Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby no country for young men » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:01 pm

Chilean Economy - Lessons from hyperinflation for the US?

Among discussions on how the US Death Star will end, one of the "ruinists", Gonzalo Lira, a hyperinflation proponent, talks about the Chilean experience with hyperinflation (saying that other than Weimar Germany, Chile is the only country to have experienced hyperinflation in a modern democracy).

If you are interested in how hyperinflation might end the USS Death Star, in the link below, and in an essay written a year ago, Lira coves a possible scenario (which hasn't come to pass as he predicted). But this two part essay has been read widely.

http://gonzalolira.blogspot.com/2010/08 ... -will.html

Below, I've copied the section with Lira's take on the Chilean hyperinflation experience. This recounting of the economic history of the Allende vs. Pinochet match might be of interest even if the topic has been well covered elsewhere on allchile.net (And thank you again for the poignant, personal and frank discussions on this sensitive topic, an important one for those of us worried about jumping from the frying pan into the fire.)

"....
Apart from what happened with the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s, advanced Western economies have no experience with hyperinflation. (I actually think that the high inflation that struck the dollar in the 1970’s, and which was successfully choked off by Paul Volcker, was in fact an incipient bout of commodity-driven hyperinflation—but that’s for some other time.) Though there were plenty of hyperinflationary events in the XIX century and before, after the Weimar experience, the advanced economies learned their lesson—and learned it so well, in fact, that it’s been forgotten.

However, my personal history gives me a slight edge in this discussion: During the period 1970–’73, Chile experienced hyperinflation, brought about by the failed and corrupt policies of Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity Government. Though I was too young to experience it first hand, my family and some of my older friends have vivid memories of the Allende period—vivid memories that are actually closer to nightmares.

The causes of Chile’s hyperinflation forty years ago were vastly different from what I believe will cause American hyperinflation now. But a slight detour through this history is useful to our current predicament.

To begin: In 1970, Salvador Allende was elected president by roughly a third of the population. The other two-thirds voted for the centrist Christian Democrat candidate, or for the center-right candidate in roughly equal measure. Allende’s election was a fluke.

He wasn’t a centrist, no matter what the current hagiography might claim: Allende was a hard-core Socialist, who headed a Hard Left coalition called the Unidad Popular—the Popular Unity (UP, pronounced “oo-peh”). This coalition—Socialists, Communists, and assorted Left parties—took over the administration of the country, and quickly implemented several “reforms”, which were designed to “put Chile on the road to Socialism”.

Land was expropriated—often by force—and given to the workers. Companies and mines were also nationalized, and also given to the workers. Of course, the farms, companies and mines which were stripped from their owners weren’t inefficient or ineptly run—on the contrary, Allende and his Unidad Popular thugs stole farms, companies and mines from precisely the “blood-thirsty Capitalists” who best treated their workers, and who were the most fair towards them.

Allende’s government also put UP-loyalists in management positions in those nationalized enterprises—a first step towards implementing a Leninist regime, whereby the UP would have “political control” over the means of production and distribution. From speeches and his actions, it’s clear that Allende wanted to implement a Maoist-Leninist regime, with himself as Supreme Leader.

One of the key policy initiative Allende carried out was wage and price controls. In order to appease and co-opt the workers, Allende’s regime simultaneously froze prices of basic goods and services, and augmented wages by decree.

At first, this measure worked like a charm: Workers had more money, but goods and services still had the same old low prices. So workers were happy with Allende: They went on a shopping spree—and rapidly emptied stores and warehouses of consumer goods and basic products. Allende and the UP Government then claimed it was right-wing, anti-Revolutionary “acaparadores”—hoarders—who were keeping consumer goods from the workers. Right.

Meanwhile, private companies—forced to raise worker wages while maintaining their same price structures—quickly went bankrupt: So then, of course, they were taken over by the Allende government, “in the name of the people”. Key industries were put on the State dole, as it were, and made to continue their operations at a loss, so as to satisfy internal demand. If there was a cash shortfall, the Allende government would simply print more escudos and give them to the now State-controlled companies, which would then pay the workers.

This is how hyperinflation started in Chile. Workers had plenty of cash in hand—but it was useless, because there were no goods to buy.

So Allende’s government quickly instituted the Juntas de Abastecimiento y Control de Precios (“Unions of Supply and Price Controls”, known as JAP). These were locally formed boards, composed of loyal Party members, who decided who in a given neighborhood received consumer products, and who did not. Naturally, other UP-loyalists had preference—these Allende backers received ration cards, with which to buy consumer goods and basic staples.

Of course, those people perceived as “unfriendly” to Allende and the UP Government either received insufficient rations for their families, or no rations at all, if they were vocally opposed to the Allende regime and its policies.

Very quickly, a black market in goods and staples arose. At first, these black markets accepted escudos. But with each passing month, more and more escudos were printed into circulation by the Allende government, until by late ’72, black marketeers were no longer accepting escudos. Their mantra became, “Sólo dólares”: Only dollars.

Hyperinflation had arrived in Chile.

(Most Chileans, myself included, find ourselves both amused and irritated, whenever Americans self-righteously claim that Nixon ruined Chile’s economy, and thereby derailed Allende’s “Socialist dream”. Yes, according to Kissinger’s memoirs, Nixon did in fact tell the CIA that he wanted Chile’s economy to “scream”—but Allende did such a bang-up job of fucking up Chile’s economy all on his own that, by the time Richard Helms got around to implementing his pissant little plots against the Chilean economy, there was not much left to ruin.)

One of the effects of Chile’s hyperinflation was the collapse in asset prices.

This would seem counterintuitive. After all, if the prices of consumer goods and basic staples are rising in a hyperinflationary environment, then asset prices should rise as well—right? Equities should rise in price—since more money is chasing after the same number of stock. Real estate prices should rise also—and for the same reason. Right?

Actually, wrong—and for a simple reason: Once basic necessities are unmet, and remain unmet for a sustained period of time, any asset will be willingly and instantly sacrificed, in order to meet that basic need.

To put it in simple terms: If you were dying of thirst in the middle of the desert, would you give up your family heirloom diamonds, in exchange for a gallon of water? The answer is obvious—yes. You would sacrifice anything and everyting—instantly—in order to meet your basic needs, or those of your family.

So as the situation in Chile deteriorated in ’72 and into ’73, the stock market collapsed, the housing market collapsed—everything collapsed, as people either cashed out of their assets in order to buy basic goods and staples on the black market, or cashed out so as to leave the country altogether. No asset class was safe, from this sell-off—it was across-the-board, and total.

Now let’s return to the possibility of hyperinflation in the United States:
...."
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby nwdiver » Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:52 pm

I have been told, that it was the truckers strike (well not so much a strike as no cash for gas) that ended it all for old Salvador, the mandated transport prices were too low to buy gas so the truckers all stayed home, no food got to the city. The government couldn’t figure out how to nationalize the industry which was all small owner operators, not big shipping firms. Then the pots and pans came out, I think it was the first use of pots and pans in the street and it was an “I NEED SOMETHING IN HERE” type statement, now its general noise making.
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby john » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:07 am

Forum members of a right-wing libertarian bent need to take a reality check as Chile seems to be irrevocably on the path (albeit too slowly) to representative democracy. That raises an issue of judgement, on their part, if they are counting on Chile being a safe haven for their beloved laissez-faire proclivities. :?
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby john » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:05 am

patagoniax wrote:
john wrote:Forum members of a right-wing libertarian bent need to take a reality check as Chile seems to be irrevocably on the path (albeit too slowly) to representative democracy.


Huh?

Chile went to representative democracy in 1989, following the famous "No" elections of 1988. The coalition that accompanied the installation of representative democracy in 1989 was the markedly Socialist Concertación.

What some elements of the Chilean Left, including the Concertación, are trying to do now is replace that representative democracy with something else.

I see that we need to expand the required reading list.


My definition of "representative democracy" is when elected representatives actually represent their constituencies and are not beholden to business interests. Perhaps that's the something else the left is attempting to effect.
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what is "democracy"?

Postby Andres » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:06 am

I think John is implying that the existence of elections or "elections" in and of themselves do not indicate whether a country is democratic. (The US is a good example of that.) I agree with him.

The real issue is how you define the rest of "democracy" besides elections.

Some consider (what I call) a "dictatorship of the majority" as "democracy". Some even consider (what I call) a "dictatorship of the minority" as "democracy". John needs to state more specifically what he is implying for us to have a meaningful discussion.
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby Andres » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:26 am

patagoniax wrote:What John is seeking is a representative democracy that represents only what he would like to see represented.

Perhaps he is, and you know that from his other writings, but I do not infer that from what he wrote in his most recent posts.

I agree that just a few of several ailments befalling the US is the US has become a "corptocracy", "business (and individuals) welfare state" and "warfare state". Corporate interests trump individuals' interest, especially when it is the rights of foreign individuals (and their governments) versus the motivations of US corporations.
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby john » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:17 am

I do not advocate either of those two extreme forms of so-called "democratic" rule. The tyranny of the majority does not fit my idea of a just or humane form of government any more than the inverse (e.g., I strongly believe that minority rights must be constitutionally protected).

Px, contrary to what you have implied, I have no problem accepting the outcome of "free and fair" elections. However, I personally favour an electoral voting system based on proportional representation as I believe that a "first past the post" electoral voting system (used in the US and UK) is inherently less democratic. What I find most objectionable is a system of government where-in elected officials can get away with disregarding the interests of the people who voted them into office.
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wiki 'politics' article

Postby Andres » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:41 am

patagoniax wrote:Maybe someone can find or write a good article for the wiki on the subject of representative democracy in Chile since 1989.

The following is on my wiki 'to do' list:
"recent politics" article:
* change name to 'politics'; delete 'recent politics'
* get someone to list political parties, their coalitions and writeup about chilean branches of govt.
* move 'news sources' section to new 'media' article.

Would you like to write it?
Last edited by Andres on Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby greg~judy » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:15 am

john wrote:Px, contrary to what you have implied, I have no problem accepting the outcome of "free and fair" elections. However, I personally favour an electoral voting system based on proportional representation as I believe that a "first past the post" electoral voting system (used in the US and UK) is inherently less democratic. What I find most objectionable is a system of government where-in elected officials can get away with disregarding the interests of the people who voted them into office.


although we can concur on the "objectionable" part
sorry john - we must disagree with your continuance...
"people" don't vote anyone into office these daze...
especially in some (unnamed) presumed "democracies"

please remember a paraphrase of what Stalin famously said...
"The one who votes decides nothing.
The one who counts the vote decides everything."

now put this in the light of recent electoral fiascoes...
now ask yourselves if there is anything inherently "democratic" there...?

please remember the recent Supreme(ly bought~paid~for) Court's decision...
wherein it has been succinctly stated --- 1$ = 1vote
now ask yourselves if there is any inherent "democracy" there...?

just wondering...?
but now...
back to hyperinflation...
:|
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby admin » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:35 pm

I am not sure Camila is old enough to know what those flags represent. In fact, most of the people in the recent protest are not old enough. Hell half of their parents are not old enough to know what they represent.

On the other hand, we do seem to have a few old school school politicians from both the extreme right and left, that seem to think this is their big chance to be relevant again.

I have a simple solution to the recent riots. Anyone caught rioting in a designated exclusion zone, has their cell phone contract cancelled. Watch how fast it all comes to an end when Camila's iphone quits connection to her twitter and facebook page, and all the students panic and go back to school.

Easy to be a communist as long as your iphone is still working.
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby nwdiver » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:52 pm

john wrote:I do not advocate either of those two extreme forms of so-called "democratic" rule. The tyranny of the majority does not fit my idea of a just or humane form of government any more than the inverse (e.g., I strongly believe that minority rights must be constitutionally protected).

Px, contrary to what you have implied, I have no problem accepting the outcome of "free and fair" elections. However, I personally favour an electoral voting system based on proportional representation as I believe that a "first past the post" electoral voting system (used in the US and UK) is inherently less democratic. What I find most objectionable is a system of government where-in elected officials can get away with disregarding the interests of the people who voted them into office.



I agree with you but as has been proven in British Columbia, the only jurisdiction in the world that uses a “first past the post” system that held a referendum to move to a proportional system, that was even a change heavily supported by the existing government, not forced on the province by any special interest groups, just saying the vote was very transparent and well promoted and developed by a citizens forum of normal people from all walks of life that met over month to learn about the options, well it was resoundingly voted down by the people by a large majority. So you can lead the people to proportionality but you can’t make them change.


The US presidential system isn’t “first past the post” the Electoral College has the say in who becomes President. Isn’t this a form of proportional representation??
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Re: Gonzalo Lira on Chilean hyperinflation experience

Postby admin » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:39 pm

One mega difference between how the Chilean voting system works and just about anywhere else I have seen, is the media allowed in the polling stations and the live on TV opening and reading of the ballet counts. There is no hanging chad or hanging George Bushes. The whole country counts the votes together. The people running the local polling stations are just the unlucky suckers that get drafted right out of the line for the day to run them as they need to fill a seat.

You don't like the camera angle as they count the votes, change the channel and count them from a different angle on another channel.
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