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Reid does not discuss this possibility, but takes this relationship as the theoretical reason for the trend. It is difficult to deny the underlying social changes that Reid points out, but there is no direct evidence that he has found the reason for the changes.
Reid compares programs to help those that are impoverished in Latin countries as a means to measure social change. For instance, during the 1990s, Mexico began a program called "progresa," which provided small cash stipends to poor people on the condition that they set their children to school. This program has been expanded to include all of Mexico under President Fox. Brazil began a similar program called "Bolsa Familia" which now provides funds to one in four families. Reid uses these programs to make the argument that social advances are underway in Latin America, but the actual success of these programs must be considered in light of the millions that are still impoverished (Curiel).
It is difficult to argue that these social programs will help to provide at least temporary relief to Latin Americans. They do represent some evidence that attempt are being made at social reform, as Reid contends. However, the long-term affects of these programs are yet to be seen. They represent an attempt to bolster economies, but they also need to develop a solid underlying support system. They may actually hurt the economy more than they help it in the future, if they cannot be funded for a period long enough for younger citizens to begin reaping the benefits of education. This is one point that Reid failed to consider, but one that could have a lasting impact on the ability of Latin American to sustain its slow growth pattern.
Latin American countries need to balance provision of social programs with programs that promote all-out growth in the economy. Both are needed to build a base that can be sustainable in the future. Thus far, only Chile has been able to sustain a long-term rate of growth that has made a serious dent in poverty. Even so, Chile is still plagued by vast inequalities in its society. The process of ending poverty through education is only half of the equation. The economy must be in place to provide jobs, once children reach the age of employment in order for these programs to have any success in growing the economy.
Reid tackles a multitude of questions in his book. The book tried to appeal to two different audiences. The first half of the book was written for those that do not have a solid background in Latin American history, politics, and culture. This is necessary information for readers that do not have the proper background to understand the second half of the book (Curiel). The second half of the book poses an interesting argument about Latin American politics today. The first half of the book is necessary, if one does not already have the information. However, if the reader is well-versed in Latin American history, politics, and culture, it could easily be skipped without losing the message.
Much of the information in the first half of the book is factual and not easily disputed. However, the second half of the book is highly opinionated. Reid supports his arguments with solid evidence. However, the interpretation and extrapolation of that evidence is questionable. Reid draws inferences based on two supposedly unconnected phenomenons, but presents the evidence as if it is statistically correlated. This leads one to believe that there is some bias in the presentation of the data.
It could easily appear that Reid has twisted some of the data to support his own arguments and ideas, rather than letting it stand on its own. Reid's experience as a journalist shows through in this respect (Curiel). In addition, Reid does not defend counterarguments or other opinions on the ideas presented. This book reads as an authoritative source, with an argument based on sound evidence. However, much of the evidence is based on false causality. For instance, we do not know if programs in Mexico to end poverty will bolster the economy in the future, or how much impact they have had on a growing economy up until now. It would appear as if these two factors are connected, but there is no hard evidence to support this supposition. There are many other factors that could influence the results, but that were not taken into account, or addressed by Reid.
In the final analysis, this book is much more convincing for those that need to read the first half for the necessary background. This audience lacks the knowledge to disagree with the ideas presented by Reid. However, for the more academically sophisticated audience of the second half of the book, the evidence is questionable. The issues at hand are much more complex than the picture that Reid presents.
Politics in Latin America are complex. Reid's work contributes to the existing body of information by drawing attention to many circumstances that have been ignored by the mass media and by policymakers. It is difficult to argue that these issues need to be addressed, but it the potential outcomes presented Reid are difficult to judge. This work is important for the attention that it draws to certain issues, but only time will tell if the scenarios will pan out the way Reid predicts. The book was interesting reading, once the reader gets through the first half of the book. Overall, Reid's work is an important contribution to the study of Latin American politics and their contribution to the global marketplace.
Curiel, Carolyn. "Hello, Neighbor." Sunday Book Review. February 3, 2008. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/books/review/Curiel-t.html?_r=1&ref=books&oref=slogin Accessed March 28, 2008.
Reid, Michael. Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul. Yale University Press, 2007.[continue]
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