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Politicos Demand Equality as They Lord Over Chile

By: Contributor - Dec 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

EspañolBy Jorge Gómez Arismendi

In response to criticism for a salary increase for members of the Chilean Congress, the president of the Chamber of Deputies Aldo Cornejo indicated that “some advisors in the current administration earn more money than members of Congress, and that this goes completely unnoticed.”

A recent teacher strike demonstrated the hypocrisy of "egalitarian" politicians in Chile.
A recent teacher strike demonstrated the hypocrisy of “egalitarian” politicians in Chile. (Crónica Digital)

According to El Líbero, the executive secretary of the National Council for Children, María Estela Ortiz, tops the list of the highest-paid government officials. She takes in around US$13,000 per month. She is closely followed by the macroeconomic coordinator of the National Budget Office of the Finance Ministry, Claudio Soto Gamboa, who makes around US$12,000 in monthly wages.

What procedures and criteria were used to hire these officials? How is their pay determined or readjusted? What control and evaluation mechanisms are they subject to? How are their powers and responsibilities defined?

Despite the government declaring inequality as the biggest problem that Chile currently faces, the state employs advisers at a rate of $7,000 per month. When compared to other state officials in Chile, this is clearly outside the norm. These politicians purportedly support egalitarian policies, and yet are part of a ruling class that enjoy many privileges themselves.

This is clearly outside the norm that applies to other state officials in Chile. While proposing egalitarian policies, these supposed promoters of equality are also part of a ruling class that enjoy many privileges.

The economist Murray Rothbard clearly illustrated this inconsistency:

We conclude with one of the great paradoxes of our time: that the powerful and generally unchallenged cry for “equality” is driven by the decidedly inegalitarian aim of climbing on its back to increasingly absolute political power, a triumph which will of course make the egalitarians themselves a ruling elite in income and wealth as well as power.

The iron law of oligarchies outlined by the German sociologist Robert Michels makes no exceptions in this regard. No organization, no matter how much it claims to promote equality, is able to escape the iron law’s reality. Its elites always turn into a newly privileged oligarchy, and therein lies the contradictory nature of the egalitarian discourse.

Congressman Giorgio Jackson’s statements during the teacher’s strike in November illustrate this point. Jackson said “professors can work 40 hours and make US$820,” while congressmen make that much based on a salary adjustment alone, on top of their handsome wages.

In another case, criticism from teachers directed at union leader Jaime Gajardo demonstrates the distance between the leader and the people he supposedly represents. Gajardo has effectively turned the teachers’ union into a vehicle for political power that no longer works in the interest of its members.

The iron law of oligarchies was also on display when the president of the Central Worker’s Organization Bárbara Figueroa decided to rail against the union protesters, harshly criticizing their actions and attitude. She was not particularly fond of the protesters’ criticism towards Gajarado and the New Majority government.

As a member of the ruling elite in Chile, Figueroa chose to defend the interests of the ruling party and her fellow member Gajardo. They turned their backs on their comrades marching in the street and aligned themselves with the government.

Jorge Gómez Arismendi is a journalist from Santo Tomás University and holds a Master’s in Political Science from the University Chile. Follow him on Twitter: @jgomezarismendi

Translated by José Niño.