“You Americans don’t understand anything. You have to come to Argentina and live here for a few years. Then you’ll understand America.”
We had to ask, “Huh?”
“When you’re here, you can see more clearly how things really work… and don’t work. You see the real nature of things… especially government. Believe me, you Americans have all sorts of delusions.
“A government ‘by, for and of the people’? Or, as Hillary Clinton put it, ‘The government is all of us.’ Not quite. And when you’ve been here for a while, you’ll see your own institutions more clearly.”
Our Man in Argentina
The speaker was a friend of ours. An American from Alabama who has lived in Argentina for 30 years. He lived through the hyperinflation of the 1980s… the boom of the 1990s… and the crash of the 2000s.
He saw corrupt presidents. Honest presidents. Competent presidents. Bumbling presidents. Lots of presidents. In a two-week period in 2001, Argentina had four different presidents. Each one tried to stop the financial meltdown. None could.
“Hey, that’s nothing,”; continued our friend. “During the military regime we had four de facto presidents in a single day.
“I remember when I got here. I felt so superior. Because our system in the United States worked so much better. But now I see it differently. Because I now know that there are some things that are better when they don’t work so well. I’ll tell you a story to illustrate.
“Two guys die. A German and an Argentine. Both of them go to hell. But after they’ve been there for a couple of weeks, the German guy is in a gutter… all bruised… with sores and burns all over his body.
“The Argentine still looks pretty good. When the German sees him, he says, ‘Hey… how come you’re still in good shape? They get us up at 5 a.m…. and the little devils start to torture us by beating us with iron rods. Then, at 8 a.m., they turn us over to the real devils. They whip us with barbed wire and then put cattle prods to our private parts. Then they throw buckets of sh*t on us… and waterboard us all afternoon. Aren’t you getting the same treatment?’
“‘Well, yes,’ says the Argentine, ‘but you’re in the German section of hell. We’re in the Argentine section. The rules are the same. But they’re not applied in the same way.
“‘The little devils are supposed to get us up at 5 a.m. so they can begin torturing us. But they don’t get up that early. And they don’t come to work very often. They’re all unionized. So they go on strike all the time. And then the real devils are meant to whip us with barbed wire. But there’s a shortage of metal… so they don’t have any whips.
“‘They put the cattle prods on us sometimes too… but the power doesn’t work. Or the cattle prods are missing. Nobody seems to know why. And they’re also supposed to throw buckets of sh*t on us too. But sometimes they’re out of sh*t… and other times they can’t find the buckets.
“‘As for waterboarding, the plumbing isn’t working. So they strap us to the rack and pretend to dunk us… and warn us that when they get the plumbing working, we’re not going to like it very much.
“‘But so far, it isn’t bad.’”
Some Things Are Best Done Badly
The Japanese faced huge logistical challenges when they bombed Pearl Harbor. Who thanks the staff officers who overcame them?
Imagine what a feat of monetary engineering was accomplished by Gideon Gono when he flooded the Zimbabwe economy with 100 quadrillion dollars. But does anyone stop him in the street and commend him?
Some things are best done badly or not at all, we conclude. If you’re sent to the gallows, you hope that the rope maker was having a really bad day.
And if your central banks have their hearts set on a program of financial doomsday… you pray they’re incompetent, not just stupid.