That’s the question in this week’s The Economist: What went wrong with Argentina, a hundred years ago one of the world’s richest countries, today an economic basket case. Argentina suffered no big catastrophes or experiments with extremism, it just took a gradual, ever so gradual, nose dive due to a bad political culture and economic management. Here’s from the leader:
Why dwell on a single national tragedy? When people consider the worst that could happen to their country, they think of totalitarianism. Given communism’s failure, that fate no longer seems likely. If Indonesia were to boil over, its citizens would hardly turn to North Korea as a model; the governments in Madrid or Athens are not citing Lenin as the answer to their euro travails. The real danger is inadvertently becoming the Argentina of the 21st century. Slipping casually into steady decline would not be hard. Extremism is not a necessary ingredient, at least not much of it: weak institutions, nativist politicians, lazy dependence on a few assets and a persistent refusal to confront reality will do the trick.