McNelis: Argentina’s economic history ‘stranger than fiction’

Paul McNelis, S.J.

Paul McNelis, S.J.

During Pope Francis’ lifetime, Argentinians have been subject to a number of economic experiments and political upheaval that have shaped not only the country’s troubled history, but also the pope’s views on capitalism and government, according to an article written by a Fordham professor.

“When we hear Francis speak critically of capitalism and the discipline of economics in general, we can understand that his views reflect almost any reasonable person’s reaction to recurring tyrannies, both of military dictators and of technocratic experts,” wrote Paul McNelis, S.J., who teaches finance and business economics at the Gabelli School of Business.

Pope Francis, chosen to head the worldwide Catholic Church in 2013, was born in Argentina in 1936.

McNelis’ article was published on the website of America, the digital arm of the National Catholic Review magazine. The article was part of a series of works produced for the pope’s recently concluded six-day trip to the United States, which featured stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

McNelis argued that Argentinians have lived through economic and political turmoil through most of Pope Francis’ lifetime. Military coups and failed presidencies were often accompanied by rampant inflation, along with radical shifts in the nation’s core economies.

Technocrats often brought in economic theories that seemed to solve some economic issues in the short term, but created other problems as political winds shifted. Unlike the United States, where major economic changes are spaced by decades, the Argentinian economy was wrenched back and forth several times through a number of different regimes.

McNelis, who worked in Argentina more than 10 years ago, argues that economic programs need to be developed more through “search and learning” than through “top-down policies mandated by experts.”

“The major lesson one can take from this ‘stranger than fiction’ history of Argentina is that economics is never separate from the politics and the history of particular countries,” McNelis wrote. “Argentina was never, and will never be, a blank slate for experts to try out their pet theories in the real world.”

Read the full article here.

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