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Chile: An example of modern democracy

The President of Chile has “given in” to student and school pupil ‘strikes’ and protests. Of course the story is really a little more complicated than that as Madam President (Michelle Bachelet) was really as the same side as the people making noise waving placards on the streets. Otherwise the “strikes” would not have been much of a threat. It would have been a matter of “oh you do not want all this taxpayers money spent on you – fine, we will close the establishments you are not bothering to go to”.

The moderate left has been in power since 1990 and have increased education (however this spending is calculated), but that is not enough for the protesters. They complain that state schools are not as good as private schools and this has an effect on their chances of getting into a good college and getting a good job.

So what do they want done?

Do they want self management of the schools? This method does not really work in making state financed institutions act as if they were not state financed (cats do not bark) – but it is a standard suggestion (going back to the “market socialists” in Austria in the 1920′s), and it might have positive impact at the margin.

Errrr no. State schools in Chile already have some self management – the protesters wanted national government control (and President Bachelet has agreed).

Perhaps the protesters wanted to introduce examinations into state schools (some people argue that selective state schools are a way of helping upward social mobility).

Again no. The protesters want all entry examinations for state schools banned – how that is supposed to help make state schools as good as private schools is something that is not explained.

The real story is that after sixteen years of rule by the moderate left less moderate leftist forces are taking over. And President Bachelet is tilting a bit that way. My guess is that most of these school pupils and college students are most likely nice people. Not only nice as individuals, but capable of voluntary interaction in civil society. If there were less taxes and more voluntary (whether religious or secular) schools they might do better.

However, politics ruins everything. No doubt even in most of the private schools and colleges people are taught that representative government is what people should look to – not each other. As long as government is democrat it can be “a force for good” (unlike the old military dictator – no doubt the young are not taught anything good about him).

But democracy does not alter the laws of political economy. Government may (or may not) be a lesser evil – a way of countering other force (whether by bandits or by invaders), but it can not be a force for good – giving people nice things better than they could provide for themselves and for each other. This belief in government (as long as it is democrat government) as a provider of nice things is the central myth of our age. To win an election (we are told) one must pander to this belief. If this is true and remains true, civilization will fall. Hopefully, it will change.

6 comments to Chile: An example of modern democracy

  • Patemi

    But democracy does not alter the laws of political economy. Government may (or may not) be a lesser evil – a way of countering other force (whether by bandits or by invaders), but it can not be a force for good – giving people nice things better than they could provide for themselves and for each other.

    What bollocks. Firstly, how is countering other force merely ‘a lesser evil’ and not a force for good itself, and secondly, if you accept that we are social creatures, and that history exists objectively, then surely you accept that democracy (at least parliamentary democracy) has been a force for good within the world?

  • ResidentAlien

    Democracy is generally a force for good. It is certainly the form of government which is least destructive of individual freedom and probably the best bet for promoting economic growth.

    The problem is that people get carried away with “democracy” and want to apply it to goods and services which can better be provided by the market alone.

  • What bollocks.

    Try not to make yourself look like an idiot.

    Firstly, how is countering other force merely ‘a lesser evil’ and not a force for good itself,

    It is a very easy concept to understand so you must not trying very hard. If your shop keeps getting attacked by armed robbers, that is bad. Then one day a representative of the mafia come around and tells you this will stop but you must pay him a certain amount every week or else. You may well feel the mafia is the lesser of two evils as provided you cooperate, you will indeed get a degree of protection from the violence of less well organised thugs even though you do not really get any choice about accepting the mafia ‘offer’ (an undesireable situation but better than randome attacks my armed thugs). Now just substitute mafia with state.

    and secondly, if you accept that we are social creatures, and that history exists objectively,

    Yes we are social creatures but I suspect that does not mean what you think it does… and whilst history exists objectively, our understanding of it is conjectural and our knowlage of the facts often incomplete.

    then surely you accept that democracy (at least parliamentary democracy) has been a force for good within the world?

    Which is rather like saying as most birds can fly and Da Vinci was a great painter, surely Kate Beckinsale is a very attractive woman. All true but…

    Democracy can act as a useful check on political power and thus be a ‘positive’ things. However it can also be used to drive gross impositions of political power. The so called ‘Jim Crow’ laws in the USA were all quite democratic but as the prevailing culture was hostile to minority blacks, all democracy did was make the collective means of coersion available to bigots. Democracy is just a method of conducting politics.

    A large proportion of the essential liberties we enjoy were in place during a time in which the majority of people in parliamentary democracies could not in fact vote at all, because they were either women or not landowners etc. etc. so just giving everyone political power over other people by giving them a vote is clearly not a prerequisite for a liberal order.

    Democracy does not drive liberty, it has been a by-product of a culture of liberty and that is quite a different thing from a political system.

  • “social agenda”! Sigh. I had been thinking of retiring to Chile. Cross another one off the list. I had heard that Chile was the one South American country that had a chance to become free and prosperous. No more.

  • Jacob

    Where’s the link to the news story ?

  • Paul Marks

    No link to the news story Jacob – because I am fairly useless with such concepts.

    I may be “only 40″ (41 on July 7th – but even 40 is really as good as dead), but my father was born before the First World War – this should tell you what generation (in terms of attitudes and things I am comfortable with) I really am.

    Countering aggression not a lesser evil, but a positive good [Patemi].

    Andrew Jackson (a man I greatly admire) made the same argument. However, I still do not agree with it – although I should be clear as to why.

    The taxes may be a lesser evil (in that it may not be possible to counter aggression with voluntary funding) – but that still is a lesser evil (not a positive good).

    Also (of course) there is the matter of even the best watch dog not actually doing any production itself (the watch dog just keeps away criminals).

    But that would lead us into whether “protection services” are “productive” – in broad Austrian economic theory they ARE, but (of course) the same definition depends on a service being voluntarily funded (not funding by extortion).

    Democracy about promoting economic growth (Resident Alien). I am afraid you have lost me there. I would have thought that any government (democratic or not) that tries to “promote economic growth” (rather than letting people develop industries if that is what they want to do) is a very bad thing.

    Lots of useless factories producing square wheels and so on. In the end pollution and not much else.

    Democracy the least destructive form of government – in realtion to liberty (again Resident Alien).

    Today disscussion tends to be dominated by the “democracy or dictatorship” choice, whereas in history there have been vast numbers of different forms of government (that fit into neither box).

    Certainly in Britain there was more liberty before democracy that there was afterwards. Indeed the decline of liberty and the rise of democracy have gone hand in hand (and not just in terms of taxes and “economic” regualtions – such things as free speech, freedom of association and non association, and the right to keep and bear arms have also declined).

    “But there was also more poverty”.

    There was inferior technology – and the development of technology has had nothing to do with democracy.

    For example, before 1867 the vast majority of men (and all women) could not vote for Parliament.

    Yet with the technology of today the system (taxes and regulations) of 1867 would have had fare LESS poverty than we do.

    Whereas if we (an advanced big government welfare state) had to use only the technology about in 1867 we would have mass starvation and economic collapse.

    It may well be that democracy is a luxury good – that the big government it tends to bring with it can only surive after an advanced capital structure (not only technolgy itself, but its actual use in productive investment over time) has been developed.

    And that democracy tends to eat away at this structure – till, sooner or later, it collapses.

    As the old saying goes “democracy only works till the majority work out that they can vote themsleves money”.

    Of course, such men as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson denied that democracy had to end that way.

    I hope they were correct.