US - Argentina Path Dependency and Colonization

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Group: Eric Anderson, Phil Gadomski, Ryan Martinez
Week 1: US - Argentina Path Dependency and Colonization

Many assumptions have been made that the way a country starts has a very definite correlation with the way a country ends up.  Once a commitment has been made to a certain development trait it is very hard, and sometimes arguably impossible to change courses.  While initial revolutions and revolts are typically seen as positive, certain events like civil war, military dictatorships, frequent regime changes, etc can be horribly scarring and leave the country never quite the same.

The chain of events for both the United States and Argentina shows a very clear cause and effect scenario where both accidental and purposeful events of the past, and not just contemporary decisions of today’s governments, have a clear effect on today’s events of both nations.  In the United States, our foreign affairs and industrial policies are based on events like past wars and industrialization.  For all practical purposes the United States is very stable (although still imperfect) and has seen the same government using the same election and legislation procedures for over 200 years.  In Argentina, the nation has seen coup after coup and several economic disasters that have led many to believe that they simply will never be able to achieve progress on the level of more developed nations like the United States.  So what makes the two so different?

The colonization pattern of the United States started with Puritans seeking a new safe-haven to avoid persecution and tyranny.  Since everyone was seeking the same eventual goal of freedom and self-government, those principles are exactly what they based the new local governments on.  Working together the citizens cultivated the land and exported the raw goods to Britain from which they received quality finished goods.  Using this new progress coupled with fresh liberal ideas that they could not freely exercise in Europe, the citizens became very successful in a structure that would soon become the model for the rest of the world.  The colonization of Argentina was very different.  The region was built up by entrepreneurial businessmen looking to make a quick buck and return to their homelands.  Establishing stable governments and a healthy political system for their families to thrive was never the intent of these speculators.  In fact, their families typically never even came with them.  Argentina was simply a place of business; nothing more than a source of material goods to be exploited with nothing but nomadic gauchos standing in the way.

So in a sense, it seems that the United States had a similar beginning.  After all, groups in both places cultivated the land and took what they needed to prosper, make profit, etc; anything that led to a better life for the pioneers involved.  Even the final byproduct of all this �" how the countries are faring now �" seems very similar.  Both the US and Argentina are economically-driven nations whose well-being depends heavily on agriculture.  They are both capitalist because of their desire to progress and expand and make profits which stems from a common desire to create a comfortable wealthy life for their people.  So what makes them so different?  Why doesn’t Argentina share the honor with the US of being an economy that everyone else looks up to?

For starters, the United States focused on developing the entire continent and not just one port.  In Argentina, Buenos Aires was heavily favored for development since it was an important port city on the River Plate.  Granted, Buenos Aires was a very successful city, but the immigrants entering had no desire to establish any long-term settlements elsewhere in the interior.  There was no need for any other developments, in fact.  All of the skilled workers were centrally located in Buenos Aires and they were only there temporarily to take what they needed from the land and return home.  This explains, for the most part, the sheer size and population density of Buenos Aires and the relative desolation elsewhere in the country.  The settlers of the United States, on the other hand, were interested in staying permanently from the beginning and were therefore always expanding in order to find more places to build establishments.  This explains the abundance of large cities in the US along with the relatively even distribution of wealth.  A proposed explanation for the political success of the US is that from the very beginning most males were involved in the election process whether they were wealthy or not.  In Buenos Aires, only the wealthy elite �" which represented only a small percentage of the general population �" focused on politics.  Groups of people like the gauchos focused only on survival and could care less about formal government and laws.  This is why in the United States political parties only separate society by ideas and not actions, whereas in Argentina political parties historically have separated the elites from the poor masses.  This leads to a very divided populous where a small handful of typically non-elected officials wield supreme power and cannot be checked.  This long history of divided government shows why Argentina cannot have a long-term stable government under the same type of leadership whereas the United States has been going strong for more than two centuries with the Civil War as really the only noticeable political hiccup along the way.

After this overview of the history of both Argentina and the United States, it is not hard to see why both nations have gone in different directions of progress.  The United States with its liberal, free-thinking, and equal views has allowed for its citizens to progress well at whatever rate they desire with very little standing in their way.  Argentina has shown that its contemporary position was very dependent on the path it took to get to “progress.”  With an erratic and unhealthy amount of changes in the economy, government, and general well-being of the country, Argentina has been tainted seemingly permanently which explains their inability to get off the ground for good.

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Group: Eric Anderson, Phil Gadomski, Ryan Martinez
Week 1: Argentina-Uruguay Pulp Mill Dispute

Recently a dispute has arisen between Argentina and Uruguay over the implications of three proposed pulp mills on the Uruguay River.  This is the first time these two governments have dealt with a situation like this and therefore the dispute has been brought before the Hague Court, bringing with it attention on a global level what was until very recently an unknown local struggle.  The real problem is over potential pollution problems that may affect both countries and not just Uruguay who is slated to hold the mills.

The pulp mill battle is dangerous because it could cause bad relations between Argentina and Uruguay.  The relationship between the two countries has been a “big brother �" little brother” situation with Argentina the former and Uruguay the latter.  Uruguay has always lived in the shadow of Argentina’s progress and therefore should take advantage of the opportunity to expand commercially and industrially.  Argentina may be trying to block the production of these said pulp mills out of jealousy that they were not offered the contract from Finland and Spain.  After all, a $3 billion initial investment stands to make profit for all parties involved.  It may not be absolutely crucial for Argentina to get the contract, but the jealousy may stem from not wanting to see “little brother” selected when Argentina is much more established economically.  After the bridge closings by protestors it has the potential to escalate further.  It is also dangerous because it establishes a bad precedent for any similar situations that arise in the future. 

The two countries are considered allies and have always had good relations, so nothing quite like this has ever arisen before.  Given their friendship the two should be able to work out this conflict without any further problems.  Otherwise, more countries could proceed uncontested in similar ventures in the future that could lead to potential pollution or having other parts of their sovereignty violated in the future.  The pollution problems may not even be realistic and may very well never happen.  In order to prevent this though, there could be some sort of regulations imposed beforehand that could make everyone involved follow said rules and procedures.  It is our opinion that Uruguay has the right to be benefited economically and as long as they follow all local and global emission standards then there should be nothing standing in their path.  The potential for an economically thriving Uruguay is much more lucrative than a speculated and controversial pollution problem that may never arise.

    In conclusion, the decision of the Court is to allow the mills to be built in Uruguay following all necessary pollution-preventing measures.  If they fail to follow these measures then the operation can be brought before the Court again and ended.