This is the 43rd volume of the Venezuelan Academy of History’s “Estudios, biografías y ensayos” series. Its contents are an expanded outgrowth of the author’s two lectures presented in February and March 1984, during the bicentennial celebrations held by Venezuela’s academies in honor of the Liberator.
The work is divided into two parts, each with considerable textual material. In the first, Carrillo Batalla attempts to examine Bolívar’s economic thought in the light of modern economic theory. In the second, the Liberator’s place in the history of economic thought is postulated. The author concludes that Bolívar believed in an activist state, sought to avoid economic fluctuations, and sought to promote economic development. He further asserts that “. . . Bolívar coincide más con [Michal] Kalecki [1899-1970] y [Oskar] Lange [1904-1965] que con los clásicos . . .” (p. 10), a thesis, which, while it might gladden the hearts of certain Polish nationalists, I find difficult to swallow.
If anything, Simón Bolívar was a pragmatist, eager to advance his cause with such economic resources as he could generate. He brooked no opposition to his army’s ever-increasing demands, and, whatever his pronouncements, recognized the essential dependence of Spanish America’s economies on Britain and other North Atlantic industrial powers.
It is one thing to anachronize Bol¡var to fit fashionable economic models; it is another to ignore historical data. For example, Carrillo Batalla is generous— though not always accurate—in his references to David Bushnell’s carefully crafted Santander Regime in Gran Colombia (1954; Spanish edition, 1965); yet he is constant in avoiding its evidence. As a result, Francisco de Paula Santander remains, for him, the wrecker of Bolívar’s responsible fiscal husbandry (see, among others, pp. 209, 225, 266, and 268). To revive this canard serves little positive purpose.
These criticisms (as well as a fervent wish that more diligent proofreading had been done) aside, the book, because much of it is really an annotated commentary on Gran Colombian fiscal legislation, is a convenient-if-uneven documentary collection. It is also graced by an essay on sources and bibliography.