Monday, June 28, 2010

"destitute, hopelessly stagnant proletariat" in 1971 South Korea

another 1970s time capsule, this time from Super-Economy:
The book is hints at how crazy the ideological atmosphere was in 1971. As I wrote, Villy Bergström was a brilliant economist, and considered a centrist Social Democrat. Yet he writes in one point, favorably comparing North Korea with other nations: "[Classical] liberalism and capitalism in South Korea has led to fascism and an upper class in ruthless luxury, with a destitute, hopelessly stagnant proletariat. This has happened in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, Pakistan, South America and southern Italy."

I am quite impressed with the epic fail of choosing 2/4 of the Asian Tigers to illustrate "hopelessly stagnant proletariat."

(And incidentally, I don't think that that sharp disconnect from economic reality discredits the other remarks here. Most of the other remarks in the passage are not as sharp as "stagnant [vs. a reality of dramatic economic change]," leaving room for reasonable people to disagree about how correct they are, and I even agree that some of them are correct. I do disagree about how "classically liberal" these societies were. I also have a narrower disagreement with "fascist" not because it's overharsh, but because it's overspecific. I don't see how the 1971 snapshots can be classified with Hitler but not with Stalin, or with Mussolini but without 1900 Japan or 1900 Russia or 1920s Russia. Thus I'd prefer a term less misleadingly specifically referring to the enemies of the Social Democrats, perhaps "tyranny" or "absolutism.")


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