Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Chile's Economic Legacy

I recommend Paul Posner's take on the Chilean economy and how it left many Chileans behind. I do think, though, that we need to be careful about referring quite so much to Augusto Pinochet.
Chile’s current constitution, which dates back to 1980, was written under Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the dictator who ruled the country from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet is reviled for overseeing several thousand extrajudicial executions, torture and forced disappearances. He was arrested in 1998 on charges of crimes against humanity but died before being tried. 
But he also implemented the free-market reforms that are often credited for Chile’s celebrated economic dynamism. After growing at an average of 4.7% a year, Chile’s economy today is nine times larger than it was in 1990.
All of this is 100% accurate. But 1990 is a generation ago. Since then, Chile had a load of center or center-left presidents. We should not leapfrog them as we lay blame for Chile's political and economic systems.

In other words, this isn't just Pinochet's legacy. It is the Concertación's legacy, even the Socialist Party's legacy. They had years and years to make a dent, and they failed. I wrote all the time about how Bachelet got lumped together with the "pink tide" even though she presided over and did not much change the most capitalist system in the hemisphere.

Yes, Pinochet created the constitution and the economy, but the center-left accepted them and worked within them. As my friend and colleague Silvia Borzutzky wrote in the book we co-edited in 2010:
The end of the Pinochet regime failed to produce dramatic transformations in Chile's political economy. The Concertación governments enhanced the market approach while introducing modifications in the social policy area (p. 88).
Although all Concertación administrations have increased spending in the social policy area, the market model that inspired those policies was not modified (pp. 89-90).
So I agree with everything Paul writes in his article, but this isn't just about Pinochet. It's about the presidents and parties who did very little to alter what he created.


shah8 12:30 AM  

It is my impression that the center-left *really* did not have a choice about tinkering with that constitution.

Greg Weeks 7:47 AM  

There was no will. It's been many years since the center-left feared a military backlash.

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