In summary: the problem of Argentina is not to reverse hundred years of decline but to finally heal the political, social and economic wounds of the military coup of the mid 1970s. Some would say that a long time has passed to use that event as a benchmark. However, it took about a century between the US Civil War and the 1960s when some of the most egregious elements of discrimination against minorities were addressed. Healing historical wounds may take decades and even centuries.
In any case, Democratic governments since 1983 first put a floor to that decline and then, with ups and downs, with successes but also mistakes, they have placed the country on an upward trajectory again. A new democratic government will take power in December 2015 and the healing process will hopefully be largely completed. I firmly believe that, in one decade or so, Argentina can be a developed country, given its human and natural resources. A first step would be to follow policies that would allow to go back to the share of the US GDPpc that prevailed from 1945 to 1975.
But to do that, it would be wise to discard the hundred-year-decline myth with its longing for an Argentine golden era that never was.
Outside Argentina, that misperception serves to structure nice morality tales, such as the one presented by The Economist, in which a country of great potential is led astray by the fact that its own citizens consistently elect “populist” governments. This view leads to the unhelpfully irrelevant suggestion offered by The Economist that Argentine people should change and learn to endure pain (“Argentines themselves must also change… Persuading the population to embrace the concept of necessary pain will be difficult.”).
More than irrelevant, it is also a dangerous idea: although certainly is not what The Economist had in mind, the notion that Argentina’s problem has been that large part of its citizens that consistently elected “populist” governments was a core tenet of the “final solution” that the 1976 military coup tried to implement.
Now that in our own noisy and boisterous ways (and also making more mistakes than most of us would wish), we Argentines are trying to heal that wound, it would be useful if our citizens and well-intentioned outsiders (and I firmly believe that The Economist is part of this latter group) ditch once and for all the myth of the “hundred year decline.” Then Argentines should devote ourselves to completing the work of becoming a developed country, task that suffered a tragic blow a fateful day in March 1976.