Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Rising expectations...protests...progress?

By the numbers, things in Chile look good. so why the protests?

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
Second, a protest against poor conditions is not the same as a protest against inequality. Many Chilean complaints revolve around the pension system, health care, water rights, public transportation, schools and corruption. Are Chileans upset that their transport options aren’t better? That’s a complaint in absolute terms. Or are they upset that they are riding the subway while many of the wealthy have private cars with drivers? That’s a relative complaint.

The answer will depend on the protester, and in virtually all protests around the world there will be those with both motives. But some North American commentators try to equate these two grudges and subsume them all under the heading of inequality. That just won’t wash.
And don’t forget this:
In the case of Chile, it has the highest real wages in Latin America, income inequality has mostly been falling, and life expectancy is above average for the region. By Latin American standards Chile has a low rate of crime and a high degree of public order. Chile has had open and honest elections, and peaceful transfers of power, since 1990.
So high expectations may be more relevant than either “inequality” or “neo-liberalism” per se, at least for many of the protestors.
Ah, high expectations, classic: Things improve, leading people to expect further improvements, but, alas, those expectations outpace the actual improvements, leading to greater discontent. I believe that it is de Tocqueville who introduced that mode of explanation into social science, back in the mid 19th century. I read about it in The Old Regime and the Revolution in my intro to sociology class as an undergraduate.

And, to the extent that at least some protests are fueled by this mismatch between expectations and accomplishment, we might see protests as an indicator of PROGRESS.

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