Saturday, March 31, 2012

Argentina’s Road to Serfdom: Book Import Bans

From Cato’s Juan Carlos Hidalgo,

The Argentine government has severely restricted the importation of books due to “human health concerns” [in Spanish]. That’s right. According to the government, it can be dangerous to “page through” a book that has high lead quantities in its ink. “If you put you finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” said Juan Carlos Sacco, the vice-president of an industrialist organization that supports the measure.

The government claims that this is not a ban. However, since each buyer has to demonstrate at the airport’s customs office that the ink in the purchased book has lead quantities no higher than 0.006% in its chemical composition, the result is that all book imports into the country are stalled.

The measure has a lot to do with the increasing efforts of the Argentine government to stop the flight of dollars out of the country. Capital flight in 2011 reached $21.5 billion, and it accelerated after the reelection of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in October. Facing increasing fiscal pressures, and after seizing private pension funds and raiding the Central Bank’s reserves, many people expect the government to go after their bank savings.

The government has reacted with increasingly ridiculous measures. Sniffing dogs are being deployed at airports and border check points to detect the ink used to print U.S. bills, so Argentines cannot take out of the country more than $10,000 without declaring it to the government. The Fernandez administration is also requiring major importers such as automakers to match the price of their imports with that of goods they must now export. As a result, Porsche is exporting Malbec wine and Mitsubishi is now selling peanuts.

Desperate governments will resort to any measures to advance their interests. And to stem capital flight from the private sector in reaction to their spendthrift ways, the Kirchner government now attempts to curtail freedom of speech through policies that promotes ignorance and illiteracy. Talk about ‘noble intentions’.

And of course, part of these mind control measures, imposed through propaganda and censorship, has been for the President of Argentina’s central bank to declare that printing money does not lead to inflation, as well as, to ban the private sector from making public estimates of statistical inflation which went against the government’s data.

As Benjamin Franklin once said,

A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.

Any government cannot simply wish away the laws of scarcity, which in fullness of time will be vented over the marketplace and eventually would incite a tempestuous political response.

Argentinians have yet to slough off their tolerance for despots which has brought about a cycle of political and economic crisis since the 20th century (as previously discussed here)

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