The Hoover Institution’s Chicago Boys and Latin American market reformers collection has just been strengthened by the addition of interviews with Arnold C. Harberger, the “father” of many of the Latin American men and women economists of the past half century who promoted markets throughout that region.
The Chileans, who are the best known of these economists because they were the most numerous and successful, were tagged “Chicago Boys” because most were men trained at the University of Chicago (UC). (The tag came from one of the Chilean women economists in Chicago.) These economists implemented revolutionary changes in Chile’s economy between 1975 and 1990 that laid the foundations for the most stable and productive internationally integrated market economy in Latin America during the modern era. This Chilean experience has attracted the attention of governments from Latin America, Russia and former Communist Eastern Europe to Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The PRC, rapidly expanding its trade relations in Latin America, recognized Chile’s economy as the most effective and stable in the region and in 2006 signed its first bilateral free trade agreement in the Latin world with Santiago. Chile now exports more to China than it does to the United States.
The educational program that trained these economists was launched in the late 1950s by the US government, supported by the Ford Foundation, and over the decades trained dozens of Latin American students, particularly Chileans at UC. Many of these graduates became professors of economics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC) in Santiago, which, beginning in 1975, became the epicenter of national reform.
Alito (as Harberger is known in Latin America) was a guest at the Hoover Institution for a week in late June to examine the Hoover Archives collection and give interviews on the Chicago Boys and related projects. Harberger taught for decades at UC but, beginning in 1984, moved to UCLA, though still teaching for a while at UC. As a professor and private consultant with international development agencies, Harberger is renowned for successfully relating the fundamentals of economics to the challenges and needs of the real world through his enthusiastic hands-on involvement and his pioneering studies on taxation, development, cost-benefit analysis, and trade policy. These varied studies and Harberger’s rich sense of humor led to a well-attended lecture at Hoover in June entitled “Real-World Fun and Games with Money and Exchange Rates.” Although best known for his work with Chilean reformers, he also worked on shorter-term projects with reformers from all parts of the world. Harberger is a former president of the American Economic Association. At UCLA, since 1997 the Arnold C. Harberger Distinguished Lecture on Economic Development series has featured the top developmental economists in the world.
Click here to read about the related Chicago Boys acquisition.