Just two days after Chile was struck by a devastating earthquake, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens informed his readers that Milton Friedman's "spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile" because, "thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse...
According to Stephens, the radical free-market policies prescribed to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Milton Friedman and his infamous "Chicago Boys" are the reason Chile is a prosperous nation with "some of the world's strictest building codes."
The Chile of the 1960s had the best health and education systems on the continent, as well as a vibrant industrial sector and rapidly expanding middle class. Chileans believed in their state, which is why they elected Allende to take the project even further.
After the coup and the death of Allende, Pinochet and his Chicago Boys did their best to dismantle Chile's public sphere, auctioning off state enterprises and slashing financial and trade regulations. Enormous wealth was created in this period but at a terrible cost: by the early eighties, Pinochet's Friedman-prescribed policies had caused rapid de-industrialization, a ten-fold increase in unemployment and an explosion of distinctly unstable shantytowns. They also led to a crisis of corruption and debt so severe that, in 1982, Pinochet was forced to fire his key Chicago Boy advisors and nationalize several of the large deregulated financial institutions. (Sound familiar?)
Click here for the whole article
Click here for Paul Krugman's piece on the subject
Click here for the Wall Street Journal article about Friedman
Not surprising that free marketeers would try to spin the disaster in Chile in favor of the gangster-style fundamentalist capitalism that got us into this economic mess. Also not surprising that they spun it in a complete 180 to the facts.
Chile's history in the late 20th century is very much a part of our own; it's a shame so few Americans understand what happened there and why the dictator we helped prop up there was so harmful to the working people of that country.