Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Perspective: Argentina's economic collapse

Here are a couple of "food for thought" articles on dealing with major economic disruptions and their aftermath. The posts deal with life in Argentina, once the richest and most prosperous nation in South America, after that nation's 2001/2002 economic collapse.

From the Washington Post, August 2002: Despair in Once-Proud Argentina
The desolation of that day, neighbor vs. neighbor over hunks of meat, suggested how profoundly the collapse has altered Argentina. Traditionally proud, Argentines have begun to despair. Talk today is of vanished dignity, of a nation diminished in ways not previously imaginable.

Argentines have a legacy of chaos and division. In search of their "workers' paradise," Juan and Eva Peron declared war on the rich. During the "dirty war" of the 1970s, military rulers arrested tens of thousands of people, 15,000 of whom never resurfaced. And when then-President Carlos Menem touted New Capitalism in the 1990s, the rich got richer -- many illegally -- while the poor got poorer.

Yet some things here never really changed. Until last year, Argentines were part of the richest, best-educated and most cultured nation in Latin America. Luciano Pavarotti still performed at the Teatro Colon. Buenos Aires cafe society thrived, with intellectuals debating passages from Jorge Luis Borges over croissants and espresso. The poor here lived with more dignity than their equals anywhere else in the region. Argentina was, as the Argentines liked to say, very civilized.

Not anymore.

Argentines have watched, horrified, as the meltdown dissolved more than their pocketbooks. Even the rich have been affected in their own way. The tragedy has struck hardest, however, among the middle class, the urban poor and the dirt farmers. Their parts of this once-proud society appear to have collapsed -- a cave-in so complete as to leave Argentines inhabiting a barely recognizable landscape.

Worth a read, if only to see what economic collapse has wrought on what was once South America's wealthiest nation.


Here are a couple of videos, parts 1 and 2 from a series of 12 on the 2001 Argentine economic collapse:

The rest of the series can be viewed on YouTube (search for "Argentina economic collapse") if you're interested.


Another article, author unknown: What an Economic Collapse Looks Like: How to be a survivalist in an economic decline

Here's a blog, Surviving in Argentina, purportedly written by someone currently living there. The author's posts do have a ring of authenticity to them, so I am inclined to give his views weight as to the situation in Argentina. Read a couple of his posts (excuse the occasional incorrect grammar -- his English is far better than my Spanish, for sure!) here, here, and here.


Back around 2003 or so I did some defensive firearms training, and one of the students was a fellow from Argentina, who painted a pretty bleak picture of the Argentinean economy and the adverse effects on the entire social structure, at all levels. He talked about the rising crime in his country, and the importance of having defensive tools and the skills to use them. You could tell he thought the stuff he was learning would have real-world application when he got back home to Argentina.

As we here in the US embark on an era of potentially multi-trillion (that's trillion with a "T") dollar deficits, with a total public debt already in the $10.6 trillion dollar range ($6.3 trillion in debt held by the public, and $4.3 trillion in intragovernmental holdings, as of Jan 15th, 2009), the possibility of once unthinkable economic collapse begins to seem less remote, and more than idle speculation to more and more Americans. And this in America, a nation whose poor are the envy of some nations' upper middle classes. The social dislocation of such a collapse, should it occur, would likely be great indeed, in part because so many Americans are woefully unprepared for even modest (by comparison) and localized events, such as floods, hurricanes, and the like.

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