Government, Market and Development: Brazilian Economic Development in Historical Perspective
Dalto, Fabiano Abranches Silva
In the last 30 years the World has been swept by neoliberal doctrine. Under neoliberal conceptions, freedom of the market mechanism has precedence in the process of development. Neoliberalism has had a major impact on the mindset of policymakers, on government strategies for development and on economic performance. This thesis is about the economic consequences of neoliberalism in Brazil. It approaches the problem from a historical perspective. By examining government economic strategies in Brazil from the 1930s through the 1970s it undermines a central neoliberal argument that government interventions in the economy are either inimical or irrelevant to economic development. While government failures did occur indeed, in the Brazilian case it is shown that the government performed a crucial role in this period in building key institutions that guided market forces towards industrial transformation. Since the mid-1970s, Brazil has been a laboratory for neoliberal economic policymaking. Restrictive macroeconomic policies alongside liberalised markets have been the cornerstones of policymaking. The second line of argument developed here is that neoliberalism has since constrained economic development in Brazil. During this period the country has been through several financial crises and has experienced low economic growth and unprecedented unemployment. Compared with the previous period of government-led development, neoliberal policies and institutions fall far behind in terms of overall economic performance. Thirdly, it is argued that under neoliberalism government policy and institutions in Brazil have been directed to satisfy rentiers’ interests at the expense of a socially acceptable economic development. Finally, this thesis calls for the reinstatement of discussion over the government’s role as an agent of a democratic, economic and social ransformation. This is a discussion that has been obstructed by neoliberal doctrine for too long.