Brazil: What Could Go Wrong?
Published on: April 21, 2011
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  • Luke Lea

    ” Although public education is improving, slowly, for the foreseeable future the Brazilian workforce is going to have a lot of semi-skilled workers with an 8th grade education or less.”

    I hate to say this but most, if not all, of the poorer countries in the world today have an endemic shortage of human capital (= brains x education). We in the United States on the other hand have a surplus. Instead of encouraging the talented few in the third world to emigrate here we should be sending our talented many to live and work with them (which our corporations are in a position to do by the way). By all means encourage the best and the brightest overseas to study in our universities. But it is a sin to encourage them to stay. Parasitical in fact.

  • Luke Lea

    A good book on the subject I can recommend is “Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830” by John Huxtable Elliott. Elliot systematically contrasts and compares the colonial experience and policies of Catholic Spain with those of Protestant England. Many more native Americans survived in the South is one major theme. Racial integration another. The influence of the political and religious traditions back home a third. And money making vs. making money a fourth.

    As comparative history of two contrasting societies it is well worth the reading, the early chapters especially, extensive selections of which are available free on Google Books:

  • cas127

    Excellent article.

  • tim maguire

    I heard a great saying a while back that still holds, “Brazil is the country of tomorrow. And it always will be.”

    Most people don’t learn Spanish because there are so many Spanish speakers in Latin America, but because there are so many Spanish speakers in the United States.

  • I’m also hopeful that this time it’s for real. I base my hope on a less nuanced and not-so-in-depth look at the facts on the ground:

  • M. Report

    Brazil’s Shining Path to the future ? 🙂

    The 1st and 2nd world powers all have
    a single shining star to follow into
    the future: Technological progress.

    The Equator crosses northern Brazil;
    Good place for a commercial spaceport.

  • PedroCabral

    Luke, that is absurd. We already waste huge amounts of our research and educational resources on foreign nationals – now typically a large majority in our federally and state-funded science and engineering graduate schools. They go back home to compete with us commercially and militarily. In the meantime, we produce “studies”, communications, and journalism majors who are full of hate for the US and Western Civilization, and unemployable for any productive purpose. We are killing our own seed corn, and paying for foreign manufacturers to take our present and future jobs. The percentage of foreign national grad students in US universities directly correlates with the loss of US jobs. Perhaps all US citizens rejected by our universities in favor of foreign nationals should apply to Brazilian Universities for an equal opportunity!!

    Why do you bring up the Spanish in a discussion of a Portugese country ( English rule of law, vs Spanish culture of corruption which we are now importing) specifically distinguished from the Spanish in the article? A more relevant reference would be to the Portugese initiation and profiteering from African slave trade in the Muslim tradition, which still plagues Brazil.

  • spidly

    So….. Brazil needs a Reagan.

  • RHurst

    Excellent article. Yes, I agree, Brazil needs a Reagan.

  • ChrisGreen

    Got to agree mostly with Pedro Cabral. We need more US citizens to study science and engineering. We used to get the best and brightest from Asia to make up for our loss, but more and more, they are starting to study here, then go back home to work. I am very glad they were available when we needed them to supply engineers and technicians in our corporations, and they are welcome to stay, but think how much lower the unempolyment rate would be if we hadn’t needed them (millions and millions of them) and had stocked our businesses and corporations with people already living here instead of bringing people from other countries.

  • DaveC

    “Go to Brazil, and learn what the future looks like.” So true, because that’s what the USA will be in 2020. A broke, starving, racially divided, hyper-violent, over-taxed, over-regulated socialist dystopia. Luke need not worry about brain drain; the talent already knows that Obama Nation is no place to look for a job or start a business.

    Any great nation needs a healthy bourgeoisie consisting of Jews, English, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, or some other ethnicity racially and culturally suited to the task.

    Brazil has a bourgeoisie, but much of their potential is wasted by high taxation and suffocating regulation. To survive, businesses must either tap into political patronage networks (like GM and GE in the USA) or remain small, under-capitalized, all-cash operations.

    Public education beyond basic literacy and numeracy is a waste of money. If you want to learn more, you can always read a book or become an apprentice.

  • JB

    “Although public education is improving, slowly, for the foreseeable future the Brazilian workforce is going to have a lot of semi-skilled workers with an 8th grade education or less. Without a strong manufacturing sector, it is hard to see how millions of young Brazilians can find decently paid and reasonably secure jobs.”

    Brazil has a mean IQ of 87, hence the facts above. You cannot build a manufacturing base competitive with China (mean IQ 101) from that. Unless they attract skilled immigrants they simply aren’t going to be a world power. Will.not.happen.

  • Pica Pau

    DaveC said:“`Go to Brazil, and learn what the future looks like.’ So true, because that’s what the USA will be in 2020. A broke, starving, racially divided, hyper-violent, over-taxed, over-regulated socialist dystopia.”

    Let’s take this apart:

    “Broke” – Brazil is currently enjoying a 2.9% of GDP budget surplus and is working towards a 3.1% surplus in 2012. The US is now floundering in a severe deficit of ungodly scale.

    “Starving” – Brazil has done much to address this problem. The “Zero Fome” and “Bolsa Familia” programs have been relatively successful. There is still some hunger but not anywhere near the magnitude of prior years. It is getting fixed.

    “Racially Divided” – Living here, I have not seen any evidence of racism. There is however rampant classism in Brazilian culture – no matter what the color of one’s skin.

    “Hyper-Violent” – Most of the violence here in Brazil are criminals killing other criminals – not a bad thing. The Rio police are cracking down on this by placing police stations in all of the favelas (slums). Their presence is working and the violence has greatly diminished.

    “Over Taxed” – Uh, Brazil’s top tax rate is 27%. The US top tax rate is 35% (with calls for an increase). I believe 35% is greater than 27%.

    “Over Regulated” – There is more “red tape” to deal with here in Rio compared to the US. However, the hoops one must jump through here in Brazil are relatively simple and significantly less expensive than anything in the US – albeit still frustrating.

    “Socialist Dystopia” – Brazil is quickly incorporating capitalistic economic practices and their economy is reflecting the change. The US is frantically adopting socialistic changes and is nosediving into oblivion. Which country is truly reflecting a socialistic dystopia?

  • Gamboa2Oahu

    My wife’s sister is a public school teacher in Brazil. She commonly has 40+ students each year as she aslo struggles economically to raise her own two kids. The depth of this article is informative but makes little mention of the huge gap in quality of education that characteristically leads emerging nations to sustained improvements in overall quality of life for its citizens. The other side of the mediocre status of public education in Brazil is not even mentioned – big city crime, car-jackings in Sao Paulo & poorly educated youth being lured into the crime and drug scenes that mark Rio & Sao Paulo with a chronic need to “watch your back” or else!
    Two vignettes in 2004 support these concerns: 1. My wife & I stayed in a small town in the interior of Brazil (Andarai). The owners had “fled” Sao Paulo within months of the mother (with her kids in the car) being car-jacked. They used the money they earned in Sao Paulo to get the hell out.
    2. Summer of 2004, I flew back to the USA from Salvador. About 20 high school students were headed for various homes in the US to study for a year. Obviously, they were from a private school because in a city that is highly mixed ethnically and very rich in African traditions, no student headed for the US was black. The talent pool in Brazil is richly varied, but until educational quality rises substantially across the country, social inequities that fester will continue to fuel the worlds of crime, drugs & violence. Public education is not a waste of money neither in Brazil nor the US. You don’t flourish as a society if you leave 80% of your populace with a minimal education or less. A classic study in South Africa in the 1960s showed that Indian children who had no teachers over a 4-year period experienced an approximate drop in IQ of 4 pts. per year of missed school (compared to Indian children in neighboring villages who had teachers). Lula started to turn this around with money paid to poor families that keep their kids in school, but that does not address the issue of developing a solid base of well-trained and respectably paid educators.

  • Brad

    PedroCabral. Your comments could not be more distorted. Surely there is a correlation between the number of American jobs going overseas and the increase in the number of international students enrolled in American institutions but here are a few points to consider:

    -The numbers are not even close. In 2010 there were approximately 700,000 international students at US universities. This is a drop in the bucket compared to jobs lost.

    -The jobs that are going overseas are rarely high-level, high-educational attainment positions. Therefore, the rise in people studying in the U.S. is not necessarily crowding out talented American students who would be willing to take those jobs anyway.

    -The rise in International Enrollments has been a direct response to DECREASES in state funding for higher education. Almost all international students are full pay without access to either federal financial aid. Therefore, universities are replacing those dollars in their budgets from international enrollments. For graduate students, educational costs are often covered but those students put in 60-80 hour weeks as graduate and research assistants which again, is a cheap labor source for institutions of higher education.

    -The American secondary education system is not producing enough students qualified to go into science and engineering. Therefore, any assumptions that we’re producing too many “communications studies” majors has nothing to do with foreign nationals in our universities, but with Americans’ inability to realize that the rest of the world is working tirelessly to beat us in technology, science and innovation from a young age. While we debate climate change and Intelligent Design, kids in China are actually learning math, putting them on a trajectory to become the future innovators.

    What America SHOULD do, is change it’s immigration policies to allow pretty much any talented, recent university graduates and their families to become citizens soon after receiving graduate degrees in high-demand fields. We should leverage education as an immigration tool, so those students don’t return to their home countries and become our future competitors.

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