LA NACIÓN – The prejudices on liberal thought are enormous, for example, in the alleged selfishness that underlies it. Do you know what Adam Smith writes? Textually he affirms: “no matter how selfish man may want to suppose himself, obviously there are elements in his nature that make him take an interest in the fate of others, in such a way that their happiness is necessary for them, although they obtain nothing from it, unless be the pleasure of witnessing it ”.
Perhaps it is Smith who most fully represents liberalism. With him begins the classical period (1776-1890). Together with David Ricardo and John S. Mill, he understands that markets offer solutions to conflicts arising from relative scarcity.
In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Smith shows great mistrust of politicians. Yes, in politicians who seek to dictate norms in favor of the general welfare. On the contrary, they believe in human actions that, in their daily life, generate behaviors favorable to development. Thus, too, he is convinced of the importance of free education to acquire the first letters and the most elementary knowledge. Strictly speaking, liberalism proposes that only those public goods and services should be provided by the State. Obviously, there is also education, at least the initial one, because being for everyone it is a public service.
Argentine society has been induced to load with arguments contrary to liberalism. Those who seek power, surely for power itself, are behind this task. And, of course, sectoral economic forces.
Such prejudices have allowed the realization of terrible events. The Republic was forged under the protection of the thought of the generation of 1837, clearly liberal. But, with the passage of time, he lost his way. It is not easy to establish a turning point in our history; perhaps it is in the years after the Great Crisis.
From the 1940s, fundamentally, the abandonment of the thought of freedom begins. And a new vision is being imposed, with practices that limit international trade and little respect for inclusive institutions. Thus, non-inclusive institutions are born that disregard property rights for the benefit of some and to the detriment of a large part of the people.
With visible populist features, both democratic and military governments have followed similar paths in their economic policies. The increasing weight of the State, with Keynesian economic policies, has been promoted by different governments to increase their power. Friedrich von Hayek, as Smith had put it centuries earlier, writes that populist leaders claim to know more than their own people what is best for each. They also agree with Smith in thinking that the State should seek assistance to people who are the object of actions that are beyond its reach to prevent them.
Peter Drucker cannot be said to be far from liberal thought. However, he affirms: “the community that is needed in post-capitalist society – and especially the knowledge worker needs it – that has to be based on commitment and compassion rather than being imposed by proximity or isolation”
Even the Catholic Church itself prefers the market economy. Within the framework of the Social Doctrine of the Church, John Paul II affirms “the importance of the company, the market, private property and the consequent responsibility towards the means of production, of free human creativity in the field of economy “
How long will we insist on corporate statism? That is, on the direct path to populism. Unfortunately, the discretion of power is above the institutions. The decree that removes funds from the co-participation to the city of Buenos Aires is a clear example of this. And electoral opportunism is its trigger, as the national government understands that it is an electorally lost territory, and consequently, attention should be directed to the Buenos Aires bastion.
Society can prosper and improve its income and standard of living only when there are clear incentives to produce and reap the gains of social cooperation through specialization and trade.
Liberal philosophy is embodied in society, making institutions the only way to live, work and progress.
By Manuel Alvarado Ledesma Professor Ucema, economist