Has economic growth helped or hindered democracy in Brazil?

An economic boom occurred in Brazil during the reign of the military government from 1964 to 1985. The military government implemented the state-led economic development program. The program promoted economic growth through government policy and infrastructure projects. This period of economic growth caused a major imbalance socially and financially. During this military regime, substantial economic growth negatively impacted the well being of Brazil’s inhabitants. However, according to the Bureaucratic Authoritarian system of government, civil rights was not of concern because it was run by the military. We have previously defined bureaucratic authoritarianism as limiting civil rights and other political freedoms.

An important critical juncture to consider for this topic on economic growth and democracy is that after about 21 years of military dictatorship, Brazil returned to democracy (KKJ p.364-365). Ruchir Sharma describes in “Bearish on Brazil,” a ‘vicious cycle’ that Brazil has created over time that will negatively impact the economy. Brazil relies heavily on exports of oil, copper, iron ore, and other commodities. The government tried to mitigate financial burdens by increasing wages; however, this action forced employers to increase prices even more. The argument Sharma makes is based off Brazil’s Constitution that was passed in 1988. The Constitution guarantees free health care and university education. Sharma’s suggested solutions are to spend less on Brazil’s welfare state, simplify the tax code, broaden the tax base, and to modernize pension and social security systems in order to redirect the spending to education, research and development, and infrastructure projects. I think Sharma displays a clear argument that Brazil has the capability to make their economic growth benefit more citizens than just the middle and upper class. Currently, Brazil’s economic growth is influencing economic and democratic demise because no stability is present.

Matthew Taylor in “Brazil’s Ebbing Tide,” also deemed Brazil’s economic growth to create havoc. Violence and corruption are common themes in Brazil. He argues that the Brazilian ‘democracy’ has not been able to protect societal well being. Taylor discusses legal system issues as well as vote-buying corruption. The judicial system favors citizens who can afford lawyers while the poor are unjustly tried. Taylor believes Brazil needs social and institutional reform because basic health and education needs and a fair and just judicial system are in order to uphold a democracy.

The economist article I posted below shows that Brazil is improving over time especially because police and prosecutors are gaining the ability to do their jobs correctly. I think that economic growth in recent times has acted as a catalyst for the Brazilian government. As we discussed in class, Huntington’s arguments of legitimacy of the government and a form of international climate could describe economic growth as influencing change. It is evident by the protests that the citizens are not pleased with the government and opinions are circulated in this way. The economic growth is helping democratize Brazil through gradualism. In accordance with Sharma’s suggestions, I believe the means are there to direct money to providing basic necessities such as water, as well as health care and education. Once that is in order, the citizen’s basic rights will be upheld and democracy can pursue.

I posted a second article related to the thoughts about the government during the World Cup 2014. This quote in particular shows the inadequacy of the government and how money needs to be redirected to benefit democracy:

“If we win the government will use it as an opportunity to say what a success it has been and to mask all our problems.” – a hotel worker from Rio de Janeiro



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