Tag Archives: Chile

How a small third world country became the top economy in Latin America

South America Map
South America Map

So, I’ve been watching the Democrat debates, and I’ve noticed that all of their candidates are proposing economic policies that they say will improve the lives of Americans. But have the candidates ever been able to try out these policies, and proven that they work? One way to evaluate policies is to look at other countries that have tried them, to see if those policies are proven to work.

I’ve been reading a book called “Money, Greed and God” with my friend Carla, which talks about what does and does not work to alleviate poverty. The author basically outlined two approaches. In the first approach, the government 1) confiscates the wealth of the most productive workers, 2) nationalizes (takes control of) the businesses of the most successful entrepreneurs, 3) restricts trading between citizens and with other countries, with minimum wage, price controls and tariffs. In the second approach, the government does the opposite: 1) lowers taxes on the most productive workers, and 2) lets entrepreneurs compete to provide goods and services to consumers, and 3) lowers restrictions on internal trading and trading with other countries, e.g. – eliminating minimum wage, tariffs and price controls.

Let’s take a look at two Latin American countries that went in opposite directions. Venezuela and Chile. Then we can finally find out which policies actually achieve results for the people.

Here is how Chile started out in 1973.

PROBLEM: Price controls and tariffs:

Prices for the majority of basic goods were fixed by the government in 1973. Even though Chile was and still is a small economy, the level of protection­ism was high. By the end of 1973, the nominal average tariff for imports was 105 percent, with a maximum of 750 percent. Non-tariff barriers also impeded the import of more than 3,000 out of 5,125 registered goods. Just as economic theory predicts, large queues in front of stores were usual in Santiago and other cities in Chile as a result of the scarcity caused by price controls.

PROBLEM: Government taking over private businesses:

The decline in GDP during 1973 reflected a shrinking productive sector in which the main assets were gradually falling under government control or ownership through expropriations and other government interventions in the economy.

PROBLEM: Deficit spending and government printing money:

The fiscal situation was chaotic. The deficit reached 55 percent of expenditures and 20 percent of GDP and was the main cause of inflation because the Central Bank was issuing money to finance the government deficit.

SOLUTION: lower or eliminate restrictions on trade:

The most important economic reform in Chile was to open trade, primarily through a flat, low tar­iff on imports. Much of the credit for Chilean eco­nomic reforms in the following 30 years should be given to the decision to open our economy to the rest of the world. The strength of Chilean firms, productive sectors, and institutions grew up thanks to that fundamental change.

SOLUTION: let competing entrepreneurs in the private sector provide goods and services to consumers:

A second fundamental reform was to allow the private sector to recover, adding dynamism to the economy. In fact, important sectors such as elec­tricity generation and distribution and telecommu­nications were still managed by state companies. After we implemented a massive privatization plan that included more than 50,000 new direct share­holders and several million indirect (through pen­sion funds) shareholders, these companies were managed by private entrepreneurs that carried out important expansion plans.

SOLUTION: let people take responsibility for their own lives instead of depending on government:

The 1981 reform of the Chilean pension fund system deserves special mention. Under the leader­ship of Minister José Piñera, an individual capitali­zation account program was designed with specific contributions, administered by private institutions selected by the workers. The Chilean Administra­doras de Fondos de Pension (Pension Fund Administrators or AFP) has been replicated in more than 20 countries, and more than 100 million workers in different parts of the world use these accounts to save for retirement.

SOLUTION: allow parents to choose the school that fits their needs from competing education providers, and push school administration down from the federal government to the municipal level, where it would be more responsive to voter’s needs:

In 1981, Chile introduced a universal educational voucher system for students in both its elementary and secondary schools. At the same time, the central government transferred the administration of public schools to municipal governments…  The financial value of the voucher did not depend on family income.

RESULTS: And I was able to find a nice short, description of how all that worked out for them on the far-left Wikipedia, of all places:

The economy of Chile is a high-income economy as ranked by the World Bank, and is considered one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations, leading Latin American nations in competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption.

In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America. In May 2010 Chile became the first South American country to join the OECD. Tax revenues, all together 20.2% of GDP in 2013, were the second lowest among the 34 OECD countries, and the lowest in 2010. In 2017, only 0.7% of the population lived on less than US$1.90 a day.

According to the Heritage Foundation, Chile is ranked as the 18th freest economy in the world. The World Bank ranked Chile as the 50th highest GDP per capita for 2018, just below Hungary and above Poland.

Now, you can contrast those results with Venezuela. I have been blogging about Venezuela for years on this blog, and documenting how they raised taxes, banned guns, nationalized private sector companies, raised tariffs, and increased regulations. They are now ranked JUST ABOVE NORTH KOREA for economic freedom – #179 out of 180 countries measured. Basically, they did the opposite of everything that Chile did – transferring power away from parents, workers, business owners, churches and municipal governments to the powerful centralized federal government.

Wikipedia explains how Hugo Chavez took over in 1999 and enacted a communist revolution.


Since the Bolivarian Revolution half-dismantled its PDVSA oil giant corporation in 2002 by firing most of its 20,000-strong dissident professional human capital and imposed stringent currency controls in 2003 in an attempt to prevent capital flight, there has been a steady decline in oil production and exports. Further yet, price controls, expropriation of numerous farmlands and various industries, among other government authoritarian policies… have resulted in severe shortages in Venezuela and steep price rises of all common goods, including food, water, household products, spare parts, tools and medical supplies; forcing many manufacturers to either cut production or close down, with many ultimately abandoning the country as has been the case with several technological firms and most automobile makers.

They confiscated private property, took over private sector businesses, implemented tariffs and price controls, redistributed wealth via massive welfare programs, and pushed all decision-making out of families and municipal governments up to the federal government. By depriving the producers of their earnings, the country caused massive shortages of goods and services, to the point where people are fleeing the country, consuming zoo animals, and selling their bodies as prostitutes in order to get food and water.


In the next election, we are not picking a tribe because of how they make us feel about ourselves. We are not choosing in order to see ourselves as “nice” and “not nice”. We need to look at specific policies being proposed, and see what works and what doesn’t work. The examples of Chile (rags-to-riches) and Venezuela (riches-to-rags) are helpful for voters who want to get RESULTS instead of FEELINGS.

I’ll leave you with a list of links from previous posts so you can see how communism worked out for Venezuela.

Related posts


What happened when Chile privatized its retirement program?

Map of South America
Map of South America

Here’s an editorial about how Chile privatized their government-run retirement program.


Nearly 30 years ago, on the very day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as U.S. president, Chile became the first nation to privatize its social security system. Three decades hence, it has surpassed all expectations.

[…]Thirty years on, Pinera’s plan, adapted from the ideas of Milton Friedman, is, along with free trade, one of the two pillars of Chile’s success story, surpassing all predictions.

Pinera’s proposal began with scrapping the payroll tax on the country’s social security system and inviting all workers to take the money they were contributing and move it into a private pension.

Workers would be free to choose the fund, how much to put in, and at what age they would retire, with a minimal safety net built into the design. Past contributions would be refunded to workers by government bond. And anyone who didn’t like the idea was free to remain with the system as it was. It was a huge success: 95% of Chile’s workers chose the private system.

Pinera told the public to expect a compounded 4% rate of return under the private plan. But as of 2010, the average annual rate of return was 9.23%, far higher than promised.

By contrast, the U.S. social security system, which today accounts for a quarter of the U.S. government budget, is slated to give retiring workers in the next decade a 1% to 2% rate of return. And those entering the system today will see a negative return.

Chile’s implicit pension debt fell to just 6% of GNP — compared with 100% in the U.S., 300% in France and 450% in Italy, leaving Chile with no net debt.

Better still, the accumulated savings in the pension funds fueled Chile’s spectacular economic ascent, taking real incomes from about $4,000 per capita in the early 1980s to $15,000 today, and GDP to the 6% range most years for nearly 20 years. With that record, is it any surprise that Chile this year earned itself a membership card into the club of rich nations, the OECD?

The U.S. could have similar result if it had started on Chile’s path 30 years ago, with no debt and a phenomenal rate of growth.

But U.S. politicians, just like Chile’s fascist generals, have insisted the public is too stupid to fend for itself without big government. Given U.S. politicians’ fraudulent mismanagement and abuse of Social Security in recent years, such claims are outrageous.

And it even works in Canada – they privatized their air traffic control program.


In 1996, Canada privatized its air traffic control system, in part due to the long waits endured by passengers. Today, it should take the same approach to improve its miserable health care waiting times.

Canada’s air traffic control might not have been a major embarrassment — though its health-care system might be — but it was performing poorly enough that policymakers felt they had to do something about it. So they sold it for $1.5 billion.

In turning over its air traffic control system to Nav Canada, the country relieved itself of a multitude of air travel issues.

Lengthy delays have been minimized, flight times have been cut, circling while awaiting a landing slot has been decreased and routes are more efficient. The overall flying experience has improved as has the business environment for airlines.

According to a Christmas Eve story in the Financial Post, privatization of the air traffic control system has “cut the fuel bill of airlines flying into Canada and above it by an estimated $1.4 billion collectively.” Nav Canada “estimates it will be able to save airlines a further $2.9 billion on fuel by 2016.”

At the same time, the private company, which does not operate through a command-and-control arrangement like a state-run system would, has kept airlines’ landing fees stable “and in some cases, like in 2006,” even reduced them.

Taxpayers have benefited. The system is no longer being propped up by $100 million to $200 million a year in public funds.

Though Nav Canada is a nonprofit company, it still makes money. Its profits go to pay down debt and are plowed back into the company for new innovations — an incentive that the clumsy government-owned air traffic control system didn’t have.

Why don’t we try things that we know will work – like privatizing wasteful government agencies and social programs? If it works for Chile and Canada, then it should work for us. If massive government spending did not work for Japan, then it shouldn’t work for us, either. Why govern by rhetoric and demonizing the opposition, when we can easily do what has worked for others? They are not really so different from us, are they?

American hero and his private corporation save 33 Chilean miners

Here’s the setup from Canada Free Press.


Things looked grim for the miners when the San Jose mine collapsed on Aug. 5.  It was going to take painstaking patience and a marvel of engineering to bring the men, trapped 2,100 feet below, to the surface.

When it became clear that all 33 miners trapped in the mine were alive, an emergency call went out to find the expertise to save them and was answered by the Mission Woods, Kansas Layne Christensen Company, who sent their most experienced drillers to the rescue.

Although they’ve shunned the publicity, the heroes in this rescue mission are ones of epic proportion.  They include two drillers Jeff Hart and Matt Staffel, who had been drilling water wells in Afghanistan to support U.S. troops stationed there.  Assisting the drillers were two Spanish-speaking drilling helpers, Doug Reeves and Jorge Herrera from Layne’s western region in the U.S.

(Layne’s Latin American affiliate) “Geotec operations manager James Stefanic said he quickly assembled “a top of the line team” of drillers who are intimately familiar with the key equipment, including engineers from two Pennsylvania companies—Schramm Inc., which makes the T130 drill, and Center Rock Inc., which makes the drill bits.” (Michelle Malkin, Oct. 12, 2010.)

From Investors Business Daily.


The leadership of Chile President Sebastian Pinera, believing fiercely in globalization and free markets, and not believing in limits, seemed to make a critical difference.

Pinera refused to shut out foreign expertise. As the world focused on Chile’s miners underground, the rescue operation above was characterized by an Apollo 13-like sense of mission. Failure was not an option.

That gave the mission an international flavor a la “Star Trek.” Unlike President Obama, who invoked the Jones Act to spurn foreign offers of help in April’s Gulf oil spill, or Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who said “nyet” to American naval rescue ships after the Kursk nuclear sub sank in Arctic waters in 2000, leaving 29 to die at a depth of 650 feet, Pinera brought in the best brains outside his country to improve the odds of success.

Among companies responding was Schramm Inc., the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of drilling rigs, which produced the drills that first reached the miners and then carved out their rescue path, with UPS shipping a 13-ton product from the Keystone State in just two days.

Another Pennsylvania company, Center Rock, provided the drill bit. Texas’ Techint came up with steel tubes that made the shaft safe. Geotec Broyles Bros.’ American engineers operated the drill, and Maryland-based Zephyr Technology provided the medical monitors during the rescue.

Argentine, Canadian and Australian companies also had roles, as did NASA. The result was a showcase of mostly American engineering that didn’t take any credit away from Chile.

Pinera also grasped the importance of just being on hand and transparent. The Chileans communicated clearly with both the miners and the outside world about what was happening. One of the first three holes drilled by rescuers was for communication.

Pinera spent a lot of time at the remote desert site. He was there when the incredible discovery of life was made, and he assured the miners the long wait for their rescue was strictly geological and logistical — not bureaucratic. He gave everyone hope by being engaged and involved.

Michelle Malkin writes:

In a different day and age, Jeff Hart would be the most famous American in our country right now. He would be honored at the White House. Schoolchildren would learn of his skill and heroism. But because Jeff Hart works in an industry under fire by the Obama administration, more people in Chile will celebrate this symbol of American greatness than in America itself. Jeff Hart is a driller based in my home state of Colorado. The father of two has been drilling water wells in Afghanistan at U.S. Army bases. When the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed in August, he flew to lend his renowned expertise to the rescue effort. As part of an amazing three-way race to the trapped miners, Hart drilled for 33 days straight and was first to reach the caved-in workers. The AP recounts the story – and what strikes me again and again is how the world turned to American ingenuity and American fortitude and American equipment and American enterprise to get the job done…

Government cannot solve problems. Academic elites in the humanities cannot solve problems. Left-wing union thugs shouting slogans cannot solve problems.

Entrepreneurs and engineers solve problems. Capitalism solves problems. Businesses solve problems. America solves problems.