Milton Friedman and Chile

From Wiki:

 In 1975, two years after the military coup that toppled the government of Salvador Allende, the economy of Chile experienced a crisis. Friedman accepted the invitation of a private foundation to visit Chile and lecture on principles of economic freedom. Friedman also met with the military dictator, President Augusto Pinochet, during his visit, but he did not serve as a formal advisor to the Chilean government.

At home, certain elements assailed Friedman’s association with Pinochet, whose administration the political left regarded as illegal for having violently deposed Allende, the western hemisphere’s first freely-elected socialist head of state.[40] He came under heavy criticism from exiled Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Orlando Letelier, who criticised the basic economic theories propounded by Friedman. In 1976, Letelier wrote:

It is curious that the man who wrote a book, Capitalism and Freedom, to drive home the argument that only classical economic liberalism can support political democracy can now so easily disentangle economics from politics when the economic theories he advocates coincide with an absolute restriction of every type of democratic freedom.”[41]

Friedman’s basic philosophy was neatly encapsulated in a lecture advocating economic monetarism, presented at La Universidad Católica de Chile: “free markets would undermine political centralization and political control.”[42]

According to his critics, Friedman did not criticize Pinochet’s dictatorship at the time, nor the assassinations, illegal imprisonments, torture, or other atrocities that were well-known by then.[43] Later, in Free to Choose, he said the following: “Chile is not a politically free system and I do not condone the political system…the conditions of the people in the past few years has been getting better and not worse. They would be still better to get rid of the junta and to be able to have a free democratic system.”[44]

When he went to receive his Nobel prize in Stockholm, he was met by demonstrations. In an interview on the PBS program Commanding Heights in 2000, Friedman attributed these demonstrations to communists seeking to discredit anyone with only the slightest connection to Pinochet–such as himself–by opponents he recognized from earlier occasions, adding that “there was no doubt that there was a concerted effort to tar and feather me.”[45]

Friedman defended his role in Chile on the grounds that, in his opinion, the move towards open market policies not only improved the economic situation in Chile but also contributed to the softening of Pinochet’s rule and to the eventual constitutional transition to a democratic government in 1990. That was the point he defended in 1962 in Capitalism and Freedom, in which he declared that economic freedom is not only necessary in itself but also because it is a necessary condition for political freedom. He also stressed that the lectures he gave in Chile were the same lectures he later gave in China and other socialist states.[46] In the 2000 PBS documentary The Commanding Heights, Friedman continued to claim that this criticism was misdirected and missed his main point. Friedman argued that freer markets led to free people, and that Chile had an unfree economy which led to the military government, which then implemented open economy policies. Friedman argued that the economic liberalization he advocated led to the end of military rule and a free society.[47]

Some other interesting things to look at involving Friedman:

Footage from the PBS show  Commanding Heights(mentioned in the wiki article above) can be found here.

A great article about Friedman is here.

And finally, the Milton Friedman Choir:


~ by herodotuswept on January 28, 2008.

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