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CENTER FOR LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, UC BERKELEY: INEQUALITY: DIALOGUES FOR THE AMERICAS, FALL 2012: OCTOBER 15, 2012 http://www.clas.berkeley.edu/Events/series/inequalityfall2012/index.html

Chilean Audience Member: Hello. Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? Okay. If we agree with the statement that political structure defines the economic structure. And if we agree with the second statement that our countries--Chile at least--are losing the battle against inequality, do you think that an economic discussion is enough for winning this battle? Or we should start thinking about some political changes in the way politics and economics dialogue? When you said money has too much power, that you can’t defeat money, are you having this discussion in the United States?

Brad DeLong: Not very constructively. The Supreme Court, especially, has been playing an extraordinarily unhelpful role. With moderate Republican Senators who had been advocates of campaign finance reform and campaign funding equalization in the past falling in line behind their party in spite of their expressed policy preferences. Norm Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute was here last June giving an extremely bitter discussion of the disappearance of the Republican moderates, and the cowardice of those who remain.

I would say first that it’s not clear to me that Chile is losing the battle against inequality.

Suppose there’s a marathon. Suppose somebody has completed all twenty six miles of the Marathon, and somebody else is still at the starting line--because of the past combination of the latafundista history of Chile and the dictatorship. Those forces have done to Chile what they used to do to Houdini--tie him in chains, lock him in a box, throw him in the sea. The fact that Chile has managed to untie itself from the chains of latafundista and escape from the box of the dictatorship and actually swim to the river and reach the starting line--that is, I think, a very impressive historical achievement.

As to changing political structures, and reducing the influence of money and politics. The answer has got to be yes, but the answer has also got to be to move extremely, extremely cautiously, There is some truth to the statement that the true will of the people--if the people knew what they ought to know about the political destinies and programs of the parties they vote for--would not be what’s reflected in the voting polls in any election day in an election in which money has a megaphone. But if the twentieth century proves anything, it is that those who are loudly and stridently saying that they know the will of the people better than the people’s elected representatives are very dangerous indeed.