Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Regarding COHA Report “The Rebirth of Populism in Latin America Poses A Powerful Challenge to the Neoliberal Order"

History may never repeat itself, but some patterns have a tenacious staying power. Latin America’s populist political movements, as today’s genera represented by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela would exemplify, display a recurring vigor which is not all that mysterious. On the one hand, powerful elites continue to dominate the region’s economic and political structures. In the context of more than two decades of recent neoliberal economic initiatives, the rich have become much richer, and everyone else has tended to fall steadily behind. Social justice throughout the region is at best spotty, and often tends to be little more than an elusive fantasy or the prospected gift of blowhards. On the other hand, Latin America’s less-favored inhabitants remain decidedly unsatisfied with the status quo, and indeed, see it as a noxious growth that must be cut at the root. The above are textbook conditions for the rise of populism.

Full article...

~ Dr. W. John Green
Could you kindly document where I have advocated reduced public spending adn a flattened tax structure, both of which you attribute to me personally. If you are unable to do this, kindly print a correction and retraction,

Yours faithfully

John Williamson~


Dr. Williamson,
It was not my attention to attribute those specific policies to you personally, nor do I think my wording actually does so. But it could be clearer, I agree.
I’ll speak to Larry Birns, COHA’s director about sending out a clarification, if you so desire.

John GreenCOHA Senior Research Fellow~

~Dr Green,
Your article states inter alia “Williamson’s advice…included…reduced public spending and a flattened tax structure…”. That seems to me absolutely unambigous, and is incorrect. I would appreciate a clarification, retraction, and apology.

John Williamson~

~COHA Responds

Dr Williamson,

Let’s look at the full quote.

“Williamson’s advice, aimed at developing countries around the globe, embodied ideas long favored by neoliberal economists that emphasized “free market” solutions. These included fiscal discipline, redirected (and reduced) public spending, and a flattened tax structure that dropped the higher brackets while raising the lower. Governments were advised to eliminate tariffs and encourage greater hospitality to direct foreign investment. However, without question, the most important of these “reforms” was the deregulation of the business environment and privatization of state-owned enterprises.”

My mistake here is not making enough of a break between these two sentences. The first seems defendable enough. So are the following sentences, except that I utterly fail to make it clear that I’m going on to address the general complement of policies often associated with what some would call a “neoliberal” take, and others a “free market” approach, and not your individual position. It was not my intention to attribute to you all policies associated with this general perspective, but one can look at it that way. I disagree, howver that it is “absolutely unambigous” as you say. If it were, we would not be having this exchange.
If you demand that I apologize for a sin against clear writing, I do so now, and will do so again in public as soon as possible.

Once again, Respectfully,
John Green~

~Dr. Green,

Actually my paper was directed primarily at Washington, and was about Latin America not “developing countries around the globe”, but we’ll let that pass. It did indeed embody some to the ideas favored by neoliberal economists–all the mainstream ideas they favored, like fiscal discipline, redirected public expenditure, and free trade, and none of their cranky ones like reduced public spending everywhere and flat tax structures. I do not see how anyone can read the second sentence as not applying to me, and accordingly I would indeed appreciate your using the mechanisms you have to publicise an apology.

John Williamson~

~COHA Responds:

Dr. Williamson,

I’m sorry this has happened. As I wrote, I agree that it can be read this way, and at best it is unclear. I simply hate getting it wrong, especially through imprecise writing. If I understand Larry’s intentions correctly, I believe COHA will be doing two things. One is to rewrite that paragraph to separate your personal policy recommendations from the larger list, and make that public. The second is to air this in COHA’s Forum section, and declare mea cupla. I’ll get back to you when this is done.

John Green~

1 comment:

Dan Hellinger said...

This exchange is somewhat sterile. My suggestion to John Green is that he simply say: "My article erred in claiming that Dr. Williamson advocates reduced spending a flatter taxes in Latin America. I apologize for that." Then move on. Whether you intentionally or unintentionally made this error matters little to the rest of us.

As for Dr. Williamson, I understand why you want to insist that your position on issues be reported correctly. You made your point in the first posting. But there is something of a "doth protest too much" quality to your insistence on an apology. This makes me curious, then. Would you indicated, please, just what you do think of those who advocate reduced spending and flatter taxes as part of overall economic adjustment?

Daniel Hellinger
Professor of Political Science
Webster University