Professor Werner Baer recieves Alice Conner Gorlin Memorial Award

By Web Master


Staff Intern

Werner Baer, a professor of economics at University of

Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was given the Alice Conner Gorlin Memorial Award

on Thursday, March 27, by Oakland University’s Department of Economics.

Baer was given the award after speaking for an hour at the

18th annual Alice Conner Gorlin Memorial Lecture, which was open to

the public at no charge. He spoke on the topic “Latin America in a Globalized


This lecture series was established in the memory of Alice

Conner Gorlin, an esteemed professor who gained international recognition as a

scholar of the Soviet economy and taught economics at Oakland University from

1972 until her death in 1987.

“Her dedication to the role of human beings as citizens of

the world led Gorlin’s friends to establish this memorial lecture series to

promote understanding of international issues and events,” the program

literature said.

Baer is a distinguished professor himself, with many awards

and honorary doctoral degrees to his name. He has previously taught at Harvard,

Yale and Vanderbilt Universities, and authored or edited twelve books and

published hundreds of scholarly journal articles and book chapters. He is an

expert on Latin American economy, with an emphasis on Brazil.

Many students were present at the lecture, held on 242

Elliott Hall, as well as faculty members. The event was filmed and broadcast to

several classrooms.

After being introduced by professor Addington Coppin, the

chair of the department of economics, Baer first explained why Latin American

economies became globalized in the first place.

“After World War II [the Latin American countries] were

looking to diversify their economies and become less dependent,” Baer said.

“Many of them decided to diversify by industrializing and trying to generate

domestic substitutes to foreign exports.”

Baer said that this model prevailed for about 50 years, but

had problems like the import coefficient rising, not enough jobs being created

and the rise of inflation and financial instability.

“In the 1960s, 90 percent of Brazil’s exports were still

traditional raw materials like coffee and sugar,” Baer said, rather than the

finished products of industrialization they hoped to export.

Baer said that in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Latin America needed

a lot of money and, coincidentally, the world’s banks were full of “Arab oil

money” as a result of the quadrupling price of oil, they decided to invest in

Latin America. However, countries like Mexico and Brazil were unable to pay

back their loans or even the interests, so they declared a “moratorium,” on

payments or bankruptcy. “And thus the 1980s were called ‘the Lost Decade of

Latin America,'” Baer said.

“By the 1990s, Latin American countries adopted neo-liberal

policies as demanded by International Monetary Fund,” he said. This included

opening up the economy to foreign investors, privatizing state enterprises,

enforcing stabilization policies and eliminating inflation.

But problems of these policies included not creating enough

jobs and only benefiting a small part of the population. “When state

enterprises became privatized, more people were fired to improve efficiency,”

Baer said. Another problem was that “exports of non-traditional finished goods

ran into resistance in the U.S. and Europe.”

Baer also said that some Latin American nations are

experiencing some growth right now, but that this growth is not due to

exporting manufactured goods, but of raw goods. “China demands enormous amounts

of primary products for its booming industry,” Baer said. “Like before,

industry is not helping [the Latin American countries], so in a sense they’re

going ‘back to the future.'”

Baer ended the lecture by demonstrating how globalization

might affect America. “The U.S. is running a trade deficit with China, and

China is the main creditor of the U.S.,” he said. This situation is partially

due to China increasing its productivity but keeping wages the same, he said.

“How do we remedy this? Can we demand China to pay more

wages? Or do we have to expect our standards of living to decrease?” Baer said.