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Jeter's assertion that "debt is merely exploitation by another name, a way for party a to get over on party B," is overly-simplistic and inflammatory enough to cause one to doubt that rationales of any of his arguments (Jeter 56). While debt certainly can be constructed in such a way as to create usurious processes whereby the borrower is in constant debt to the extreme benefit of the lender, in other instances it is a valuable economic tool that many individuals and businesses depend on. Very few families would be able to buy homes without incurring debt; few small business could get started and even major corporations would have trouble operating continuously without available capital.
The Recession's Aftermath
The most egregious oversight in Jeter's account of the recession that Brazil experienced in 2003 is the fact that he ignored all of the positive economic indicators that existed at the same time, as well as the turn that the country's economy took the following year. Interest rates were being lowered by Brazil's central bank beginning in the middle of 2003, long before the gift-sending sail boat expedition described so emotionally by Jeter, and the agricultural and certain export sectors continued to grow healthily during the recession, leading to a positive outlook for many investors (MercoPress 2003). This was all occurring during the period Jeter is writing about, and in fact occurred before he gathered much of his direct on-the-ground information in Brazil, yet it fails to receive any mention in this chapter, with Jeter instead focusing on the human stories of unemployment and hard times that he is able to find, with anecdote standing in for evidence.
It should also be noted that, in addition to the rosier economic indicators occurring during and prior to Jeter's primary research into the Brazilian situation, he is writing form the vantage point of more than five years in the future. This means that he is presumably fully aware the Brazil's economy experienced record growth in the five years between 2003's minor recession and the global recession that occurred in 2008 (Loudiyi). One would assume that Jeter has access to the fact that Brazil's extreme poverty rate was reduced by more than two percent in each of these years, and that it remains on target to eradicate extreme poverty by 2016 (Loudiyi).
One would assume that Jeter has access to this information and the wherewithal to seek it out, given that he is writing a book about the economic situations and indicators of the modern globalized world and how it supposedly creates poverty, and one would wonder at the lack of any of this information in Jeter's text. It is certainly inconvenient for his argument to show that Brazilian unemployment dropped during these five highly productive years while average annual incomes rose, and while interest rates remained relatively high in order to control growth and inflation (Loudiyi). Essentially, what this information -- and even more so, what Jeter's decision not to include this information in his book -- suggests is that the human stories of unemployment and economic devastation that Jeter was able to find without much difficulty are indicative of extremes rather than norms, and were not long-lasting situations for the vast majority of Brazilians regardless of their extremity.
Unemployment and a shrinking economy obviously hurts real people, and it is not surprising that Jeter found the stories he did during Brazil's brief 2003 recession. It is likely that he could find similar stories in Brazil now, even though the country is largely climbing out of the global recession, with a fair amount of ease, just as he could likely have found them at the height of Brazil's record growth. The ability to locate people suffering economic troubles is not an indicator that the system as a whole is failing, but rather is an unfortunate yet natural consequence of a market system.
Jeter, Jon. Flat Broke in the Free Market. New York: Norton, 2009.
Loudiyi, Isshane. "Brazil Still on the Fast Track for Growth." World Bank. Accessed 30 April 2010. http://blogs.worldbank.org/growth/category/countries/brazil
MercoPress. "Brazil in recession." South…[continue]
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