The Chicago Boys were a group of Chileaneconomists prominent around the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of whom trained at the Department of Economics of the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, or at its affiliate in the economics department at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Upon their return to Latin America they adopted positions in numerous South American governments including the military dictatorship of Chile (1973–1990). As economic advisors, many of them reached high positions within those. The Heritage Foundation credits them with transforming Chile into Latin America's best performing economy and one of the world's most business-friendly jurisdictions. However, critics point to drastic increases in unemployment that can be attributed to policies implemented on their advice to fight inflation. Some (such as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen) have argued that these policies were deliberately intended to serve the interests of American corporations at the expense of Latin American populations.Peter Kornbluh states that in the case of Chile, American attempts to destabilize the Chilean economy ceased once the Chicago Boys had gained political influence; this may have been the true underlying cause of the subsequent increase in economic growth.
The term "Chicago Boys" has been used at least as early as the 1980s to describe Latin American economists who studied or identified with the libertarian economic theories then taught at the University of Chicago, even though some of them earned degrees at Harvard or MIT (see below). They advocated widespread deregulation, privatization, and other free market policies for closely controlled economies. The Chicago Boys rose to prominence as leaders of the early reforms initiated in Chile during General Augusto Pinochet's rule. Milton and Rose Friedman used the term "Chicago Boys" in their memoir: "In 1975, when inflation still raged and a world recession triggered a depression in Chile, General Pinochet turned to the "Chicago Boys"; he appointed several of them to powerful positions in the government.
The training program was the result of the "Chile Project" organized in the 1950s by the U.S. State Department, through the Point Four program, the first US program for international economic development. It was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation aimed at influencing Chilean economic thinking. The University of Chicago's Department of Economics set up scholarship programs with Chile's Catholic University. About one hundred select students between 1957 and 1970 received training, first in an apprenticeship program in Chile and then in post-graduate work in Chicago.
The project was uneventful until the early 1970s. The Chicago Boys' ideas remained on the fringes of Chilean economic and political thought, even after a group of them prepared a 189-page "Program for Economic Development" called El ladrillo ("the brick"). It was presented in 1969 as part of Jorge Alessandri's unsuccessful presidential candidacy. Alessandri rejected El ladrillo, but it was revisited after the 1973 Chilean coup d'état on 11 September 1973 brought Augusto Pinochet to power, and it became the basis of the new regime's economic policy.
Even though the Chile Project ended, the training connection between Chile and the University of Chicago continues. One of the numerous networking organizations for alumni, including the Chicago Boys, is the "Latin American Business Group at Chicago Booth School of Business" (LATAM). The term continues to be used in popular culture, business magazines, press and media. There is now a Chilean film titled Chicago Boys.
Alvaro Bardón, President of the Central Bank of Chile; Minister of Economy, 1982–1983.
Juan Carlos Méndez, Budget Director, 1975–1981.
Emilio Sanfuentes, Economic advisor to Central Bank of Chile.
Sergio de la Cuadra, President of the Central Bank of Chile; Minister of Finance, 1982.
Rolf Lüders, (Minister of Economy, 1982; Minister of Finance, 1982-83)
Francisco Rosende, Research Manager, Central Bank of Chile, 1985 and 1990; Antitrust Commission, 1999 and 2001; Dean and Professor of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economy of PUC, 1995–present.
Miguel Kast, Minister of Planning, 1978–1980; Labor Minister, 1980–1982; Governor of the Central Bank of Chile, 1982–83.
Martín Costabal, Budget Director, 1987–1989.
Juan Ariztía Matte, Pension Superintendent, 1980–1990.
Maria Teresa Infante, Minister of Labor, 1988–1990.
Camilo Carrasco Alfonso, General Manager of Central Bank, 1994–2005.
Joaquín Lavín, Minister of Education, 2010–2011; Minister of Planning, 2011–2013; Mayor of Las Condes, 2016–present
Cristián Larroulet Vignau, Chief of Staff of the Finance Minister; member of National Commission for Privatization; Head of Antitrust Commission; Minister of General Secretariat to the Presidency, [SEGPRES] 2010–present; Executive Director at Libertad y Desarrollo, a private think tank; Dean and Professor of Economics; Faculty of Business and Economy at Universidad Del Desarrollo (UDD), Santiago, Chile; member of the boards of several public enterprises; member of the Mont Pelerin Society.
Francisco Perez Mackenna, Chief Executive Officer of Quinenco, one of Chile's largest conglomerates, with assets of over US$33.1 billion 1998–present; Director of many Quinenco group companies, including Banco de Chile, Madeco, CCU, Inversiones y Rentas, LQIF, ECUSA, CCU Argentina and Banchile Corretores de Bolsa, and Advisor to the Board of Vina San Pedro Tarapaca; CEO of CCU, 1991–1998. (Received Business Administration degree from Universidad Catolica de Chile and M.B.A. from University of Chicago.
Ernesto Fontaine, Professor, Faculty of Economics and Administration, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; returned to Chile financed by the Inter American Development Bank, 1976; chief of the "external financing unit," the Organization of American States (OAS), where he organized a Technical Assistance Program that trained teams of public officials in Project Preparation and Social Evaluation; World Bank consultant, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); died January 20, 2014 of lung cancer.