Ramzy Baroud, 02 June 2021
Why does the US advocate a free market while stifling it too? The current US-China economic war is a perfect example of this perplexing question. The legacy of Milton Friedman, the founder of America’s modern political economy, was a representation of this very dichotomy: the use and manipulation of the concept of the free market.
Through the Chicago School of Economics, whose disciples have proved most consequential in the formation of the American approach to foreign policy, especially in South America, Milton constantly championed the virtues of the free market, emphasising a supposed link between freedom and capitalism and insisting that governments should not micromanage markets.
But theory and practice are two different notions that hardly meet.
The ‘Chicago Boys’ club
The ‘Chicago Boys’ — South American economists who were mostly educated under Friedman himself — were dispatched in the 1970s and 80s to advise some of the continent’s authoritarians on how to manage their economies. They selectively advocated free-market economics that seemed to only serve the interests of the US and, to a lesser degree, the ruling classes of some South American nations. The bloodbath that ensued in much of the continent during those years can still be felt to this day, from Chile to Argentina and elsewhere.