The Economist and the Dictator

Just what is the connection between Milton Friedman and Augusto Pinochet?

(Page 2 of 2)

Friedman was ready and willing to tell the people responsible for all the wrong policies of the world what they needed to do to set things right, which meant he had to talk to them, making open assaults on their crimes ill-advised. He tried to move the world in a freer direction from the point reality presented him with.

“I have nothing good to say about the political regime that Pinochet imposed,” Friedman said in 1991. “It was a terrible political regime. The real miracle of Chile is not how well it has done economically; the real miracle of Chile is that a military junta was willing to go against its principles and support a free-market regime designed by principled believers in a free market….In Chile, the drive for political freedom that was generated by economic freedom and the resulting economic success ultimately resulted in a referendum that introduced political democracy.”

It may have been more morally satisfying to have no relationship with Pinochet, merely condemn him from afar. But in choosing to let his economic advice rise above political revulsion, Friedman almost certainly helped Chile in the long term--though it’s important to remember that the “Chicago boys” were more responsible than Friedman himself, and that they were not following his prescriptions relentlessly or in any way under his direct instruction.

Undoubtedly, Friedman’s decision to interact with officials of repressive governments creates uncomfortable tensions for his libertarian admirers; I could, and often do, wish he hadn’t done it. But given what it probably meant for economic wealth and liberty in the long term for the people of Chile, that’s a selfish reaction. Pinochet’s economic policies do not ameliorate his crimes, despite what his right-wing admirers say. But Friedman, as an economic advisor to all who’d listen, neither committed his crimes, nor admired the criminal.

Senior editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and the forthcoming Radicals for Capitalism .

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    There is no "uncomfortable tensions" if the entire record is considered. Alas, this history is seldom recalled, at least in the present account as an oversight and not, as is usually the case, the result of ideologically convenient amnesia. Arnold Harberger definitively settled the matter, for those who care to know, in a letter to Stig Ramel (then president of the Nobel Foundation), which was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal on 10 December 1976 and is reproduced in Rose Freidman’s memoirs, "Two Lucky People," as Appendix A. I quote from the relevant section: “Our visit to Chile did not and does not in any way connote approval of the present Chilean government, much less of its repression of individual liberty and its imposition of restraint on free and open discussion and debate. Mr. Friedman made his position very clear at the time by turning down two offers of honorary degrees from Chilean universities, precisely because he felt that acceptance of such honors from universities receiving government funds could be interpreted as implying political approval. Mr. Friedman also showed his concern by delivering a lecture on ‘The Fragility of Freedom’ at both the Catholic University of Chile and the (National) University of Chile. He characterized the present government of Chile as one which was denying and curtailing freedom in many important ways, and expressed the hope that in the near future Chileans would once again enjoy a full measure of political and intellectual freedom.” So, in fact, Milton Friedman did have the fortitude to deliver his moral message of political and economic freedom directly, right in the midst of the horribly repressive Pinochet regime. For perspective on this courageous act by a private citizen, consider that President Obama recently acceded to have his remarks censored and his meeting schedule determined by the horribly repressive regime of Hu Jintao, without even the pretense of doing so for practical or symbolic returns. One wonders whether he, too, will face protesters in Stockholm against this administration's (real as opposed to Friedman's imagined) disdain for liberalism and affection for bloodstained autocrats, even those who don't return their advances, from China to Sudan to the Islamic "Republic" in Iran. Not to mention its shameful behaviour towards and statements on Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Zelaya's Honduras, Syria, Egypt, Cuba, and Turkey.

  • fast learning||

    So was he like Berlusconi a little bit? He's a proper star, but i guess it's like that because he owns tv in italy! :|

    thanks for nice comparison!
    tommy from
    how to learn fast blog

  • eticaret sitesi||

    There is no "uncomfortable tensions" if the entire record is considered. Alas, this history is seldom recalled, at least in the present account as an oversight and not, as is usually the case, the result of ideologically convenient amnesia. Arnold Harberger definitively settled the matter, for those who care to know, in a letter to Stig Ramel (then president of the Nobel Foundation), which was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal on 10 December 1976 and is reproduced in Rose Freidman’s memoirs, "Two Lucky People," as Appendix A. I quote from the relevant section: “Our visit to Chile did not and does not in any way connote approval of the present Chilean government, much less of its repression of individual liberty and its imposition of restraint on free and open discussion and debate. Mr. Friedman made his position very clear at the time by turning down two offers of honorary degrees from Chilean universities, precisely because he felt that acceptance of such honors from universities receiving government funds could be interpreted as implying political approval. Mr. Friedman also showed his concern by delivering a lecture on ‘The Fragility of Freedom’ at both the Catholic University of Chile and the (National) University of Chile. He characterized the present government of Chile as one which was denying and curtailing freedom in many important ways, and expressed the hope that in the near future Chileans would once again enjoy a full measure of political and intellectual freedom.” So, in fact, Milton Friedman did have the fortitude to deliver his moral message of political and economic freedom directly, right in the midst of the horribly repressive Pinochet regime. For perspective on this courageous act by a private citizen, consider that President Obama recently acceded to have his remarks censored and his meeting schedule determined by the horribly repressive regime of Hu Jintao, without even the pretense of doing so for practical or symbolic returns. One wonders whether he, too, will face protesters in Stockholm against this administration's (real as opposed to Friedman's imagined) disdain for liberalism and affection for bloodstained autocrats, even those who don't return their advances, from China to Sudan to the Islamic "Republic" in Iran. Not to mention its shameful behaviour towards and statements on Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Zelaya's Honduras, Syria, Egypt, Cuba, and Turkey.

  • ||

    People that I talk to in Chile that lived through this period have distaste for conservative politicians and their policies. Their perception is the economic policies of Pinochet lowered their standard of living. It was quite interesting reading this article but I think my Chilean friends would rebuke it.

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