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The menace of the myth of General Pinochet’s Chilean economic miracle

Summary:
By Thomas PalleySeptember 11, 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of General Pinochet’s military coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende. While it is now widely recognized that Pinochet authorized large-scale human rights abuses, there is an accompanying narrative that he also unleashed an economic miracle via embrace of Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” vision of a market economy.The “Pinochet economic miracle” narrative is profoundly misleading. Worse yet, it is a political menace for two reasons. First, it risks tacitly promoting the notion that dictatorship may be legitimate to the extent it offers a road to prosperity. Second, the Pinochet regime embraced Neoliberalism which promotes anti-democratic tendencies by fracturing society. The claim of a Pinochet economic miracle

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The menace of the myth of General Pinochet’s Chilean economic miracle

By Thomas Palley

September 11, 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of General Pinochet’s military coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende. While it is now widely recognized that Pinochet authorized large-scale human rights abuses, there is an accompanying narrative that he also unleashed an economic miracle via embrace of Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” vision of a market economy.

The “Pinochet economic miracle” narrative is profoundly misleading. Worse yet, it is a political menace for two reasons. First, it risks tacitly promoting the notion that dictatorship may be legitimate to the extent it offers a road to prosperity. Second, the Pinochet regime embraced Neoliberalism which promotes anti-democratic tendencies by fracturing society. The claim of a Pinochet economic miracle lends support to Neoliberalism, thereby encouraging acceptance of Neoliberalism despite its anti-democratic proclivities.

For those reasons, debate over Pinochet’s economic policy remains of vital importance. The fiftieth anniversary of Pinochet’s coup is an opportunity to challenge the pernicious miracle myth which is increasingly part of the conventional wisdom.

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Matias Vernengo
Econ Prof at @BucknellU Co-editor of ROKE & Co-Editor in Chief of the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

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