Last week, the New York Times had an article about the potential prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet on drug trafficking charges, saying that his 20 some million dollar fortune may have partly been derived from such activities.
It’s been a long way down for Mr. Pinochet, aka Henry Kissinger’s favorite right wing dictator. I remember in classes as late as 1998, we were talking about how the “economic miracle” that happened in Chile under Pinochet was a counter example to the idea that democracy and economic progress go hand in hand, much like the Chinese economic explosion. In other words, despite human rights abuses, mass killings, and suppression of dissent, it seems that strong hands that those of Pinochet could make people’s quality of life better.
What the latest accusations against Pinochet and his cronies reveal is the moral bankruptcy of those arguments. The cost of dictatorship is lives lost and a lack of transparency that hampers economic development. Vibrant democracies have “efficiency” problems when it comes to achieving maximum economic growth when measured in terms of GDP per capita and trade balances. But what takes longer ultimately grows deeper and avoids (for the most part) the abuses of power that lead to Southeast Asian financial crises, indictments, and torture-based economic growth.