Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Visit to Brazil

I got home very early this morning from a two week speaking trip in Brazil. I recorded four of the talks and they are now webbed, along with powerpoints and a video of one talk that someone else recorded. My talk in Rio was live streamed but I have not yet figured out where on the web it is.

A few observations:

The libertarian movement in Brazil–they prefer "liberal"–is very active and quite young. Most of the people at my talks appeared to be college age and at least one was a high school student. I believe my largest talk had an audience of about six hundred; several others were around two hundred. 

Part of the reason it is so active may be that the present state of Brazil is very far from libertarian and a lot of Brazilians are unhappy with it. As one striking example of just how bad things are, I was told that getting a drivers license  requires two hundred hours of lessons–eighty hours before taking the written exam, an additional hundred and twenty hours before taking the driving exam. That is an enormous deadweight loss, presumably existing to provide employment to the people authorized to teach the classes.

Brazilians don't sleep. At least, they see nothing add about expecting a visiting speaker to be at dinner until near midnight then up by six or so to catch a plane to the location of his next talk. In at least one case most of the Brazilians, after dinner, were off to further socializing, a nightclub or equivalent. To their credit, once made aware of their visitor's odd requirements they were willing to accommodate them.

I have often noticed that hotel people seem to believe I am unable to carry my own suitcase, despite the fact that I managed to get it to the hotel. In the past I interpreted this as a tactic designed to extract a tip. But tipping does not seem to be expected in Brazil, and I (and my daughter, traveling with me) still had to make a considerable effort to be allowed to bring our own things up to our hotel room. My current conjecture is that carrying a guest's bags serves as a way in which a hotel signals the high status of the guest.

In countries notably poorer than the U.S. I expect locally produced goods, such as restaurant food, to be inexpensive. That was not the case in Brazil. Part of the explanation seems to be a high level of tax on consumption. I was told that about half the price of what you buy is tax.

It was an enjoyable trip, with lots of friendly and helpful people and only a tolerable level of chaos.


Nillerz said...

Many of the Brazilian libertarians I know were pretty excited about you showing up there. I'm glad you had fun, they really appreciate the visit. :)

Anonymous said...

"I was told that getting a drivers license requires two hundred hours of lessons–eighty hours before taking the written exam, an additional hundred and twenty hours before taking the driving exam."

These numbers are exaggerated. You need 45h of lessons before taking the written exam and then 25h of lessons before the driving exam.

David Friedman said...

Re Driver exam:

Is it possible that the requirement varies by state? What I gave were the figure I was told, I think in Belo.