Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In praise of Salvadoran capitalism

James Dunlap is an American living in El Salvador. In an essay titled Expatriate to El Salvador? , Dunlap praises the industriousness of Salvadoran capitalism at all levels in the society. Here are some excerpts:

Salvadorans are hard working and friendly people and here individuals from all walks of life are busy trying to get ahead. Most seem weary of politics and wish to move beyond the troubled past. El Salvador really has two economies, especially in the capital, San Salvador. One economy features upscale shopping malls and exclusive beach hotels. The other exists on the streets of the city. Despite the pressures of a worldwide economic downturn, people in both sectors are making heroic efforts in the pursuit of free enterprise...

San Salvador has a dynamic business community. One trip down the street that bisects the city’s central shopping district, known locally as El Paseo, is proof of this phenomenon. The street is lined with restaurants, nightclubs, shopping centers, home stores, supermarkets, and shops of every description. The cornerstone of El Paseo is the Gallerias Mall, a rectangular three-story shopping center actually constructed around a historic house. The Gallerias food court is an international dining experience. One can feast on sushi or McDonalds, tacos or Pizza Hut. The shopping center caters to an endless stream of customers seeking luxury goods and the best coffee in the world....

The "informal" economy is equally dynamic. Vendors are endlessly on the make in San Salvador. Talk about human action! The city center is literally jammed with "informales" selling all manner of goods, giving the historic part of a town a jostling, casbah-like feel. Men and women sell flowers, cigarettes, fruit, pirated DVDs, lottery tickets, newspapers, car parts, flags and maps of El Salvador, clothing, even furniture and household appliances. Services include shoe repairs, barber shops, nail salons, and sidewalk clothing alterations. In the "centro," dealers offer a wide array of inexpensive goods and services in an area near major bus terminals. These vendors are convenient for a multitude of people streaming into the capital city from all parts of El Salvador.

It's an awfully one-sided view of things. I think a rebuttal would have to talk about the gross inequities in distribution of wealth in the country, the prevailing wages which are inadequate for the high cost of living, the anti-union practices in the maquiladora sector, the unchecked pollution of Salvadoran industry, and the lack of public investment in services like water, sanitation, and risk mitigation as a result of the lack of taxes paid by the wealthy sectors. But if you can afford to shop at those luxury stores that Dunlap talks about, I agree that El Salvador's economy can appear robust and thriving.

6 comments:

Lawrence M. Ladutke said...

Or "An Ode to Organized Crime"

Aztec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john said...

Mr. Dunlap had an equally asinine post in March, 2010 entitled "Market Medicine in El
Salvador", an account larded with anecdotal paens to the good service his wife received. Great!!!
That accounts for one foreigner; how about the medical care provided to other 6 million Salvadorans, and the vast majority lving outside Colonia Escalon?

Mr. Dunlap would do well to read Paul Almeida's text about the political struggle to prevent further privatization of El Salvador's "health care system."

The biggest laugher? That El Salvador should be used as a model for U.S. health care!!! Even with Funes' new Ministry of Health team, that is quite a.....stretch of an argument.

john said...

Dunlap's original post may be found at the Libertarian Lew Rockwell's web site.

ixa said...

ya I wrote this misinformed clown that colonia escalon became the new Mejicanos back in 2001 when the dolarizacion/earthquake scam F#$E#$ over the country.

Dave Palmer said...

Yes, I think it's fair to say that they way things are in El Salvador today, is how some on the right would like things to be in the U.S. Which is kind of scary.

In fairness to the author, though, it's true that entrepeneurialism is a part of Salvadoran culture. Even Miguel Marmol (the 1930s Salvadoran communist who Roque Dalton wrote a book with/about) at one point owned his own calzado, and did not see this as being inconsistent with being a proletarian revolutionary.