April 2, 2011
Brazil and Private PropertyBy Pedro Primavera
Somebody here in Brazil asked me about the beautiful homes in the United States. In particular, they liked the fact they don't have walls as they have in Brazil. The walls are not there for beauty but for protection for every home. Nobody is immune. It didn't take long to respond: guns, or virtual walls.
Brazil has some of the strictest gun control laws on the planet. As you might expect, it means the only people to have guns are the criminals and cops, sometimes the same thing. In a land where money talks and corruption talks louder, the line between punk and police can be a thin and arbitrary one.
Anything not tied down eventually gets lassoed by thieves. Even backpacks are worn on the chest to avoid getting robbed in the close quarters of the subway system. The subway is so packed, a wallet can be lifted easily. By the way, it is also so packed that a man can get a woman pregnant and not even know it.
The result is Brazil's culture being both warm and highly paranoid at the same time. While the generosity of the average Brazilian would make the most highly of altruistic in the US blush, the country as a whole has a huge crime problem. Respect for private property is sorely lacking. Sadly, it is sanctioned in large part by the government sworn to protect them. Not to be outdone by the Brazilian people, they are extremely generous to the do-nothing squatters but strictly for political reasons.
In São Paulo, a steady stream from the impoverished north construct favelas, or slums, in hope of a better life. Most, of course, turn to crime or end up on drugs and homeless. São Paulo is the only bastion of some sanity in Brazil, and the ruling PT Party is doing their best to contaminate and water-down its political clout. In case you are wondering, Rio de Janeiro is considered France to São Paulo's Germany -- one produces, the other leaches. The capital city is Brasilia and it siphons.
It is not that different than the perpetual welfare system of the US to buy a vote. The more people who think their government is actually altruistic, the better the chances at the ballot box. The result is a socialist perpetual motion machine where one feeds on the other, that is until the whole system breaks (where the US is heading).
Basically, the squatter laws are only a little more complex than "if you can build a roof on it, it is yours." There are even organizations devoted to scoping out land for squatting, private and commercial, that act in concert with the PT Party (think: ACLU). And in this environment, it should not come as a surprise there is no respect for any private property including cars and wallets. They want their piece of somebody else`s pie, just like many politicians.
In downtown São Paulo, the police are almost omnipresent out of necessity. Businesses must also show a high-security profile, also, which of course adds to the cost of goods sold. Worse, during the height of sectarian violence in Baghdad, it was still safer there than Rio de Janeiro. Sometimes life is worth less than the stuff they steal. It is a high cost exacted on the people of Brazil.
If there is a love-hate relationship with the United States and the rest of the world, then it is no stronger than in Brazil. Many consider themselves Americans -- South Americans. Travel to the US is a cottage industry of sorts, as many stock up on personal goods because they are cheaper and better, another crime committed by their own government with eye-crossing taxes. If they can get past customs, they resell the stuff and pay for most if not all of their trip. Of course, many become good Mexicans and stay.
But Brazil falls in line with the rest of the world: they want what the United States has, they only don't want to give what it takes to get there.
Ronald Reagan echoed the Founding Fathers when he said he trusted the American people. He trusted them with their guns and their money, something you can't say for the Brazilian government with either -- both end up in the wrong hands. Maybe that is how it was designed. It is surely the design of our current government.
Trusting the electorate is the enemy of power and corruption because it invites accountability. Crime and poverty are not necessarily bad things to power-focused politicians the world over -- including Barack Obama. They are considered tools for winning elections. Of course, they are necessities for dictators, as is corruption.
Sadly, liberty is a strange concept to the rest of the world, something entirely different than democracy. For over two centuries, the American people held their government accountable to maintain their liberties and the government -- for the most part -- responded. And when they didn`t, the people did.
The average Brazilian must cope with a mess created by their own egalitarian government evenly distributing misery among the people. They never enjoyed the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. They clutch their goods like they will never see them again if they don't. And you must clutch your freedoms because you may never see them again, either. The time to act is now or you will end up like Brazil.
Welcome to Brazil, where the left-hand turns on red are also political ones.