Brazil’s Easy-Money Problem by Lucas Vaz

Brazil is undergoing what is considered its worst economic crisis in seventy years, and there is usually no agreement when it comes to the causes of this situation. President Rousseff and the Labor Party say that it was the corollary of the “International Crisis,” a ghost of the 2008 depression created in their minds. The reality, however, is different. Since ex-president Lula Da Silva of the Labor Party entered office in 2003, the government has clung to the typical Keynesian project of growth-by-government-spending. Interest rates were lowered constantly, the amount of loans grew to an unprecedented level, savings per capita dropped, and government spending continued to grow.

For the advocates of government intervention, the country’s economy was heaven on earth. It should be of no surprise that Paul Krugman, the defender of America’s Quantitative Easing, said that Brazil was not a vulnerable country. However, those policies so strongly defended by some economists and by bureaucrats led the country toward the terrible situation in which it is now.

From the Brazilian government’s point of view, it could hardly get any worse: the country is facing an economic depression that is likely to last at least two more years, the country’s rating was downgraded to junk by Standard & Poor’s, and a corruption scandal may lead to the impeachment of the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff. We must recognize, however, that even though this was the result of the government’s action, it simply put in practice the most prevalent ideologies of the country, which is a mixture of Marxism in politics and in the universities with Keynesianism in economics. This national ideology praises, in general, a complete dependence of the people on the government. The fact that “Brazil’s tax burden already amounts to 36 per cent of GDP” is held with pride by professors and economists throughout the country, who spread the word that public policies will create jobs and contribute to people’s welfare.

Brazil and the Austrian Business Cycle Theory

In order to grasp what is happening to Brazil, and to understand why some economists have long ago predicted the current disaster, it is crucial to understand Austrian business cycle theory, since it yields a concrete critique of government’s involvement with currency and credit expansion — two factors that the Brazilian government used as tools for economic growth — and its misuse is what generated the crisis.

As Mises pointed out, “the cyclical fluctuations of business are not an occurrence originating in the sphere of the unhampered market, but a product of government interference with business.”

Indeed, those “boom-bust” cycles, as the one that happened in Brazil, are generated by monetary intervention in the market in the form of bank credit expansion. Thus, they are an outcome of central planning and government intervention, the very opposite of a free market.

It is, however, important to make the distinction between bank credit expansion in the form of loans to business and other forms of credit expansion. The former is usually a method that government uses to boost the economy of the country, lowering the interest rates “below the height at which the free market would have fixed it,” and this is why it is so important in our analysis.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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