Will Chile Join the Shithole Country Club?
by Ilana Mercer
Chile is the jewel of Latin America. In 2014, it even surpassed the U.S. on the Index of Economic Freedom, ranking 7th to America’s 12th. Since 1990, economic growth in Chile has been as steady as the stability of its institutions. Poverty rates had plummeted and social services had been extended to the needy.
On the right, Pat Buchanan has described Chile as “the country with the highest per capita income and least inequality in all of Latin America.” On the left—yet still on the side of a competitive market economy—the Economist is agreed. Chile “is the second-richest country in Latin America, thanks in part to its healthy public finances and robust private sector.”
The protestors on the streets of Santiago and other cities are in no-man’s land. What they want is unclear. To the extent that their inchoate signs and signals can be divined, it would appear that the path the well-to-do Chile will be forced to take is that of less capitalism and more socialism; less of the private sector and more of the state.
Indeed, Chile is beset with protesters determined to bring the elected government to its knees. Many parts of Santiago, the capital, have been boarded up or burned down. The country’s “malcontents” want more state-provided stuff; more health care and more free education and pensions.
It increasingly looks like Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, may just be forced “to scrap a system” which appears to have served Chile well. One of the Chilean system’s signal features was “developed by free-market economists during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.” Whereas, “in many other countries,” including the American social democracy, “public pensions are financed by taxing current workers and giving the money to current pensioners”; in Chile, explains the Economist, “citizens are expected to save for their own retirement.” In the U.S., the pension promises made by government and underwritten with taxpayer support, have resulted in pension debt to the tune of $5.2 trillion, for states and local governments. Conversely, Chile’s private scheme has helped the country “manage its public finances and encouraged the development of long-term capital markets, which in turn has boosted economic growth.”
But that’s not how the rioters and looters see solvency and individual responsibility. Theirs is the story of democracy and the quest for government-mediated distribution. Ditto, the Venezuelan mobs fighting against the forces of Nicolás Maduro. They were not fighting for “freedom,” as classical liberals and conservatives think of it, and certainly not against socialism. Rather, in opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the anti-Maduro malcontents in Caracas and elsewhere were simply looking for a better, more mailable socialist.
Lech Walesa, an iconic Polish political leader, captured the impetus propelling demonstrations across the world. Working-class people are turning on the wealthiest 10 percent of the population, he forewarned. Their motto is: “Give us your assets.”
Lower-case, doctrinaire democrats in America doggedly conflate the will of the people across the world with liberty. This Disneyfied view of democracy ignores the fact that, in a democracy, the right to vote gives one man control over another’s life and livelihood. You see, people with higher incomes constitute a minority, an economically dominant minority. People with low incomes are in the majority, a politically dominant majority.
In democracy, the rich dominate the economy, the poor dominate the polity. Come election time, the politically powerful exact their revenge against the economically powerful. Or, as HL Mencken pithily put it, “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa(2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube