Brazil's institutions face the music
Author: Norman Gall | Published in 2014
Pessimism about Brazil coexists with the idea of Brazil as a happy land, the country of the future, a cornucopia of natural resources and many individual talents, with the wailing, throbbing pulse of its popular music that reaches many lands, with dreams of a world power in the 21st Century, the only nation to win the football World Cup five times, a continental archipelago of communities speaking the same language and flying the same flag, untouched by great wars, blending 200 million people of Amerindian, African, European and Asian stock, without outbreaks of religious or ethnic conflict.
Many people get few chances in life, while a few get many chances. Brazil is a happy land because it has had many chances. But Brazil’s many chances have blinded Brazilians to limitations of time and resources. Belief in the elasticity of time and resources translates into a tolerance of repeated failure that produced an institutional quagmire, with consequences that may go far beyond events of the emblematic year 2014. If this quagmire is not addressed, it will degrade the quality of daily life as violence proliferates and infrastructure continues to deteriorate along with the skills needed to manage a complex society on a continental scale. While claiming a global role, Brazilian political leadership embodies the triumph of localism, which is invested in dense networks of patronage as the massive transfer of resources becomes an end in itself.