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Latest update : 2010-03-03

Chile “saved by Pinochet and Milton Friedman”

Right-leaning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stevens, attributes Chile’s low death toll in the recent quake to reforms made by Augusto Pinochet and inspired by free-market economist Milton Friedman. Stevens arguments are picked apart by Jason Linkins in the Huffington Post. WEDNESDAY, 3rd MARCH, 2010

 

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, Bret Stevens attributes the low rate of death after the Chilean quake to Augusto Pinochet and Milton Friedman.Friedman is considered as one of the most important economists of the 20th Century and an arch-proponent of neo-liberalism and free trade economics.According to Stevens, Pinochet transformed Chile’s economy to a free-trade one having consulted with the famous economist.
 
“Friedman’s spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile in the early hours of Saturday. Thanks to him the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse.”
 
Stevens predictably employs the same tired comparisons with Haiti that have been trotted out all week:
 
“It’s not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick and Haitians in houses of straw when the wolf arrived to blow them down.”
 
Writing in the Huffington Post, Jason Linkinspoints out some inconvenients truths that upset Bret Stevens logic.
 
Linkins references academics who point out that Chile’s economic success is founded on two industries – copper and agriculture.
 
Copper was never privatized (which doesn’t adhere to Friedman’s economics); it remained state-controlled under Pinochet and provided massive export revenues.
 
As for agriculture, it was reformed under the socialist government of Salvador Allende (overthrown by Pinochet) who broke up Chile’s feudal estates and distributed the land to a new class of farmers whose exports have also driven the economy.
 
The article also points out that the much-praisedbuilding codes that prevented buildings from collapsing during the quake were brought in 1972 – before Pinochet.
 
Perhaps most importantly, Linkins cites one statistic conveniently ignored by Bret Stevens: some 2,300 persons were killed by Pinochet’s regime. The death toll from the quake currently stands at around 800. Viewed in this light, Pinochet’s legacy of “saving Chilean lives” doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.
 
Other stories in today’s international papers:
 
Times Online: Silvio Berlusconi’s party out of poll count in ‘comedy of errors’
 
La Stampa:  “Liste, stop anche alla Polverini” (Polverini blocked from electoral lists)
 
The Independent: “Is there anything the Winklevoss twins can’t do?”
 
The Daily Mail: “Murder most fowl: Three hens and cockerel named Dude peck fox to death after it breaks into coop”

 

By James CREEDON

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