Journeys toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America

Journeys toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America

Journeys toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America

Journeys toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America

Excerpt

The essence of this volume is in the flow of the three stories told in Part One. Each story chronicles in some detail how a stubborn economic policy problem has been grappled with in Latin America over a long period of time. The subjects studied, Brazil's actions to strengthen the economic position of its drought-ridden and stagnating Northeastern provinces, attempts in Colombia to improve patterns of land use and land tenure, and Chile's experience with recurring inflation, should possess considerable intrinsic interest for the student of economic development. However, in undertaking to look concurrently at such widely differing problems, I also entertained some ulterior purposes and curiosities. Essentially they were to learn something about the problem-solving capabilities of public authorities in Latin America, about the conditions favorable to the emergence and growth of such capabilities and about characteristic ways and motions with which they assert themselves. General considerations about such matters, largely based on the country studies, make up Part Two of the book.

The basic justification for asking some probing questions in this field is easily given. At their outset and during their course, the processes of economic development and modernization confront decision-makers with a broad variety of policy problems; success in promoting development clearly depends in large measure on how these problems are attacked and handled. For the economist the point can be made plausible by comparing the emergence of a public policy problem to the rise in the price of one commodity relative to other prices. In economics the responses of private producers to such a price rise have long been studied conceptually and been subjected to careful measurement; for it is recognized that the speed, strength and direction of producers' responses (the so-called price elasticity of supply) have much to do with the ability of an economy to take advantage of newly arising opportunities, to absorb blows and to adjust . . .

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