Brazil has been stuck between Hobbes and Rousseau. They have never tried Locke.
Public opinion in Brazil has been a mix of Marxist, Positivist and Developmentalist ideas. Many still hold radical communist ideas: the poors are poor because riches are rich, because of capitalist exploitation, because of the greed of foreign owners of capital. Brazil is also the only country with a positivist church. Comte, the father of positivism, believed technicians and experts should plan all aspects of ordinary life to compulsorily promote science and progress. It is the elitist view that ordinary people cannot think for themselves, that poor people are a lower class to be commanded, and are a problem to be cleaned away. Positivism has been implicit in people’s mind and explicit in the slogan on Brazil’s flag “Ordem e Progresso” (Order and Progress). Developmentalism, a tropical mix of mercantilism and Keynesianism, has been the mainstream economic doctrine developed by latin economists. It asserts that “what is good for rich Countries is not good for us.” Its core policies are central planning, interventionism, protectionism, and a big state as the motor of development.
Historically, Brazil and Latin America have been stuck between Caudillism and Marxism, between populism and good intentions, between coup d’etat and revolutions, between an extremist left and a militaristic right, between Hobbes and Rousseau. They have never tried Locke. This could be the beginning of something different.
In the 1980s, Brazil faced hyperinflation, dictatorship and state bankruptcy. Brazilians who had studied abroad and learned free market economics and understood the importance of individual liberty began to form groups designed to teach these ideas to businessmen. They translated many books from Mises, Hayek, Kirzner and even Ayn Rand. Several “Institutos Liberais” (Liberal Institutes) were created, but the movement remained small and ultimately ineffectual for several years. In the mid 90’s, it almost disappeared. Intellectually, the 90’s were essentially leftist. Marxist anti-market and anti-globalization views were dominant in virtually all of Brazil’s universities.
The country is full of Institutes, websites and blogs on libertarianism and Austrian economics. Instituto Mises Brasil (Mises Institute – Brazil) has translated several Austrian books and publishes articles every day. Estudantes pela Liberdade (Students for Liberty) holds conferences in hundreds of cities and has become the largest student association in the country by far. Dozens of student discussion groups have popped up in Brazil’s universities. Spotniks publishes daily articles debunking mainstream media. Instituto Mercado Popular (The Popular Market Institute) discusses market-based solutions to public policies. Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (The Institute of Business Studies) and Instituto de Formação de Lideres (The Leadership Training Institute) hold annual gigantic conferences in 5 capitals. But the biggest battlefield, of course, is online. Each of these institutions has thousands of facebook likes and followers. Alongside these, independent YouTubers and bloggers help to disseminate and popularize the ideas of a free society.