Courtesy Reuters

A Chilean Model for Russia


What Russia needed at the beginning of the twentieth century was not a Bolshevik Revolution but an American one. The tragedy of that great nation was that it got a Lenin instead of a Jefferson. Today, nearly ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's new president, Vladimir Putin, has the historic opportunity to start the freedom revolution that his country missed last century.

I had the opportunity to assess Russia's situation at the end of April, when I traveled to Moscow at the invitation of President Putin's newly appointed economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov. As a member of the team of economists that entered the Pinochet government in Chile in the 1970s to produce a free-market economic revolution and a return to democratic rule, I was inevitably asked whether Russia "needed a Pinochet" and whether the country should introduce a "Chilean economic model." My unequivocal answer was no to the first question and yes to the second.

President Putin and his government must not identify the core of the Chilean experience with its historically specific interruption of political liberties. Such a break has happened in many other nations, and in almost all cases, their generals-turned-presidents have not only been a disaster for their countries but have also left a legacy of more state intervention and corruption. I told my Russian audiences that the replicable aspect of the Chilean model is the radical, comprehensive, and sustained move toward free markets.

That model not only doubled Chile's historic rate of economic growth (to an average of 7 percent a year from 1984 to 1998) and reduced the proportion of people living in poverty from 45 percent in 1987 to 22.2 percent in 1998. It also unleashed the forces that brought liberal democracy and the rule of law. Those who argue that a nonelected legislature was necessary to accomplish those beneficial free-market reforms are not only factually wrong but also weaken the case for democracy by implying that correct public policies cannot be understood by

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