Though certainly not well known in North America, Juan Bautista Alberdi is a towering figure in the history of Argentina. He was a major influence on the Argentine constitution and was an intellectual force in 19th-century South America. He was an adherent of classical liberal views but also a convinced Christian. His Christianity has at times been overlooked—the New Catholic Encyclopedia, for instance, devotes an entire page to Alberdi but gives no mention of his Christianity or his views on religion. Alejandro Chafuen, Acton’s Managing Director, International, writes in Forbes describing how Alberdi’s political and religious views worked together.
When serious policy analysts and scholars speak about Venezuela or Argentina, they usually describe how rich these countries were in the past. Venezuela’s oil resources are mentioned as the cause of past Venezuelan wealth. In the case of Argentina, some focus on its vast agricultural wealth. But Argentina’s land was always fertile—it was not until the mid-1850s, after the adoption of the Argentine Constitution of 1853, that Argentina took off. The land is still there, but Argentina began a downhill trend when it abandoned the economic and moral ideas that led to its growth.
A young lawyer from the Argentine province of Tucumán, Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884), played an immense role in creating a period of prosperity lasting almost 90 years, beginning with the adoption of the Constitution. Much like Thomas Jefferson, Alberdi’s study of different constitutions was heavily influential on his own country’s document, which can be regarded as the founding charter of a free Argentina.
Alberdi’s views can still play a positive role in helping create a consensus on the institutions of the free society in Argentina and other Latin American countries. For those who value the role that Christianity played in shaping a better understanding of the human person, Alberdi provides additional lessons.
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(Homepage photo credit: Alejandro Chafuen.)