El Día que los Argentinos Superamos el Cinismo

Hace una semana que Mauricio Macri (Cambiemos) es el nuevo presidente electo de Argentina y ya todo parece distinto. A pesar de muchas y muy perjudiciales medidas del gobierno kirchnerista saliente (nombramiento de personal, sanción de leyes controvertidas, emisión de dinero, endeudamiento de último momento) la mayoría de los ciudadanos nos sentimos optimistas respecto del futuro en Argentina. Incluso ya nos hemos puesto a debatir acerca de las ventajas y desventajas de tal o cual ministro elegido por Macri, como si viviéramos en un país normal.

El domingo pasado, cuando ya era seguro que Macri había ganado las elecciones y estaba dando su discurso, lloré. No era un llanto triste, ni siquiera un llanto de emoción, era un llanto de alivio. Luego algunos amigos y familiares me confesaron que también habían llorado. Sentí (sentimos) que nos habían sacado el pie del pecho, que nos ahogaba desde hacía mucho tiempo.

Macri ganó en una segunda vuelta contra Daniel Scioli (Frente para la Victoria), candidato del gobierno kirchnerista. Pero no es la figura de Macri ni las propuestas de políticas públicas de Cambiemos (coalición del partido de Macri -Propuesta Republicana-, la tradicional Unión Cívica Radical y el partido de Lilita Carrió, Coalición Cívica) las que nos hicieron saltar las lágrimas. Era el sentir que, finalmente, podíamos descomprimir, que podíamos proyectarnos, planear; que, después de mucho tiempo, podíamos opinar sin miedo.

Y creo que esa emoción estaba conectada, a su vez, con la sensación de que los argentinos (o la mayoría al menos) habíamos dado un primer paso hacia la superación de un profundo cinismo que tiñó la política, e incluso todas las relaciones sociales en la Argentina los últimos años y que el modelo kirchnerista supo explotar y profundizar, enseñando con el ejemplo.

¿A qué me refiero con el cinismo?

Mucho se ha hablado del resentimiento argentino pero, a mi entender, el cinismo es un paso posterior y más profundo de este sentimiento. Al resentimiento lo entiendo como un derivado de la envidia en su aspecto más negativo. Es decir, como el deseo de tener lo que el otro tiene o de estar en una situación (más privilegiada) en el que el otro se encuentra y que uno no puede alcanzar. Es algo así como la suma de la envidia y la impotencia. El resentido prefiere que nadie goce de aquel “privilegio” del que él no puede gozar. Lo más insólito es que en Argentina el resentimiento se da en todas sus variedades, no sólo de los pobres a los ricos, de los viejos a los jóvenes, de los feos a los lindos, de los gordos a los flacos, sino que uno puede encontrar una persona joven, linda, flaca y rica que sea tremendamente resentida (porque los padres no lo quisieron, porque creen que no tienen las oportunidades que tendrían en otros países, porque no encuentran motivación en nada, porque quiere que alguien lo admire y no encuentran quién, etc.).

A pesar de esto, encuentro en este sentimiento todavía un resabio positivo: el resentido entiende, todavía, que alguien puede llegar a algo bueno a través de medios legítimos u honestos. No descree totalmente de la posibilidad de que a alguien (no a él) le haya ido bien, se haya hecho rico, sea admirado o tenga algún talento por derecho propio. El resentido sólo siente que él no es capaz de tal proeza y, por lo tanto, preferiría que nadie lo pueda lograr.

Creo que el cinismo implica un paso más, aquel que sostiene la idea de que nada puede ser obtenido legítimamente, de buena fe. Que no existen caminos honestos, legítimos, correctos, meritorios u honorables que nos puedan llevar a un bienestar personal o material. Para el cínico todo es engaño, trampa, privilegio o arbitrariedad. Así, se sospecha que toda persona que tiene dinero, lo obtuvo de forma ilegítima, como producto de una actividad ilegal (corrupción, negociado), o de alguna trampa o subterfugio (no pagar impuestos, estafar) o que, meramente, es una persona de suerte (herencia). Incluso si esta persona no ha realizado ninguna actividad inmoral o ilegal, probablemente la haya realizado su antecesor (padre, abuelo) o alguien por él. Pero esto no se aplica sólo a la fortuna material, el cínico argentino ya no cree que se pueda lograr nada (título, puesto, premio, honores) de forma legítima. Es seguro que detrás de ello ha habido contactos, favores, negocios ilegales, trampas.  Lo peor es que, finalmente, lleva adelante una vida plagada de mentiras, trampas y violación de las reglas, creyendo que está justificado, que así son las cosas. “Es lo que hay” reza una de las frases más horribles del vocabulario argentino actual.

El cinismo, así, se ha independizado ya del resentimiento y cuenta ahora con fuerza propia, sosteniendo toda una estructura de creencias y relaciones. Si llevamos esta cosmovisión a la política, vemos cómo ésta se ha concebido últimamente sólo como el medio particular donde se busca desembozadamente el poder (y la riqueza mal habida) y donde se habilitan todos los medios para llegar a este objetivo. En definitiva, la política representa una forma velada de violencia que ya no es quizás, física, pero si es psicológica, social, institucional. De esta manera, aquellos que (por fuerza o por azar) obtienen la mayoría, pueden, entonces, hacer lo que quieran, interpretando las reglas a su favor e incluso cambiándolas cuando no les convengan. Estoy segura que durante mucho tiempo, muchos argentinos no criticaban las formas autoritarias y, en muchos casos, delictivas del gobierno porque consideraban que, de ellos estar en su lugar, hubieran hecho lo mismo. Esto representa, en mi opinión, el sumun del cinismo. Ya no se tiene confianza ni siquiera en la constitución moral de uno mismo.  Esto nos ha llevado a la situación penosa en la que nos encontramos, no sólo de pobreza material (a causa del delito público y privado) sino de fragilidad institucional, en la cual nadie puede crear expectativas, planear, crecer, cooperar o siquiera, coordinar con los demás.

El triunfo de Macri puede leerse de muchas formas pero, independientemente de sus características como líder, hubo un gran número de personas que lo eligieron porque preferían votar cualquier candidato al candidato del kirchnerismo, Daniel Scioli. Éste, aunque al principio parecía mucho  más abierto al diálogo y  moderado que la familia Kirchner, terminó representando al “modelo” kirchnerista, un paquete muy pesado compuesto por una forma muy autoritaria de ejercicio del poder, un embrollado conjunto de consignas y prejuicios y una forma muy sospechosa de hacer negocios.

Macri se presentó como un candidato de “buena fe” (lo repetía siempre que podía) y el mero hecho de que mucha gente haya creído posible que nos gobierne una persona que se presente de esta manera ya significa, para mí, un gran paso hacia el abandono del cinismo.

Varios elementos más se suman a este panorama: más allá de las críticas, todos los candidatos de Cambiemos hicieron un gran esfuerzo por no contestar los agravios que, desde la “campaña del miedo” de Scioli, no faltaban ni un solo día. Además, la imagen franca y honesta de María Eugenia Vidal y su victoria como gobernadora de la provincia de Buenos Aires (tradicionalmente gobernada por caudillos peronistas) dejó entrever que los ciudadanos tienen un límite respecto de cuánta agresión, falta de gestión y maltrato pueden soportar. Por último, el macrismo ofrece gestión, dialogo, equipos, aprendizaje, todo un vocabulario ajeno al debate político nacional de los últimos doce años.

Por una vez, muchos votantes comenzaron a pensar que tal vez tanto descreimiento en sí mismos y en las instituciones –que, en definitiva, son el fruto de las interacciones de los individuos-, nos habían llevado a la pobreza e inseguridad en la que vivíamos.  Que quizás ya era momento de abandonar la sospecha constante, el enfrentamiento sin cuartel, la resignación frente al delito, el abandono de la libertad y el gobierno del miedo.

No sé cómo gobernará Macri a nivel nacional pero le auguro lo mejor a él y a su equipo. Ya llegará el momento de analizar sus decisiones y planes de acción. Mientras tanto, me alegro de que gran parte de los argentinos, de una vez (y espero que para siempre) hayamos comenzado a abandonar el cinismo y a creer en los caminos de esfuerzo, talento, trabajo, confianza, cooperación. Por último, espero que este camino nos lleve a confiar más en nosotros, en nuestras capacidades y valores y que gocemos del valor de ejercer nuestra libertad.

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A Victory for the Big Center

“To my left, the wall,” Argentina’s President Cristina Fenández de Kichner (CFK) had expressed some months ago. Many of her detractors agreed with her on this opinion, while some others doubted where exactly to place the wall -and how far. The label of “Populist” might be subject to controversy as well, but everyone will at least agree on one single definition: her political strain could be everything but centrist.

Notwithstanding “Peronism vs anti Peronism,” “Populism vs Rule of Law,” “Left vs Right,” “Kirchnerism vs anti Kirchnerism” were some of the terms articulated along the presidential campaign whose run off has just had been won by Mauricio Macri, from the challenging front “Cambiemos” (Let’s Change), the decisive point of discussion of the past election was “Big Center vs Hegemony.”

The Big Center could be defined as the coalition of the Center-Left and the Center-Right in order to preserve a political system which allows the competition between both wings from the menace of a radical hegemonic force. That is why it would be a mistake to characterize the winning coalition as a Center-Right or a non-Populist political party. “Cambiemos” (Let´s Chance) has won the election with the support of both Centre-Right and Centre-Left voters and both Populist and non-Populist strains. Its political platform contains an orthodox monetary policy as well as the continuity of the policies on helping to alleviate poverty. Mauricio Macri won in the main cities with European ancestry population, such as Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza, and also won in the Province of Jujuy, where he finished his campaign with a ancient ritual salutation to the Pachamama, one of the most important pre-Columbian deities.

By the width of “Cambiemos” coalition one could imagine how much was at stake. Which will be the final turn of the new government is something that generates no concern among its supporters. It is clear that it will remain circumscribed to the “Big Center.” Perhaps the definition will depend upon the ability of the Peronist Party -from now on in the opposition- to reassess its political strain: to turn into a Center-Right party, or into a Center-Left one or to insist on becoming a radical force. Given that “Cambiemos” has been delimiting its political discourse as a mirror of the “Kirchnerism,” we can expect the former to place itself in the political spectrum in reaction to its opposition. Nevertheless, all of us are convinced that Argentina’s political language will return to the categories of the Modern democracies.

Putting a stop to the Argenzuela Project

[Editor’s note: The following piece is written by Dr Nicolás Cachanosky, an economist at Metropolitan State University, Denver and a native Argentinian. Dr Cachanosky hails from the same PhD program (at Suffolk University) as Rick, who introduced us. His homepage is here, and he is also a member of the group blog Punto de Vista Económico (which you can find on the blogroll here at NOL). Check out his popular work for the Mises Institute, too. – BC]

For the last 12 years Argentina was under the influence of the Kirchner administration. First by President Néstor Kirchner (NK), and then two terms by her wife (and widow since 2010) Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK). Their plan, as perceived by many, was to alternate presidential terms between NK and CFK and remain in power endlessly. While this plan came to an end with NK’s death in 2010, CFK started to entertain the idea of reforming the Constitution to be able to run a gain for office. Because this was not possible, she chose Daniel Scioli, the Governor of Buenos Aires Province to be her successor. Last Sunday, November 22nd, Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires City beat Scioli in a ballotage and became president elect starting his term this coming December 10th.

Argentina was in path to become what is referred as Argenzuela. Namely, the Kirchner administration was taking the country, step-by-step, to become the next Venezuela of Latin America in a close way to what has been described as the four stages of populism. Under the Kirchner administration, the government increased their political ties with Venezuela, Iran, and China, at the expense of political relations with countries like the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. But the resemblance was not only in terms of political friendship, but on institutional and economic reforms. Argentina became a country where “Republic” is just a word on paper without a real presence in the country’s institutional reality. According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World, in 2003 Argentina ranked 99 out of 153 countries. By 2012 it ranked 149 out of 152 countries. The loss of economic freedom was fast and significant. Economic troubles and imbalances did not take long to appear.

Macri’s victory in the presidential elections put a stop to the Argenzuela project. We know what a presidency by Macri won’t look like. But it is still hard to say what it will actually look like. Macri is known for his emphasis not in free or unfree markets, but on an efficient administration. While not difficult to be more free market than the Kirchners, it might prove difficult to describe Macri’s political movement, Pro, as a free market party. The Kirchner administration has refused, at least so far, to share information with Macri and his appointed ministers, so the real situation of the economy and the Treasury remains unknown. Macri and his team are working on reform plans half-blinded because they don’t have reliable economic information, if they have it at all.

Specific reforms by Macri are still unknown (at the time of writing these lines), but his team of Ministers has already been announced. The people he’s bringing to the government with him show significant successful careers in government, the private sector, and international organizations (her chosen Chancellor is the Chief of Staff of Ban Ki Moon, General Secretary of the United Nations.) This is a clear contrast with the Kirchner administration, where all the Ministers showed a strong ideological motivation before professional accomplishments.

The economic crisis in Argentina hands Macri a unique opportunity to carry long needed significant reforms. He has, also, a unique political position. His political party has not only won the presidential election, with Pro Macri has also retained the Mayor’s office of Buenos Aires City and also won the Governor elections for the Buenos Aires Province. Macri’s Pro is in charge of the three most economically and political important districts. Let us hope that Macri does not become yet another lost opportunity in Argentina’s history.

Assessing Elections in Poland and Argentina in the Context of Populism and Liberalism in Europe and South America II (liberalism in the classical sense of course).

The Argentine election was for the state president, who is head of government as well as head of state. An expected first round victory for the Peronist party (formally known as the Justicialist Party) candidate Daniel Scoli disappeared as he failed to clear 45%. He is clearly ahead of Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires, running on behalf of a three party centre-right alliance which contains the less statist, and populist elements of Argentine politics, but at least the hope exists of a second round triumph over the Peronists.

The third candidate is also a Peronist, showing the difficulty of overcoming that legacy and why even just turning the Presidential election into a competition between a Peronist and a non-Peronist is a victory of some kind. The sitting President Christine Kirchner pushed at the limits of the Argentine constitution, which prohibits more than two terms for any President, by alternating in power with her late husband Nestór Kirchner. If he had not died in 2010, we might now be looking forward to a fourth consecutive term in power for team Kirchner.

Peronists or the army have run Argentina almost constantly since the 1940s. The periods of army rule give a good indication of how successful Juan Perón and his widow Isabel (the third wife) were in stabilising Argentine society and political institutions. Nevertheless the Peronists have been the only party with a record of electoral success in Argentina and have improved from the chaos that Juan and Isabel instigated in more recent appearances in government.

As such a dominant party they have relatively centrist technocratic elements (most notably ex-president Carlos Menem) as well as the hard core statist populist nationalists. The Kirchner years have tended increasingly towards the more populist end, stoking nationalist sentiment over the islands in the south Atlantic known in Argentina as the Malvinas and in the UK, which has sovereignty over the islands, as the Falklands.

There has been economic growth under the Kirchners, but it has now very much slowed as policy has tended towards high inflation, currency controls, confrontation on debt owed to foreign creditors and increasing budget deficits. There has been social liberalism, most obviously, on attitudes to the LGBT communities, but in a context of nationalist sovereigntist politics. At least we can hope that if Scoli wins, he will feel obliged to shift towards genuine economic sustainability and a less populist politics.

In general, this adds to a feeling that South America has passed the peak of leftist populism which has influenced most countries outside Colombia in the last two decades. The more respectable end of that spectrum in Brazil’s Workers’ Party, which had been fairly successful economically, appears to be declining under the weight of corruption scandals, economic recession and incapacity in delivering on the more populist side. On the less respectable side, Venezuela has lost its status as model for the world’s radical left as corruption, economic decay, state brutality, election rigging and persecution of the opposition has become too extreme to ignore, particularly since the state socialist hegemony no longer has Hugo Chavez as a charismatic frontman.

Brazil and Venezuela were the models of the left, reformist and revolutionary respectively, and no longer have that status. If there is a model now it is the Evo Morales Presidency in Bolivia, which in some respects is radical left, but not consistently enough to get the kind of model status previously accorded to ‘Lula’ (now caught up in corruption scandals as his successor Dilma Rousseff) in Brazil and Chavez in Venezuela (whose successor Nicolás Maduro is a blatant and charmless neo-Stalinist thug-apparatchik). The Morales regime has received some cautious support from those inclined towards liberty on the grounds that he has pursued an overdue reduction of the power of traditional rent seeking elites in Bolivia and engaged in an economic pragmatism certainly distasteful to former Chavez admirers, and not even entirely comfortable for former admirers of Lula.

The leftist populist tide in south America has not entirely receded, but is now discussed with increasing nostalgia and an increasingly elegiac tone by left socialist observers, and as it has receded has tended to leave only embarrassments for the socialist left or reformist pragmatist examples of at least some interest to the liberty community. We are not looking at a strong shift towards liberty in all its forms in that region, but at least we see some shifts opening the possibilities of new movements towards liberty in markets, rule of law, individual rights, and social openness.