Brazil by Michael Reid

Summary

  1. A rally good overview of Brazil’s history and founding, it’s political background, agricultural prowess, social life, economy and more. A great start to any research project on Brazil
Key Takeaways
  1. Lula did a great job of publicizing the amazing growth happening in Brazil in the mid 2000s and how effectively it was able to shake off the global financial crisis in 2008
  2. Brazil is the fourth largest democracy, occupies almost half the landmass of South America, is one of the world’s most resource rich countries (oil, agriculture, fresh water), a manufacturing power house, has no border disputes or hotly contested religious factions and finally seemed to be taking off economically. Brazil has always seemed to be on the verge of aligning all these advantages and finally was experiencing real growth and advancement. However, amid the mania, many glossed over Brazil’s still significant flaws and it faced economic slowdown starting in mid 2011 under Roussef’s leadership
  3. Brazil’s history as a Portuguese colony which later attempted a rapid modernization and urbanization lead to many of the issues the government faces today. Also, it’s history of bringing in millions of slaves continues to plague it today in the form of severe social and economic inequality
  4. Brazil is an immense and incredible country with massive variations in geography, industry, climate, social norms, etc. It’s citizens realize its potential and have been continually frustrated that the country hasn’t been more prosperous or powerful
  5. The country is divided into 5 areas – SE being the economic and population powerhouse, NE being poorer and consisting mostly of agriculture, South is very rich and has many European immigrants, central west has massive ranches, North has a lot of the Amazon and the majority of the country’s land mass
  6. Brazil’s culture revolves around soccer, deep and loyal family ties, carnivale, sex (spend more of their discretionary income on beauty products than any other nation in the world!), religion (though it is a cocktail of faith with many African and Catholic offshoots), Telenovelas (TV soap operas), horror of social distance but also deep mistrust, a sense of “joie de vivre”
  7. Brazil first became a Portuguese colony in the 1500s but was unique in that the settlers often integrated with the natives instead of living apart
  8. Portugal actually moved the capital of the kingdom to Brazil when Napoleon threatened to overrun them in the late 1700s
  9. The “new state” established in the 1930s under Vargas established corporatism and, while restrictive, wasn’t overly so relative to other South American countries. It also embraced racial mixing and its cultural offshoots as part of Brazil’s national culture
  10. Brasilia was built completely anew in order to house government officials. It was an amazing achievement and spurred economic growth but was way over budget and lead to massive inflation
  11. There was much political turmoil and inflation from the 1930s – 1980s but the economy grew rapidly. Communism was a threat to the country and worried the US for some time but eventually a democracy emerged (was actually closer to a totalitarian regime in reality)
  12. Dilma Roussef joined a political gorilla group when she was young, was caught and tortured over many years
  13. Cardoso successfully implemented a new currency, the real, which finally helped alleviate Brazil’s inflation woes. This success helped him fend off Lula in the presidential elections
  14. Lula, after losing 3 consecutive times to Cardoso, finally won and kept up Cardoso’s policies and implemented certain of his own reforms which helped spur a credit boom and exceptional economic growth in Brazil
  15. To help combat Brazil’s severe economic inequality, the government set up Bolsa Familia – a program which supplemented the poorest people’s income if they enrolled their kids in school, got them doctors checkups, etc and more. This was a very successful government program and was adopted in many other countries
  16. Brazil is an exporting powerhouse, especially in agriculture where it is one of the largest exporters of coffee, sugar, beef, poultry, soybeans, orange juice and more.
  17. Brazil has the most fragmented political system in the world with over 11 parties and they are not balanced in the sense that Sao Paolo is underrepresented and other states more so because of the constitutional minimum of 8 representatives
  18. Brazil hosted the 1950 World Cup and them losing to Uruguay was a national tragedy that is still somewhat felt today
  19. Will the 21st century be Brazil’s time to shine? It is hard to say but the author is optimistic. Brazil will need to raise its savings rate, continue innovating and keep their spot as an agricultural powerhouse, improve political stability, reallocate more public spending to investment rather than current spending, a capitalist shock which has risks, lower taxes, spend more on healthcare and infrastructure, labor reforms (last chapter does an amazing job summarizing everything)
  20. The Petrobras scandal severely hurt the government’s credibility, put Dilma and many others under suspicion, hurt government revenues and more which is still being played out today (as of 2016). Recently, riots with hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the corruption and for possible impeachment of Roussef
Why I got out of it
  1. Great history of Brazil which gives insight into its culture, politics, economy, social structure and more. For anybody visiting Brazil or just learning more about this fascinating country, it is an excellent place to start