A Last Word on Pinochet

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Princeton's John Londregan drives a stake through the heart of Pinochet in The Weekly Standard:

Pinochet tied his advocacy of free markets about people's eyes like a blindfold, to keep them from seeing his firing squads. Nothing that was achieved during his years of tyranny justifies the crimes he committed. Nor is there any meaningful sense in which the policies adopted by the Pinochet government should be viewed as paradigmatic for economic freedom. The military government long pursued a badly misguided policy of overvaluing the local currency; during the debt crisis of the 1980s it took the outrageous step of converting private debts to foreigners into public debt. And then there was its corruption, details of which continue to gradually leak into public view. Indeed, there continues to be a need for economic reform and openness in Chile, where a "good old boy network" acts as a powerful check on economic and social mobility.

Whole thing here.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Reason's Brian Doherty debunked the connection between Pinochet and Milton Friedman here.

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  1. Doherty doesn’t debunk the connection between Pinochet and Milton Friedman, as Gillespie claims; he laments that there was a connection, however brief. Truth gets mangled by ideology even in the simplest contexts.

  2. Leon, what Doherty debunked is the idea that Friedman is a fascist and helped Pinochet screw over the local populace. That was fairly clear in Brian’s piece.

  3. I’ve been dismayed a bit by the defenses of Pinochet since his death. To me, they sound like those willing to overlook, say, Castro’s flaws in praising Cuba’s medical education system.

    How many people would have to disappear before the apologists say he was bad for Chile?

  4. Wine Commonsewer:

    Gillespie doesn’t say that Doherty debunked the idea that Friedman was a fascist; he says he debunked Friedman’s connection with Pinochet, which isn’t true. Re-read Doherty’s piece.

  5. Shecky, I make no apologies for Pinochet. A well-placed shotgun blast to the back of the head would have been helpful at anytime during the last 30 years.

    That said, I see Chile as the precursor of what has become modern and still-evolving China. Certainly the Chinese model is less preferable than our own American model but markets and goods will continue to force reforms on the Chinese government, which doesn’t even seem to call itself commie any longer. As Mrs TWC is fond of saying, give them all I-pods and cellphones and there will be no more commies and terrorists.

    Further, many of the croc tears flowing over the abuses of the Pinochet regime go dry as the sands of the Sahara when the subject of China comes up.

    In fact, many of the most vocal critics of Pinochet carried Quotations From Chairman Mao around with them as college students.

    Because only certain kinds of disappearances count.

  6. Leon,

    Brian wrote:

    And yet, in both life and death, Pinochet and Friedman have been assumed by many to be two sides of some evil right-wing coin in which torture, despotism, and unrestricted free markets are all inextricably linked

    I think that is a fairly clear thesis statement and the piece goes on to elaborate on that theme.

    You seem to be making a semantic distinction about the way Nick phrased the statement but for those who originally read Brian’s piece Nick’s meaning is clear.

    TWC

  7. I think that most “defenses” of Pinochet come to down to this:

    Given a choice between Pinochet and Castro, only a fool would choose Castro.

    Yet somehow, leftists/academics choose Castro every time. Ergo . . .

    For amusement, take Londregan’s paragraph above and substitute Castro’s name for Pinochet’s, “Marxism” for “free markets.” I think its stronger that way.

  8. R C Dean: Indeed. I doubt that most of Pinochet’s defenders think, as Londregan writes, “that murder and torture are acceptable if they hasten the advent of the utopia implied by one’s ideological model.” They think that that murder and torture are acceptable to prevent a greater amount of murder and torture later on. Which was almost certainly the case in Chile.

    Given that Allende had Castro as a mentor and the KGB as a paymaster, the lefty view that Chile would have become some sort of democratic socialist paradise is a silly daydream. Yes, Pinochet’s Chile committed mistakes and crimes, but he left the country a much freer and richer democracy than when he took power. Castro can’t say that.

  9. Given that Allende had Castro as a mentor and the KGB as a paymaster, the lefty view that Chile would have become some sort of democratic socialist paradise is a silly daydream. Yes, Pinochet’s Chile committed mistakes and crimes, but he left the country a much freer and richer democracy than when he took power. Castro can’t say that.

    It is interesting to note that most of the right-wing thugocracies of the 70’s and 80’s (South Korea, Taiwan, Chile, Phillipines) have evolved into stable capitalist democracies, while most of the left-wing ones (Cuba, North Korea, Lybia, Angola) remain mired in the swamp of totalitarianism.

  10. Captain Holly,

    I think a good counter example would be a good chunk of eastern Europe.

  11. I think a good counter example would be a good chunk of eastern Europe.

    I would exclude eastern Europe because most of the countries there were independent democracies/republics before the Nazis and then the Soviets rolled in and messed everything up.

    In places where there is little or no history of a democracy, a right-wing totalitarian is more likely to allow it to evolve than a left-wing one.

  12. Which explains why Batista’s right-wing regime evolved into such a stable, prosperous democracy….

    MAYBE, just maybe, rules using arbitrary political labels can’t be applied to every situation everywhere?

  13. See, I thought the choice was between Pinochet and Allende, not Pinochet and Castro.

    At the end of the day, being in favor of democracy means that you need to accept when people are elected who are bad for the Country. This isn’t that hard.

    Conservative embrace of Pinochet (which continues and is widespread today) reveals that democracy just isn’t that important to them. As a hard-core Leftist in University, I don’t meet anyone who supports Castro (though many think our current policy is dumb).

  14. As a hard-core Leftist in University, I don’t meet anyone who supports Castro (though many think our current policy is dumb).

    As a conservative/libertarian who attended/worked for fourteen years at three different universities, I have generally noticed that professors who think our current Cuba policy is dumb do so in the context of “Castro is such a good man, why are we persecuting him?” rather than “Lifting the embargo would hasten his downfall”.

  15. At the end of the day, being in favor of democracy means that you need to accept when people are elected who are bad for the Country. This isn’t that hard.

    You wouldn’t say that if the people voted that all blacks must sit in the back of the bus.

    I have generally noticed that professors who think our current Cuba policy is dumb do so in the context of “Castro is such a good man, why are we persecuting him?” rather than “Lifting the embargo would hasten his downfall”.

    Exactly.

  16. Well, Friedman did tell pinochet to “ignore his image abroad”, so yes, he did have a connection with Pinochet, and that connection included, in addition to his economic advice, to ignore how others viewed him, which implies that he should ignore others commdenations of his human rights abuses.

  17. There’s a right way and a wrong way to bring about free market reform.

    Murdering your opponents, canceling elections, and embezzling a bunch of money into your personal account is the wrong way to do it.

    As to China? If people cut China a break it’s because they’re generally moving in the right direction rather than the wrong direction.

    As to Cuba, other than a few idiots handing out pamphlets on campus I’ve never heard anybody who had anything good to say about Castro. Most of the opinions I’ve encountered have been “He’s no threat to us, why not end the embargo, flood his economy with information and consumer products, and let the inevitable result happen?”

    The idiots who defend Pinochet with “Yeah, well, what about Castro?” are missing the point like a blind guy at a shooting range.

  18. “In fact, many of the most vocal critics of Pinochet carried Quotations From Chairman Mao around with them as college students.”

    True, but also: Red China was the first country to recognize the Pinochet regime, because they shared an opposition to the Soviet Union, and considered Castro and Allende to be Soviet puppets.

    In return, Pinochet’s Junta recognized the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government of Cambodia, and Pinochet sent condolences to China on the death of Chairman Mao. (I read the message from Pinochet in Peking Review, 1976)

    Chinese support for Pinochet caused divisions in far left groups, and caused the Guardian newspaper and some Maoist grouplets to begin criticing the Chinese Communists.

    The Allende regime, as the excellent book “The Tragedy of Chile” shows, looked to East European Communism as a model for the restructuring of Chilean society. There were very real reasons for Chileans to fear for their liberty; the Chilean Congress actually called on the military to defend Chile’s constitution from the Socialist government

  19. Thoreau, you are missing my point. I’m not saying what Pinochet did was the right way to bring about free market reform. I’m saying that it was the unpleasant but probably necessary way to prevent Chile from becoming another Cuba. References to Castro are apt because he was directly involved in the Allende regime, and history shows that any regime Castro supports is no friend of liberty.

  20. I’m not saying what Pinochet did was the right way to bring about free market reform. I’m saying that it was the unpleasant but probably necessary way to prevent Chile from becoming another Cuba.

    I added the emphasis. You say it wasn’t right, but you defend it as being necessary.

    If somebody really, truly believes that a coup is necessary to build a free society, then he should immediately convene an assembly of representatives (e.g. from local governments, or some other people with some semblance of democratic legitimacy) to write a new constitution, hold a referendum on ratification of the new constitution, and then hold an election for a new government under the terms of whatever constitution is ratified.

    That’s the least bad way to defend liberty via coup.

    The worst to do it is to kill a bunch of people, install oneself as strongman, embezzle money, and hold on to power for a decade and a half.

    Say what you will about what Allende was going to do, but Pinochet went WAY beyond just stopping those bad things. He did some pretty awful shit on top of that, and so he deserves no sympathy.

  21. …it, ever after it happened two decades ago.

    Kilpatrick’s theory is as dead as she is, on the same dustbin as communism itself.

  22. “In places where there is little or no history of a democracy, a right-wing totalitarian is more likely to allow it to evolve than a left-wing one.”

    Neither totalitarian would allow it to happen. The question is, in which society would the political culture allow for the development of popular democratic reform sufficient to overthrow that regime, or force it to reform?

    Poland. Bulgaria. Russia. Romania…

  23. Don’t cite Russia as an example of meaningful democratic reform, joe.

    Reform is only meaningful if it lasts.

  24. thoreau,

    I wasn’t citing “Russia.” I was citing the USSR under Gorbachev. Opening of the economy, free speech, even a popularly-elected legislature chosen in open, competitive elections – all of these things happened prior to the Hammer and Sickle being lowered from the Kremlin. All of these reforms happened under nominally communist government, in the very belly of the beast.

  25. As a matter of fact, thoreau, the backsliding from these liberal, democratic reforms happened under the nationalist, capitalist (albeit of the crony variety, as in Chile) government of Putin that came about after the collapse of the USSR.

    OK, jokers, time to make with the “Uncle joe” remarks.

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