Lessons for Wisconsin from the Southern Tiger

I have introduced a new section to the site that is devoted to book reviews. Like everything else on GlobalChicago, the focus is on books that contain both a local element and an international joie de vie. The first book is The Southern Tiger an autobiography of former Chilean anti-Pinochet activist turned president, Ricardo Lagos. It is a natural fit for this theme: Chile was during the 1970s and 1980s a natural experiment of University of Chicago-based ideas of neoliberal economic policies (explained further in the blog). Furthermore, post-Pinochet Chile has established a fairly equitable relationship with the United States based on trade, migration, and exchange of ideas.

Nevertheless, I think the lessons learned from Chile’s experience reach far beyond the developing world. Across our northern border, Wisconsin is an absolute uproar. Their governor, Scott Walker, is about to undergo a recall vote as a consequence of his efforts to take away bargaining power from the state’s public unions. As this country is too often want to do, the government and the unions have both taken diametrically opposed views. Our jump to extremes in this country is antithetical to the cooperative, almost friendly manner in which the political parties worked  in Chile towards building a brighter future for their country. We as a the country must learn to be pragmatic above politics. Even parties that continued to support Pinochet into the early ’90s, worked with the coalition with Lagos to rewrite their Constitution. We must give common sense a try as name calling has led to nothing but acrimony. Lagos was from the socialist party. Yes his book makes clear that he cares deeply about social welfare. Yet, despite being a ‘socialist’, he successfully completed more free trade agreements than President Bush or Reagan. We have nothing to fear in bipartisanship except success, relevance, and professionalism.


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