The world eats oranges

Image by João Nitsche


How the lack of scientific-technological investment condemns countries with peripheral capitalism

In the globalized capitalist world we live in, where the macroeconomic policy of the States is limited by the forces of the world financial market, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a way to solve the social problems of the “emerging” countries. In this text, I propose to reflect on what path that would be and what obstacles we would face when daring such heresy. First of all, I must make it clear that economic development without putting an end to existing social problems as its primary purpose is not real development, it is just the development of underdevelopment, an illusory inflation of macroeconomic data that only increases the profit margin of the bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries (peripheral and central), without the inflection point moving from the horizon. To begin this discussion, we must, amidst the fog of economic untruths, distinguish the harmful consequences of trade relations between Brazil and other countries.

The developmentalism present in the recent history of the Brazilian economy may lead us to a mistaken view of the size of the national industry and its real importance for the trade balance. Brazil is still, despite the industrial advances of the second half of the 2018th century, a country that produces raw materials. In 50, the seven best-selling commodities accounted for 120,3% of total national exports and generated US$XNUMX billion¹, maintaining a long tradition of agro-exports that increasingly consolidates Brazil as one of the global exponents of agribusiness, capable of competing with the best in the business and supply agricultural commodities to countless countries around the world. For what reasons, then, does the development of the large rural sector not significantly support other productive sectors? Why do we still use euphemisms to define our economic situation? Why does a country as rich as Brazil continue to be so miserable? In order to try to answer these questions, we must first pay attention to the lack of dynamism in the external sector. Agro can be tech and pop, but it shouldn't be everything. The lack of diversity in Brazilian exports places the country in a fragile condition, susceptible to the unpredictable effects of global prices and demand, in addition to creating a dependency on international trade, subjugating Brazil to a zero-sum game: the perverse logic of exporting commodities and importing products with high added value (we sell soybeans and buy computers) leads us, as if we were a colony again, to finance the development of other countries to the detriment of our natural resources.

Peripheral capitalist countries that, for historical reasons, present unequal conditions in relation to central capitalist countries, have in the exploitation of natural resources and export of raw materials their main source of capital. This accumulation of capital in the hands of large landowners, in addition to not having an impact on the real development of the country, creates an intimate relationship between agribusiness and the government. This relationship gradually ceases to be one of influence and becomes symbiotic. The big landowners no longer need to convince the decision makers, they become the decision makers, making the government become, as Marx predicted, a committee to manage common business of the bourgeoisie, capable of disrespecting the constitution, invading delimited lands and poison people (directly or indirectly), with a view to increasing production and profit for the camp elite.

We must not conclude, however, that the production and export of commodities is, in itself, something negative. The United States is perhaps the best example of how increased productivity and raw material exports can have a positive impact on the national economy, supply the domestic market and generate foreign exchange. The difference resides in their dynamism: they lead both sectors of agricultural commodities (such as soy and corn, for example) but also technology sectors, exporting electronic components, cell phones, software e hardware cutting edge worldwide. The country with an astonishing GDP of 20 trillion exports, in addition to monoculture commodities, a wide range of products with high added value and invests heavily in science and technology. The existence of the Wheat Belt and Silicon Valley is a good illustration of the dynamism that exists in the US economy, and by looking at the largest economy in the world, we are able to learn, through good and bad example, how we can change our economic policies and our public investment. We must not, as is well known, compare different countries without taking into account historical, social, geographical, cultural, etc. issues. or to think that what worked for one will necessarily work for another. However, we cannot forget a pertinent fact if one wants to break the vicious cycle of economic dependence: no State has experienced a significant and lasting advance in its socioeconomic indicators that has not been maintained by the industrialization and modernization of the economy. Believing that the path to national development lies in maintaining and advancing agribusiness is an error that, if persisted, will condemn Brazil to being an eternal banana republic.

Since the second half of the last century, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has analyzed the different structures of capital in different countries, as well as the trade relations existing between them, seeking in their analysis (guided by ingenious economists Raúl Prebisch and Celso Furtado) a solution for the underdevelopment of late capitalist countries. From this prolific research emerged the theoretical basis used in my text so far: the division between central and peripheral, the dependency theory, the theory of the deterioration of terms of trade and the conception that only industrial and technological development is capable of breaking with underdevelopment. The macroeconomic policies applied in Brazil influenced by this knowledge, despite not solving social problems that haunt us since the beginning, considerably improved the national economy. The increase in public investment in industry and the existence of economic planning focused on creating infrastructure immensely expanded national production and industrialized certain regions of the country. We must reflect, therefore, on what could have been done differently for the country to finally emerge from the mud of misery and social inequality – or rather, what we can do today so that in a few decades we will not be haunted by the same problems as today. haunt us.

The main flaw in the developmentalism applied in Brazil was the belief, held by the local bourgeoisie eager to reproduce the lifestyle of the first world elite, that the simple importation of capital goods to supply the demand for consumer goods would be enough to develop the Brazilian economy. . Differently from the countries of central capitalism, in which the development of capital goods emerged organically, supplying the growing demand for consumer goods, our internal market expanded dependent on the importation of capital goods, without its own development. Note that the dependency is not broken at any time and there was not even a long-term project for it to be. Despite the increase in GDP and the bourgeoisie conquering its objective, a mass market capable of sustaining technical-productive development was not formed internally and social inequality increased even further. We got the diagnosis right, but the cure was wrong. Today, with fiscal austerity in vogue and free-market loyalists multiplying, liberal democracy may lose its grip on unruly capitalism. We are making mistakes in diagnosing reality and, in the wrong building, whatever the floor.

That said, since the essence and appearance of things are different, I would like to focus on what I consider the core of the discussion. The key to national development is – at the risk of disappointing the reader due to its simplicity – science. From public investment in education to the end of obscurantism in public discourse, from national technological production to the impregnation of the scientific method in the collective imagination of the population, science is the most powerful weapon at our disposal in the fight against underdevelopment. Based on this assumption, we can now focus on what the State, the only entity capable of pulling us out of the hole, must do for the real development of Brazil to occur. First, one should aim at the long-term evolution of macroeconomic indices. There is no miracle, the development that comes quickly serves to win an election and tends not to last until the next one. In this long-term project, the priority must be investment in education. As cliché as it may sound, education is the basis for all significant changes in society. However, quality public education alone does not support real development. Both because, if the quality of life here is not satisfactory, well-educated people (in the literal sense) will seek opportunities in other countries, and also because knowledge is not exported in its raw state. For this, the State must apply transformative public policies aimed at drastically reducing social inequality, as this is the mother of violence and misery. Violence, because very few people steal and kill for pleasure, they do so because they are the result of an environment that encourages violent behavior and/or out of necessity. From misery, because, as mentioned at the beginning of the text, financial power becomes political power, which makes it difficult for the government's interest to align with the interest of the poorest part of the population. Over time, new companies will emerge and, with government assistance if necessary, we will be able to enter new productive sectors, depending less on other countries and diversifying our external sector. All this requires consistent economic planning, as well as a strong and present State that inspires trust and affection from its population. Thus, adapting to the problems that appear quickly and intelligently, taking one step at a time, we will walk towards development. Like light moving in a vacuum by the electromagnetic field it generates, the State must create, based on past achievements, the path to future progress.

Yes, the world eats oranges, and someone has to grow them. However, unlike a bucolic country farmer, a country can plant an orange tree and produce a car simultaneously. We can and must, therefore, find a middle way, in which we responsibly exploit the scarce natural resources without ceasing to invest heavily in science and technology, with a clear objective permeating all state actions: to improve living conditions of the population.

For readers who see excessive optimism in my text, I say: if believing in human reason is being optimistic, then we are already lost from the beginning. As a young man, I fulfill my role as a believer, because it is better to try in vain than to miss the chance.

*Arthur Martins Bosquerolli He is majoring in Economic Sciences at UFPR.



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