For several years now critics have been writing obituaries of the Alliance for Progress, evidently anticipating the program’s demise on its forthcoming tenth anniversary. Analysts including Tad Szulc and Simon G. Hanson have emphasized its political and economic shortcomings so effectively that most students have already accepted their gloomy pronouncements. In Harvey S. Perloff’s masterly contribution to Alliance literature we have at last an account which will go far to balance the record. While admitting that there have been few important accomplishments, the author is nevertheless optimistic about what he views as the vast potentialities of this significant “social invention.”
It should be understood from the beginning that this work is not a historical study. It is intended to shape historical development, however, and it does contain source material which will be of value to historians of inter-American relations. Although Perloff provides a sketchy historical background of the Alliance, he deals primarily with economic development theory and practice. His critique and suggestions for reform will be of interest to everyone directly or indirectly associated with the program. Excellent supplemental tables and appendices enhance the analysis.
As an original member of the Committee of Nine Perloff had a remarkable opportunity to observe the problems encountered in implementing the Charter of Punta del Este. Lofty ideals but faulty organizational machinery required a dedicated staff effort to avert initial failure. Traditional bureaucratic concepts prevailed over innovation, allowing the national project approach to become the pattern, although strong multilateralism was actually needed. Unrealistic goals and political expediency caused additional complications. A partial response to administrative deficiencies came in 1964 with the creation of CIAP, which was given the responsibility of annual review. An enlightened discussion of economic problems explains why the net capital provided Latin America has been smaller than anticipated. A number of other factors have done much to frustrate original goals: the unforeseen problem of repaying loans contracted for in the 1950s, together with the difficulties of defining loan needs, making commitments and disbursing funds.
The author’s evaluation of Alliance performance is immediately valuable. Noting that 1971 offers a symbolic opportunity for program review and Charter revision, he argues that it is possible to design economic assistance which is sensitive to the unique needs of individual nations, preferably through utilizing multilateral agencies. The reform thrust should be effective on three levels. Nationally, the development of human resources must receive greater emphasis. More regional activities are needed, supervised by a fomento type of organization. An exciting proposal to strengthen multilateralization highlights the discussion of international prospects. A Council for Latin America, designed to coordinate agency activities and having an Inter-American Development Organization as its operational arm, would provide long-needed executive strength. Finally, annual schedules should be eliminated and replaced with realistic target dates.
For those who would label the author “neo-científico,” a brief comparison with a work such as Matías Romero’s classic, Geographical and Statistical Notes on Mexico, might be helpful. Scientific discussions with impressive statistical documentation adorn both works. The two authors seek economic development and international cooperation. Both have distinguished records in the public service. But the differences are overwhelming. Whereas Romero’s lure was that of private profit based on ruthless exploitation, Perloff’s vision is that of humanity, social justice, and true internationalism. Romero was an entrepreneur. Perloff is a modern scholar convinced that intelligence can help to solve pressing contemporary problems. His work is a profession of faith in rationalism and in man’s ability to order his future. It is also a major achievement for the social science approach and a book which historians may profitably consult.