Chile Says “Yes” to a New Constitution, “No” to Alvaro Saieh

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The Chicago Coup

For 17 years after the coup, Pinochet terrorized Chile via two types of brutality: physical brutality, provided by his military and law enforcement, and economic brutality, provided by los Chicago Boys and their Brick.

After Pinochet left power, his government’s constitution remained in force. The document was amended numerous times, but the amendments failed to change the essential dynamic of Chilean economic life. While Chile as a nation became wealthier, the ruling elite concentrated an increasingly larger share of the wealth among themselves, which forced a ever-growing number of citizens out of the middle class and into poverty. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer.

Saieh and Friedman

Friedman worked at UC from 1946 to 1977. Towards the end of his tenure he advised Pinochet via correspondence and in person, while Pinochet’s shock troops abducted, tortured, and killed their perceived enemies. At the same time, a young Chilean named Alvaro Saieh studied at UC, where he received a Master of Arts in 1976, with a Ph.D. in economics following in 1980. In an article about Saieh’s art collection — some 150 pieces spanning from the 14th century to the present — The Art Newspaper noted, “One of the so-called “Chicago Boys” … [Saieh] was part of a wave of economists and businesspeople who revolutionized the Chilean economy during the Pinochet years.” Saieh didn’t just proselytize Chicago School economics when he returned to Chile. He put his ideology into action, amassing a fortune in the capitalist feeding frenzy started by the collaboration between Pinochet and Friedman.

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Giving Back to Those Who Took Everything

Radio Free Chile

Saieh came to Chicago in his mid-twenties and learned how to take advantage of the people in his home country. When he returned home, he fully put his studies to use, becoming one of the top 1,000 richest people in the world. He expressed his gratitude to UC in such measure that his name is on the economics hall, while the name of Friedman, the Nobel-winner and Eater of Worlds, is relegated to a glorified meeting room inside the building.

Saieh has seen the full lifespan of Chicago School economics. He has watched the ideology metastasize from Chile to Argentina to Bolivia to Poland to Russia to Sri Lanka to Africa to, ultimately, the United States. And now, with more money than God, the son and heir of the Chicago School watches as Chile stands and says “yes” to a new constitution and “no” to the ideology that allowed Alvaro Saieh to become a billionaire.

The failed-state factory that is Chicago School economics started in Chile. Today, after a year of demanding fundamental change, Chileans have earned the opportunity to enact it. Whether this rekindled power of democracy makes its way around the world and back to the United States is up to us.

Sources
Carrillo, C. (2019, November 04). Alvaro Saieh explains his collecting habits and fascination with Old Masters. Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://www.theartnewspaper.com/archive/collector-interview-fascinated-by-old-masters

Klein, N. (2014). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Penguin.

Tuerk, A. (2019, October 19). Chilean President Suspends Fare Hikes; 3 Die In Supermarket Fire As Protests Continue. Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/19/771545299/chiles-capital-engulfed-in-chaos-as-metro-protests-intensify

New commitment to support postdoctoral program in economics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://news.uchicago.edu/story/new-commitment-support-postdoctoral-program-economics

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