Governor Patrick visited Chile this month in an attempt to enhance the state’s collaborations with Latin America in education, clean energy, and biotechnology. But I hope he looked around, for Chile has plenty of lessons to teach America. That country has long allowed economists to reform its infrastructure, social safety net, and education system. The Chilean experience illustrates the great strengths of the economics field, especially its insights into taming the public leviathan. But Chile also illustrates its besetting weakness - tolerating massive inequality. After General Augusto Pinochet took power in 1973, he eventually turned to a cadre of free-market economists, the “Chicago Boys’’ who, like me, received their PhD’s at the University of Chicago. Chile’s subsequent rapid growth allowed economists to retain some influence. Chile’s current president, SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era, taught economics after earning his PhD at Harvard, and his administration has consistently engaged American economists, including me, to provide advice . As a result, policy ideas that would be hard to pursue in the United States have become reality in Chile.
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