Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We visit the Congress, and the White House

Last week, we went over to Valparaiso and had a nice lunch with Diputado Ernesto Silva, a an elected member of the Camara de Diputados. We ate in the private dining room of the Diputados, way up high in the Congress building, overlooking the harbor. Breathtaking.

Yesterday we went with Princeton Prof. John Londregan to visit the Ministry of Finance, in La Moneda, which is Chile's White House / Old Executive Office Building wrapped into one. There appears to be a rule that the Moneda guards, special Caribeneros (at least the men), have to be at least 1.8 meters tall, without their imposing cavalry boots (with spurs). I felt small among these giants. The goose stepping, the Prussian style uniforms, and the military bearing of the men is a little disquieting to an American. But this is in fact the very seat of government, and we were lucky to get to go in and have an interview with two Finance officials. (The Minister was going to try to meet with us, but not surprisingly he was busy). We had a very nice hour long interview on the future of the economic system, and talked a lot about Public Choice and regulation. It is interesting that the government now in power faces the same problem that Reagan faced in 1980: How to dismantle the apparatus of regulation, and education bureaucracy, while (1) increasing private sector productivity, (2) encouraging new jobs, and (3) managing to stay in office. The next election is four years away, but it's tough. Reagan had only limited success, and the Republicans from 2000 sold out all their principles just so they could focus on (3). The problem is that the way to stay in government is to expand government, by hiring new bureaucrats who depend on the program for their jobs. Buena suerte, Chile! I hope you do better than our miserable sell-out Republicans did.