The Libertarian Movement in Chile

By Larry Gambone

INTRODUCTION The rise and fall of the libertarian movement in Chile is a fascinating story. There is more to the story than mere historical interest, however. Chile is a country on the brink of development and hence is closer to a European country than to a truly underdeveloped nation. Chile is as urban as any developed country and even in 1900 about 20% of the population lived in cities, around the same percentage as Canada at that time. Population growth is low and vital statistics are at the developed level. Women have a more equal status with men than in any other Latin American country.

Chile is one of the few countries where libertarian ideology had hegemony over the labor movement. The Chilean movement gave rise to an unprecedented level of popular unity, albeit for a brief moment, uniting the vast majority of the population against the elite. Chilean libertarianism was notable for its practicality, its populism, its unideological nature and its lack of violence. The movement was highly adaptable, constantly changing its methods and not getting bogged down in dogma. The Chilean movement also shows the contrary danger of being too “undogmatic”, as many syndicalists became corporatists.

While the past cannot serve as a model for the present, the Chilean experiences can give us some ideas for building a libertarian movement. The level of popular unity they created is exactly what is needed to crush the Leviathan State that threatens to swallow us. The importance of adaptability and of not getting trapped in dogmas and worn out methods is certainly worth borrowing. In this nihilistic age, wallowing in government and media-induced ignorance, their emphasis upon education and ethics should be reconsidered. Chileans also built a large network of mutual aid societies, pointing out an alternative to the present bankrupt Welfare State.


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