One of the most common “rebuttals” to anyone advocating any form of socialism is to demand evidence of a “successful” socialist country. This is always an annoying argument, not because there’s no answer, but because the answer is so detailed and extensive that it relates to a huge amount of world history over the last century and a half.
When you start digging into the history of neoliberalism – the paradigm under which we all currently live – you will inevitably start hearing about Chile and Augusto Pinochet. There’s a lot we can learn from studying the horrors of that US-backed regime, and the enforcement of Chicago School economic policies, but there’s also a lot we can learn about the government of Salvador Allende. Most of what I’ve heard has been about how Allende came to power (democratically), and how he killed himself after a Pinochet’s coup. What I did not know, until today, was the role played by an early nation-wide computer network that gave the government real-time information on the operation of the Chilean economy, and allowed them to respond to crises are they arose, and to test economic policies with computer models based on the data they were constantly gather.
All decades before the internet.
Now, I’ll admit that some of that – like the never-implemented home happiness dial – seems ripe for abuse, but I have to say that it’s far less invasive than the surveillance to which we’re currently subject, not only by our governments, but also by the various massive corporations that largely control our governments.
I think I’ve been primed, by the culture in which I grew up, to hear how Cybersyn worked, and to become suspicious, but as Tristan says, it’s no different from how any corporation runs today, except that in the case of Allende’s Chile, the focus was on improving life for the Chilean people, rather than on enriching the Waltons (for example).
Centralized power will probably always make me nervous, but I find this story fascinating. I also think it’s telling that the US put so much effort into replacing this successful democratic project with a brutal fascist regime.
I’ll post more about this period of history, because I think there’s a lot we can learn from it, in facing the problems of today. It also lets me do things like work on a post about Operation Condor the campaign of atrocities and repression, and Operation Condor the Jackie Chan movie. You might not think there’s much overlap, but where there is, I’ll find it!