Thursday, January 31, 2008

My call-in debut on the "Diane Rhem Show"

I couldn't help but call into Monday's show on Michael Reid's new book "Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul." After I heard Mr. Reid's amnesiac reference to US intervention "not being decisive" in the wave of free-market dictatorships that displaced leftist governments in Latin America I almost swore off The Economist for good (where Reid works). Of course, The Economist's evaluation of Pinochet was that he "rescued Chile from communism and went to turn it into the fastest-growing economy in Latin America by applying free market policies." The Economist also called Pinochet's rise to power a "counterrevolution." Even an undergrad who sleeps through Poli Sci 101 knows the difference between widespread popular support for a counterrevolution and A COUP! One involves people protesting the government, holding referendums, etc. The other involves tanks storming government office buildings.

This miraculous turnaround The Economist attributes to Pinochet included a 15% drop in national output, an increase in unemployment to 20%, and 15% average wage reduction. Chile’s GDP in 1986 had only regained the 1970 level (under Allende), real wages were still depressed, per capita consumption was 15% lower. Between 1985 and 1990 the income of the top 10% increased by 90% while the share of wealth for the poorest 25% declined from 11% to 7%. The share of national income for labor fell from 47.7% in 1970 to 19% in 1990.

Would that Latin America did become the "Forgotten Continent" - they'd be a hell of a lot better off.


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