Chicago Boys

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The Chicago Boys (c. 1970s) were a group of young Chilean economists who trained at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, or at its effective offshoot in the economics department at the Catholic University of Chile. The training was the result of a "Chile Project" organised in the 1950s by the US State Department and funded by the Ford Foundation, which aimed at influencing Chilean economic thinking. The project was unsuccessful until the early 1970s. The Chicago Boys' ideas remaining on the fringes of Chilean economic and political thought, even after a 500-page plan based on the Chicago School's ideas and bearing the provacative title Ladrillo -- "The Brick" -- was presented as part of Jorge Alessandri's call for alternative economic platforms for his 1970 presidential campaign. Alessandri rejected Ladrillo, but it was revisited after the 1973 Chilean coup d'état on 11 September 1973, and became the basis of the new regime's economic policy. Eight of the 10 principal authors of "The Brick" were Chicago Boys. Although the coup was described as a military coup, Orlando Letelier, Salvador Allende's Washington ambassador, "saw it as an equal partnership between the army and the economists".[1]

Juan Gabriel Valdés, Chilean foreign minister in the 1990s, described the Chile Project as "a striking example of an organized transfer of ideology from the United States to a country within its direct sphere of influence... the education of these Chileans derived from a specific project designed in the 1950s to influence the development of Chilean economic thinking." He emphasised that "they introduced into Chilean society ideas that were completely new, concepts entirely absent from the 'ideas market'".[2]


Chile Project

In 1953 Albion Patterson, director in Chile of the US International Cooperation Administration (the organization which would become USAID), met with Theodore Schultz, chair of the University of Chicago economics department, and came up with a plan to counter the developmentalism of which Chile was a leading example. "What we need to do is change the formation of the men, to influence the education, which is very bad", Patterson had previously told a colleague.[3] The plan was simple - to send Chileans to train at what was then a right-wing fringe institution, the University of Chicago's economics department. Patterson initially approached the University of Chile, the country's leading university, to set up an exchange program, but was turned down after the dean demanded input into who in the US would be training his students.[4] Unwilling to permit this, Patterson went instead to the much more conservative Universidad Católica, which had no economics department at all, and accepted the program.[4] In 1956 that School signed a three-year program of intensive collaboration with the Economics Faculty of the University of Chicago (the "Chile Project").

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