Much has been written about the so-called libertarian moment recently in the United States. For years leading up to the 2016 election cycle, many pundits predicted that the GOP would have to become more libertarian by necessity to survive. Rand Paul was seen as particularly emblematic of this new Republican hope, appearing on the cover of both TIME and the New York Times Magazine in 2014.
Of course, Donald Trump entered the race the very next year, and it seems all that remains of a libertarian moment has been silenced by brash populism. In fact, just in the last two months both Reason Magazine and the Cato Institute have hosted discussions on if the libertarian moment is dead.
It may be in the United States for now, but we’re not the only country in the world. Numerous countries in Latin America have been begun to liberalize their economies — or at least start the process of doing so — in recent months.
Perhaps the best example at the moment in Argentina. After a decade of a flailing economy under Peronist leadership, the South American country elected a pro-market president last fall, Mauricio Macri. The new leader wasted no time in office, instituting drastic economic reforms in his first month. Macri lifted currency controls, appointed a new central bank president, instituted tax cuts, and negotiated payments on Argentina’s debt default, among many others. The long-term results have yet to be seen, but the swift action provides hope for restoring prosperity to what was formerly one of the richest countries in the world.
Meanwhile, two far more socialistic countries North of the equator are making small steps towards a liberalized future.
President Obama just left Cuba where he met with the nominally communist government — the first president to do so in office since Calvin Coolidge. While the Caribbean country won’t be discussing regime change anytime soon, the fact that they’ve restored diplomatic relations with the United States — opening their doors to small amounts of tourism and trade — is a welcomed sign of entry into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, just 2,000 kilometers south of the island, Venezuela voted in an opposition-led legislature last fall for the first time in 17 years. The South American country has been crippled by decades of Chavista rule, whose central planning and price controls have created national shortages on basic goods like toilet paper. There are still several roadblocks ahead for the opposition, with a Chavista president and Supreme Court quelling any major reforms. However, the election is a sign that many Venezuelans are tiresome of socialism.
Speaking of an irritated population, perhaps the most inspiring example in South America at the moment is Brazil. Millions of ordinary Brazilians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to support the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff, who’s been at the center of a national scandal with the state-owned oil company Petrobras. In short, the company was found to be giving kickbacks to major political interests in the ruling Worker’s Party. Now, the population is rising up in favor of a return to a more market economy, joining the continent-wide embrace of freedom. The legislature is expected to begin impeachment proceedings in the coming weeks.
Latin America’s reforms are each in their early stages. However, the fact that pro-market ideas are so quickly being accepted as realistic alternatives may point to a coming libertarian moment south of the border.