[Editor's Note: This article is not uploaded because it is Hoppean, but because it is a translation of an important politician's explanation of his ideology inside Pinochet's government. This is instructional into claims about Hoppe's conneciton to Pinochet.]

Universal Suffrage and the New Institutional Framework[1] By Jaime Guzmán Errázuriz, translated by Martin and Patricio Rojas

Within the purview of every country’s political system lies the quandary of how to institute political power. Inside a given community, who reigns, or perhaps better put: who reigns, and how are those who reign chosen? Classical liberal democracy’s answer is simple: the people, their sovereignty reigns.

But this solution carries within it a few nuances in determining exactly who it is that constitutes “the people” that will reign. For a long time, in Chile as well as in other countries, certain assets or income were required to participate in the electing body. Until just over 30 years ago, women were not included.[2]

Setting a minimum age for participation will always be necessary. Most recently it was 18 years-old, before that 21, and even, in some cases, 25 years-old. To summarize, other exclusions have been added without qualifications, excepting the case of foreigners, even those who have been longtime residents and whose integration into the national community is undeniable.

Though classical democracies’ have been mercurial and discretional in determining who to incorporate into their electing bodies, this fact has left no impact in their certainty about the matter. With their confident dogmatism, supporters of democracy overlook this topic’s historically varied — and substantially so — interpretations.

And just as simplistically, it is asserted that universal suffrage is the only legitimate or valid way of establishing political authority. Along with how relative the voting “universe” is, as we have just shown, another characteristic of this system is in the egalitarianism with which it treats every suffragist. The preference of each piece of the electing body is valued equally. One man, one vote, is the distilled synthesis of universal suffrage.

The Objections to Universal Suffrage

Since its beginnings, this system has faced serious objections. The restrictions the democracies of the last century initially established demonstrate a certain tacit concession of its various inconveniences. But modern mass society makes limiting access to the electoral body impossible, aside from small exceptions, and every day fewer.

The main objections to universal suffrage can be distilled down to the following:

1. It establishes a false equality amongst the citizenry

It is self-evident that in the undertaking of devising the destinies of the nation, not every citizen is equally qualified. Given that this is a particular task just like any other, there can be no doubt that some will be more able than others to make a political decision or choose who should make them. This ability is derived from the extent of a given person’s intelligence, virtue, learnedness, good judgement, intuition, and/or maturity — to mention but a few of the influencing factors in each person’s decision making.

The fact that political decisions affect the entire community does not invalidate our past assertion, given that, decisions are not made so as to affect everyone equally. Furthermore, there are many communities — such as the family, the university, and the military — that, given their hierarchical nature, generally do not share authority in their decision making, and no one puts their legitimacy in question because of it.

2. It does not measure the intensity or the nuances of preferences

The opinions of any given citizen have multifaceted nuances and degrees of intensity. For example, there will be those who more than supporting a particular candidate or party, flatly reject one. A vote that measured disapprobation might bring about a very different result, but not necessarily a less real one, than the voting by preference that is now regularly employed — and that has come to be called the system of universal suffrage. Something similar would occur if every person could rank their preferences. The “second round” or ballotage system is used to compensate for the above deficiencies, but only to an extent.

Another problem is that the electoral system requires the extreme simplification of complex positions. A vote for a candidate or a proposition does not necessarily imply the full support of everything he or it stands for. However, the election of figureheads does not allow complexities, such as they are, to be addressed. Meanwhile, a national plebiscite for every governmental decision is not realistic. Both because of its impracticalities and because public policy problems tend to be of a technical character that prohibits the vast majority of the citizenry from having a clear opinion on it.

3. It is subject to the distortions that impact all of mass society

Studies showing the uniqueness of group psychology are plentiful. A given person’s impulses, and hence, actions, change dramatically dependent upon if they are part of a “mass” or not. Popular votes are by and large multitudinous, and utterly “massive.” Emotion is heightened to the point of irrationality.

Geniality, physical attractiveness, verbal cunning, and the ease with which one manages our modern means of communication all play a bigger role than the qualities that truly show whether or not someone will make for a good ruler or legislator.

The fleeting is magnified disproportionately, setting the course a people will follow for years, and sometimes, to an extent, forever. The power of money, a key necessity for a million dollar campaign, and the creative and influencing talent in said campaign, play more decisive roles than the realities in play. How many electoral campaigns have been decided because of a clever poster, an opportune joke at the eleventh hour, or a spurious rumor that is completely forgotten a few days after the ballot boxes are filled?

4. It unleashes a permanent power struggle on a massive scale, which makes demagogic promises the norm

By periodically having the masses decide who holds power, a country subjects itself to a fleeting electoralism that accentuates its divisions on every level, and hinders progress. Those who hold, or hope to have, power must flatter the people more than serve them. Presentist demagoguery mortgages the future in favor of fake or ephemeral solutions. It is difficult to make time for long-term projects and historic undertakings. Meanwhile, chimeras and promises that cannot be fulfilled brim with seductive allure, until the bitter truth arrives and the masses must face reality in all its starkness. But usually this happens only after a nation has run through a pinwheel of utopias, one after another, that unravel the country both morally and materially.

The need to “win the next election” leads the vast majority of public servants to regularly act against their own conscience and the common good. Instead, they seek the good graces of small interest groups (that is the case with the so-called “minorities” of some countries, or labor unions, or influential businessmen), even though doing so may earn them the disdain of the general populace. That widespread disdain is less tangible than the good graces of a powerful few, but it is not less real, and wounds each constituent in the affected community.

For their part, the masses tend to wait for the panaceas they know will be offered in the next election to solve their problems instead of through their own hard work. The myths of structural changes and heaven-sent strongmen flourish in the fertile ground of regular and massive electoral battles.

5. By way of demagoguery, it allows totalitarian ideas to penetrate society and erode liberty

The true danger of demagogic encroachment can be appreciated when it is understood to be a tool of totalitarian doctrines that want to seduce the masses. By entrancing the people with our world’s extremist fantasies, such as Marxism and National Socialism, or by operating with the advantage of having no moral qualms, politicians can promise the public everything — because once they have power, they do not cede an inch of territory to their opponents.

Paradoxically, upholding universal suffrage as the best, illimitable, and basically only system to express the will of the people, allows it to become not only a tool used against a nation’s freedom, but against the system itself as well. Universal suffrage, such as it is, gives license to the possibility of murdering itself, that is to say, of committing suicide.

Alternatives to Universal Suffrage and Their Even Bigger Faults

The aforementioned objections to universal suffrage, to which we could certainly add many more, have led to an ongoing search for alternative systems that could replace it. However, before considering the most important of these alternatives, it must be stressed that any and every system of governance must be recognized by that country’s citizenry. Totalitarian regimes have forgone this prerequisite, feigning a fictitious universal suffrage devoid of liberty. These governments are the products of those that deny mankind his dignity and his most fundamental rights. Any government that respects natural law is doctrinally legitimate, but it must obtain the acceptance of its citizenry if it is to promote the common good.

Alternatives to universal suffrage, which we will enumerate and summarize below, carry with them inconveniences and difficulties even greater than the above. Moreover, in our view, these alternatives would not have a baseline of support in Chile, without which no system of government is viable.

1. Limited Suffrage

Despite the evidence showing that contemporary mass society will not let its electorates be restricted in any far-reaching or generic way — as was the case with the limited suffrage in Chile for almost the entirety of the last century — the call for limits on suffrage is periodically heard. In short, this seeks to end the false equality of universal suffrage, allotting a greater number of votes to the most educated citizens.

Though superficially reasonable, this system suffers from very apparent problems and blindspots. Immediately brought into question is its legitimacy and fairness in countries whose levels of development and poverty keep large swathes of the populace from attending schools and universities. But even where that isn’t an issue, there is still this serious problem: level of education is only one way of granting suffrage to the more qualified, and perhaps not even the best way. Common sense, good judgement, and intuition, which are all products of instinct and experience, are perhaps more important than education when it comes to choosing rulers wisely.

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In other words, limited suffrage would work if it was possible to objectively measure the intellectual and moral qualities a citizen needs in order to best direct a nation. But since this hypothetical is completely impossible, this concept is nothing more than an unreachable desire. One reaches the same conclusion when considering the idea of allotting more votes to those who have more children, and other similar ideas. All carry the indelible mark of unbending arbitrariness in the face of all the different factors that, to one extent or another, make a person qualified for this particular act.

The case of universities, meanwhile, is very different. Their tiered and hierarchical structure, and even the very existence of different kinds of academics, makes it legitimate for them to establish different ways to determine the composition of an electorate that will choose the make-up of their internal government.

2. Corporatism

Another often proposed alternative is corporatism, which advocates the people's expression through their natural organizations: family, local communities, guilds, and unions; thus strengthening the social unity that such entities engender, as opposed to the struggle among political parties which are viewed as artificial organizations that stimulate and deepen divisions within the national community.

Such natural or “organic organizations” would give rise to a parliament where citizens would have their views represented by entities that reflect their truer interests. People would vote as heads of a household, residents of a county, or members of a guild or union, and it would be these entities which would make up the legislative chamber and possibly elect the executive branch.

While appealing in theory, corporatism has obstacles that prove deep and impossible to overcome.

Firstly, it is impossible to deny the legitimacy of citizens grouping themselves into political parties, or similar organizations, in order to influence public life.

This is not the place for a deep analysis of political parties, so a few thoughts will have to suffice. Recent electoral laws and regulations in Chile have unquestionably given political parties a power that is monopolistic and not inclusive in terms of the political participation of citizens. Similarly, the fact that the hierarchies of political parties have been hijacked by cliques that are both exclusive and oligarchical in nature does not contribute to a healthy democracy, and thus should be avoided. In fact, the “partyocracy” that arises from the preeminence of political parties tends to negate the very merits of universal suffrage, as it forces citizens to choose only among the very limited options and candidates that are offered to them by the tiny groups that control political parties. Encouraging the rise of political parties that are less rigid in terms of their structures and ideologies, and that exist for shorter periods of time, are desirable goals, which can be achieved to a large extent by the new rules and political habits that frame the new institutional framework. Also, the constitutional banning of groups that are contrary to the precepts of the new institutional framework is another useful tool, which in conjunction with the above stated proposals, could substantially change the party-centric situation which has produced such poor results. However, it seems unrealistic and unjustified to abolish political associations by law, because even within a corporatist system these would exist de facto and inevitably advance their interests within the entities that officially hold political power.

On the other hand, leaving government in the hands of only civil society organizations would reflect the belief that the common good stems from simply the sum total of all partial interests, which is conceptually incorrect. In other words, the global insight that government requires cannot be obtained by simply adding up a series of partial visions. Also, as competing corporatist visions struggle for dominance, more powerful factions would make quid pro quo deals that hinder the common good. This can also occur in a parliament that has been elected by universal suffrage, but only by distortion, whereas it would be the norm in a corporatist legislature, since by definition its members would officially represent their specific vested interests.

Finally, the polarization of civil society organizations, which proved so damaging to their country, would be encouraged, since while deliberating policy their representatives would use their own political and ideological beliefs as a key element in their decision making. Believing this situation would simply disappear is not only naïve but also reduces human beings to only their materialistic dimension, when in fact they are also swayed by ideas which do not necessarily reflect their specific interests.

Therefore, and leaving aside the practical difficulties of configuring a good representation of the citizenry within a complex and varied parliament made up of civil society organizations, in which many members belong to several such entities, the corporatist system must be ruled out. Unless of course such a parliament is only meant to reflect the various points of view without any executive action, which would still leave the problem of how to generate political institutions that actually decide and rule.

This is why consultative corporativism was valid within the framework of the traditional organic monarchies of the Middle Ages, since the generation of state power through monarchic succession was widely accepted as the means of governing the nation. However, when we consider corporatism as a governing system, in which local or partial interests make all the decisions, the stated problems are only solved by becoming a cover for a totalitarian regime, as was the case with Italian fascism and its contemporary ideological heirs.

3. The Military State

The only way to forego universal suffrage is if people accept that power is legitimately held only by a specific sector of society.

This explains the past viability of hereditary monarchies based on dynasties, or aristocratic regimes in which only a specific group had the tools and skills to govern, and of theocratic states that held religious authorities as the ultimate source of power. We see it nowadays in recently independent countries, where the single party founded by the liberators has the legal and de facto legitimacy to govern. In a sense these are “single party aristocracies,” even if their rule is sometimes ratified by a nearly unanimous referendum.

None of these situations apply to Chile today. So the only option left to permanently forego universal suffrage is military rule, either directly or by appointing civilians to do their bidding.

This idea stems from the concern about aggression by Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism against the free world, and the ineffectual struggle against it put forth by traditional democracies that are based on universal suffrage — particularly in Latin America. Here, alarming levels of social and economic upheaval, terrorist violence, political demagoguery, and administrative corruption have brought about many military regimes that are institutional in nature, as opposed to the caudillo dictatorships that were so common in the past.

Today's situation is different. These are governments headed by the institutional commanders of the armed forces which, with varying visions and degrees of success, have decided to carry out deep transformations that are needed to build towards stable progress in their countries.[3] The fact that the two most solid democracies in Latin America, Chile and Uruguay[4], are experiencing this, merits careful and respectful analysis.

The case of Chile is particularly revealing, because here Marxist aggression reached the government of the Republic, and took the country to the very edge of becoming a Marxist-Leninist state while systematically preparing for a bloody civil war. Such a dire situation, which caused the greatest moral and material chaos in our history, was brought about by the steady and long-term weakening of our democratic system by way of demagogy. To be fair, a clear majority of Chileans resisted the Marxist government, and their moral fortitude served as the source and the catalyst for our National Liberation. But after September 11th,1973, the facts on the ground and the will of the masses demanded decisive and prolonged action to correct deep rooted evils and build the solid foundations needed by the new political institutions to achieve economic and social development. This mission was particularly important since the victory of Communism would have destroyed our cherished national and Christian values and simultaneously taken away our sovereignty by enslaving us to the hegemonic orbit Soviet imperialism.

As the organization that was least permeable to the penetration of Marxist doctrine, only the armed forces could lead national liberation and reconstruction. So it is tempting to think they should permanently govern within an institutional structure. The risks of universal suffrage returning the country to the edge of the abyss reinforces this view. Nonetheless, a more realistic analysis reveals that an excessively long or officially indefinite military government would end up destroying the professional and disciplined nature of the armed forces and seriously damage their public standing.

Indeed, history shows that governing erodes and divides leaders. Individually, a charismatic ruler can sometimes avoid such a fate. But when it comes to the governing classes, this eventually occurs without exception. Incorporating the ultimate and purest expression of nationality, and having an uncontested reputation for being above politics, our armed institutions were called upon to save the nation. Should this perception begin to change, Chile would lose the most solid defender of its national identity.

Furthermore, if the military were given the task of institutionally governing in a permanent way, it would lose its required hierarchy and discipline. Officers would be under constant political pressure, and after less than one generation, the military spirit would cease to exist. Promotions and retirements would no longer be decided on a professional basis. Political deliberations would increase among the troops. The very sense of military duty would become intertwined with the idea of political duty. The sad experience that Chile went through from 1931 until 1932 is a small but telling example of this situation.[5]

Having the armed forces designate specific civilians to carry out governing would not overcome this, since such decisions would remain a military responsibility. Assigning the military the role of “unifier” — as with the Crown in certain current monarchies — overlooks that those monarchic systems are not absolute, but instead rely upon universal suffrage within the classic framework of a parliamentary government. Therefore, these two situations are not comparable at all.

It is similarly unrealistic to have an electoral college choose the government under direct or indirect military supervision. This body would still have to be chosen through universal suffrage, since Chileans would not recognize any particular group as having the inherent right to do this.

The current Chilean government's successes cannot fool us into considering a military regime as a permanently good solution, since its achievements are based precisely on factors that would be lost if they held political power indefinitely. Not to mention that these successes are deeply linked to the personal qualities of President Pinochet, which certainly cannot be extrapolated to other rulers.

Towards A Pragmatic Solution

When Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government except for all the others, he was referring to universal suffrage, so not using it as the main source of political authority does not seem possible or advisable. But it is necessary to reduce its known problems and risks to the largest extent possible.

In order to do this, we must first shed that absurd and dogmatic prejudice that sees universal suffrage as the sole legitimate source of sovereignty. After all, this dogma requires the most convoluted reasoning to justify a judicial system whose relationship to popular vote could not be any more limited or indirect.

In reality, the situation is very different. Sovereignty cannot be reduced to universal suffrage because people’s lives are expressed in a much richer, varied, and organic way. To recognize these multiple expressions allows us to flexibly consider universal suffrage in practical terms, rather than rigidly view it as a sacred or immutable end.

The dogmatic concept that some theoreticians insist on advancing is based on the common error of considering that rulers represent the people, when in truth they lead them. The fact that the people choose their rulers is very different from the people anointing them as representatives. While representatives do their constituents’ bidding and can be removed if they do not, leaders use their own free will to decide what is best for the common good, and as long as they do not overstep their mandate, can demand compliance even when popular opinion goes against them.

Besides theoretical considerations, universal suffrage has not been the norm in our country’s history. Until 1891, executive electoral intervention was rampant, a practice sanctified by the 1833 Constitution through ballots being issued by the government. From 1891 on, all political parties manipulated elections through the buying of votes. When such a practice was finally abolished before the presidential election of 1958, the law gave political parties monolithic control over legislative elections, since all candidates were determined by small and unrepresentative political elites. This explains why when Congress was dissolved in 1973, there was not a single independent senator or deputy.[6]

Only those who have a very bad memory or are very ignorant can wax nostalgically about a universal suffrage system that was supposedly clean. It never existed in Chile, so advancing its reinstatement as a magic wand that by itself will ensure a bright future is nonsense. Rather than mystifying the actual history of our democracy, we must instead consider the virtues and vices it truly had.

To do otherwise is to forget that democracy as a form of government is not an end in itself. It is merely a harmonious way to simultaneously obtain freedom, security, and progress. The form of government is invariably just an instrument to achieve a desirable way of life. If it meant “way of life,” democracy could be considered an end in itself. But since it merely implies a system of government, it must not be confused with what it is not. The democratic form of government does not necessarily lead to freedom as a way of life, or even less so to safety and progress. The dramatic tragedy experienced by Chile in the years preceding National Liberation prove this beyond any doubt and make it redundant to list other examples.

This mystical faith in the “will of the people” allows those who avoid the task of designing institutions that fit our current needs to forget that the will of the people is in fact made up of various human wills. And it is self-evident that the will of human beings changes depending on its environment and the stimuli in which it lives. This fact — that everyone recognizes regarding their own individual free will — is true all the more for the will of the people, which is nothing but the sum total of many individual wills that manifest themselves with all the potential distortion of collective acts that we pointed out previously. Since no one can honestly trust blindly their own free will without considering its context, it is then incumbent upon us to concentrate on the civic and institutional framework in which democracy and universal suffrage can take place, instead of merely advancing its reestablishment.

This is precisely the challenge and perspective of the new draft prepared by the Constitutional Commission and being reviewed by the Council of State. It is exactly the opposite of what our opponents propose, which merely entails returning to the same institutions that preceded September 11, 1973, without even remotely taking into account the reasons why such a democracy led us to chaos, personal and social insecurity, and economic stagnation. That catastrophe was unmatched in its horror throughout our history, and it was no way to attain the safety and progress we all hope for. Whoever does not diagnose correctly the actual origin of a disease can hardly be able to cure it.

It is obvious that there are many different legitimate constitutional arrangements, and none of them are ever perfect by themselves. They all must also include the healthy civic habits that support their proper application and that complement the wide range of possibilities with which life overwhelms theories covered by law. But what is important is that both these elements are built taking into account reality and avoiding any utopic simplification. And it is particularly in this realm that we must forego dogmas, as they invariably give rise to destructive myths.

Imbued with a pragmatic realism, our new institutions are designed to struggle against totalitarianism and statism, which in different ways and to varying degrees are today the most serious threats to liberty. They must also fight subversion and terrorism, which now endanger personal and national security throughout the world. Finally, they must fight demagogy, which is the true cancer that internally corrodes many democracies, making them incapable of achieving progress.

These are the criteria that inspire our entire draft of a new constitution.

Nonetheless, and from the point of view of universal suffrage, which is the subject of this essay, the main focus of these new institutions could be summarized as follows:

1) Universal suffrage will be the main but not the exclusive method to spawn political authority.

Universal suffrage will be used to elect the president of the Republic, all members of the Chamber of Deputies, and two thirds of the Senate. The remaining third will be made up of persons who have demonstrated the highest virtues in public life, and will be chosen by various methods. So, for example: the Senate should include former Presidents of the Republic, the head of each of the armed forces and the most recently retired director of the police force, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court elected by that body, a former University President chosen by all his active peers at the time of his designation, a retired Comptroller of the Nation named by the Head of State and approved by the Lower Chamber, etc.

This arrangement does not give the President an undue influence in the Senate, since his contribution to naming the designated third of members is minimal. It also does not include representatives of guilds or regional associations, as this would give rise to all the previously stated disadvantages of corporatism. It avoids having a lower chamber chosen by universal suffrage and a corporatist Senate made up of civil society representatives. The current constitutional draft has no such provisions, and instead tries to place wise people to the Senate in order to bring moderation and experience to a legislative body that must above all possess these virtues.

Some believe that appointed senators will have a “lower status” than their elected peers. They expect the public to look down upon those who earned their position by virtue of having held some of the highest offices in the land, and who were chosen by people who carry out the most relevant tasks in national life. I do not believe that the Chilean people have such a narrow and prejudiced vision.

Just as we believe that public opinion would not find it acceptable for universal suffrage to be anything but the main source for electing governing authorities, we also believe that only the most dogmatic of critics would object to the above arrangement, as it tends to prudently counterbalance the risks of universal suffrage

Finally, we must never forget that universal suffrage does not reflect the profound will of the people permanently, but only at the moment of the election. This is the reason why our 1925 Constitution stipulated the partial renewal of the Senate in order to always preserve a remnant of the previous will of the people. The healthy effects of such a retaining wall cannot be overstated. The future composition of the Senate, including the one-third made up of prominent people who do not come from immediate and direct universal suffrage will contribute to solidifying this useful equilibrium. Not only that, it is absurd to deny that people who have held the highest offices in the land have not represented the people's will. The ratifying of our future constitution by popular vote will indeed prove the conceptual validity of these thoughts.

Obviously, our proposed arrangement is one of many ways in which we could achieve this. But if we analyze the role of the Senate, not only as a legislative body, but also in deciding impeachment questions, and in carrying out other duties of high judicial and political importance for the nation, we conclude on the importance of composing our future Senate in such a way.

2) It places universal suffrage under certain limits within the array of possible legitimate options.

Since one of the biggest flaws of the democratic system is that it allows its utilization by those who wish to not only destroy but also to abolish freedom as a way of life, preserving it requires regulating this crucial aspect.

On the one hand, no system can sensibly allow its own destruction by its own laws. This runs counter to the most basic instincts of any living being, which is that of conservation or survival. On the other hand, no human society can survive without a minimum consensus upon which one can civically disagree without destroying the community, or “common unity.” Usually such a consensus rises organically and enjoys a wide-ranging respect. But it can break due to the rise of radical doctrines that oppose it. So it becomes necessary to state our essential national values explicitly, and to legally ban from civic life those who, for their own political gain, spread ideas that subvert such values.

Unlike totalitarian regimes that officially enshrine a single admissible doctrine and deny dissidents their most basic human rights, the new Chilean institutional framework will leave a wide open field to ideological pluralism, limiting only those extreme doctrines that wish to destroy it. Therefore, any comparison between those two systems is a fallacy. We are not even coming close to proposing Marxism in reverse, as more than one person has expressed with amazing superficiality or clear bad faith. The only aim is to exclude from the political arena those who do not accept its rules, and who participate in it with the ultimate purpose of destroying it. In these times of great concern for human rights, it is wise to remember also that no electoral majority can invalidate them. Not all can legitimately be put to a vote. Sovereignty is limited by those rights that are inherent to human nature. And universal suffrage must also be limited by the essential values of the nation. It is not a question of making up or decreeing what these concepts are. It is enough to cull them from the national consciousness and give them a legal formulation that all citizens would recognize as their own.

Freedom as a way of life is an inherent part of the concept of a human being, and is at the heart of the civilization that has given rise to our national identity. To defend the natural rights of the human being; the family as the basic core of society; the autonomy of civil society organizations that mediate between man and state; the rule of law as the regulating instrument of living together; and the harmonious integration of all social sectors as a requirement of justice and national identity is nothing else than naming the pillars of a free society against which all totalitarian ideas struggle with no distinction of ideology or creed.

Furthermore, our current world shows us that personal freedom is threatened not only by those systems which are explicitly totalitarian. Our current state of affairs teaches us that excessive state intervention in the economy, encroaching upon the role of the free market, is a threat perhaps more subtle but certainly not less serious and dangerous to personal liberty.

It is not only for that reason, but also because excessive statetism impedes the fast and healthy growth of the economy, that an institutional framework designed to serve freedom must support a free economy. Otherwise, political democracy can end up being reduced to a hollow procedure lacking in real content, or at the least lacking in liberal content. To obliterate political freedom, the previous Socialist government in Chile started by attacking economic freedom. They knew very well that the state controlling people's stomachs would shortly thereafter control the people's will.

We must enshrine in both law and in practice an economy in which the state only intervenes to establish and enforce fair rules that ensure the efficiency of a competitive system. It must avoid actions that could be carried out by private enterprise, and instead encourage free agents to fulfill their creative urges for the common good.

None of this implies “constitutionalizing” economic policy, as more than one observer has incorrectly implied. It is simply a matter of constitutionally strengthening the basis of an economic system that is inherently linked to a free society. We need not emphasize that respecting the right of private property, of the means of production, of distribution and trade is a cornerstone of an economy designed for freedom. It is only upon such a basis that the actions of the state to bring about social justice will in fact materialize effectively by redistributing wealth, not poverty, to those who have less.

3) Establish an institutional framework to encourage the responsible and constructive exercise of universal suffrage.

We have already established the importance of the environment in the determination of free human will. An election in which the same people choose among a similar range of political alternatives can have a dramatically different result depending on the social climate in which it takes place.

The worse the public sphere becomes due to demagogy and lack of law and order, the more successful those who court popular approval through hatred, envy, utopic promises and false and short-lived benefits that result in bitter frustration and growing irrationality will be. In other words, these are the circumstances in which universal suffrage produces the worst results.

It must be stated that no law is capable of preventing demagogy from winning. But it is possible to make it as hard as possible, instead of encouraging it as was the case with the institutional framework that led to the 1973 crisis. To put in place the strongest obstacles to demagogy and to encourage a civic consciousness that reinforces these obstacles is the only possible way to bring about the spiritual and material progress of a nation.

This is the premise behind our new institutional framework, and more immediately, our constitutional draft. It proposes a strong presidential regime that gives government the necessary tools to be effective. In today's world, where problems are increasingly technical, complex and interdependent, the task of governing calls for a homogeneous vision that can only come from the executive. Those parliamentary assemblies, which were so good for doctrinaire debates and which ruled political life in the past, are today even less operative in conducting our nation’s affairs. The current situation in the United States could not be clearer example. Furthermore, as the government’s practical ability to defeat subversion and terrorism becomes all the more important, the political framework must prevent a tiny extremist minority from paralyzing the entire system. Drastic anti-terrorism laws and effective states of emergency, when legitimately instituted, are essential to this purpose.

Our constitutional draft seeks to protect people from governmental abuses by providing them with legal courses of action to expedite redressing their grievances, including a new order of protection mechanism. This will take place within a stronger and more independent judicial system, which will be expanded to include administrative law and civil action procedures to protect the citizenry. For its part, government overreach will be curtailed by various independent agencies that are technical in nature, such as the Constitutional Tribunal, the Central Bank, and the National Security Council.

This approach is radically different from the previous one, which considered the expansion of parliamentary powers as the best way to limit executive power, since it advanced a political will opposed to that of the executive branch. But in reality this ended up impeding the efficiency of government action, except when the administration had a parliamentary majority, in which case it failed to act as a counterbalance.

It is interesting to note that all the opposition’s current constitutional proposals involve greatly strengthening the legislative branch, which runs counter to the evolutionary constitutional changes that arose not from theoretical considerations, but from experiencing reality. In fact, the constitutional changes carried out in 1943 and 1970 were done at the behest of center-left parties who sought to increase presidential power and decrease the reach of the legislative branch. In other words, those who now wish to strengthen the authority of parliament are the very ones who, when tasked with governing, wanted the exact opposite. It is even more baffling to see that they sometimes go as far as seeking to reinstate the parliamentary arrangements that were in place prior to 1925. As we know, superseding the 1925 Constitution proved very beneficial to the country.

It is true that government efficiency is the best antidote to demagogy in a universal suffrage system. However, we must not forget the importance of an environment that includes responsible union membership and a peaceful and fair resolution of labor disputes. Or the role of the media, which, while having complete freedom of expression and thought, must avoid sensationalism and journalistic unprofessionalism. Not to mention a framework for monetary stability that discourages inflationary policies.

On the other hand, a universal suffrage system that operates within a social framework in which strikes are rampant and long-lasting, unions are politicized or even become pressure groups that strongarm the government to obtain unfair privileges that gravely damage the economy; or a media that preys on the lowest of passions and slanders and disrespects people, or simply lies shamelessly; or inflation that is used as an electoral ploy, and mortgages our economic future for the sake of immediate but short-lived advantages. Such an environment would be doomed to fail and it would not only destroy democracy as a way of government, but also freedom, safety, and progress as life goals. When we consider the risks and disadvantages of universal suffrage noted in this article, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the three aspects I have outlined to ensure that elections result in what is best, rather than worst, for the Republic.

4) We propose the gradual application of these new institutions within a process culminating in the reinstatement of universal suffrage after securing the renewed basis for the new political, economic, and social regime.

As president, Pinochet has repeatedly stated that one of the key aspects of the new institutional framework will be its gradual application. This can be easily seen by observing the political and institutional evolution the country undergone since September 11, 1973, which has steadily moved towards this new national arrangement. The approval of the new constitution will be one of its most fundamental acts, but the new institutional framework is a process that started at the very inception of the current regime, based on a global and well-balanced conception not only of the political sphere, but also of social and economic realities.

Keeping this in mind, there will be a transitional period of about six years once the new constitution is approved. During this transition we will apply the rules and put in place the institutions that the new constitution calls for. This will be done to the greatest extent possible, allowing only for exceptions that help maintain the military government in power, the first of which will be the absence of political elections.

The three reasons for this have been stated by the President and are very clear and to the point. Avoiding the disruptive shock that an abrupt transition from a military to a civilian government would entail, regardless of the moment when it occurs; and getting the nation used to the new institutional framework while developing the healthy civic habits that will support it in an environment not disrupted by the typical effervescence of the electoral struggle for power; and finally, allowing the coming of age of a new generation that will support the new institutional framework because it has absorbed its inspiring principles.

We must also point out that, keeping in mind the previously stated points about universal suffrage, this transitional phase will allow the results of the current social and economic strategy to reach all Chileans, which is an essential condition for the proper functioning of the democratic form of government.

In fact, it is not an accident that democracy only exists today in a small minority of countries in the world, and that even there it often exhibits a high degree of fragility. A democratic system based on the choosing of government by truly free universal suffrage is an ideal that only works adequately in countries that have reached high economic, social, and cultural development. In different conditions, stability will always be precarious, and the democratic process can end freedom and security, as well as advancement towards progress.

Some could argue that in the past century Chile demonstrated the high civic maturity needed to give rise to an exemplary democracy. There is some truth to this. But this democracy entered into a crisis largely because its elitist nature started to end in 1920, when the system began to progressively expand and enlarge the electorate without having a solid basis to support it. In other words, until 1920, and really even until 1938, voting was restricted to a minority that felt a sense of belonging to the political economic and social system at the time.[7] After that, the great majority of people in the country started to vote, including many who, because of their material poverty or social and cultural backwardness, felt outside the political system. Such voting blocks easily felt prey to demagogy, and to the political extremism that harmed our political life to its very core. Since limiting voting rights is not a real option, there is no other realistic approach than to reach a certain level of economic, social, and cultural development that would give all Chileans a strong sense of belonging to the political system and thus let them participate responsibly in a democratic form of government. To reinstate universal suffrage prior to this would invariably expose the country to a repetition of our dramatic experience of the period before 1973. Not grasping this key aspect, or perhaps by not having the necessary courage to express it explicitly, is the root of the error made by those who advocate the immediate reinstatement of popular elections.

Looking at the reality of contemporary democracies and considering the crisis that ours went through, we must conclude that universal suffrage must come at the end of the implementation of the new institutional framework, not at its beginning. This is the opposite of what various actors have been advocating since the very moment, or shortly thereafter, the military assumed control of the government. Political elections must be viewed, then, as the last — not the first — step in the construction of our new democracy. Otherwise, we will lack the bases that will give this system the necessary stability to last into the future

This does not preclude a prompt referendum to ratify the final project of the new political constitution.[8] As president, Pinochet has stated repeatedly, this will be proposed to the people soon. There is no contradiction here, because a high degree of social, economic, and cultural development is a requisite for universal suffrage. For the new institutional framework dynamic to work, it absolutely requires a degree of development that will prevent exposing the system to grave risks or harm. However, in the current circumstances, a single referendum meant to resolve the nation’s constitutional future does not require such development and thus carries no such risk.


The crucial task that history has given to our armed forces is to produce during their current government the conditions that will bring about the spiritual and material progress that will allow for the proper future working of democracy and universal suffrage under the best possible conditions. Thus, the new political and institutional framework and the degree of social economic and cultural development in which it will work, are the key.

If such objectives are largely achieved, our armed forces will be able to take on their natural role within a modern state. They will make a permanent and institutional contribution to national security. They will guarantee the institutional order of the Republic. They will be the ultimate bulwark against the totalitarian aggression carried out either by Marxism or any other ideology that threatens the material or moral integrity of the nation. And to this end, they will rely on their unblemished professionalism and the civic prestige that renders them the most solid moral reserve of the nation.

[1] Jaime Guzmán E., "El sufragio universal y la nueva institucionalidad," Realidad, año 1, No 1, junio 1979, pp. 33-34. Italics in the original.

[2] Women were given full suffrage in Chile in 1949.

[3] Mr. Guzmán is here alluding to the anti-Communist military regimes found throughout southern South America during the second half of the Cold War, namely, thus that reigned in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

[4] Uruguay’s anti-Communist military regime was still in power at the time of this writing, lasting from 1973 until 1985.

[5] That period of time was one of extreme political chaos for Chile, as the government transitioned from Carlos Ibáñez del Campo’s brief military regime (1927-1931) to democracy. 1931 and 1932 both saw a flurry of short-lived and undemocratic heads of state and experimental governments, including a Socialist Republic imposed upon the nation by a few military commanders.

[6] In brief, Chile’s most consequential constitutional moments at the time of this writing had been: 1833, when the first Constitution to be nationally recognized and legally upheld was put into effect; 1891, after the end of that year’s Civil War, when the Constitutional system was substantially revised, shifting the heft of political power from the executive to the legislative branch of government; 1925, when a new Constitution was implemented that largely undid the revisions of 1891.

[7] 1920 and 1938 were both years of watershed presidential elections. In the former, the populist statist Arturo Alessandri won, leading to a political crisis that led to several military governments and a new constitution. In the latter, Pedro Aguirre Cerda won, who was essentially Chile’s FDR, and created a massive wealthfare state while bringing the Communist Party into a governing coalition for the first time in the country’s history.

[8] Indeed, the new constitution which this essay discusses, and which was principally authored by Jaime Guzmán was put up to a referendum just over a year after this essay was published, in September of 1980, and was approved with over two thirds of the vote.