Chile had a long history of democratic government

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

In 1967 Jared Diamond spent a sabbatical in Chile, at a time when everything there seemed peaceful, as he explains in Upheaval:

My Chilean hosts emphasized to me that Chile was very different from other Latin American countries. Chile had a long history of democratic government, they explained, punctuated by only a few relatively bloodless military coups. Chile didn’t have frequent military governments, as did Peru and Argentina and other South and Central American countries. It rated as the most politically stable country in all of Latin America.


“We Chileans know how to govern ourselves.”


In the course of a military coup on September 11, Chile’s democratically elected president committed suicide in the presidential palace. Not only did the Chilean junta kill Chileans in large numbers, torture them in larger numbers, devise vile new techniques of psychological and physical torture, and drive still more Chileans into exile.


It also directed terrorist political killings outside Chile, including what was, until the World Trade Towers attack of September 11 of 2001 (coincidentally on the anniversary of Chile’s coup), the only terrorist political killing of an American citizen on American soil (in Washington, DC, in 1976).


When you look at a map you’ll be struck by the fact that Chile is the longest and thinnest country in the world.


Geographically, Chile is isolated from other countries by the high chain of the Andes in the east separating it from Argentina, and by the world’s most barren desert in the north separating it from Bolivia and Peru.


Those advantages are the higher average agricultural productivity and the lower average disease burden of temperate-zone areas compared to the tropics.


As for Chile’s history and people, before European arrival the area that is now Chile supported only a sparse Native American population, lacking the cultural and political achievements of the rich, populous, powerful Inca Empire to the north in what is now Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.


Already in his student days he became a declared Marxist, and a founder of Chile’s Socialist Party, which was more extreme left-wing than Chile’s Communist Party. But Allende rated as moderate by Chilean socialist standards, because his aim was to bring Marxist government to Chile by democratic means, not by armed revolution.


In the 1970 elections Allende received the largest share of the popular vote (36%), but only barely, because the much larger percentage (64%) of the electorate opposed to him was split between a right-wing coalition (35%, only 1.4% lower than Allende’s share!) and a center coalition (28%). Since Allende had obtained only a plurality rather than a majority of votes, his election required confirmation by Congress, which did confirm him in return for a series of constitutional amendments guaranteeing freedom of the press and other freedoms.


Under President Frei, Chile had already expropriated (and paid for) a 51% interest in the companies; the U.S. feared (correctly, as it turned out) that Allende might expropriate the remaining 49% without paying.


Even though he knew that his candidacy had been supported by only 36% of Chilean voters and had been opposed by the Chilean armed forces and the U.S. government, he rejected moderation, caution, and compromise, and instead pursued policies guaranteed to be anathema to those opposing forces. His first measure, with the unanimous support of Chile’s Congress, was to nationalize the U.S.-owned copper companies without paying compensation; that’s a recipe for making powerful international enemies.


He nationalized other big international businesses. He horrified the Chilean armed forces by bringing large numbers of Cubans into Chile, by carrying a personal machine gun given to him by Fidel Castro, and by inviting Castro to Chile for a visit that stretched out to five weeks. He froze prices (even of small consumer items like shoe-laces), replaced free-market elements of Chile’s economy with socialist-style state planning, granted big wage increases, greatly increased government spending, and printed paper money to cover the resulting government deficits. He extended President Frei’s agrarian reform by expropriating large estates and turning them over to peasant cooperatives. While that agrarian reform and others of Allende’s goals were well-intentioned, they were carried out incompetently. For instance, one Chilean friend of mine, at that time still a 19-year-old not-yet-graduated student economist, was given major responsibility for setting Chilean prices of consumer goods.


The outcome of all those developments was the 1973 coup that many of my Chilean friends characterize as inevitable, even though the form that the coup took was not inevitable.


“Allende fell because his economic policies depended on populist measures that had failed again and again in other countries. They produced short-term benefits, at the cost of mortgaging Chile’s future and creating runaway inflation.”


I keep asking myself: why on earth did Allende, an experienced politician and a moderate, pursue extremist policies that he knew were unacceptable to most Chileans, as well as to Chile’s armed forces?


  1. Kirk says:

    Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Diamond… Maybe because Allende was an ideologue lock-step Communist, supported by the Soviets and Cuba?

    This crap is why Diamond is never getting another dime of mine–He’s a fraud. He mouths the words of reason, but he’s another left-wing ideologue himself.

    Pinochet was someone who’d go down in history as a hero, were he to be honestly evaluated. People keep forgetting that the military coup he led was requested by the same people Diamond here is lauding as “democratic”, because Allende was going down the same path that Castro and others had blazed, towards totalitarianism.

    You put these idealists in charge, who have no real idea of how things actually work, and what you wind up with is disaster. Allende, unstopped, would have done to Chile exactly what Chavez and Maduro have done to Venezuela, and idiots like Diamond would be bleating about how “unexpected” and “unpredictable” it all was, as everyone starved around them. Of course, being foreigners, they would do so from a safe vantage point here in the US, just like Sean Penn and the rest of his ilk.

    The only rational response to the left is precisely what Pinochet did: Round them up, and slaughter them before they slaughter you. What convinced Pinochet to do the coup? Allende’s plans to purge the Chilean military leaked out, and the majority of the leadership’s heads were literally on the chopping block. Instead of a nightmare left-wing dictatorship, you got twenty years or so of Pinochet, and a peaceful return to civilian democracy.

    This “analysis” of Diamond’s is consonant with his ideological indoctrination, and the rest of his positioning as a member of the “enlightened elite”, a group I think we would be wise to purge from public access to power or any sort of pulpit. Know them by their works, and the results: Idiots like Diamond are who worked to put creatures like Chavez in power in Venezuela, and who are notably not participating from the results of their purely ideological support of those regimes.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    Some day soon, we will need our own Pinochet or Franco. Do we have him?

  3. Kirk says:

    It won’t be a Pinochet or a Franco. Americans don’t do strongmen.

    What you need to fear is when a critical mass is reached, and the public consensus turns to violence. Once things like milkshakes and the other Antifa BS are normalized, it isn’t too much further down the road that the normies decide that if that’s the way things are going to be, that’s the way things are going to be. Right now, the Left is operating inside the penumbra of normality, and once the shadow goes away…? Yeah.

    In Chile and Spain, they needed an autocrat. Americans self-organize, and the resultant aftermath of that isn’t going to be anything any of us are going to like. Pendulum swings back eventually, and the further you push it off-center, the faster and harder it goes back the other way.

    There is going to be an eventual reckoning for all this crap, and when it comes…? Don’t be standing in the way, is all I can advise. I strongly suspect that there is going to be a comeuppance due all these SJW types, and the more outre they are now, the more horrible their fates are going to be in the chaos coming as the “new normal” gets established.

    I suspect that we’re in for a major re-centering of things, after something horrendous happens. Maybe Ebola breaking out of containment in Central Africa, and the resulting worldwide plague utterly discrediting all the current elites, maybe something else entirely. You look around, and you get the distinct feeling that things cannot go on as they have been, and that the general incompetence and unworldliness of the jackasses running things cannot possibly work out. Something is going to Black Swan these arrogant bastards, and I don’t know what form it will take. All I know is that their hubris is tempting Nemesis, and I dread her immanentization. She’s got to be loaded for bear, by now…

  4. Behind Enemy Lines says:

    Kirk says:
    June 9, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    There is going to be an eventual reckoning for all this crap. . . .

    So let it be written, so let it be done.

  5. TRX says:

    “Once things like milkshakes and the other Antifa BS are normalized”

    The Brits love milkshake-throwing. Acid attacks are so common over there that a milkshake is a relief.

    Milkshake-throwing has made it over here, to the annoyance of its victims… but all it’s going to take is one acid attack, and the instant reaction of anyone in a free state is going to involve high velocity lead poisoning.

Leave a Reply