chavista officials are now taking people’s money to promote the very ideology that impoverished them.

Vice-ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the People, Venezuela

I wonder what Venezuelan authorities are waiting for to create a ministry for the abundance of food and medicine .

Ministry of Modernization, Argentina

Modernization is a process that goes hand in hand with savings and investment, led by individuals with entrepreneurial skills.

The main way a government could help modernize a country is staying out of the way, not creating a ministry that drains more resources from the economy.

Secretariat of Good Living, Ecuador

The Ecuadorian government would do more for the living standards of its citizens if it just stopped getting in their way of producing goods and services.

But no, they think they will achieve this by taking away taxpayers’ money for more bureaucracy.

National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), Cuba

It is very worrying that the same government that was up until recently chasing after homosexuals would pretend to educate people about sexuality.

But this is Cuba, where government interference in all aspects of life is the norm.

Manager for Bicycling, Cali, Colombia

In one of Colombia’s most violent cities, it was of course an urgent measure.

Night Manager, Cali, Colombia

To tackle crime, Cali authorities just couldn’t let prosperity and investments create a better quality of life, reducing the chances that children grow up to become criminals. No, that is too complicated, and Cali’s mayor has another idea: a night manager.

Quality of life, modernization, and happiness are of course desirable goals. But the state cannot legislate them into reality.

The people of Venezuela, for example, would be much happier if the government stopped creating so many agencies and programs, if it just refrained from interfering in their lives and focused on guaranteeing property rights.

That way, the private sector could get back on its feet and the Venezuelan economy would recover.

We must understand that the government cannot solve all our problems.

Venezuelan President Maduro every now and then increases the minimum wage. Yet, his people continue to live in misery.

On the other hand, in countries where there is no minimum wage people live much better. And that is because wealth is not produced through legislation, but rather through the hard work of free, productive individuals.

The best government recipe to increase happiness and well-being is no recipe: letting people create value and solve their problem among themselves.

Vanesa Vallejo Vanesa Vallejo

Vanesa Vallejo is a Colombian economist, columnist, and classical liberal activist. She is a member of Colombia's Libertarian Movement. Follow her: @VanesaVallejo3.