There’s a really great article by Matt O’Brien in the Washington Post today with the incendiary title of “U.S. Could Be The Next Argentina.” O’Brien writes:
Argentina’s fundamental problem was how unequal it was. About 300 families controlled most of the land, the economy and the government. Everyone else was just a cog in their beef and grain-exporting machine…it was a semi-feudal aristocracy dependent on a steady supply of cheap labor.
He goes on to say:
Argentina had spent most of the past 100 years alternating between left-wing populists who promised to share the country’s wealth and right-wing military dictatorships that tried to stop that from happening.
But the big pull quote comes near the end, where O’Brien writes that, “The arc of the political universe is long, and it doesn’t have to bend toward progress or justice or anything else good. It can point backward if that’s where we aim it.”
The meaning is clear, and in case you missed it, O’Brien spells it out, going on to point out that, like Argentina, America has high levels of inequality and a powerfully polarized political environment. America, in other words, might be the next Argentina.
It’s provocative, I know, but not in the way that we’ve all grown used to in the last few weeks. It isn’t breathless, or desperate. It isn’t grabbing you by the lapels and screaming at you. It’s calm, almost cold. Clinical. Dispassionate. O’Brien doesn’t write as though he has any investment in the future–he’s just laying out the facts. Here’s Argentina, he says. Here’s us. Here are the similarities. Get it? In that way, it’s more effective than most of the hot takes from Vox or Slate or the Daily Kos.
Unfortunately, Mr. O’Brien doesn’t seem to have any advice for us. And I don’t either. The official stance of the Georgia Wonk is now, and has ever been, watch, wait, listen, and pay attention. The arc of history points wherever we aim it. I don’t think it’s too late to change the target.