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Capitalizing on capitalism's problems

"Capitalizing on capitalism's problems" Continued...

Issue: "A warmer Chile," Nov. 9, 2002

The Fundación also helps crowded families to get new houses. One just built, for the family of a seasonal farm worker with two children, has a cozy kitchen, living/dining room, and bathroom on the first floor, and two bedrooms upstairs. It cost $6,000, with businesses contributing raw materials and lawyers volunteering to take care of the enormous paperwork required to ensure legally established property rights.

That is crucial. In Chile, as in other South American countries, many people squat on land without a clear legal trail, but that leaves them-as Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has pointed out-without a ready source of capital or a defense against arbitrary government power. Legal complexities aside, one young mother was beaming in her new house, and her father, furniture repairman Juan Dias, said, "I'm glad that my daughter will not have to live like a gypsy."

Cecilia Milevcic, executive director of Fundación Miguel Kast and the mother of two children, ages 18 and 26, has mischievous eyes and quick laughter. She worked in the government during the conservative 1980s, developing the voucher system now in use for schools and after-school care, and is concerned about attempts by the left to chip away at vouchers. "The idea was for government to give the money equally, but the officials are now adding more interventions, giving extra money to what they like.... They're human, no?" Asked whether the voucher system was still worthwhile, despite problems, she answered, "Yes, of course. Even with all the difficulties. Even parents who do not know how to read or write want the best place for their child."

Progress is measured in steps both elementary and alimentary. Mrs. Milevcic showed off a very clean bathroom at the Buin center. "Children generally don't have toilets in their homes, so we must work to teach habits of cleanliness. The little ones don't know how to use toothbrushes, so we teach them." But the most important goal is to "give children another vision of the world. Some live in the streets. Their mothers have different partners. They see people who do not work. They need to see the opportunity that education can bring. They need values from the Bible, such as being honest instead of stealing, such as thinking about the future."

Those who are affluent also need to be educated, Mrs. Milevcic added. "Young people go from private schools to university, they don't know the rest of the country. Since they will be leaders, they need vision." Only a few good students become teachers. Grammar school teachers, mostly women, once came from all classes and had a religious sentiment about their work. Mrs. Tapia, now in her 60s, worked for 40 years as a teacher and states, "The vocation then was better than it is now." She was using vocation, what we might term a "calling," in the religious sense, but that's largely gone: "Now, students whose grades are low become teachers because they can't do anything else."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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