From Athens, Greece: Opinions and web links I find interesting about politics, science, life, and anything else that strikes my fancy. Feedback and comments: send to mihalisATgmail.com
It's a bit underwhelming.Saying that developed countries export manufactured goods, while undeveloped countries export commodities, isn't a scandal; it's a tautology. The really key question is how you get from A to B. In 1960, Singapore was exporting rubber and palm oil; South Korea, coal and iron; Taiwan, fish and rice. Today they're exporting microchips, banking services, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, software... you name it.Internally, all three of these societies were authoritarian, dirigiste, and government-heavy. Social conservatism was enforced, but a modest welfare state was constructed and state priorities like education were the target of massive investment programs. Externally, all were aggressive free traders, though perfectly willing to protect their home markets when given the chance. It's a model that was inspired by postwar Japan (which in turn was a revival of the model of Meiji Japan, with a dash of New Deal liberalism via the US Occupation). And it's a model that is currently being copied by China, resulting in the single greatest increase in human prosperity ever in history yet.But it doesn't get much attention, because it doesn't map very well onto Western concepts of left and right. It presupposes at least a generation -- and possibly two or three -- of authoritarian rule over a culturally conservative and conformist society. This is anathema to most of the left, so the left tends to ignore it. The Western right finds this model more sympathetic, but hems and haws when it's pointed out that, for instance, Singapore had sustained growth of ~8% for thirty years "despite" the fact that the bulk of the economy was state-owned or state-managed.Anyhow. The New Internationalist pages don't even seem to present a coherent critique of current development models (which are anyway a moving target), never mind presenting a plausible alternative.Doug M.
Saying that developed countries export manufactured goods, while undeveloped countries export commodities, isn't a scandal;Where does it say it is? What I see is: "It’s hard to get rich by trading when the value of your exports is falling in relation to your imports. Declining terms of trade are a major barrier to poor countries trading their way out of poverty. The boom-and-bust cycle of commodity prices stymies development and impedes planning."Which is true.I'm all for the Korean model, yet I fail to see why you consider the authoritarian part of the model as somehow necessary for economic success. Japan would suggest otherwise (well, to a certain extent)Also it would seem to me that Japan, Korea and Taiwan were "allowed" to become prosperous, redistributive economies and develop a middle class, for political reasons as well, having to do with the cold war. It could be argued that other countries that aspired to follow a similar model were impeded. For example any Latin American or Middle Eastern country that would attempt anything similar after the war, soon found itself run bu a western-backed military junta, striving to perpetuate an enormous income gap as much as possible.China has the critical mass to be in charge of its own game - though economic growth can't be the only parameter that decides a particular policy's succesfulness. Witness the increasing social tensions. I remind you that both Stalin's USSR and Mao's China, had a rather impressive growth rate immedietely after the war and for approximately 15-20 years.
Which is true.Sure. And the conclusion to be drawn from this is...?I'm all for the Korean model, yet I fail to see why you consider the authoritarian part of the model as somehow necessary for economic success.Tch, did I say? That was a value-neutral observation, not a normative statement.Also it would seem to me that Japan, Korea and Taiwan were "allowed" to become prosperous, redistributive economies and develop a middle class, for political reasons as well, having to do with the cold war. I really, truly don't think so.Putting aside that this presumes a rather omniscient and omnipotent US, it also assumes a rather stupid one. Why would the Eisenhower administration want a prosperous middle class in Japan but not, say, Mexico? -- it also assumes continuity of policy over 20+ years. South Korea's peak growth years came during -- wait for it -- the Carter administration. I don't think so. But I invite you to try posting this "America let you grow" theory over on soc.culture.korean! Be sure to include your full e-mail address.It could be argued that other countries that aspired to follow a similar model were impeded. For example any Latin American or Middle Eastern country that would attempt anything similarWhat "anything similar"?If you can find me a Latin American country that went for a path of export-driven growth, starting with commodities but methodically ramping up, through dirigiste intervention by the government, to ever heavier and more advanced industries and services, backed by a sky-high national savings rate (itself backed by deliberately anticonsumerist policies), with a national commitment to raising human development standards going hand in hand with an authoritarian and conformist regime... if you can find me anything similar to that in Latin America, 1945-1973, I'll print out this comment and eat it. after the war, soon found itself run bu a western-backed military junta, striving to perpetuate an enormous income gap as much as possible.Mexico?Argentina? Thirty years of Peronism, with zero interference from the US. What outcome?I won't deny that the US has often been a baleful influence on its southern neighbors. But blaming the US for underdevelopment in the region is silly.The US pretty much ignored Latin America for a generation, from FDR's inauguration in 1933 to the Guatemala intervention in 1954. Did Latin America grow faster during this period? Did liberal democracy flourish across the region?Thought experiment: no Guatemala, and the US continues to ignore the region for another couple of generations. Is Latin America part of the first world today? Doug M.
That was a value-neutral observation, not a normative statement.I interpreted the following: "It presupposes at least a generation -- and possibly two or three -- of authoritarian rule over a culturally conservative and conformist society."as quite normative. You were saying that the reason the left doesn't like the model is because it presupposes authoritarianism.It doesn't. Its particular implementation was authoritarian for other, not necessarily economic reasons. (One might also add that the redistribution was as thorough as it was in S.Korea, because of the powerful labour movement.)Putting aside that this presumes a rather omniscient and omnipotent US, it also assumes a rather stupid one. Why would the Eisenhower administration want a prosperous middle class in Japan but not, say, Mexico?Omniscient? Omnipotent? Hardly. The fact is that the only countries to have prospered in a fairly (comperatively) distributed way were countries that followed more or less, the Korean model. It ain't rocket science, just using a tried and true model. As for Japan (and Korea) vs. Mexico: the strategic importance of perserving Japan and Korea are evident. A war was fought over Korea. Mexico was considered a backyard where the natives could be kept quiet, by force if necessary. The close proximity of Russia and China, required a population that wouldn't be very restive. Latin America on the other hand was dealt with rather differently. One can certainly say that both Arbenz's and Alliente's paths (although probably quite dissimilar) would have certainly led to a more equitable distribution of income. Obviously Chile (and Argentina)were not third world countries. But think about Arbenz's policies: why wouldn't Guatemala be much like Costa Rica - not necessarily a first world country? BTW Costa Rica would be a good indicator of what Central America could be economically and socially were it not for the very violent way that the US and the local oligrachies chose to deal with popular insurrections. Oh and wait, now that I think about it, Cuba is indeed a country that improved spectacularly, under an authoritarian government, both economically *and* socially, during the period you describe (with a host of indicators rising to first world standards) - despite an embargo by the hemisphere's Major economy, enforced with unprecedented strictness. A different model, sure - indicative though nonetheless.In closing: Of course local power structures have an effect. But if it is dangerous to underestimate it, it is also dangerous to overestimate it - especially in countries that have some sort of geopolitical strategic importance.
Mexico was considered a backyard where the natives could be kept quiet, by force if necessary.This is just plain wrong. No offense.You need to explain away things like the repeated Mexican nationalizations of US property, most notably of the Mexican oil industry. These were greeted by... vigorous finger-waving and tut-tutting. Or Mexico's independent -- sometimes excessively independent -- foreign policy, which has pretty consistently opposed US policy in the Caribbean and Central America. The one everybody knows about is that Mexico has always had diplomatic relations -- sometimes cool, sometimes quite warm -- with Cuba. More generally, Mexico has been a strong supporter of the principle of nonintervention, openly opposing US actions in Grenada, Nicaragua, and Panama, and later in Kosovo, Haiti, and of course Iraq. They've also been strong supporters of human rights; they broke off relations with Pinochet's Chile in the '70s and apartheid South Africa in the '80s. (Although, strangely enough, they stayed chummy with Franco to the end. Go figure.)And they've had their own regional foreign policy -- google the San Jose accords, or Contadora. They're much too friendly with Chavez' Venezuela right now for US tastes. (Although that's cooling, because they had a free trade agreement with Venezuela, and Chavez is screwing around with it.) And they've continued to be sharply critical of US actions in Haiti.Obviously they're limited in how much they can actually /do/. But they do occasionally make a splash. In the early '90s they helped broker the peace in El Salvador (rather to the irritation of the first Bush administration, which didn't like admitting "terrorists" to the bargaining table). Then in 2002 they helped make sure that the US and Britain would never, ever get a Security Council Resolution explicitly authorizing an invasion of Iraq... they were one of the 15 members that year, and they (rather cleverly) simply folded their arms and said nothing until the US gave up trying.More in a bit, maybe, but the Mexico thing just caught my eye. Don't cut and paste your assumptions; that particular relationship is _sui generis_, unique.Doug M.
Final thoughts on Mexico: if it were adjacent to the EU it would be a member now. Really. It's got a pcGDP about 20% higher than Turkey's -- comfortably higher than Bulgaria or Romania -- and it's been democratic and (mostly) peaceful for a long time now.US using force against Mexico: hasn't happened since 1914, is very very very unlikely to happen again any time soon. Note that the two countries' economies are quite thoroughly integrated; note also that there are over 20 million Mexican-Americans.Arbenz: the US intervention in Guatemala is a lasting stain on US foreign policy. Totally unjustified, done out of an ugly combination of arrogance, ignorance and greed, it toppled a competent and relatively benevolent, democratically elected government and led directly to Guatemala falling under a whole series of regimes that were stupid and evil even by the low standards of right-wing Central American dictatorships.That said, I don't think that Guatemala would have been as rich and peaceful as Costa Rica. Guatemala was always pretty fragile. The country is geographically challenged -- it's basically either jungle or mountains or both -- and it suffers from particularly painful divisions between whites (about 20% of the population) and Indians (the rest). There's also a very troublesome sectarian division between Protestants and Catholics. That was a key element in the Rios Montt regime, and it helped forge Guatemala's unusual -- perhaps unique -- fusion of murderous military right-wing jackboot regime with murderous anti-Catholicism. Guatemala ended up with a military regime that had a thing for burning churches, and a particularly venomous hatred for Indians who were not only Catholic, but whose Christianity was seen as no more than a deceptive veneer over paganism.Anyway, point being, Guatemala was very unlikely to be as rich and stable as Costa Rica, even if 1954 had never happened. Mind, this doesn't go to exculpate the US -- picking on a troubled country is arguably worse than picking on on a relatively stable one.Allende: different breed of cat from Arbenz. I have a certain respect for Arbenz. Allende was an idiot. His policies were completely detached from reality, and he was driving the country at top speed towards economic breakdown and social chaos. I can't muster much indignation for him being overthrown; I'm just sorry he was overthrown by that particular group of murderous thugs.Cuba: I won't deny that Castro's regime has some real accomplishments. Other hand, living in Romania has made me a bit skeptical of statistics from old-style Communist regimes. Romania in the 1980s claimed infant mortality rates and human development statistics not far from Western European levels. Come the Revolution, it turned out they were a lot closer to Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian levels.(Did you know: nearly a million Romanians simply disappeared between the last Communist census and the first post-Communist one? I'm not talking about emigration and such. No, I mean they'd inflated the population statistics by a million people.)So I must view claims for the Cuban model with a certain skepticism.Also: whether Cuba has done well or badly depends on who you're comparing it to. Haiti? Cuba's doing great! Dominican Republic? Mm, it's about the same. Puerto Rico? Um. (Puerto Ricans are about as rich as Greeks.)To loop this back around towards the original topic: I find it hard to imagine South Korea or Singapore doing /much/ better. Other hand, I find it rather easy to imagine an alternate Cuba doing better without Castro. So I find the South Korean/Singaporean models a lot more compelling.Doug M.
Mexico: Have you *been* to Mexico? The spread of destitution, poverty and crime is shocking and definitely worse than (Western at least) Turkey. It's interesting to visit (richer) Mexico and then visit (poorer) Cuba. There is poverty in Cuba but no such destitution. Gives you a sense of what GDP/capita does and doesn't measure.I won't get into what-if alternate history because there is very little to contain speculation.Allende: How can you judge his policies, when from the moment he took elected office, he was under economic warfare (and destabilization attempts) from the US: "making [Chile's] economy scream" was how Nixon put it at the time. The fact that the US government chose to topple Allende through a military coup, instead of waiting to see him lose because of what you suggest was a drive to "economic breakdown", sort of suggests that the economic program wasn't judged to be as doomed as you make it to be (I'll leave the "social chaos" uncommented - you should talk to a few of the common people - not the oligarchy or the affluent minority - who were involved with what was happenning in Chile at the time: they seem to describe the experience most definitely more positively than you). Romania was indeed a unique case. I would suggest however that the discrepancies you describe were not as profound in all the other Eastern Block countries. And Cuba isn't Ceausescu's Romania by a far stretch...whether Cuba has done well or badly depends on who you're comparing it to. Haiti? Cuba's doing great! Dominican Republic? Mm, it's about the same. Puerto Rico? Um. (Puerto Ricans are about as rich as Greeks.)First of all, no Puerto Rico is at ~11k $/capita, while Greece is ~19-20k$.Cuba is doing great compared to any other country in the region (even after the collapse of the USSR and despite the US embargo) in a host of important social indicators (in a rather impressive way)Other hand, I find it rather easy to imagine an alternate Cuba doing better without Castro.Better for whom? What portion of the population? Guatemala, for example, was a huge success for its landed aristocracy and United Fruit / Chiquita...
Ai yi yi. Something tells me you've been to Mexico City?Here are the OECD human development reports for Mexico and Turkey. Pop 'em next to each other and compare.Mexico's PPP GDP, comfortably higher -- ~$9,000 vs. about $6,400.Percentage of people living in poverty ($2 per day) in Mexico, much higher -- 26% as compared to 10% for Turkey. Bad.But then: infant mortality? Mexico far ahead, 24/1000 as opposed to 36 for Turkey. Life expectancy? 73, vs. 70 for Turkey. Adult literacy? 90 for Mexico, 86 for Turkey. Education index? .85 for Mexico -- which is well out of the "developing" range -- 0.80 for Turkey.Gender inequality? Mexico far, far better: much higher female literacy rates, more women in Parliament, more women in management positions, you name it.Inequality: Turkey kicks Mexico, true. The richest 10% make 45 times as much as the poorest 10% in Mexico, as opposed to 13 times in Turkey. On the other hand, peaceful Mexico spends 0.5% of GDP on defense, as opposed to nearly 5% for Turkey, and spends about twice as much per capita on education.The "spread" of destitution, poverty and crime -- um, both poverty and crime have been going down in Mexico for a while now.Oh, yeah -- Mexico is comfortably ahead of Turkey in the TI Corruption Index (64th as opposed to 77th) and in the Reporters Sans Frontieres Press Freedom Index (Mexico is 96th, Turkey is 117th -- tied with Rwanda).They're both middle-income countries. A lot of the Mexican bad numbers arise out of its ancient racial divisions; virtually all of its poor are of Indian and African descent. On the other hand, you can see the Mexican investment in health and education -- even poor Mexicans have a shot at basic health care and a secondary education, which is not necessarily true for poor Turks.(Yes, I know that doesn't compute. Higher income inequality /and/ better health and education? I'm just going to note that Mexico has long traditions of both populism and paternalism, and move on.)You really don't want to compare the nastier bits of Mexico with western Turkey, which is already converging with Europe. Despite its income inequalities, something like Mexico has a large middle class, tens of millions strong; Turkey, meanwhile, has to carry a large population of backwards and isolated peasants in eastern Anatolia.Anyhow, it's not just GDP.My original point stands: Mexico is not particularly oppressed by the US, it's doing reasonably well -- very well, for a Latin American country -- and if it were located next to the EU, it would certainly be an accepted candidate and quite possibly a member.More in a bit, perhaps.Doug M.
Sorry to go on about Mexico, but it's a topic that interests me... so it should interest you too! All of you! Right now!Ahem. There's a saying that only three things have ever happened in Mexican history: the Conquest, the War of Independence, and the Revolution (of 1910). The last one is key to understanding modern Mexico. The combination of high inequality, paternalistic socialism, and surprisingly high human development stats in things like health, education and gender rights makes sense once you realize that the Revolution was not a 20th century Socialist revolution. Rather, it was the last old-fashioned 19th century liberal nationalist revolution. (And one of the very few successful ones, but that's another story.)Allende: I realize we're never going to have a meeting of the minds here, since the late Presidente has become canonized as St. Salvador, Holy Martyr. But while I'm sympathetic to many of his aims, his tactics were so consistently stupid as to leave me utterly devoid of sympathy for him. The US didn't compel him to engage in runaway public spending, leading predictably to hyperinflation. Nor did Uncle Sam force him into micromanagement of the economy, price controls, or massive and popular but unsustainable increases in wages. All of those were there from day one. So, too, was massive nationalization -- whether legally through purchase, semilegally through "intervention" when firms weren't making enough "necessities", or simply through expropriation -- takeover by "intervention" when plants stopped functioning during labor disputes, often started for just that purpose by Popular Unity workers.Allende correctly realized that Chile was cursed by an excessive concentration of wealth in too few private hands. I got no problem with that. But his only answer for it was the concentration of wealth into *state* hands, by Whatever Means Necessary. D'oh!The trucker's strike, which did so much to kneecap Chile's economy, was not the work of the CIA (a lot of things /were/ the work of the CIA, sure, but not that. It started as a protest by small truckers who'd been frozen out when Allende overnight transferred all state trucking contracts to the new state-owned trucking firms.The US didn't compel him to do that. Nor did it force him to expropriate land because it was "badly exploited" or abandoned. Nor to pay for expropriations with -- I love this -- 1% in cash and the rest in bonds, which might be repudiated later, and in any event were quickly rendered worthless by inflation. If he'd only attacked the big landowners, I might see the argument. But the idiot decided that everyone with more than two donkeys was an oppressor. He vetoed the constitutional amendment that would have protected small farms (<40 hectares) from expropriation, thereby losing in a stroke the support of Chile's large class of rural smallholders. Same deal as with the small truckers: all property owners, big and little, were lumped together as the Class Enemy. (N.B., this is one of the dopier legacies of classical Marxism. Marx hated small peasant landholders worse than big estates.)This ties to the thing that really drives me nuts about Allende: his political tin ear. Even during the coldest freezes of the Cold war, it was always possible for leftist leaders to get by in Latin America, as long as they were circumspect about it. Cheddi Jaggan of Guyana showed one strategy: talk like a radical bomb-throwing Marxist, but don't actually do a damn thing. Omar Trujillo of Panama showed that the opposite technique could work too: nationalize, redistribute, crush the landed elite and lift up the poor, even defy the US and reclaim the Panama Canal... but do it while wearing a military uniform and black wraparound sunglasses while carrying a riding crop and publicly embracing anti-Communism. (The US never did figure out that Trujillo was a socialist.)Allende's strategy was to talk like a cartoon Communist -- "Our objective is total, scientific, Marxist socialism," "we shall meat reactionary violence with revolutionary violence," etc. -- while simultaneously picking fights with the US /and/ big landowners /and/ the Catholic Church /and/ international copper companies and ITT /and/ small businessmen and farmers /and/ the Chilean Supreme Court and Comptroller General. (Since Turkey keeps creeping in here, I'm reminded of Ataturk. He had a far tougher task than Allende. Allende did not have a total trade embargo, nor hostile armies invading his territory. Yet Ataturk succeeded magnificently, in large part because he picked his fights. Ottoman reactionaries, religious conservatives, Communists, big landowners, wannabe fascists... he beat them all because he fought them _one at a time_. Ataturk's military victories obscure what a superb diplomat and politican he was.)Allende, on the other hand, was... well, a doctor. Doctors tend to make crap politicians. (There are exceptions, but they're quite rare.) Possibly it's because they spend their careers telling people what to do? Eight hours a day, a doctor is not negotiating, but rather dispensing wisdom _de haut en bas_... Well. Whatever the reason, Allende was an awful politician. By the last six months, even his allies were despairing of him. He was always good press -- charismatic, particularly good on television -- and he kept a solid core of popular support right up to the end. But in terms of politics as the art of the possible, he was an utter disaster. He started off by announcing that the opposition parties -- including modest center-right constitutionalists like the Christian Democrats, who held the biggest bloc of votes in Parliament -- were, one and all, "bourgeois," "enemies of the people," "parasites", and (of course) "fascists". And proceeded from there. And then was outraged when Parliament, dominated by these same parasites and fascists, started refusing to pass laws for him.Tear-gassing officer's wives. _Singling out_ officer's wives to tear-gas. That's my favorite. Way to keep the military on side, Salvador.Note that by the time he went down, he'd managed to alienate the revolutionary left just as much as the radical right -- cf. the abortive naval mutiny just a week before the end, led by (cough) Communists.Puerto Rico: I relied on this, which was probably a mistake. My bad.Cuba: yeah, I can't imagine how Castro could be confused with Ceausescu. Old Nick only survived 27 years. Dear Comrade Fidel has been in power for 46.See my earlier point on statistics from old-fashioned Communist states. N.B., I believe Cuba probably has made real achievements in stuff like infant mortality and literacy, because those are things that Communist regimes were usually pretty good at. But I view the precise numbers with some skepticism. I note that Cuban demographics look a lot like Eastern European demographics in the 1980s: a very fast demographic transition, with a birthrate crashing much faster than it did in the west. In Eastern Europe this was associated with the fact that -- stuff like free basic health care and schooling notwithstanding -- it was just too damn hard to have kids. The health care and day care weren't /that/ good, housing was in painfully short supply, mothers had to work to make ends meet, and overall it was just too much of a hassle. The fact that Cuba's numbers look so very similar to pre-1990 Eastern Europe make me suspect that the Revolutionary social safety net may not be all that. It certainly wasn't in Romania.BTW, IDK if I'll be able to keep this up. I do have a job, kids, and a blog of my own. It's fun while it lasts, though...cheers,Doug M.
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