Friday, October 8, 2010

Peruvian Libertarian Wins 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature


Hats off to "one of the Spanish-speaking world's most acclaimed authors and an outspoken political activist who once came close to being elected president of his tumultuous homeland," whose "gradual shift from the left toward an embrace of free-market capitalism has put him at odds with much of the hemisphere's intellectual elite" — Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel literature prize.

The article quotes Jonathan Galassi, head of Vargas Llosa's U.S. publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, hailing him as "one of the world's greatest writers — an eloquent, unequaled champion of human freedom." It also reminds us the "famous incident in Mexico City in 1976, [when] Vargas Llosa punched out [Gabriel] Garcia Marquez, whom he would later ridicule as 'Castro's courtesan.'" One wonders if these are the only two Nobel laureates to have engaged in a fistfight.

La Ciudad y los Perros, his first novel, and Los Cachorros are the only books I recall reading by him, although I have just pulled La Guerra del Fin del Mundo off the shelf where it has languished unread for years, and plan to hone my rusty Castilian on it.

"The Origins of International Law," the seventh chapter of Thomas E. Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, explains how in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, Francisco de Vitoria, noting the abuses he saw, came to the conclusion that "[t]he treatment to which all human beings were entitled... derives from their status as men rather than as members of the faithful in the state of grace," and concludes with this profound statement from the libertarian Mario Vargas Llosa:
    Father Las Casas was the most active, although not the only one, of those nonconformists who rebelled against abuses inflicted upon the Indians. They fought against their fellow men and against the policies of their own country in the name of the moral principle that to them was higher than any principle of nation or state. This self-determination could not have been possible among the Incas or any of the other pre-Hispanic cultures. In these cultures, as in the other great civilizations of history foreign to the West, the individual could not morally question the social organism of which he was part, because he existed only as an integral atom of that organism and because for him the dictates of the state could not be separated from morality. The first culture to interrogate and question itself, the first to break up the masses into individual beings who with time gradually gained the right to think and act for themselves, was to become, thanks to that unknown exercise, freedom, the most powerful civilization of our world.

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15 Comments:

Blogger Robert Badger said...

Another critic of Communism and also a winner of the Nobel Prize is Mexico's Octavio Paz. Like Vargas Llosa, he started out as a supporter of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, but later became dissilusioned. In the 1940s, he served as a cultural attache to the Mexican Embassy in Paris. In 1962, he was named Ambassador to India. His criticism of human rights abuses in Cuba brought him much animosity from the Latin American left.

1:22 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

OP
an outspoken political activist who once came close to being elected president of his tumultuous homeland

Came close? By what measure? In the first round of voting he garnered only 27 percent of the vote, barely half of what would have been needed to win on the first ballot.

That he had come in first on that crowded first ballot is about the closest Vargas Llosa could claim to have "come close to being elected president," but that claim is utterly meaningless since Peru's presidential election system is specifically designed so that a generally unpopular candidate like Vargas Llosa could not win with a plurality against a divided field but would instead face the highest challenger in a run-off. (And that's a system South Korea should adopt.)

And that was a run-off that the unpopular Vargas Llosa lost in a landslide victory for Alberto Fujimori, some 56.5 percent to a measly 34 percent. And it was his "libertarian" shock therapy, in part, that made him unpopular among the electorate.

2:08 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

We all remember how great that worked out, with Fujimori at the helm, "Fujishock" and all.

All the more reason to get rid of electoral democracy, or at least limit suffrage to the literate.

12:19 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

The Western Confucian wrote:
All the more reason to get rid of electoral democracy, or at least limit suffrage to the literate.

I guess you're right. Democracy would be so much better if only the right people could vote.

Of course, that would give the powered elite even more incentive to push for policies that would keep the poor illiterate, something that was actually happening until just a few decades ago in Peru, but that's no matter.

We all remember how great that worked out, with Fujimori at the helm, "Fujishock" and all.

Peruvians sure remember. They remember 8000 percent inflation coming down to 3.5 percent under Fujimori. They remember sustained economic growth after he came to power (except for the 1997-98 crisis). They remember the Tupac Amaru and the Sendero Luminoso, whose terror pretty much ended under Fujimori.

In fact, nostalgia for Alberto Fujimori may propel his daughter, Keiko Fujimori, into the presidency next year.

But that's neither here nor there. I was simply commenting that the statement that de Cuellar "once came close to being elected president" of Peru was false.

You not liking that result does not make that statement any truer. And Fujimori being, in your mind, a jackass of some sort does not make it any truer either.

I do wonder, though, since you sorta brought it up, if the author would have fared any better than the agriculture professor at the helm of Peru.

2:22 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Well, the article mentions the Nobel laureate was at the time "[d]isheartened by the broad public approval for Fujimori's iron-fisted rule."

Wikipedia's page on Alberto Fujimori tells us that "amidst his 2008 prosecution for 'crimes against humanity' relating to his presidency, two-thirds of Peruvians polled voiced approval for his leadership in that period." I guess he must kept the trains running on time.

We also learn that he "was convicted of human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in killings and kidnappings," which "marked the first time that an elected head of state has been extradited back to his home country, tried, and convicted of human rights violations."

But if "two-thirds of Peruvians polled voiced approval for his leadership in that period" what can we say? Majority rules.

2:49 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

Well, if anything, I think that it means that Peruvians may have seen the Tupac Amaru and the Sendero Luminoso as the far, far, far greater evil than the president who got arrested because he may have had knowledge of the anti-rebel activities of an anti-rebel paramilitary group that existed even before he became president.

Support for such a guy, just like, say, support for Bush's War in Iraq, is not grounds for stripping the non-"literate" population of the right to vote.

But, again, none of this makes anyone able to claim that de Cuellar came close to becoming president.

But if he had, how do you think he would have fared? If he were faced with the major problems Fujimori was faced in 1990, namely hyperinflation and two murderous rebel insurgencies, what would he have done? Do you think his hands would have remained clean? (Asking, not saying)

3:08 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

Grrr... I don't mean that the activities in question (for which he was arrested) occurred before he was president; just that the group in question was active before he was president.

3:19 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

You mention Javier Pérez de Cuéllar but my post was about Mario Vargas Llosa, who, I agree, was perhaps not that "close to becoming president."

You ask, "But if he had, how do you think he would have fared?"

Unknown. I lived in Chile, an entirely different population, "the British of Latin America" and first developed country in the region by UN standards. The cultural and, yes, racial aspects of a country cannot be discounted. Maybe Peru needs a Fujimori.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

Kushibo strikes me as the sort of person who things that democracy has brought great things to Zimbabwe.

The idea behind limits to suffrage is to protect the ignorant from demagogues.

3:56 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Well said, Francis Xavier. Kushibo means well, but probably has forgotten that Hitler was democratically elected in one of Europe's most advanced societies. Mass Man as Ortega y Gasset described him is not to be trusted.

4:05 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

The Western Confucian wrote:
You mention Javier Pérez de Cuéllar but my post was about Mario Vargas Llosa, who, I agree, was perhaps not that "close to becoming president."

Ah, yes. I meant to write Vargas Llosa. I had been reading too many Time archives on Fujimori, which include references to his 1995 opponent, which is why I momentarily flubbed the name (and in more ways than one, since it should be Pérez de Cuéllar).

5:21 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

Francis Xavier wrote:
Kushibo strikes me as the sort of person who things that democracy has brought great things to Zimbabwe.

Suggesting that the quoted article made an inaccurate statement about Vargas Llosa and then offering up suggestions why the Peruvian people might generally see Fujimori in a positive light (evidence of which was provided by The Western Confucian) means that I am in support of what's happened in Zimbabwe?

The idea behind limits to suffrage is to protect the ignorant from demagogues.

Peru has a mandatory run-off system to mitigate demagogues from getting into office, and that is the only thing I myself showed praise for, FX.

A first-past-the-post simple plurality system encourages the creating of divisiveness within the electorate in order to win not a majority but just the biggest plurality. And a coalition-type government, well, that's one way Hitler did get to power.

5:33 AM  
Blogger kushibo said...

The Western Confucian wrote:
Well said, Francis Xavier. Kushibo means well, but probably has forgotten that Hitler was democratically elected in one of Europe's most advanced societies. Mass Man as Ortega y Gasset described him is not to be trusted.

So Fujimori is like Hitler now?

5:36 AM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

Kushibo, I apologize; I used the reductio ad absurdum, and it may have not done your sentiment justice.

I was referring to this:

I guess you're right. Democracy would be so much better if only the right people could vote.

Of course, that would give the powered elite even more incentive to push for policies that would keep the poor illiterate, something that was actually happening until just a few decades ago in Peru, but that's no matter.

5:49 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Kushibo, I apologize for my reductio ad hitlerum, but he serves as a case in point that only the right people should vote.

10:07 AM  

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