In This Review

Argentina’s Economic Reforms of the 1990s in Contemporary and Historical Perspective
Argentina’s Economic Reforms of the 1990s in Contemporary and Historical Perspective
By Domingo Cavallo and Sonia Cavallo Runde
Routledge, 2016, 296 pp
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From the early 1980s through the early years of this century, Domingo Cavallo served in a series of top economic policy posts in the Argentine government. Making use of his insider perspective, Cavallo and his co-author—his daughter, also an economist—seek to explain the extreme volatility of the Argentine economy. They divide Argentine economic history into two long eras: the Golden Age (1870–1914), when governments pursued a market-driven open economy and spent productively, but with restraint, on education and infrastructure; and 1945–90, a period marked by irresponsible populism, distortive state interventions, fiscal deficits, and runaway inflation. During the 1990s, Cavallo struggled mightily to dismantle the populist legacy, but ultimately, the authors lament, “politics crushed policies, and corporatism and special interests prevailed.” Why did the Argentines fail to learn the right lessons from their repeated calamities? Reasonably, the Cavallos blame unresolved divisions among stubborn political factions, distributive tensions (debtors versus creditors, workers versus capitalists, rural inhabitants versus city dwellers), impossibly complex and unstable rules, and weak institutions (including a corrupt and politicized judiciary)—in short, a devastating shortage of civic culture. This is a compelling book, although its omissions suggest another problem: few Argentines are willing to accept some blame for their national tragedies.