This on the Basque country's choices that improved their financial stability

The article claims that part of the problem with Spain now is the over-investment in tourism, the creation of a bubble which contributed to the problems the Spanish economy is now having.

Industries like the Basques have require education and significant skills. The tourist industry tends to eat its young, though not to the degree that hand-labor agriculture crops do. Its major solar panel manufacturing company is a large cooperative:

Mondragon Assembly, part of the unlisted Mondragon group, is the world's largest cooperative and employs nearly 100,0000 people. Around 80 people work in this plant. It also has factories in France, Germany and Mexico.

El Salvador seems to be doing more industry than other countries in the region and has enough violence to be mildly tourist repellent.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

"Industries Like

the Basques have require education and significant skills". That's why Pfizer and Intel (and 100 others) are in CR and not in Nicaragua.

How does Nicaragua develop those skills and that level of education? Perhaps like CR did . . .They certainly have the same resources -and more.

Or perhaps, Nicaragua will be able to find the handouts and investment that the EU showered on Greece and Spain during the glory days? From whom? Iran is about all that's left. Hugo is looking less and less dependable as a future source of money for Nicaragua:

If Nicaragua does cozy up to Iran then we will indeed be bringing our money down in dollar bills as Phil suggested -- via Cancun -- as the international banking system will cease to do business with them. If the Cordoba goes the way of the Rial we will enjoy a very favorable rate of exchange. Of course, we won't be able to buy anything but rice, corn and beans, and maybe some FDC. And lots of cheap coffee.

Iran has less and less friends by the moment.

More and more US warships are heading to Hormuz in response to Iran's threat to close the waterway.

Obama has said categorically that he will not allow traffic in the Strait of Hormuz to be impeded, and there was speculation on last Sunday's Fox News On Sunday (you may not like Fox but Chris Wallace is a pretty even-handed guy) that Obama is planning a limited pre-election strike against Iran that would simply take out their navy (supposedly a week's work) and significant parts of their command and control (which would render their ability to launch missiles inoperative). Most of this could be done surgically with satellite intelligence (we know where all their ships are, and probably most of their radar sites, within a few feet).

In the meantime, IGNORING all of the above, which is only relevant if Ortega makes a bad decision, there are a lot of new and hungry Nicaraguan mouths to feed by the day. A viable solution --- (as opposed to pie-in-the-sky solar plants - in which only the Obama administration is currently "investing" -maybe they could pack up Solyndra and ship it to Nicaragua and call if foreign aid ) --- would be very welcome. I just bought 5KW of Sharp panels for less than $1 /watt - delivered. That's a quarter of the cost less than 5 years ago. There is talk of the price falling to 50/cents/watt. Good luck with the new Solyndra plant, Nicaragua.

If Daniel is pushed into a corner he will take a lesson from Fidel and blame all his problems on the US -making tenure less comfortable for us ex-pats. We saw an example of that recently. I'm already telling everyone that I'm Canadian . . .

Every time I travel to Nicaragua I'm astonished by the lack of English capability. Now, I don't need it to get by (although my Spanish could certainly be better), and I agree that residents should learn Spanish, >>> but can you expect casual tourists to learn Spanish, (and French, Greek, Russian, Italian)? This minimal infrastructure is expected, -- at least in the airport gift shops!

Costa Rica's history is very different than Nicaragua's

For better or worse, it didn't have land suited to large scale cattle raising and then to indigo production. Most of the people there from fairly early were small farmers, who tend to be both more independent and more democratic than the large landowners in Nicaragua (cattle country still goes conservative). Indigenous people relatively rare -- and apparently tended to be left alone more like the situation on the Atlantic Coast than the situation on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. I didn't read about large scale confiscations of indigenous communal land as happened in Nicaragua from the 16th Century through um, not that long ago. Coffee was an intrusive and exploitative crop here which required turning independent indigenous farmers into landless land workers (the rationale for Wheelock's treatment of the agricultural problem was that the indigenous and mestizo land workers were culturally too far removed from their independent farmer roots to benefit from the sort of land distribution that the land workers expected and that agricultural workers needed more trade unions and such which would put them on par with industrial workers. I think if Nicaragua was to go the Costa Rican route, it would have to have small farmers, more like my next door neighbors, than the large scale farms with non-working landlords which appears to be the case in much of the country's agriculture now.

The country also lacks oil, coal, and iron ore in sufficient quantities to have developed those industries.

The US eventually is going to make enough enemies. The irony is that it delivered Iraq into Iranian hands (when Saddam Hussein was about to be hanged, he called his executioners pawns of the Persians, and that's pretty much it). In attacking Iran, we further destabilize the region.

Iran has hacked our drones at least once (or netted one out of the sky and claimed to have hacked it). If they actually hacked it, drone war could get very interesting in the future. Personally, I think they did a physical capture and only claimed to have hacked it, but as long as most of the attacks by US drones are on Sunnis, the Shiites don't really care that much.

Basically, I'd heard that senior military were threatening to resign if Bush started a preemptive nuclear war with Iran.

I assume Fox News is paid advertising like most news. Having been in the National Archives, I tend to wonder what's the contemporary parallel of what I read about what wasn't in the news then. One thing I think it's safe to count on is that nothing really important shows up in the news absent someone leaking to reporters, which tends to be rare. The US has shown its real commitment to free flow of information by jailing Bradley Manning.

If I were Nicaraguan (and even though I'm not), I wouldn't see any differences between anyone from the North and people from the South (and the South in cultural terms begins somewhere in South Carolina). North Americans are North Americans; Northerners have much difficulty understanding Southern ways. Asking people here to learn English when the biggest tourist market for NIcaragua is South American and inter-regional is to assume that North Americans are the only people who matter. My friend who visited was horrified that people didn't speak English as much as they did in Ecuador, but she wouldn't be horrified if she knew that Tibetans are resisting learning Mandarin.

Tourism is not a way to lift people out of poverty if a region has any other alternatives (other than agriculture). Whether Nicaragua has other alternatives, or can develop other alternatives is an issue it's going to have to work out. But breaking up the big farms and setting up rural folks as small farmers with some alternative sources of cash income would be good in the long run, as politically difficult as this might be.

What will make it uncomfortable for expats (and nobody will care what flavor of expat you claim to be), is if people who are small farmers find themselves pushed off the land and forced into picking coffee (as they were in the 19th and 20th Centuries. I'd actually be ironically amused if they started hating us.

I've always found that someone in the airport spoke English and would volunteer to help if you asked. Miami Airport was far worse for nobody speaking English at all than Managua. Most of the time here, I have been able to find someone who could assist if my Spanish wasn't up to the task (a fair number of people have lived in the US and come back).

English is the third most commonly spoken language on the planet, after Mandarin and Spanish.

In this hemisphere, probably more Spanish-speakers than English-speakers.

Also, seriously, I have never ever lived or been anywhere where people liked tourists if they had more than a handful per year to deal with. This includes New York, San Francisco, Vermont, rural Virginia. Tourists are more tolerable if they're from your own culture. If people here this whiny "you should be more like us" crap, they'll hate tourists even more. I've even heard from a friend who lived in France that during the off season in Paris, a store owner where she shopped regularly would work to understand her less than good French. Same guy, a few months later, during tourist season, had no patience for her bad French at all. Other friends who'd traveled in Paris said that most Yankee tourists didn't get politeness, the necessary exchange of pleasantries before settling down to shopping (and I've had that chain yanked by one of my friends who runs a shop I go to when I was in too big a hurry). Everyone dislikes tourists even if they're making money from them (Qualla Boundary is particularly this way; the Lumbee Indians put on a pageant which is about Lumbee heros killing Confederates who killed their people, which tell us white folks quite a bit).

If most of the people in a culture that's being invaded by tourists are otherwise engaged and the tourists are just those obnoxious French folks on the subway who don't realize some New Yorkers understand French, then the friction is minimal. If tourists are far wealthier than the locals, you get more friction (one guy here appears to hate me for some reason, but I never otherwise get any anti-American hassles, if that is even an anti-American hassle), more confrontative robberies. One Nicaraguan here who is one of the ten Jinotegans who'd like to see more tourism in the area said of Granada that they hate tourists there, and he was hoping that it didn't come that here.

Tourists in numbers, especially those who want to import their brands of entertainment and life styles, are obnoxious anywhere. If there are other ways to make money in the receiving culture, then it's not a big problem, just a minor irritant when one runs into someone who speak rubbish about what Americans are like. If it turns out to be a big problem, Nicaraguans know where they hid their AK-47s. I actually stopped worrying about this after hearing from some of the working class Nicaraguans. If we become as obnoxious as the Somozas, they'll fix the problem the classic Nicaraguan way.

Tourism between Spanish-speaking countries is probably going to be less obnoxious than tourism that involves importing in mannerless North Americans (good travelers spend as little time as possible in highly tourist-infested areas, even to the point of going to places that Lonely Planet warns them against). I used to find Koreans and Chinese more sympatico than Yankees when I was in graduate school in New York (and my graduate director was from New Orleans). Did Yankees have politeness lobotomies? (I told friends yesterday that I learned how to do Yankee get things done by being rude and shouting, but it always embarrassed me that people actually responded to this).

First, the Nicaraguans appear to be interested in a Nicaraguan-owned tourist industry. It well may be that the market is not Harsh Anglos (Cherokee description) with their radically different culture and frequent inability to shift modes to other culture mores. Some places, such as the ones my friends and I went to in Matagalpa yesterday, do have bilingual display texts and some people who speak some English. Matagalpa also has a business college and some small scale manufacturing, plus the coffee trade, plus left tourism that's a bit more tolerable, the Ben Linder grave visitors (I didn't even ask if my friends wanted to see that).

That North Americans invested heavily in what they thought would make them lots of money when other North Americans showed up is not a reason for the Nicaraguan government to spend money to make North Americans richer at Nicaraguan expense.

Foreign travel used to be about going somewhere that was different and enjoying the differences, expanding one's sense of the possibilities of being human, and not about importing one's own culture to a place with the expectation that the same pleasures would be cheaper than if one was at home.

If all the land that's owned by absentee landlords was turned over, with proper escrituras, to the people who work the land, it would be a generation or two before the local culture was like Costa Rica's before their take off. While that's not-realistic now for a range of reasons, if that had been done in the 1980s, Nicaragua might be better off now, with more upwardly mobile families like my next door neighbors.

Rebecca Brown

"Basically, I'd heard .. .

. . . that senior military were threatening to resign if Bush started a preemptive nuclear war with Iran . . ." I don't believe a first strike nuclear option has been on the table since the end of the Cold War. This sounds like some far-left wet dream to me, or a casual smear of George Bush that the left was so fond of.. What possible point would there be to using a nuclear weapon in Iran? We can surgically remove the country's defenses, and then bomb their nuclear installations at our leisure (or give the Israeli's the necessary weapons ----wait, WAIT,, we already GAVE the Israeli's the weapons).

What's lacking is political will.

No one but the Pakistani's or Iran (or one of their proxies) would detonate a nuclear weapon in today's world. There is absolutely nothing to gain. The US and its allies enjoy such a huge superiority in conventional weaponry that use of a nuclear weapon would be ludicrous. There would be nothing to gain (worth saying twice).. That's why the prospect of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon is so frightening - they WOULD use it. They've already spoken of being willing to accept the loss of 20 million Iranians in exchange for removing Israel from the map.

We don't have to occupy Iran. The lessons from Iraq and Afganistan have been well-learned. Without a navy, without access to the international banking system, Iran can be marginalized and starved. Their planes can be refused landing at sanction-respecting countries. If they still manage to develop a viable nuclear weapon, then every other countries' nukes will be pointed in the one direction, waiting. If Iran or one of its proxies detonate a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb (which they could do right now), the retaliation would not be nuclear. Iran is not Vietnam in the 60's, or Afganistan. Iran is a modern country with a modern infrastructure. The Serbs finally came to the table when they couldn't flush their toilets in Belgrade anymore (Iran may be installing composting toilets as we speak).

Yes, someone will buy some Iranian oil, if the price is right, and they can pay in gold, but as the Kenyan link above proves, those buyers will diminish over time as replacement supplies are found. Shipments are down by 40%. Even the Chinese are looking elsewhere (Venezuela) and I'm sure the Russians would love to sell them oil.

On Nicaraguan tourism:

I really don't care where the Nicaraguans spend their money, and if they want to attract Spanish speaking tourists, I say go for it. I hope someone does a marketing plan first :) If they focus on Spanish-speaking tourists that WILL preclude the need to learn English. I've seen Germans and French in Nicaragua, but other than returning Nicaraguans, no Latin tourists.

As far as ancient history goes re Costa Rica and Nicaragua: That was then, and this is now: CR got where they are in the last 30 years. If Nicaragua wants to encourage high tech industries to invest in Nicaragua, I say go for it. I hope someone writes a business plan before knocking on Intel's door.

Turning over vast farms to the people (and they exist in the RAANs and RAAS), would mean more peasant families living on the margin, feeding themselves most years, and earning just enough cash to buy some kerosene and batteries, and a bottle of agua diente. It would mean more kids with 6th grade educations, and worms, and no future. Another far left wet dream that leads nowhere. I would personally rather wait on tables or make beds for $5-10 /day. At least there is some possibility of education and upward mobility --for someone who wants to make the effort. With my education I might be able to migrate to CR and get a job with Intel.

But The U.S.'s Bellicose Foreign Policy is Not Rational.

You seem to suggest that U.S. Foreign military policy is based on rational thinking that there is no need to nuke Iran.

Rationalty has not been a feature of U.S. foreign policy for many years. On the contrary, U.S. foreign policy has been consistently bellicose and consistently very profitable for our big corporations. Witness the non-defensive wars carried out by Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and now the Obama administrations.

Iran is far less likely to use nuclear weapons then we are. The head of Iran's religious theocracy, the Ayatolla who actually runs the country (not Iran's president) has issued a religious edict (fatwah) banning the use of nuclear weapons by Muslims. When have our religious leaders, be they Southern Baptists, the Born-Agains, or Mitt's Mormon friends, ever done that? On the contrary, these groups are big supporters of killing all the non-Christian brown folks.

So, there is much less liklihood of Iranian Muslims using nuclear weapons than the U.S. using them, but our profitable war industries, aided by their puppet media, want you to think that Iran is a danger to the U.S., just as they wanted you to think that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq did not have WMDs, but it did have lots of oil and attacking them produced lots of profits for our war industries. Iran has lots of oil too, and our private corporations want it.

Can you rationally explain why the U.S. hasn't placed heavy trade sanctions on Israel, which actually has nuclear weapons (which, as you state, the U.S. gave them), and Israel is threatening to use them? Even our CIA reluctantly admits that Iran does not have nuclear weapons. That allegation is just another ploy to justify another war.

Iran is the only country which is under a religious edict not to have nuclear weapons. Israel's right-wing religious leaders seem to wholeheartedly support nuking Iran. Israel actually has the nuclear weapons to do it.

No, when it comes to insane foreign policies, the U.S. is the clear-cut winner of that world competition.

Iran hasn't attacked another country for something like a thousand years, while the U.S. has repeatedly fomented wars around the world in just the last 50. South and Central America know all about that.

Does Iran have more than 800 battle-ready military bases in foreign countries like the U.S.? No, they don't even have one. The U.S. has a military budget bigger than all the other countries in the world combined. Why? Because our war-mongering defense contractor corporations make so much money from our military. That is simply not a rational use of taxpayer's money, reducing our military budget could easily give our citizens universal health care and universal higher education, but our leaders, bought and paid for by the big corporations, choose to use that money for war and thus private profits.

Sorry, but based on the historical record, it is the U.S. which is the biggest war-monger, biggest arms dealer and the biggest state terrorist. We have seen the enemy and it is us.

Basically, tourism is another no future gig

If you have to work off the farm for what people get paid for managing a hotel here (the guy who was working at one quit), then you don't have the time to grow the food to feed your family, and the whole thing is completely dependent on the whims of tourists.

I've met Spanish expats here and Spanish people who were doing things in Nicaragua (NGO, various other things) at the Sollentuna Hem. I think if you don't have an ear for the different dialects, you might miss them. I can tell Continental Spanish dialects, even Andalusian which is quite similar to Latin American Spanish, from Nicaraguan dialects of Spanish.

The lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan should be land wars in Asia as as bad and as un-winnable as Eisenhower said they were. Seymour Hersh was getting amazing leaks from fairly high level military officers about the Bush administrations attempts to push for Iranian war plans, apparently including the nuclear option. Most of the world can put the screws on the US in much the same way as you're describing the US putting the screws on Iran.

I suspect that the reality of the various failed scams for gated communities have made the Nicaraguans who were pushing for further unregulated tourism take a second look. Apanas Estates is now a cattle operation with lots still being offered but at half the prices of the high rolling days, with no roads and no further development of anything other than clearing land for pastures and putting up barbed wire fences. You saw that. My understanding is that there are many other similar properties around NIcaragua.

The Pellas family, Murillo and Ortega, and various other Nicaraguans are building hotels on the coast. There's La Bastilla training people in ecotourism near Jinotega (Marco Gonzalez was involved in setting that up). Miraflor is working with local residents to develop micro hotels so farm families can supplement their incomes without leaving the farms and with keeping all the money from the tourists.

The problem with coffee and tourism both is they need a low-wage undereducated work force to pick the crop or make the beds and clean the toilets. Small scale farming with something like distilling on the side, or any other small scale manufacturing on the side is agnostic about the educational levels of the people. Illegal businesses put many kids through college in parts of the US -- and some farming states, where farming wasn't based on a large mass of hand laborers, had better educational systems than some of the urban manufacturing states (Iowa being an example). The richest black man inn Clemson, SC, in the 1950s ran a whorehouse and strip joint for the white college students.

The Roosevelt era programs also put a good number of kids through college, my father being among them.

The educational system has to be there for people to get a better education -- and if the local industries need hands and can put 12 year olds to work, then the educational systems get under-funded (as they did in many mill regions of the US South, with some regions not even having libraries because they didn't want the mill hands becoming dissatisfied with their lot in life). My first editor had a sentimental belief that it would be possible for a favela kid to rise to become a major industrial magnate and wrote a novel based on this at a time when favela kids were getting gunned down by paramilitaries in Brazil. The educational systems in crowded Latin American slums don't tend to offer particularly good educations. Yhe second problem is the social system in those countries tends to be very biased against people from very poor backgrounds.

The African Masai kid who went to Harvard came from a farming family and got his education from missionaries who probably had relatively small class sizes, and had a government scholarship to a better high school: Farming people tend to be capable of doing things like telling Harvard that they're enrolling next year (as this kid did when he gave a presentation to Harvard). Getting out by education can be done by even the poorest farm kids -- and getting them back depends on a culture that isn't socially stratified in a stultifying way.

The culture of independent farming builds independence, a range of skills, curiosity, and a rather surprising lack of conformity (if you're working for yourself, what your neighbors think tends to be less compelling and than what your boss thinks if you're working as peon labor. Small farmers could be uneducated or educated, bigoted or people who rented to interracial families, aware of the world or not, even know a foreign language or not without that making someone above them uncomfortable. A woman poet in the US who was working as a hospital housekeeper had to keep her accomplishments hidden. I had one boss who tried to get me to quit working on books I had under contract. The farm folk considered that working for other people was an unfortunate last resort. Being farmers allowed them to be many other things, too -- fiddlers, story tellers, dancers, rock collectors.

One Jinotega kid went to San Juan del Sur to be a bartender and is now back in Jinotega after two months. I'm not sure what the story is, but will be trying to find out.

If there are no schools, or if the school teach you to respect those God appointed to rule over you, or if the school are concerned with drilling you in obedience, there's not really a way through education to get beyond the limits your culture sets on you. Working for people who don't respect you and who don't really want you to be successful at any other endeavor than what you're doing for them tends also to be corrosive to the spirit. We had some one posting here about how she didn't owe any explanation to her employee since she had the money and they didn't. A friend of mine here had a hotel owner decide that he needed to work for less than he needed to support his family and for less than she'd initially promised him (Nicaraguan hotel owner/ex-pat trilingual in that combination).

And in some places and for some people in Nicaragua, education went away when Violetta Chamorro became president. Kinda hard to get an education in computer tech if you have no access to computers to learn on. Farmers who can afford places in town get them so their kids will have better educations.

I think a lot of people fantasize that if they were born in different circumstances, that they would have overcome those circumstances and become the people they became under very different conditions. Most of us are in the boxes we're expected to live in, and changing that is very rare and very difficult unless the culture we're in needs us to move from one box to another (my father's generation moving from the farms to business; the working class bright kids moving into IT in the 1990s). Vanishingly few people aren't -- and often those have special circumstances that meant they couldn't fit the box they would have otherwise gone in -- a child of mill hands was crippled and became an art history major because mill work was impossible for her and ended up marrying money; another bright mill kid was gay and became an international roving teacher while an equally bright cousin lived in a double wide trailer and spun and wove as a hobby. One of my mother's maids was better read and smarter than my mother, and really found the world didn't have a place for her to use her mind, and the CP wasn't going to be as useful as she might have imagined.

The woman who expects her employees to be her unquestioning obedient tools because she has money and they don't is a far more common employer than the ones who recognize the abilities of their underlings and help them do things more suited to their intelligence (only case I've ever heard of was a lawyer encouraging his legal secretary to go to law school and become his assistant, but then he seduced her secretary and the thing ended in tears).

If you'd been born poor in RAAN, you'd be either a crippled lobster diver (because you'd have imagined that the law of averages wouldn't catch up with you and you'd have been trying to make as much money as possible) or you'd be running drugs. Your chances of being a computer guy would have depended on the kindness of the trafficantes, not the local educational system.

One person who tried to mentor me wanted me to teach creative writing at a school where the students had almost no chance at all of actually being able to become professional writers. A student whose senior project I read was a victim of educational malpractice. When I said that I wanted to teach at UPenn and if I didn't like teaching creative writing there, I probably didn't like teaching creative writing, she called me an elitist. Well, the unfortunate reality is that most writers, as in 98%, who either have some commercial success or some critical success, come from elite schools for a range of reasons. The reality is that a kid who hasn't been reading seriously since 3rd grade, who hasn't been reading theory since high school, who hasn't been studying with people who have accomplished things themselves, isn't likely to be published and distributed well, or reviewed well, not just because of the inherent expectations of people about students from lesser schools, but because they simply were lied to about the quality of the education they were getting, about how good they were or not. They're taught by people who have no particular accomplishments, not by John McPhee and Joyce Carol Oates (both teach at Princeton). The problems for the kids who don't have the background for a range of reasons maybe shouldn't exist, but they do.

So the wannabees without the background and the skills get scammed by the self-publishing folks; the kids who went to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Reed, and a handful of other colleges become the next generation of TV script writers, literary writers who have the plum creative writing jobs and best students, and the people who write the best sellers. Oxford and Cambridge serve the same function in the UK. My life as a writer possibly would have been quite a bit easier if I'd grown up in New York or even Louisville where I was born. My writing life, however, probably would haven't been possible at all if I hadn't had the Clemson University library and a couple of very generous professors in my grade school years.

And I think that about everything works more or less that way. By the time a child knows what he or she doesn't know, getting the missing skills is non-trivial and often counter to the culture's expectations for the child. The muchachos at the computer shop have a community that supports them in developing some skills. I don't think, however, that they're learning to program. They're bright geek kids, more charming than most US geek kids. My phone wall paper is a picture I took of one of them. Can they compete with kids whose cultures had them programming in grade school? Dunno. I do know that one of them who I thought was high school age is a father of a two year old. The two year old may be the one that ends up being an engineer.

What family and friends and teachers say you can do tend to be what you do. The exceptions to this tend to be possibly very odd people. If children are fortunate and have teachers who have higher expectations of them (the high school teacher in LA who insisted that his ghetto students could master complex math), then they have a better chance of being able to escape. Mostly, that doesn't happen. The people who self-publish have less chance of selling enough to make a living at it than an average Harvard freshman. And that may be entirely unfair, or not. Writing is probably an extreme case of the difficulty of overcoming early educational deficiencies or even recognizing that one's education was deficient, but I don't think it's the only case. I had one teacher urge my family to send me to a private school; the principal who had never spoken to me told my mother not to because I would be leaving home soon enough. My sense of what education I needed to do what I wanted to do was not taken into consideration at all.

Likewise, with any number of other things -- a educational system geared to producing maids is not interested in helping kids see the limitations of their educations.

Rebecca Brown

The march of civilization further northward...

RostiPollos has opened in Esteli! A clean, airconditioned restaurant with good tasting food, a parking lot, guards, and a childrens`play area in back. Will the north ever be the same? Just a lesson in how fleeting fame is-- last year the pioneers of Walmart opened up MaxiPali and now they are just a footnote in history.

Back to CR: their historical blessing was the combo of a lack of Indian and African people so the Spanish had to work instead of plunder coupled with with bad roads and isolation that let them get away from the Central American Republic and the reactionaries in northern Central America. Add in they got smart in the few decades and play well with other prosperous democratic countries.

Land reform (or theft as it may be) takes land from those who will farm it and gives it to a mixed bag of people who may or may not farm it. Production does not necessarily go up. It sure didn`t in Nicaragua.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

The Indigenous people who lost their land.... the 19th Century would agree with you completely. My next door neighbor's people got theirs back and are being quite productive with it now, working their way into the middle class, not having vast numbers of children so they can do a first rate job with the daughter they have. And the man of the family does floors and washes clothes.

The problem with the FSLN era land reform is they didn't give enough of it back to the people who were working it. They did in Miraflor because the women insisted.

Coffee (and tobacco) may require a dictatorship to make it work. The coffee barons had a government willing to outlaw plantain growing, to force small farmers off their land, and to draft people to pick coffee. This allows some people to make significant money, but I doubt seriously that most of those people ever actually worked beside their help. A number of slave-run plantations had owners who would have starved if the slaves or their poor white trash overseers (one of my kin) hadn't actually known something about growing tobacco.

A friend who's in alternative agriculture says that the larger the estates, the more productivity per acre goes down and eventually, you have to do something (see old Israeli law -- in the Bible -- about how they did this) to redistribute land to more productive people who are the ones actually doing the work. Cuba and Ethiopia are doing something fairly innovative -- give land to someone who'll work it, but hold the title. If he does a good job, he makes money from the crops he sells and the state taxes it only when it's sold. If he doesn't, he loses it. If his kids think they're going to be able to hire people to do the work for them and live in Miami, they're out of luck.

Costa Rica now has a GINI higher than either Nicaragua or the US (which, according to the CIA, has a higher GINI index than Nicaragua). If the prices are at US scale (which I've heard from many people), and the median income is $16,000 a year (haven't checked this today, going from memory), then that peace and prosperity may not last. Panama now has a higher murder rate than Nicaragua and Costa Rica's murder rate is rising. There's a point with income inequality that destablizes countries. Iran under the Shah reached it. The destabilization may bring in something worse than what it replaced, but the countries with very high GINI indexes are almost certain to destabilize. Picking fights with Nicaragua is a way of distracting their people from the situation (building an ecology-clobbering road). It's like the US distracting its population by picking fights with the Russians in Afghanistan, with Iran (when Saddam Hussein was our ally), with Afghanistan, with Iraq, and now that Iraq is Iran's biggest trading partner, with Iran.

Esteli has a higher crime rate, based on what I observed of people's behavior on the street, than Jinotega (see Jane Jacob's DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN CITIES for details on how to read urban settings). It's also the kind of place where I run into quack to the landers, various New Age experimenters, more than in Jinotega, though Jinotega does have some.

An El Salvadoran company owns MetroCenter in Managua. If I can't keep my money in Nicaragua, I'll keep it in the region. The heirs of the MetroCenters may be as awful as Alice Walton, and getting away with more drunk driving and the various other stupidities of the heiress, but I've seen her mug shots and I haven't seen theirs.

There's a point where making Nicaragua more like the US doesn't make it cheaper, or better for most of the people living here. Tourism (real estate speculation in general) is particularly bubble-prone. Someone here saw that the expats weren't coming to one place and calmly turned it into a cattle operation and dropped the prices on the lots by half. People in this region are practical like that.

We have a fair amount of house remodeling going on here -- across the street, down the street with someone creating a mansion, next door to that is either part of the mansion or another impressive remodeling job. Another person a bit further south is dividing a building into apartments.

I know that in the US, Walmarts show up when times are bad, when the local factories are doing badly, and nobody has much money so Walmart can undercut the local stores. If I wanted to live in Walmartlandia, I know where to find it. But I didn't move to a foreign country to support Arkansas rich white trash. I like seeing things like Dino's Fusion pop up here, where it's naturally cool because of ingenious ventilation, and where some of the menu is inspired and some of it seems like a Nicaraguan hallucination of Italian cuisine.

For any of these places, I want to have them develop on their own terms. I like Sweden as a model. My Hasselblads were excellent cameras not built by slave labor (and my Panasonic gear now was all made in Japan, not China). Leitz in the day made excellent cameras and smuggled its Jewish workers out of Germany when the bad things began to happen. Mixed economies are good. Farms should be owned by the families who do the physical labor. Health care should be universal. Ayn Rand used Social Security and Medicare.

Rebecca Brown


"Ayn Rand used Social Security and Medicare." (At least Ayn Rand could write...)


Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it . . . .

The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

"The Establishing of an Establishment", essay, The Ayn Rand Letter 1972; later published in: Philosophy: Who Needs It? 166 (1982).

Health care should be universal. Just don't expect ME to pay for YOURS (or anyone else's) at the point of a gun.

Ayn Rand

was a vainglorious crank who appealed to people with little experience or sanity -- I've met quite a few of them, two quite crazy. Mostly, it's one of those passions of youth.

Human beings will forever be struggling between being part of a society to survive and being able to use that society and that material culture to get one up on their fellow human beings, or using their amazing powers of self-deception to rationalize why they should be one up on their fellow human beings.

We can't survive as bare forked solitary creatures -- we're social animals, but that doesn't mean we don't want to imagine that we're individuals independent of all other considerations. It's just that that belief is juvenile. Rand could have moved to a country that didn't have social security and Medicare. She chose to stay in America because a nation that socializes some things and does them collectively is a better place even for rugged individualists than a country that doesn't.

Nicaragua seems to attract people who are here because they're not quite there.

Rebecca Brown

I like that!

``Nicaragua seems to attract people who are here because they're not quite there.``

Rebecca Brown

Sorta like the old workplace joke of ``You don`t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!``

Give credit to the Other Site.

Those people are further to the wack right than people here (maybe) but they don't take themselves quite so seriously.

Not original with me.

I think the poor but attractive parts of the world all end up with people who have ideas they couldn't sell in the richer parts.

When I was working with black kids, I had to realize that I couldn't be a role model for them at all. If a black person suggested something, they'd take that more seriously than if I suggested it (career plans, especially). What I could be was a white person to practice on, how to talk to us, how to persuade us of things. I think Nicaragua is something like that, and I understand that even possibly good advice from people who didn't grow up under their circumstances is going to get polite nods. I want to see how they manage things, not look for niches for myself, or try to fix them. With the working class students I had in Virginia, I realized that if I were in their positions, I might do worse than they'd done. My mechanic was as smart as I was, just grew up learning different things.

The most crazy seeming thing is trying to make Nicaragua over in a US image. Belt thought the Anglo Saxons would simply replace the mestizo population with their higher energy and all that (not without air-conditioning). Nobody is being that blatantly racist, but there's a flavor sometimes that we're the important ones here and the Nicaraguan people need to change how they do things to do them more like us.

And that is just crazy.

Rebecca Brown

But back to cooperatives

cooperatives are a perfectly legitimate business form, at least when operated under a free and democatic system. The electric `company` where I used to live was a cooperative. It functioned just like any other company, except that at the end of the year we were given a slight rebate to spend down the `profit`that the coop made for the year. Credit unions are another form of coops. Last I heard, Florida orange juice was marketed by a cooperative. No big socialist conspiracy, just a means of independent farmers to process and sell their product.

Historically, many coops have been politically or religiously motivated. The Shakers were a religious community with a nice product but an organizational flaw--they were celibate. When they ran out of converts, they fell apart. The Zionists were quite big on coops, some of which still exist, but soon as they got some level of power and stability other business forms took over.

Nicaragua has given coops a bad name because many were forced or enticed to join by government subsidies. As soon as the Sandinistas lost their patron in the USSR the coops fell apart in droves. Of the survivors, I imagine some have good leadership and a legitamate business purpose and some are just political window dressing, a conduit for govmint and foreigh aid money.

If a coop is helping the Basque area, that`s nice. Coops are a business model that can work, subject to the same laws of economics as other business forms. And if they are poorly managed, they can crash and burn just like any other.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

The Floyd telephone cooperative provided service something like a third the price for a basic line line than I was paying a for profit.

The ideal for cooperatives here would be for people to grow as much coffee as they could work themselves (seems to be the case in Miraflor here) and market it cooperatively, then figure out other industries for people to be able to make more money from their smaller farms -- like eco-tourism, bringing in the backpackers. Better $12 for putting two backpackers in the spare room than $5 for doing the same work in a hotel where someone else got the bulk of the money. And if someone is good at the hosting the crazy white folks game, then she expands and learns how to attract a richer crowd. (Janie's group is working on teaching English enough to communicate with tourists to the various farm families who are opening their homes to paying guests).

Cooperative farms in the Marxist sense are all too often jobs for middle-class university educated agronomists, not things run to pool marketing efforts or fertilizer purchases by people who otherwise farm their own land. Goes back to the problem with subsistence farming -- nothing useful for larger scale central governments to tax. So the government needs a cash crop perhaps worse than the farm workers, who in this climate (Jinotega) get three corn crops a year and four bean crops, and judging from the trees in my back yard, at least two crops of bananas a year, plus one crop of avocados, oranges, guavas, and mangos (all in a fairly small space, though the bananas probably need more sun and water and would make more if properly sited and tended). My orange guy apparently selling oranges from his family's farm as oranges are the only things he sells and he's not around off season. My broccoli vender sells produce off her family's farm (I asked). Is this more or less pleasant than working on someone else's coffee farm? I suspect a bit more pleasant, and again, no middle man for those sales. And I suspect there's a bit of charm in seeing the people who eat what your family worked so hard to grow. Is street vending economically efficient? Oh, no.

Do the street venders pay all their taxes? I rather doubt it, but I could be wrong.

The point with the Basque example is that they didn't get caught up in the real estate bubble that affected the rest of Spain, the whole "the retirees/tourist/stupider investors are coming" that caused most of Spain's problems. They stuck with heavy industry (an option not available to Nicaragua because the country doesn't have the ores and coal) and figured out how to do more complex manufacturing things, didn't just ship ingots to the rest of the world.

Nicaragua has a niche tourist market at this point, and the most effective way to exploit it is to have small scale micro facilities since each backpacker can only be stripped of so much cash. This also allows the farm families to continue farming if they can't catch a backpacker this week. If you urbanize your hotel staff, it's kinda hard for them to do a little farming on the off weeks.

And that was the model for eco-tourism in Miraflor, leverage the innate petty bourgeois in the indigenous females and have them vertically operate micro hotels (from cleaning to logistics of finding guides and explaining the history of the skull on the shelf in the outhouse with the new toilet).

Rebecca Brown