Buenos Aires timetables | A brief spell in an alternate universe.

When most people are quite satisfied with the way things are going, governments can add polish to their image by posing as responsible for their compatriots’ sporting triumphs; they do so by attributing it indirectly to their wise management of affairs or, if they wish, to the encouragement provided by the ideology they have embraced.

Dictatorships do this in a singularly flagrant way, but democratic governments have to take a more subtle approach, especially when the country they run is in shambles and much of the population is hopelessly unhappy. So the contrast between the achievements on the field of play of a handful of individuals and what happens elsewhere can have a negative effect. This could be the case today. As many point out, while Argentina is a great power, almost a superpower, in the world of soccer, in other ways it barely counts. Why, they ask, can’t politicians be as successful as the nation’s soccer players?

Millions rejoiced when Lionel Messi and his teammates reached the World Cup final and they will do it again, with even more fervor, if they defeat France tomorrow and take the coveted trophy, but few will think that the Kirchner government had anything to do with it. what to see to do with it Even if some enthusiasts pretended to think that he made a contribution, the illusion would be short-lived. This is something the military regime learned after 1978, when jubilant, flag-waving crowds filled the streets, many heading to the Casa Rosada where Jorge Rafael Videla and his friends managed to take advantage of the footballers’ feats by demonstrating that they, too, were just as excited for them as anyone else. Sadly for them, in a couple of days everything had returned to normal; as football fans like to tell us, the exultant mood that comes over you when your team wins a key game rarely lasts long.

For many years it has been customary to see Argentina as a country brimming with individual talent that, to the bewilderment of outsiders, has been a spectacular collective failure, with what might have been like having lost all contact with what really happened long ago. . They know that the country has always had a large number of world-class footballers, writers, instrumentalists and others, as well as scientists who, after being frustrated at home, have done great things abroad, and it can be assumed that they have. same is true. in most other fields, but for many decades it has been unable to make adequate use of its considerable human capital.

Around the middle of the 20th century, many people came to the conclusion that since many achievers came from relatively wealthy families, as it always has almost everywhere, distinguishing yourself was bad, so instead of encouraging the gifted, to the most gifted. political power, especially union bosses and populist demagogues, took it upon themselves to knock them down a peg or two. For such people, achieving more than the average man can expect is a social sin, not something that helps the community.

It is true that, taken to the extreme, “meritocracy” can be harmful by leading to the creation of self-satisfied elites whose members are convinced of their intellectual and moral superiority over lesser beings and, as is happening in the United States, treat the rest of humanity with open contempt, but in today’s world no society can hope to prosper unless it exploits its available brainpower to the full. This is something that the Kirchnerists have always resisted doing. On a well-remembered occasion, President Alberto Fernández himself took it upon himself to inform us that individual “merit” was quite useless because some people were better off than others and therefore had more opportunities to get ahead, a statement that was plausibly interpreted as a defense of mediocrity and idleness. Whatever Alberto had in mind, his words did much to persuade the ambitious youngsters that they would be prevented from getting ahead in Argentina and should try their luck elsewhere. One result of populist mistrust of people who strive to make the most of what nature has given them is that in recent years the country has seen a rapidly growing “brain drain” that threatens its future.

Egalitarianism stops when it hits something most people take seriously. If a populist government were foolish enough to force Lionel Scaloni to field a team of ordinary players who had never achieved much because they thought it would be so unfair and undemocratic to let him write them off in favor of others who were so much better at what they did . they did, he would be out of the office in a couple of days. As far as pretty much everyone is concerned, to ruin football and at the same time deprive the country’s team of a chance to win the World Cup, subjecting them to that kind of nonsense would be utter insanity.

Unfortunately, the same principle does not apply when it comes to other activities that are almost as important as soccer. Politics, economic management, bureaucratic departments, education at all levels, etc., are happily left in the hands of men and women chosen not for their ability but for their “loyalty” to someone who has fought their way sorrows. above or by their family connections. Whatever Argentina is, unlike its soccer team, it is not a meritocracy.

Seers frequently warn us that from now on a country’s performance will depend on its success in mobilizing its intellectual resources by educating its inhabitants so that they can take full advantage of the opportunities that dizzying technological advances are creating. This may be an exaggeration because only a minority can be expected to master higher calculus and other challenging disciplines, but there is no doubt that for a society to function well, everyone should be encouraged to do everything possible to cultivate to the greatest extent. the skills they have as much as possible rather than being told they are entitled to depend on handouts paid by the remnants of the once relatively prosperous middle class.

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