Promoting The Free Economy In Brazil

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 30/3/21 en:

Latin America is going bad – very bad. Many of the region’s large economies have lurched toward leftist populism in recent years. With the election of former guerrilla leader Gustavo Petro to the presidency, Colombia seems to be another victim of the trend. But for such leftists, the big prize is still to be captured: Brazil.

With almost half of South America’s economy and population and bordering ten countries, what happens in Brazil is always relevant for the Americas and the world. The country’s upcoming presidential election is a case in point. The two leading candidates, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro, both have plenty of detractors. Local and foreign media cover their campaigns and road to the election. There is seldom coverage of those who work outside the political party system to try to influence Brazil’s future. I want to highlight some of them here.

I will only focus on non-religious organizations of Brazilian civil society that, despite having very different goals, are favorable to a free economy. These range from conservatives to libertarians, Christians to Randians (followers of the late Russian-born novelist Ayn Rand). I will also mention a couple of influencers. As in the United States, some social media players have more impact than many organizations in policy debates.

Among Brazilian think tanks, the oldest I know is the Instituto Liberal (IL) in Rio de Janeiro, founded in 1983. I met the founder, Donald Stewart, Jr., in 1987. At the time, the think tank’s goal was to plant the seeds of future pro-free-economy policy research by publishing translations of the main works of Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and other classic economists. This think tank still exists but now is one among many, rather than the dominant one. It is currently gaining new energy, and new funds, under businessman Salim Mattar. Mattar, who founded a successful car rental company, became minister of privatization (desestatização) in the Bolsonaro government and is now primarily devoted to promoting pro-free-society policies. At their most recent major event, in June 2022, IL went beyond traditional free-market think tanks and circles by inviting two former presidents, Michel Temer of Brazil (president from 2016-2018) and Mauricio Macri of Argentina (2015-2019). On its website, IL lists several scholars with diverse views who have collaborated with the think tank. They range from classical liberals and conservatives to libertarians of different stripes. Having promoted Austrian economics for quite some time, IL can take credit for some of the fruits of these efforts. The leading think tank promoting Austrian economics in Brazil is Mises Institute Brazil, located in São Paulo.

Six Brazilian Free Economy Think Tanks

Six Brazilian Think Tanks that promote a free economyALEJANDRO CHAFUEN

Graduates of the University of Chicago – especially those who studied under Milton Friedman or other market-oriented scholars – also promote the benefits of the free economy. Of course, the most famous «Chicago boy» in Brazil is the current minister of economics Paulo Guedes. Guedes is associated with the Instituto Millenium (IM)which started to take form in 2005 and launched during the 2006 Liberty Forum (Foro de Liberdade). The forum is a product of another essential player in Brazilian civil society, the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE). The deputy economic minister of Brazil, Roberto Fendt, is also a graduate of the University of Chicago and has had a long history of collaboration with free-market think tanks. Patricia Carlos de Andrade, who founded Instituto Millenium, is a businesswoman well trained in economics and philosophy. Andrade emigrated to the United States but remained active in Brazil behind the scenes. Another former IM leader is Paulo Uebel, who left IM to finish graduate studies at Columbia University. Uebel returned to Brazil to occupy crucial public service positions in São Paulo and later on the national level, with Salim Mattar as his deputy in the Bolsonaro government.

Donald Stewart Jr, Helio Beltrão, Patricia Andrade, and Salim Mattar were all from the business world. Before them, Henry Maksoud (1929-2014) promoted free-market views mainly as individuals rather than as part of any organization.

Brazilian businessmen supporting think tanks that promote the free economy

Pro free economy Brazilian businessmen from the past and present. Pictured left to right top: Donald … [+]ALEJANDRO CHAFUEN

There was a period of good growth at the Instituto Liberal of São Paulo when led by another businessman, Jorge Simeira Jacob. But when Simeira Jacob’s business ran into trouble during the late 90s, impacted by a sudden change in monetary policy, the hope for a significant expansion of Brazilian free-market think tanks dissipated. With the leaders of other Liberal Institutes in the country, Simeira Jacob wanted a well-funded hub to support the best efforts in the Liberal Institute network. The current Instituto Liberal in São Paulo is a new organization founded in 2014 and unrelated to the original.

Another businessman I met in 1987 is Winston Ling, who introduced Paulo Guedes to Bolsonaro a few years before his election. Winston Ling also studied at the University of Chicago.

Earlier I mentioned the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE), which has remained consistently strong. It is also mainly led by businesspeople, in this case, young entrepreneurs who have been perfecting their main product, the Foro de Liberdade. This Liberty Forum is the largest pro-free economy event in the world. Among Brazilian free-market groups, IEE is perhaps the most influenced by entrepreneurs who follow Ayn Rand’s individualist view of capitalism. But the requirement that IEE members be actual entrepreneurs has made these Randians much less ideological and more pragmatic than their counterparts in other countries. Alan Greenspan and John Allison, the retired chairman of BB&T, are examples of Randians who remind me of the young businessmen and businesswomen who have shaped the IEE.

Until recently, I could not find clusters of pro-free-market economists at any university in Brazil. A change occurred in 2015 with the Center for Economic Freedom founding at the prestigious Mackenzie Presbyterian University. Unlike most of the work of other think tanks, which focuses on translations, short articles, and events, the Center produces and publishes well-grounded research founded on original micro- and macroeconomic studies. Given the university’s academic prestige, the Center can become a valuable source of new talent for the Brazilian policy world. One can only hope its work will inspire imitators at other Brazilian academic institutions.

Mackenzie was founded in 1870 by graduates of Princeton University. Though Presbyterian, the university has had students and professors from all denominations who have contributed significantly to the free society. Given the importance of the rule of law and the many challenges today, I will mention Dr. Ives Gandra, the most crucial figure in the Brazilian legal scene among those who work for the free society. Although he is in his late eighties, Dr. Gandra is still going strong and has created a meaningful legacy through his many students and leadership in many organizations. Angela Gandra, one of his daughters, is the current Deputy Minister for the Family. One of his sons, Ives, Jr., is a judge with significant expertise in labor law.

Other Brazilian NGOs for a free economy

Leading Brazilian organizations promoting a free economy. Social media traffic from early June 2022. … [+]ALEJANDRO CHAFUEN

Looking to the past, Brazil’s history of free-market efforts features several prominent academics. For instance, we can point to historian Antonio Paim (1927-2021) and economist Og Leme (1922-2004), who worked side by side with Donald Stewart, Jr. in helping build IL. Some of those trained in economics, like Roberto Campos (1917-2001), entered public service and had relevant posts in various Brazilian administrations.

Media companies that promote free enterprise

The work of scholars and writers associated with these think tanks and centers receives wider attention thanks to a few media efforts. Gazeta do Povo and BrasilParalelo are the two most important. Founded over 100 years ago, Gazeta has a long history and is clear on what they stand for. Their home page links to «Our vision,» where they state the view of the outlet’s owners in 28 different areas, from ethics and economics to family issues and democracy. Several of their regular authors and contributors have a long history of collaboration with think tanks, such as Rodrigo Constantino, Paulo Uebel, and Maria Clara Vieira Rousseau.

While other efforts for a free society measure their impact in thousands or hundreds of thousands, BrasilParalelo counts it in millions. One of their historical films, 1964-O Brasil entre armas e livros (1964-Brazil between books and weapons), passed 10 million YouTube views. On policy issues, their provocative film on the AmazonAMZN -2.9%Cortina de Fumaça (Smokescreen), already has over two million views. Their newest production, Entre Lobos (Among Wolves), is a series on crime in Brazil. Its hour-long introduction alone attracted more than one million views. BrasilParalelo has had similar success with their films about the United States, Argentina, and Venezuela. They also produce several programs that include intellectuals who collaborate with Brazilian think tanks.

Jovem Pan also has some conservative and pro-free economy positions; it is one of the largest radio networks in Brazil. For those who know the US scene, some of the Brazilian classical liberals describe it as a «centrist Fox News.» However, as in most other countries, most of the more established media is unsympathetic to the free economy, creating and repeating false narratives. For example, a long recent piece in the newspaper Valor Económico blamed economic liberalism for lower growth rates during the last three decades. In the competing indices produced by the Fraser Institute and the Heritage Foundation, Brazil still ranks very low in economic freedom, especially free trade.

One of the fastest-growing segments in the US policy scene are think tanks and organizations devoted to the legal defense of victims of state intervention. Few countries have such organizations, especially in the conservative and pro-free enterprise camps. But there is an exception in Brazil, the Instituto Brasileiro de Direito Religioso (IBDIBD -0.5%R). Religious liberties are an essential aspect of a free society, and IBDR works to protect them. Its work is similar to that of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in the United States. Some key players, like Jean Regina, are ADF-associated scholars and even file amicus briefs in US courts, as they did with the recent case that led to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

A last nod goes to pro-freedom groups working with students, another of the fastest-growing sectors in the United States. In Brazil, leadership in this area belongs to Students for Liberty which mostly aligns with libertarian positions.

The Brazilian market is ready for more organizations focusing on judicial reform, litigation, and investigations; more academic centers with safeguards for intellectual independence; and more conservative or free-market student groups. I apologize if this outline has left out any crucial organizations. I will include them in future analyses if they come onto my radar with convincing arguments. Those who think that ideas shape the world sooner or later, should be grateful to those involved in the organizations mentioned here. Elections are essential, but as Ed Feulner, the great builder of the Heritage Foundation, frequently reminds us that we never have permanent victories or permanent losses in politics. In the long run, the battle of ideas is essential. Brazil, which one month from now, September 7th, will celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of its independence, needs to find a more stable road toward freedom and prosperity. The efforts of the many intellectual entrepreneurs who have created and invested in the organizations mentioned in this piece give me hope that a free and prosperous Brazil is not an impossible dream.

Matheus Resende and Juan Cruz Isetta conducted research for this piece. A shorter version was presented at the 2022 Estoril Political Forum, June 28, 2022

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE. Síguelo en @Chafuen 

The New Brazil: Philosophical Divisions Should Not Hinder Bolsonaro’s Free Society Agenda

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 19/2/19 en:


Brazil may soon become the fastest-growing of the major Western economies. This is not the first time that investors have looked to this South American giant with hopefulness. There is a temptation to think that Brazil is entering into a new phase not seen anywhere in the world since the Reagan-Thatcher revolution of the 1980s. The road ahead, however, will be difficult. Jair Bolsonaro’s government will face attacks from the outside and the inside.

Bolsonaro’s team includes policy experts and public officials who will aim to liberate the economic potential of the largest economy south of the U.S. border. Brazil’s GDP is equivalent to that of Mexico, Argentina and Chile combined; the economy of the city of São Paulo alone is larger than that of Chile. What happens in Brazil impacts the Americas, and so it requires close observation.

I had the privilege of previous collaborations with think tanks associated with the talented individuals who are now ministers of Economics, Education and the Environment. In other areas, such as Foreign Affairs (Ernesto Araujo) and Justice (Sergio Moro), the Brazilians have leaders with outstanding knowledge and experience. Sergio Moro earned world acclaim for his role in Brazilian transparency efforts. Araujo will shock the world both with his philosophical knowledge and his politically incorrect views and endorsement of many of the Trump administration’s policies.

Winston Ling and Jair Bolsonaro

President Jair Bolsonaro holding copies of «The Law» by Bastiat, and «Six Lessons of Economics» by Ludwig von Mises.  Ling was one of the first free-market businessmen that collaborated with Bolsonaro and his familyWINSTON LING

How did the stars align to produce such a change in the country responsible for the 21st-century socialism of the São Paulo forum? After decades of interventionist and left-wing populism, and with most media, universities and the world “establishment” against him, how did Bolsonaro and his allies do it? To understand and forecast historical changes I use a simple model that focuses on ideas, incentives, leadership and providence or luck. All played a role, but in this case leadership was a driving force.

I will start with Jair Bolsonaro, who, despite coming from the military, listened to business and policy leaders who have been working fearlessly and unceasingly to promote a free society and a free economy. Many deserve credit but I will just mention three of them: Winston Ling, Helio Beltrão and Salim Mattar.

A couple of years ago, Winston Ling told me, in confidence, that he saw potential in Bolsonaro and that he was introducing him to outstanding economists of the Chicago tradition. Ling is the oldest of three Brazilian-born brothers who, with different talents (their father sent them to three different schools), have been helping to build Brazil. Winston is a strategist and can be defined as a “Jesuit-trained follower of Ayn Rand.” In addition to business, he always had a keen eye for investments in intellectual entrepreneurs and activists.

Ling was involved in the free-market movement in Brazil in the 1980s but grew disillusioned and reached the conclusion that the biggest enemies of freedom were big business owners and executives. In the early ‘90s he came to the United States to build a factory. A decade later, he moved to Shanghai, which disconnected him from the freedom movement in Brazil.

But in 2016, when China began to become to tighten its grip on intellectual debates and the Brazilian left was being challenged, Ling saw an opportunity and returned to Brazil. He told me that his early support for Bolsonaro was “against the majority of my free-market friends. I suffered huge amounts of criticism, even from my family.” In the past, Bolsonaro had made comments that angered many. But Ling looked forward rather than backwards: “In order to fight the common enemy, I worked hard to maintain unity between the different factions: conservative Christians, anarcho-capitalists, classical liberals, objectivists [disciples of Ayn Rand], etc.” While other Randians (Rand’s philosophy belittles religion) rend their garments and avoid any alliance with Christians, Ling knew that Chicago economics, or Randian philosophy, was not enough to achieve victory. He understood that other voices and incentives were needed.

Another businessman and leading intellectual entrepreneur is Helio Beltrão, the founder and president of the Instituto Mises, Brazil. Helio is a “big tent” libertarian, open to conservatives, Christians and traditionalists. Ludwig von Mises is his principal inspiration in issues of economic theory, but Helio’s strategy is very much Hayekian. F.A. Hayek, who did three lecture tours in Brazil, stressed the importance of building alliances between defenders of free markets and defenders of tradition and religion. Beltrão has prepared a de-bureaucratization plan and remains very close to several government officials. He decided not to join the administration in order to continue working to preserve the ideological currents that are inspiring many in the current Brazilian leadership.

Helio Beltrão of Instituto Mises and

Through his think tank, Instituto Mises Helio Beltrão has been a driving force of free-market efforts. His publishing house LVM had record sales just before and after Jair Bolsonaro’s victoryHELIO BELTRÃO

The task of reducing bureaucracy and state-owned companies will fall to a businessman with a long track record of listening to the advice of free-market think tanks and intellectual entrepreneurs: Salim Mattar. He built a successful car rental company and, unlike Ling and Beltrão, joined the government as Secretary of Privatization (desestatizacão). He aims to sell $20 billion in state-owned assets during his first year. He will keep just a handful of companies, including Petrobras, in state hands.

It is because of businessmen like the above that many free-market advocates are part of the administration. For instance, Chicago -trained economist Paulo Guedes is Minister of Economics, and former think-tankers such as Ricardo Salles (Minister of the Environment) and Paulo Uebel (former president of Instituto Millenium, and now on Guedes’s team) have significant posts in the government. Brazil is a country that has green all over, even on its flag, and Salles’s vision is very much like the one that exists in the current White House: secure private property and prosperity can go hand-in-hand with a better environment. Progress, however, should not be sacrificed at the green altars of global environmental bureaucracies.

Winston Ling has worked hard to bring different factions of the free market movement into the Bolsonaro coalition

Winston Ling had been working quietly to bring outstanding economists closer to Jair Bolsonaro, here Ling with Paulo Guedes (Economy) and Salim Mattar (Privatization)PHOTO MONTAGE BY ALEJANDRO CHAFUEN WITH WINSTON LING PHOTOS

Few things are more important than quality education, especially in countries that need to liberate the creative potential of the poor. The brilliant choice of Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez as Minister of Education may have enormous positive implications. Vélez, well known in free-society circles, was born in Colombia but earned academic degrees in Brazil and established his career there. A prolific author, Vélez has been influenced by philosopher and historian Antonio Paim (1927- ). Paim started as a Communist Party member and was educated in Moscow. Now in his 90s, Paim is a guiding light of Brazilian classical liberalism. Vélez is also well known abroad: he is on the editorial board of Portuguese magazine Nova Cidadania and has participated in numerous symposiums conducted by the Liberty Fund, the Indianapolis-based foundation that has helped educate and connect countless freedom scholars.

Describing some of the new champions of the free economy in the legislature, like Marcel Van Hattem, only 33, and Kim Kataguiri, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, deserves another article. They received huge support from voters and can both be described as conservative in values and free-market in economics. Only a small fraction of the legislature are direct supporters of Bolsonaro, so those who support free-markets founded a multi-party “Free Market Caucus.” They will sponsor and promote bills advocating fewer state interventions as well as de-bureaucratization. In the economic arena, few things are more needed than reform of Brazil’s Social Security pension system. As a recent hike in milk tariffs shows, the road to success will not be without its bumps and contradictions.

I have mentioned businessmen, economists and young politicians. On another occasion I will delve into other players such as the military Evangelicals and conservative Catholics. They played and continue to play an important role. In the world of ideas, apart from Antonio Paim, I have highlighted the inspiration of the Chicago and Austrian schools, and that of Ayn Rand, as providing the vision for a new era of Brazilian capitalism. I have yet to mention influential Brazilian political philosopher Olavo de Carvalho.

I began following Carvalho’s writings at the beginning of this century, when he started Midia Sem Mascara, a website publication which is now dormant. The clarity of his encyclopedic thought, direct style and communication talent has led thousands to his views. His following in social media beats all Brazilian free-market think tanks. Carvalho has 732,000 followers on Instagram and more than 500,000 followers and subscribers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Not bad for a philosopher writing from self-imposed exile in Virginia. With more than two decades influencing young Brazilians, he has a loose but influential network that would take considerable time to describe. For starters, in addition to foreign minister Araujo, others who follow his writings include Eduardo Bolsonaro (son of the president), Filipe G. Martins (international secretary of the president), and Silvio Grimaldo, working for Vélez in education.

It is important to have policy leaders well versed in different political and economic philosophies. But to preserve the coalition that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power, and increase its chances of success, it is better that no one group gain a monopoly. The stars that aligned for Bolsonaro’s victory – the philosophers, economists and strategists – should continue competing and collaborating as they are. They should not revolve around a single “sun,” or thinker, but around the goal of a Brazil under ordered liberty.


Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.