Peron was first elected in 1946, and then won a second term in 1951. But growth flagged over the interval and inflation mounted. Imports exceeded Argentina's largely agricultural exports. And foreign currency reserves accumulated during the wartime boom were used to nationalize the railways and other British-owned assets, and thus could no longer be used as a buffer against export volatility.
Military intervention ended this first experiment in Peronism in 1955 with a society increasingly at odds with itself -- as it continues to this day. The military ceded control (to anti-Peronist civilians) in 1958. But in 1966 it returned to stay, save for a brief interlude, until the folly of the Falklands war forced an exit.
Under the dictatorships, there were two separate efforts to change the climate that undermined growth. The first occurred in 1966 through 1969 under Adalbert Krieger Vasena, an economist who had the ear of the military-dominated government.
Initially, the effort was successful. Growth, spurred by the opening of the economy, exceeded five percent a year between 1967 and 1970, while fiscal performance improved and inflation fell below eight percent. Krieger Vasena left office after the Cordobazo, a popular uprising against the military dictatorship led by trade unions. The military hung onto power, but, as a sop to the unions, abandoned efforts to contain wages. Inflation inevitably re-emerged.
The second plan took shape under José Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, a conservative business executive who became economy minister after another military intervention in 1976 that deposed Peron's successor, his wife Isabel Martínez, who took power after her husband's death in his third term in 1974. Influenced by the Chilean experience with technocracy after the Pinochet coup, Martinez de Hoz served up a complicated plan designed to change inflationary expectations and to hitch Argentina more firmly to the global economy.
He ran the economy a full five years, long enough to see his free-market elixir curdle in Argentina's economic culture. He was eventually forced to devalue the badly overvalued currency, which reignited inflation even as the economy dipped into a deep recession. The military was driven from power in 1983 after it was discredited both by defeat in the war with Britain and impotence in the face of economic crisis. No sleight of hand, it seems, could finesse the struggle between unions, industrialists and land barons for bigger shares of the pie.
In December, 1983 Raul Alfonsin became the first democratically elected president since Peron. And though Argentina had run out of dictators, it was still well supplied with economists bearing magical reform plans. Alfonsin's Austral Plan, instituted in 1985, featured wage and price controls, fiscal and monetary austerity -- and a change in the name of the currency. (Goodbye peso, welcome austral.)