• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Argentina nationalized YPF, manipulates inflation statistics, faces capital flight, has systemic problems with state and national budgeting and is in a trade dispute with Brazil. Argentina's history is a continuing series of economic and political crises and they'll probably face another before the decade is out. I certainly don't agree with most of the Kirchner's economic policy.
All that said, they still deserve a seat at the G20. Five reasons why:
1. A constant theme of this blog: Arguments over which countries get to be in which international groups are a huge distraction to getting actual work done. There certainly are more pressing issues on the international economic stage than whether Argentina should face ostracism for their nationalization of an energy company. Yet, if this upcoming meeting in Mexico becomes about whether or not Argentina should be a member of the G20, all other debates will be sidelined while that gets sorted out. We can't afford to get distracted by this.
2. Why punish Argentina for its economic transgressions from orthodoxy and not China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, or even the United States? No country in the world runs a perfect macroeconomic policy. Every country tries to bend, break and manipulate rules to their advantage. Is Argentina worse than most? Possibly. Can you define a clear red line that Argentina crossed with their nationalization that China hasn't crossed with their currency manipulation or the US with its farm subsidies? Unless the G20 can come up with a very specific rule about what constitutes a removable transgression and apply it equally across all countries, Argentina's removal doesn't seem to be fair.
3. We've faced a severe global economic crisis over the past few years in part because the "responsible" countries got it wrong. "Group think" and a refusal to stray from conventional wisdom led to disaster. Having different voices at the table, even voices that aren't necessarily correct, opens up the possibility to hear alternate views, see potential threats and imagine new policy alternatives. If the G20 only allows the views certain countries want to hear, it sets itself up for failure.
4. Argentina represents a not insignificant portion of global public opinion about how economics should be run. Recent elections in Europe show parties [...] that reject austerity and want the governments to be a bit more populist [gaining]. In other words, populism is popular. Trying to shut out this viewpoint from the global stage because we don't want to hear it is anti-democratic and leads to even greater resentment by populations against the technocrats who insist that popular opinion is wrong. Argentina's view deserves a seat at the table simply to represent those voices.
5. Related to the two points above, I believe in a marketplace of ideas and I believe in engagement over ostracism. I think the G20 will work best if we have an open and honest debate about the options in the global economy. I think it will fail if we manipulate the group dynamics so that only certain opinions are heard. The G20 is trying to coordinate policies, but nothing at the G20 is mandatory. Countries that want to follow Argentina's or China's or the US's policy recommendations are welcome to do so. If you believe in the market, then you should allow countries to debate, make their own choices and let the results play out.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.