The two times I visited Brazil, I gained the impression that this was a country that longs to be free. Its culture is so rich and varied, its people so vast, its manners and mores so imbued with tradition and informal signaling, its food so spectacular, it felt like a place that would be impossible to rule from the center.
Its cities were built by so many generations, so many millions of minds, so much awesome coordination of multifarious plans across time and space, it struck me as a place intrinsically resistant to central planning. Presidents could strut and preen, dictators could yell and scream, some industries could be forcibly nationalized, taxes could rise and rise, but full control would always be elusive.
Socialism surely could not last.
Sure enough, it is not lasting. Every on-the-ground report suggests a revolutionary moment, but here is what is key. In many such cases, when a regime is widely considered corrupt and exploitative, there is a tendency of the public to be buffeted right and left. Let’s pillage the rich! Let’s get a strong man! These are the default tendencies of an angry public.
But in Brazil, it is different today. Imagine: mass rallies against the state that are actually informed by economic rationality. The signs are for property rights, free trade, and privatization. That’s amazing. For once in a blue moon, a populist movement seems to be on the side of genuine, authentic, robust, full-bown, and serious liberty – for the whole of society.
The future is not a given, but the trajectory is impressive.
And what has made the difference? What makes this mass movement so distinct from most all in history? One word: education. Brazil has a gigantic free market movement. They host conferences. They publish books. They give interviews. They do blogs and podcasts. They have constant meetups. And what you find when you look at this movement is not a dour, downcast group of crabby reactionaries, but a bright, ebullient, and forward-looking cultural movement that embraces real progress as an ideal.
The video produced by Reason gives the details, and, in particular, singles out Students for Liberty (for whom I speak as often as possible) and Mises Brazil (which routinely translates my articles).
There is no reason why this experience cannot be repeated in many countries. I recall that once a Brazilian told me that Americans are far luckier than they because we have this heritage that includes a libertarian revolution, a Declaration of Independence, and founders who had been taught in the liberal tradition.
Maybe, but liberty is a universal ideal that stems from the reality all around us. It is just waiting to be loved and practiced.