Monday, December 11, 2006

On Pinochet

By far the best and most balanced obituary of Pinochet was in the Telegraph.

I think that Pinochet is interesting because he is a rare right wing example of a phenomenon the left faces quite rarely; a man putting foward very satisfying politics via the mechanism of killing many of his own people by extra legal means. While right wing leaders have backed tyrants in foreign countries they rarely see them as much more than least bad options in the face of other tyrants who combine their tyranny with some infringement of our own national interests.

By comparison, Pinochet certainly left a great many good things behind him. A free market economy which delivered the most successful development in Latin America, a democratic country as he was one of the few to give up power peacefully following a narrow defeat in a plebiscite and his foreign policy which was of great importance to the United Kingdom's interests in particular. Under Allende the country was an utter mess and had little prospect of the improvement which it saw under Pinochet.

Equally, many of those he killed almost certainly did have little respect for Chilean democracy themselves and were, in the sense he described it, at war with him. However, he did kill them and there were, certainly, many killed merely guilty of speaking the truth about the ugliness of his regime. Also, although this is less serious, he did fall prey to the corrupting influence of such great power.

This brings questions of utilitarianism versus liberalism into focus. The greatest happiness of the greatest number was certainly well served by Pinochet yet for this to happen some people did have to suffer and die and democracy was delayed. Ironically, although they won't admit it and will cling to some foolish pretence that Pinochet didn't make the lives of most Chileans far better, this is far more of a problem for the left who are rather more attached to utilitarianism. As for the right the answer should be simple: if faced between the choice of him or a left wing tyrant he would have been the better choice, he was an evil man who did truly evil things but he left Chile in a better condition than it was when he first ascended to power. There seems no need to simplify beyond this.

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