TCS Daily

Pinochet, The Man in Full

By Alvaro Vargas Llosa - December 13, 2006 12:00 AM

The Augusto Pinochet saga is probably far from over -- Latin American politics is one big room filled with ghosts from the past -- but the death of the Chilean dictator at least gives us a chance to recapitulate the most important lessons from his country's recent history.

The first lesson is that social utopias always end in tears. Chile had a democratic tradition when the Marxist left came to power in 1970, but that tradition was not strong enough to withstand the revolutionary path that President Salvador Allende chose to take. Scorning the institutions that had allowed it to gain power, the left pushed the system beyond its limits, thereby causing a brutal military reaction. Today's Chilean Socialists have learned from that experience.

The second lesson is that there is no such thing as an "emergency" dictatorship. Those who called for military intervention, among them the center-right Christian Democrats, made a colossal error of judgment in thinking that the armed forces would go back to their barracks as soon as the "emergency" was over. Once the rule of law had been dispensed with, there was nothing to stand in the way of Pinochet consolidating his power -- especially since, as is often the case in a continent enamored of caudillos and strongmen, that power rested on considerable popular support.

Many Christian Democrats paid a heavy price for their support of Pinochet, and have sought to make up for that miscalculation by being allied with the Socialists since the return of democracy in 1990.

The third lesson is that free markets and dictatorial governments are ultimately incompatible because a free economy requires a dispersion of power that will eventually limit the capacity of those who control the government to perpetuate themselves. Yes, Chile's economic reforms under Pinochet were very successful. But they generated a middle class that hated being ruled by soldiers. Ironically, Pinochet's successors proved to be better guarantors of the open economy than the general himself. Since 1973, annual economic growth has been four times bigger, on average, than between 1810 and the day of the military coup. At the same time, Pinochet's support declined systematically over the last two decades. He obtained 43 percent of the votes in the recall referendum that he lost in 1988 and was a widely repudiated man when he died on Sunday.

The fourth lesson is that human rights are not an invention of human rights groups, however biased many of these groups are (they have not applied even half the pressure on Fidel Castro's dictatorship that they applied on Pinochet). Nothing justified killing 3,197 people, torturing more than 29,000, and sending thousands into exile, as reported by the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation in 1991. That cruel toll was not the price paid for stability -- which really came with the end of the military regime -- but the inevitable consequence of rule by men in uniform. The Nixon administration failed to see this, and that helped fuel anti-American sentiment in the Western Hemisphere. The rule of law was developed because anyone with too much power is capable of despicable acts.

An army with unfettered control of a nation, whether led by a Pinochet or by a Castro, will always murder, kidnap or torture citizens it deems threatening. The consequences of letting that happen continue to haunt a nation long after the regime's end. The open wounds still visible in Chilean society attest to that reality.

The fifth lesson is that there is no such thing as dictatorship without corruption. For years, Pinochet was considered an "ethical" soldier. His supporters alleged that, unlike many other military rulers, he had never stolen money. But in 2004, a U.S. Senate investigation unearthed evidence that Pinochet had stashed several million dollars in Washington's Riggs Bank and other institutions using false identities. New revelations followed.

The final lesson is that a transition to the rule of law should aim for at least partial justice if full justice is incompatible with preserving the transition. The Chilean courts moved too late against Pinochet for fear of provoking the military. It was only when British authorities allowed him to return to Santiago after 503 days of detention in London that the justice system acted at home. Yes, Pinochet's immunity was lifted a total of 14 times and he had to spend his remaining years maneuvering to avoid prison. But he was never sentenced and the Chilean transition to the rule of law was left with a sense of guilt that will make it difficult to fight off the ghost of Pinochet in the foreseeable future.



Chilean hero
The author forgot to mention that P. voluntarily gave up power. You don't see many dictators doing that. He's the guy responsible for the fact that Chile has finally got away from the normal latin american 'caudillismo', and feudalism, and got it modern, making it the best place down there. The socialists he kicked out were trying to make it into another Cuba. Thank god he was successful in stopping that commie rot.

That's funny - what happened in Eastern Europe??
All the countries in Eastern Europe were communist not too long ago. And communists never give up power. So I guess there was a big war or violent revolution that changed things. I mean, someone like Gorbachev would never give up power, right??

different subject
WE weren't talking about that but anyway Gorb. pretty much hdd to give it all up because it was all fallen apart. Communist countries are not sustainable in the longer run because they operate under the false assumption that everyone can live at the expense of everyone else. As a communist sympathizer yourself, you must have grieving very much that those captive nations became free.

Your hero
and his ilk had lost all the elections after Allende's inauguration. Their answer, like yours, is dictatorship.

Nice to see that the 'austro libertarian' shows his true colours for the umpteenth time.

Freedom? Who needs it?

we were talking about stepping down from power
It happened all over Eastern Europe, mostly non-violently. And I don't need a lecture from a former Nazi quisling killer about human rights or economics.

The democratic process
Actually the subject was dictators voluntarily stepping down from power. And I think it's appropriate to bring up Daniel Ortega, who lost an election and gave up the presidency to the winner. We should make a big distinction between democracies that have socialist governments, which can be changed through peaceful processes, and autocratic dictatorships, that have to be changed by force.

Allende's socialist revolution was only three years in, and stumbling. Had he not made an improvement in the lives of the voters by the next election he would have been history anyway. We have no reason to believe he would not have readily handed over power if he'd lost an election.

In Latin America the normal pattern for many generations has been for the military to step in and take command whenever the civilian government was botching the job. And then when they get tired of running the place, handing the job back to someone else. We can find a hundred examples if we look for them. It's their old version of the two party system. Thankfully, that system seems like a thing of the past now.

in places like Venez. that you admire. I prefer to admire say Costa Rica and Chile, better models for latin amer.

who me?
You must be thinking of someone else because I've never advocated dictatorship anywhere. I said P. was a hero because he successfully got rid of the socialist Allende, I mean a real socialist, big friend of Castro, not the ones now who aren't real socialists, but more like europeans. The next heroic thing he did was to start the economy on a proper footing, freeing up the economy, etc.
But I never advocated him staying around forever, and admired him for voluntarily giving up power, like Castro never did, and probably Chavey won't either because he can steal all the oil money and buy votes.

They didn't have to all give the 'ceaucescu' solution to their propblem of communist dictatorship because it was falling apart in most places so no need for too much violence. Elites in east german and poland etc. knew the jig was up and didn't want to end up like cheacescu. But I do indeed hope that Castro, "the ceaucescu of the Caribean" will end up like that.

re quizlings
All this nonsense quisling and nazi name calling only makes more of a fool of yourself. It doesn't even hurt my feelings and I've seen many guys mocking you for it. You might notice that I don't resort to such name calling, especially in a situation where a guy can't respond directly in person to me. In real life men can settle such insults like gentlemen, in the parking lot for example. So at least you have the pleasure of knowing you don't have to be responsible because you'll probably never meet me. And if somehow you did, you will have will have needed some very specialized training to take me; and I'm 81.

Yes you!
You have justified the overthrow of a democratically-elected government and the assumption of a dictatorship.
If the economy was so successful under the Christian Democrats et al then Allende wouldn't have been elected. It didn't take much heroism to privatise industry after he'd smashed the labour movement.

By and large, the elite in Chile, or anywhere else for that matter, have no real interest in prolonging dictatorship. They use it for as long as the threat to its interests is present. A muti-party system is their preferred option to regulate social conflict.

'Allende, I mean a real socialist, big friend of Castro, not the ones now who aren't real socialists, but more like europeans'

I'm fully aware of the difference between Allende and Stalin, and Trotsky and Hilary Clinton, even Stalin and Trotsky, unlike a number of people on this site.

Please answer the question
Dietmar-- You're showing yourself to be a damned idiot by repeatedly not addressing my comment.

Venezuela's economy and stock markets are booming. No one, rich or poor, has been left out of the general prosperity currently taking place there.

True or false?

Chile and Costa Rica are also doing well, which is beside the point of this discussion. So is China. Is that germane to anything?

He was already working on it, putting his incompetent cronies in charge of stolen companies, and govnmt jobs, etc. And Castro was his mentor and visited him there, and was helping to subvert the places. So yes I'm glad this democratically elected aspiring young commie dictator was overthrown. I'm also happy the same thing happened in Algeria a few years ago, because that also would have been the last election there. And I'm happy that the goverment dealt with those guys properly instead of fighting like girls the way the US is doing in iraq nowadays. I'm also happy that the Americans helped prevent the attempted commie coup in Greece after the war. But you guys should be happy there are still workers paradises left for you to admire, North Korea, and Cuba. YOu must be very disappointed with red china lately.

Sure, when you have a windfall of extra billions that can be considered in your own purse, then dole it out, it sloshes around so those you give it to are happy. But it's not a way to run a modern economy, it's just crappy popularism and never works. You might say a similar thing of saudi arabia, where the also have not developed properly but just think the money came from ala, and dole it out to buy people off, friends and enemies. In venez. it will lead to inflation, so even the poorest will require even more handouts to keep at the same level; can't go on forever.

So I'm a Stalinist am I?
How on earth you come to that conclusion God only knows.

I presume that in your days as an 'illegal comabatant' you took a similarly indiscriminate view of the local population before you murdered the local 'reds'? Anyone who holds by the principle that the people are sovereign must be a commie, right?

Allende had mandate to nationalise, fella.

Much is being made of the failure of Allende's policies following his initial successes in office. But I don't hear anyone mentioning the fact that the United States, the world's economic gorilla, had its thumb firmly on the scale against Allende, and that the failures stem primarily by our calling in his lines of credit with the IMF, World Bank and other lenders.

"The government of President Richard M. Nixon launched an economic blockade conjunction with U.S. multinationals (ITT, Kennecott, Anaconda) and banks (Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank). The US squeezed the Chilean economy by terminating financial assistance and blocking loans from multilateral organizations. But during 1972 and 1973 the US increased aid to the military, a sector unenthusiastic toward the Allende government. The United States also increased training Chilean military personnel in the United States and Panama."

This campaign effectively destabilised the Chilean economy at a critical time, removing Allende's margin for error and sending the economy into a tailspin. It's precisely the same tactic as our current campaign to destabilize the Hamas coalition in Palestine. We remove all funding and assistance, pressure all the other nations of the world to do the same, then stand back to watch them stumble.

When they do, inevitably, we can chuckle to ourselves "See? Those people can't even run a government effectively".

I'm sure he would have run it just as effectively as Castro has run cuba. Don't be such sore losers you guys, there's still a few captive nations left. I can imagine the disappointment when the mass murderer che guevara was killed in bolivia that time. But now you can be happy because we see Chavez trying to subvert the place nowadays; so take heart.

You've acknowleged fighting as a quisling soldier for the ***** killing your countrymen
Your excuse is, they were communists. If this is inaccurate, please state how.

The joy of giving (to the rich)
We have a very different view on the distribution of surplus assets. To me any government with money to disburse and hungry mouths to feed that did NOT allocate money for poverty relief would be utter slime.

There is obviously the danger of price inflation to consider when pursuing policies that increase demand (such as increasing the amount of spendable income). And Venezuela has had problems with inflation that many believe are intractable. However we don't find a direct link between the price inflation rate and the character of the party in power. See this chart:

As you can see, the largest recent spurt in inflation came in 1996, when Rafael Caldera was in power. Inflation leaped from 50% to 115%. Caldera was a Christian Democrat, and a moderate.

When Chavez took office, in 1999 the price inflation rate was around 30%. The following year it went down to 15% and then, in 2003, hit 40% again. It is now at about 15% and fluctuating from one month to the next.

So I can see no relation between policy and the inflation rate. Your other contention, that giving hungry families money to buy food will just make them demand more and more from the government, is mindless tripe of the sort that gives your movement such a bad name.

Uh oh
You're beginning to sound more and more like Thomas Jackson. Have you taken up drinking?

Your arguments improve vastly when you base them on actual information, and not your blind belief system. Try finding evidence that Venezuela is not enjoying a period of broadly based general prosperity. Or, you can speculate as to why that would not produce a landslide at the polls for a president who is currently very popular with all levels of society.

A Mandate?
He had a mandate to nationalize the copper mines, a process which had started under the Christian Democrat government of President Frei. One of the US companies had already agreed to be bought out under the nacionalizacion pactada (pacted nationalization) agreement worked out in 1969. He did not have a mandate to statize every industry under the sun using obscure laws like Decreto Ley 520 (used under a military regime in the 1930s) nor did he have a mandate to smuggle in Kalashnikovs through Pudahuel Airport saying they were paintings and gifts from Fidel Castro. You also ask how Allende was elected in the first place. That's a dumb question. Mr. Allende had a larger percentage of the vote in 1964, 39%, when he was routed by President Frei than he did in 1970 when he won with 36%. The reason is that the 1964 election was basically a two-man race while the 1970 election was a three-man race with the non-Marxist vote divided between the conservative Jorge Alessandri and the left-leaning Christian Democrat Radomiro Tomic. This allowed Allende to squeak by with 36.3% of vote.

There is on one less, no-one hoses up a country like the Communists.
The Communists came in on a bunch of promises they failed to fulfill. The Communists wrecked the economy so bad that what was left of the business community backed a scumbag like Pinochet.

The sad part is that if the Communists gave up and left power after screwing up the country the Pinochet rise to power could have been averted. But Communists are notoriously stubborn. The Bolsheviks gave up power after 70 years of screwing up Eastern Europe and Russia and the Maoists are still in the process of giving up power after 60 years?

What was the mandate for a military coup?
The father of the current president of Chile, a general in the Chilean armed forces, was murdered because he wouldn't support it. The current President herself was imprisoned and tortured. Maybe you can go into the legal justifications for these actions, and explain why disagreements about ley 520 made it necessary to murder Chileans.

In case you fogot Lemuel
The mandate for military intervention could be found in the vote in Congress in August 1973 which declared that Allende's government was guilty of "grave violations of the law and the Constitution" and the admission by Senador Altamirano that he and his Mirista companeros had tried to plot a rebellion to take over Chilean Navy ships and kill the officers. My guess is that a nice lefty and pro-communist like you would gladly have supported the murder of Chileans by leftists like Altamirano, Andres Pascal Allende, or Miguel Enriquez. Tell us the truth. You probably look back with fondness on the regime of Uncle Joe, who murdered 25 million in his GULAGs, Ukrainian famine holocaust, purge trials, etc. It probably means nothing to you that more Ukrainians were exterminated in one week in the spring of 1933 than people died in the 15 years of Pinochet's dictatorship.

I didn't say I was a quisling for *****, but rather one of their many slaves. Some where forced to work in mines, and factories, or in fighting roles like the 'Einsatzgruppen' etc. I was forced to fight in partisan hunter-killer outfit. But we all already hated communist already anyway, so it was preferable to working in some crappy factory or whatever. So it affected my whole life, but they say you're supposed to count your blessing in life so at least I survived it and also got to kill a bunch of commies too.

my movement?
So you mean that my movement 'freedom' has a bad name because it doesnt recommend stealing money from one guy and giving it to my friends and cronies? There is no such thing as 'surplus assests' everything should be owned by somebody. But in cases where the government has managed to take most of it, then still there are alternatives to doling it out as freebie handouts to buy votes. You might consider even red china, which has a lot of money nowadays, even those guys build ports, and railways, and bridges etc. and do not just waste in like Chavey and juan peron and other populists do. YOu might also check out what a place like Singapore does with the ca. $140billion US or so they have. That is one of the decent countries that tin pot places should emulate, not your favorite places like cuba, north korea and Venez.

81 man, bring on logans run.
No wonder you talk so much ****.

This is blither: is the idea now that Air Force General Alberto Bachelet was a communist??
A v Congressional vote criticizing actions by the government is not an authorization for a coup. It is still less an authorization for killing and torturing people who disagree with the need for a coup, including Air force general Alberto Bachelet. Or maybe you think Bachelet was a communist and that makes it all right

>My guess is that a nice lefty and pro-communist like you would gladly have supported the murder of Chileans by leftists like Altamirano, Andres Pascal Allende, or Miguel Enriquez. Tell us the truth.

The truth is your guess is totally wrong. And no leftists were killed by Altimirano, Pascall Allende or Enriquez. Instead they were killed. Why don't you say that

>Tell us the truth. You probably look back with fondness on the regime of Uncle Joe, who murdered 25 million in his GULAGs, Ukrainian famine holocaust, purge trials, etc. It probably means nothing to you that more Ukrainians were exterminated in one week in the spring of 1933 than people died in the 15 years of Pinochet's dictatorship.
Is this supposed to be an excuse?? Allende killed nobody. I wasn't aware that Stalin was part of the Allende government. Is torture supposed to be ok because the people torturing say they're anti communist??

So the congress said that because of Ley 520, the armed forces could kill and torture anyone?
Maybe y ou can clarify

What you're forgettting is the U.S. role in hosing up the country. And that Allende wasn't commuist
The U.S. deliberately did everything it could to screw up the Chilean economy in order to put political pressure on Allende. That is, it made everything worse. Then it gave the military a green ligth to take over.

>The sad part is that if the Communists gave up and left power after screwing up the country the Pinochet rise to power could have been averted.

This is unusual. "If only the store owner had just peacefully handed me over what he had in the cash registter, my having to shoot him would have been averted," the bankrobber said.

I only have one question left
Thank you, Dietmar. You've explained things much better than I possibly could. But I still have one question.

You say that Chavez has been stealing the oil money so he can give it away to the people.

Who has he been stealing it from?

Pinochet and Chavez
What Llosa is saying is that the ruling elites of Allende's Chile and Chavez's Venezuela were too corrupt and unpatriotic to stand up and defend their Country against totalitarians. They cowardly abandoned their nations and live well elsewhere, free to analyse, to blame others and to complain. Democracies fail when those entrusted to defend them are cowards.

He's stealing from the the people who own it, the shareholders of the companies. Imagine, it would be the same if the US nationalized the oil companies, right? So it would be the shareholders of EXXon, etc. But populist caudillos, and guy who believe in 'planned economies' like you believe that everything in a country belongs to the government. Autocrats always believe that, and that's why there's no proper capitalism in such countries. I'll bet you really liked Nasser in Egypt before, he was also kinda like you.

Owning the oil in the ground
Actually, no. In a well run socialist economy, everything doesn't belong to the government. It belongs to the people. And under Chavez oil profits are being returned to the people. I know it's a radical idea, governments being run for the people instead of the other way aroud. But some of us like it that way.

And the oil never "belonged" to the shareholders. The oil companies obtained concessions, with the right to drill and to share in the profit with the country whose oil they were drilling. That's true in most oil producing countries. All we're talking about is renegotiating the contract.

If you believe Chavez stole that oil, tell us who owned it originally, and who they bought it from, and how much they paid for it.

praising socialism
As a guy who had to live behind the iron curtain I can tell you that when the theory, or rhetoric says that everyting belongs to the people then the people promply steal everything they can get their hands on, or unbolt, etc. Can find any paint in the shops? Just steal something from your work place and trade with the guy in the paint factory. Happened all the time in all those former workers paradises.
RE oil, didn't you every see Jed Klampet's show some years ago. They discover oil on his property, they buy him out for a lot of money, now it belongs to the oil company(shareholders). Where the land is claimed by some predatory government like venez. then then the company pays a whole lot to the dictators. And the poor people in those poor places have no ability to do anything to make use of oil in the ground. First they didn't know it was there, then they didn't develope the professional disciplies to do the work, like geologists, etc. Then they didnt get engineers to figure out all the tech stuff, then they didn't try to find investors to take a chance on development, etc. In fact the oil industry is more a product of mental sharpness, it's brain power value really. BTW, where's a well run socialist economy again, besides in your head.

they all said the same
All the commie countries said that they failed not because they system is no good(everybody living at the expense of everyone else), but because the Americans screwed up the economy. Also the Cubans are still saying that, even though they can trade with every other country in the whole wide world and get massives subsidies, they still can't make it, but blame the States instead of their failed system.
Now we can see you following the same old boring and false party line; how pathetic.

Except we aren't talking about Cuba. Chile wasn't a socialist country
And we in fact do know that the U.S. government was trying to disrupt the economy to pave the way for the coup. This is not "following the same boring and false party line," this is documented history.

Your store analogy is not correct.
Think of it as the store owner fails in business and instead of selling the property to a better store owner he holds off the buyer at gunpoint.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with either Cuba or Chile
But let's have a big, rousing John Birch cheer for fake analogy

Look, the "store owner" was the elected government
And there was no attempt to avoid elections -- until the military stepped in and stopped elections. But you're blaming the people the military shot, which is blaming the storeowner for being shot by the robber.

Some misconceptions
I can understand why you see things the way you do. Having lived in Eastern Europe under Communism, you found it to be a terrible system. But I think you make a mistake when you extrapolate from that to say that ALL countries maintaining social safety nets must be identical to Warsaw Pact Communism in their nature.

It is possible to construct a system that is both unlike traditional Communism, and provides benefits to its people. In fact, creating such a system is a task we should all be working toward.

Communism is a failed system. Capitalism, as practised in the current United States and imposed by fiat on the developing world, has significant advantages but still has grievous flaws.

We should use our brains, and make improvements on these old political philosophies. The choice between them is not simply either-or. The structure and purpose of government can and should be improved by each new generation, until it becomes something useful to all of us.

"Where the land is claimed by some predatory government like venez. then then the company pays a whole lot to the dictators."

Very few lands have been nationalized. Those that were had faulty claims on them by the traiditonal "landowners". When they could not perfect title the lands reverted by court order to their original owner the nation.

Most rural land in the country has a legal status similar to that of our own public lands. Cattle ranches would use this public land for a generation or two or three, and think they owned it. But they didn't.

So land they have currently in use, they retain the right to run cattle operations on. Land they have lying barren has been redistributed to landless peasants. It's not theft, like you read in the blogs. It's the return of something they never bought.

"And the poor people in those poor places have no ability to do anything to make use of oil in the ground."

You aren't aware that the PDVSA (the Venezuelan oil company) purchased CITGO from the Southland Corporation? You think they just stole it one day? Why don't you look this up, and find out how much they paid Southland for CITGO?

CITGO is as well run now, in its exploration, drilling, refining and distribution operations as any company in the business. They are not just babes in the woods.

extrapolating + looking up
Yeah, I even looked up that word too. So both of us may be some kinda dreamers, you that socialism could actually work even though it never has anywhere it's been forced on people; and me dreaming of even one country in the world that could be really free, and really capitalist. I'm not holding my breath, and the US in not really properly capitalist either. As you mention land held by governments and doled out on small rents to ranchers etc. All crap to me, and not capitalism. But it sounds like at least you don't want the US to nationalize the whole oil industry there. But you must really be angry with red china, a country that was strong enough to resist all american imperialism, yet is now selling off its crappy state owned companies, de-nationalizing them, and going more capitalist and getting richer and richer as predicted.

Learning from Red China
Dietmar-- I congratulate you on looking things up. I look things up all the time. That's how I come to know things I didn't know before. Without looking things up, we only know what we used to know back when we were kids.

I'll tell you what I've found out. I find that capitalism is a good thing. It's necessary, otherwise people can't prosper.

And I've found out that socialism is a good thing too. It's necessary so the fruits of capitalism can trickle down throughout society, and not just stick with a few very rich people who are a little smarter than the rest.

So when you realize those two things are both true, then you can understand why every country on earth that has a viable way of life is a combination of both capitalism and socialism.

"Red China" is a very good example. The people who lead that country are not dumb. And they realized that if they didn't allow capitalism to flourish, they would always just lead a very poor country. So they became capitalists. And now they're so good at it they're teaching us lessons.

In fact I was just reading yesterday about a very good lesson they took from us. Do you remember the Marshal Plan? That was when America gave (not loaned, gave) all those billions of dollars to Europe after World War Two, so they could rebuild.

It was a good gesture for us to do that, and everyone was grateful. But it was also good business. We realized they would end up with all these dollars in their pockets, and they would want to spend them on American goods. So we primed the pump for a manufacturing boom, with people all over Europe buying AMERICAN GOODS.

Now China is absorbing all our dollars, since we buy so much Chinese stuff. And instead of spending them, guess what they do?

They loan the dollars back to us, so we can buy more stuff with them. And every time the dollars go to China and come back again, we owe them more money. Isn't this a case of the student becoming brighter than the master?

thanks for long lecture
That's a weird way to see it, like a rationalization for why communism didn't work. But if we see it as a number line, or continuum, one side more capitalistic, otherside more socialistic; the better countries are always on the capitalist side. So red china goes more capitalist, predictable result, better for normal people. But in all that, your comments ignore the freedom angle, capitalism emphsizes freedom, socialism emphasizes control over people, less freedom. But I know socialists don't care about freedom, they tell people, just give up your freedom to the nanny state and we will give you free medical care.
Then I noticed just yesterday that Berlusconi in Italy when he needs health care does not stay in socialist italy to get it, doesn't go to Cuba or Canada either, but went to the US for medical care.

Sorry, it's not that simple
"That's a weird way to see it"

No, it's not. It's not possible to simplify the conduct of an economic system to the degree that capitalism is good, socialism is bad. Your sound bites don't do justice to the real world. There are no stick figures out there saying "we don't care about your freedom, just give up your freedom to our nanny state". These phantoms don't exist.

Maintaining a productive economy requires a lot of work. And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it requires that a lot of things have to be done that JUST DON'T MAKE MONEY. And since private industry can't be expected to conduct these money losing operations, that's why we have governments in the first place.

If those things weren't done, in a perfect state of nature with no government, I don't think you would be happy. For one thing, no police-- except for private armies who would guard you for pay.

You would find if you looked at it honestly that government is required to make society run. And government itself is inherently a socilist enterprise, meaning it spends money to maintain the common good. You can't get there on industry alone.

by bread alone
You must be thinking of some kinda anarchist or whatever. I'm a libertarian of the kind that believes in government but only for courts, police and military. So protect property rights, enforce contracts, rule of law, etc. Not a state that takes money from me to give away to a predatory government, and entitlements to people I don't want to support. It's OK if you're a socialist, just admit it. BTW, I'll bet you like the old east germany, they were about the epitome of socialism. You didn't have to make any decisions at all, they just told everybody what to do.

Just a thought ...
Sorry to interject, you two, but ...

I'm perplexed by Dietmar's 'all or nothing' argument.
The 'no country is genuinely capitalist' argument indeed reminds me of an anarchist (or maybe someone who actually knows a thing or two about Marx) who complains from the sidelines that true communism has never existed. Not only that, but it's all the fault of everyone else - reformists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, the influence of the mass media, the corruption of the masses etc etc.

While I can understand your experience of East Germany, and its vulgarised version of Marxism, it takes a leap in the imagination of gigantic proportions to associate someone's desire for a modicum of state intervention in the economy or in education, healthcare, and welfare with support for Kim Jong Il, Eric Honecker or Uncle Joe! It really is a preposterous argument, Dietmar. (Incidentally, you have no objections to interventions in the labour market - particularly where those terroristic Muslims are concerned.)

There can be very few members of the ruling elites in capitalist countries who would follow the road you propose. Not because they are somehow lily-livered conservatives or red-in-tooth-and-claw but that they realise that state intervention is necessary to create what it considers to be the best conditions for capitalism to flourish, or even survive.

To use an example from history, Britain has had a relatively greater degree of social peace than its European neighbours because it has successfully absorbed various social layers into the state apparatus. With the emergence of mass democracy and a strong trade union movement in the 19 century, its task was to convince a layer of the working class - its leadership - that its interests lay in the development of capitalism and thus social peace rather than direct confrontation which would have had a destabilising impact. Capitalism in other European countries hadn't developed as early as Britain so working class politics and the state developed more antagonistically to each other. The influence of Marxism, syndicalism and even anarchism was more prevalent there.
These policies aren't cowardice on the part of the governing class but far-sighted self-interest at play.

Where the confusion arises, I feel, is when social reformers want to soften the impact of the market on the mass of the population, or even of vulnerable groups. However, as any decent biography of an elitist like Winston Churchill will note, the introduction of state welfare programmes like pensions, unemployment benefit etc were often explicitly introduced in terms of diminishing the influence of 'revolutionary socialism' within the working class. (It followed the Bismarckian route.)

While this may seem far removed from today's conditions, the elite's fear of the consequences of removing a social safety net and not subsidising business is too great to dismantle the whole state apparatus in one fell swoop. It would rather chip away at it bit-by-bit than risk a conflagration. Today, the old social networks have disappeared so any reaction to the untrammelled capitalism that Dietmar desires may take on dangerous forms. Then again, they might not since no serious current exists that could challenge the market organisationally or politically!

Anyway, I'm sure Dietmar will be able to flex more than his cyber muscles should the former be the case.

to Cassius re modicum of intervention
Re 'all or nothing'. I didn't say that, but meant that those would be extreme points on a number line, and no state is at either end. But I said that the countries more on the freedom side(capitalist)are better countries for normal people. Then you mention that no rulers would ever go that way, but our reasons for that are different. I say they won't do it because politico are more interested in power, and control of people, than they are in freedom, or the welfare of the people. Then you make lame excuses, or rationalizations like your UK examples. the UK and suchlike countries do not have what you call a 'modicum of state intervention' but is reall massive intrusion into almost every facit of people's lives and economies, thus very little freedom. So I don't even expect governments to change overnite, even M. Thatcher couldn't dismantle the welfare nanny state in Britain, nor could R. Reagan in the US, even tho I'm sure they wanted to do more. The people have been so used to receiving entitlements, that some would revolt when taken away, plus they've been brainwashed by the socialist propaganda for so long that they are afraid of freedom; notice how they don't even revolt agains the stalinist public school system. So I don't believe in any govnmt involvment with pensions, education, medicine; nothing but court system, police and military. And I might be be convinced that military should be privatize, as they mention in another recent article here. But thanks for the compliment at the end of your message. Yes, I do have certain 'skill-sets' that have been very valuable.

I don't think life is that simple
No, I don't think anyone liked the old East Germany-- especially the people who had to live there.

All I was trying to do was to show you that life comes in more than two flavors. But I see to you everything will always be either communist or anti communist. So, given those choices I think I will abstain from casting a vote. My party is not represented there.

"I'm a libertarian of the kind that believes in government but only for courts, police and military. So protect property rights, enforce contracts, rule of law, etc. Not a state that takes money from me to give away to a predatory government, and entitlements to people I don't want to support. It's OK if you're a socialist, just admit it. BTW, I'll bet you like the old east germany, they were about the epitome of socialism. You didn't have to make any decisions at all, they just told everybody what to do."

It is implied by your comments that state intervention beyond the military, police and courts is by its nature socialist or even Stalinist. State and society isn't like that, however. Since the former arises from the develpoment of the latter, its role is necessarily mystified to pose as a neutral arbiter between competing interests - between indivdual capitalists and between classes, institutions etc. This is the point I was making. State institiutions exist to maintain a degree of social control and keep social conflict within limits so as not to threaten capital's ability to reproduce itself. Where I differ with you in this respect is that you see state intervention as socialism and as a sinister plot to control people. I, however, would see it as the elite's survival strategy.

I never said Britain had a 'modicum of state intervention'. Far from it. Institutions and agencies of the state now permeate every facet of life. That isn't socialism. If anything, it demonstrates a realisation that capitalism left to itself would lead to instability.

2 examples: After WW2 the period of greatest state ownership of industry in Britain (1945-50) was presented as one of a new socialist dawn. In fact, state ownership of major industries (coal, steel and the railways) was seen as essential for capitalism to survive since the privately owned firms were in such a desperate state that they were incapable of providing the raw materials and transport networks that industry required.
2-Beyond Mrs Thatcher's rhetoric of 'rolling back the frontiers of the state', regulation in her terms of office often only changed its form - from regulation of state industry to regulation of private industry. Her fondness for Victorian values also led her to increase the state's intervention in the lives of private citizens. You won't hear many people calling her a socialist though!

Your description of Italy as 'socialist' and Britain's state school system as Stalinist is bizarre, Dietmar.

I'll leave you with a quote by one of your countrymen, Engels. He is describing how state intervention and state ownership isn't by itself progressive or socialistic. Without workers' management of industry, state ownership isn't socialism - something those in the USSR and Eastern Europe conveniently chose to ignore:

"... of late, since Bismarck went in for State-ownership of industrial establishments, a kind of spurious Socialism has arisen, degenerating, now and again, into something of flunkyism, that without more ado declares all State-ownership, even of the Bismarkian sort, to be socialistic. Certainly, if the taking over by the State of the tobacco industry is socialistic, then Napoleon and Metternich must be numbered among the founders of Socialism.

If the Belgian State, for quite ordinary political and financial reasons, itself constructed its chief railway lines; if Bismarck, not under any economic compulsion, took over for the State the chief Prussian lines, simply to be the better able to have them in hand in case of war, to bring up the railway employees as voting cattle for the Government, and especially to create for himself a new source of income independent of parliamentary votes — this was, in no sense, a socialistic measure, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Otherwise, the Royal Maritime Company, the Royal porcelain manufacture, and even the regimental tailor of the army would also be socialistic institutions, or even, as was seriously proposed by a sly dog in Frederick William III's reign, the taking over by the State of the brothels."

I don't suppose this was given much prominence in the old DDR.

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