02/12/19: Principles and Interests in Peru


Efraín Gonzales de Olarte 

There is an old tension between interests and principles. Countries develop if the latter prevail over the former.

Human behavior oscillates between the defense of particular interests and ethical and moral principles. In general, interests are based on selfishness, often driven by survival instincts, but also by the desire for economic or political power. The principles are ethical codes that come from the need for a civilized human coexistence and, very often, based on feelings of solidarity, cooperation, competition, compassion.

Let’s look at an example to understand the importance of this issue for the development of a country and for human development. Today it has been generated or imposed in the common sense that investment is the only solution for the development of Peru, wherever it comes from, the important thing is that it be invested. Obviously, those interested in such an idea are the owners of capital, who with their investments will obtain their corresponding profits. However, we observe that Peru has invested as never in the last twenty years, but that this has led to a minority drastically increasing its income, while the majority have only received very modest increases, that is, the investment that has served to grow has not served to reduce inequalities, that is, the interest of profit is opposed to the principle of equity.

In these circumstances, if someone occurs to propose higher income taxes to have greater resources to redistribute, interest immediately says that such taxes would reduce growth. The problem is that the quality of the investment is not taken into account, since it could be said that the interests of the capitalists do not contradict that of the workers, provided that the latter are proportionally favored. But when this does not happen, then the principles of social justice, equity and compassion appear as the ideas that social equilibrium could achieve.

The central problem is how the principles are established in the operation of a society, so that private, sectoral or private interests do not reduce the creation of opportunities for all. Normally, the important norms (Constitution, laws and government decrees) are inspired by democratic principles of equal opportunities, promotion of equity, care for the environment and improvement of people’s well-being, that is, almost all Peruvian norms. They have as ethical bases these principles. However, in reality they are not partially fulfilled or fulfilled at all, I believe that for two reasons: 1. Because the Peruvian State does not have the capacity and autonomy to do so, that is, it has institutional weaknesses or is “besieged” by particular interests. Thus, a weak state is managed by interests. 2. Because groups with particular interests (companies, political parties, unions) try to manage governments (national, regional or local) according to their interests. The collective result is, in general, greater inequality, less integration and in many cases less democracy. The current crisis actually occurs because private interests have been imposed on the principles of equity, inclusion, respect for the law and there is no Peruvian state, with its three powers, capable of bringing the balance between these interests and collective well-being.

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