Henderson on The Chile Project
One economist who was a teenager in Chile during the Allende years was Sebastian Edwards, now an economics professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Edwards has written a book that has been badly needed: a fairly objective analysis of the economics and politics of economic policy in Chile over the last number of decades. Edwards documents the harmful effects of Allende’s interventions, the economic reforms proposed by and somewhat implemented by Pinochet and even by later nominally socialist governments, and the effects of these reforms on Chile’s economy. He shows that the reforms made Chile’s economy the jewel of Latin America. He also shows, though, how the reformers dropped the ball. They failed to stay active in the debate over policy and they paid little attention to the increasing demand for reducing economic inequality. The result was a strong and violent backlash. One of the main lessons from his book is that economic freedom is always at risk and must always be vigorously defended.
This is from David R. Henderson, “A Fascinating History of Chile’s Economic Reforms and Reversals,” Financial and Economic Review, Vol. 22, Issue 3, September 2o23, 173-180.
Friedman’s visit led to a lot of controversy, a controversy that was heightened by the announcement of his Nobel Prize in October 1976. A number of previous Nobel prize winners, although none of them recipients of the economics prize, denounced Friedman in a letter to the New York Times because he had spoken to a dictator who had killed and/or tortured thousands of people. But Friedman, always the scrapper, defended his visit. He pointed out that he had visited the Communist leaders of China, whose government had killed millions of people, and had heard not a peep from the same people who denounced his Pinochet visit.
Edwards’ treatment of the aftermath of the Friedman visit was the one part of the book that I found unsatisfying. Edwards writes, “But deep inside, Friedman was bothered by the Chilean episode.” How did Edwards know what was deep inside Friedman? He doesn’t say. The closest he comes to explaining his conclusion is his observation that every time he talked to Friedman about Chile and Pinochet, he“noticed some discomfort and uneasiness.” Could it be that Friedman was tired of being attacked for, or even asked about, this? Edwards doesn’t seem to consider that possibility.
Read the whole thing.