Notre Dame Public Intellectualism Conference: Mark Lilla and My Instant Reaction
Notre Dame Public Intellectualism Conference: Ezekiel's Call: Comment on Joan Chittister on Public Intellectuals

Notre Dame Public Intellectuals Conference: Comment on Enrique Krauze: Latin America: Intellectuals or Intelligentsia?

It seems to me that I have both more hopes and more fears for democracy and liberty and progress in Latin America.

The first is Brazil and Mexico. Should Brazil and Mexico become normal social-democratic growing-economies--and, the Mexican drug war aside, they have had now good 15 years--then they will be of sufficient weight to pull the rest of Latin America in their wake, and that would be a great accomplishment.

The fear is, largely, the consequences of the failure of the neoliberal promise. The hope was that by turning to market mechanisms to attain social democratic ends then, with skillful Keynesian or Friedmanite technocratic governance and with the assistance of publicly-provided pensions, education, infrastructure, etc., the world could rapidly become much more prosperous while becoming somewhat more equal.

The reality has been that the "much" in "much more prosperous" has fallen by the wayside, and in the past five years the "more" part has vanished as well. The reality is that if the world as a whole has become more equal over the past generation it is because the peasants of China and India are no longer so desperately poor. The rest see growing global wealth, and see that if they do not belong to the plutocracy at the top they are not getting a proper share of that growing global wealth.

And the people feel betrayed.

And the people are betrayed.

Copying the United States does not look attractive to anybody in Latin America, given our rapidly-growing inequality of wealth. Copying Russia never looked attractive. Copying Cuba does not look attractive. Copy Venezuela requires that you have a lot of oil per capita--much more oil than even Brazil and Mexico can muster.

We up here at least would like a Latin America taking a somewhat different road--if only because a diversified intellectual and institutional portfolio is a very important thing for the human race to have. But it is not clear to me what that road might be. And I was hoping that you would provide an answer...