THE OTHER MODEL: Chile's Inequality — And Ours


Professor Paul Pierson compares Chile’s economic paradigm, as laid out by Javier Couso, to that of the United States.

For an American audience, reading Javier Couso’s excellent commentary on the efforts to shift Chile away from its long neoliberal experiment generates a strange mix of familiarity and puzzlement. Despite the vastly different political experiences of the two countries, there is much in his depiction that resonates here. In both countries, inequality has reached alarming levels. Indeed, measures of inequality suggest that we are moving away from the family of rich democracies and towards the more oligarchic income structures prevalent in much of Latin America, as well as in countries like Russia. We, too, have seen the growth of an elite culture that often treats the private sector’s highly skewed distribution of rewards (even when they are a result of political favoritism) as “natural” and fair. Here, as in Chile, we have a political system that, despite its democratic institutions, has mostly reinforced that growing inequality rather than serving to moderate it. And here, as in Chile, the political system has institutionalized strong protections against economic populism — in our case, the filibuster and an aggressively conservative Supreme Court — that effectively limit the potential for reform even in the absence of conservative electoral victories.

Publication date: 
August 22, 2013
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article