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Saturday, April 8, 2006

Progress, Freedom and Institutions
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Just a block from our hotel here in Buenos Aires is a monument to a 19th Century Argentine president, Carlos Pellegrini. It looks like any monument you'd see in any European city (or Washington, for that matter) and I walked by it several times without taking much note of it. Then, this evening, I saw some tourists snapping pictures of it and I decided to go over and look at it more closely. Upon reading the sign in front of it (English was fortunately one of the four languages displayed) I realized it was the perfect artistic summation of our efforts here with our Digital Americas conference and outreach.

First, here is the monument I'm speaking of:


The figure in white holding a flag with his left hand is Pellegrini, who was president of Argentina in the 1890s. It was apparently a very turbulent time for the country but he guided his people through it, so this monument evokes a ship moving through troubled waters. The grip on the flag represents his firm hold of his country during this time, and his right hand is extended in a firm manner depicting (so the sign said) his determination to hold onto the institutions that would guide his country into the future.

The woman above him represents the Republic of Argentina, protecting him. The figure on the left is Justice, and the figure on the right is Progress.

Now you may see why I see this as so symbolic of our trip. His right hand is reaching out for exactly what speaker after speaker at our conference yesterday said was necessary for Argentina's future -- strong institutions. The Justice figure on the left evokes the role government can play in property protection, including intellectual property. And the figure on the right, well, what can be more appropriate for The Progress & Freedom Foundation than Progress?

In the case of our conference, progress was demonstrated as coming from innovation generated in a free market supported by strong institutions and respect for property rights. More than a century ago, the Argentines understood all of these things, and it is now captured in a monument that, appropriately, has Pellegrini's gaze falling directly on the Brazilian embassy (we will be doing another conference in Sao Paulo on Tuesday). Oh, and the street running behind the monument is Libertad (Liberty).

Okay, maybe I'm overdoing it a little here. But this confirms what I've sensed from many of the free market thinkers I've met here in Buenos Aires. There are many people here dedicated to bringing Argentina the progress it deserves. They know how to get there, and they know their people are capable of it. I hope they achieve the progress they seek, because in my short time here I've come to find Argentines to be among the most gracious and considerate people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Argentina has had a history of questionable leaders, and for all I know Pellegrini was one of them. But what his leadership came to symbolize for Argentines -- strong institutions, justice and progress -- will always be a reliable guide.

posted by Patrick Ross @ 6:52 PM | Digital Americas

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