Several weeks ago, Antonio Carpio, retired Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, forwarded to me on Viber, Dambisa Moyo’s speech on TED Talks, the very popular online conference where ideas are discussed. by knowledgeable and authoritative resource persons.
Moyo, an international economist of Zambian origin who comments on important world events, was educated at American University in Washington, DC (BS, MBA), Harvard (MPA) and Oxford for her doctorate.
During the 15-minute presentation, Moyo described China’s success in lifting an estimated 300 million people out of poverty over a 30-year period. Moyo attributes to the Chinese “new system” the combination of state capitalism and the primacy of economic rights over political rights.
There has been a de-prioritization of political rights in emerging markets, and developing countries are more concerned that their governments provide food, education, health care and other basic needs rather than to worry about whether their leaders are elected to power.
Moyo compares the American / European system which has succeeded for almost 250 years in combining liberal democracy and private capitalism.
Moyo quotes Patrick Henry, who would later become governor of Virginia, as having declared in 1775, defiance of the British colonizers. “Give me freedom or give me death,” Henry would proclaim. The phrase would later become one of the most moving and powerful exhortations of people’s desire for freedom. For America and the rest of the developed world, freedom is a very dear value. I hasten to add, however, that the desire for freedom and liberty is ingrained in all human beings.
The combination of liberal democracy, private capitalism and free markets has generally worked well and therefore is the appropriate formula for prosperity. Why, Moyo asks, wouldn’t this model be preferred when the proof of prosperity is in capitalist economies: high incomes, vibrant civil society, luxury and amenities.
In contrast, totalitarian and authoritarian societies from the 1920s to the present day, for the most part, still have to provide basic necessities and this luxury to their populations.
The then USSR, in the 1920s, when Joseph Stalin came to power, envious of the material prosperity of the United States and the rest of Europe, tried to transform itself quickly from ‘an agrarian economy in an industrialized society, to America and the West. The USSR launched a massive and bloody collectivization of agricultural land. Private lands. The peasants were forced to put all their agricultural land in a collective or common agricultural zone. Millions of people were killed or starved to death in this attempt by the USSR to inject steroids into a system that lacked neither the absorptive capacity nor the natural enthusiasm to follow the wishes of their masters.
The point is that a totalitarian system which had an ideology that could only be imposed on the community through the use of force resulted in the deaths of around 11 million non-combatants.
Russia will experiment later, from 1985, free markets or perestroika (opening and removing central planning) and glasnost (being more transparent) during the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev was followed by the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin. The Berlin Wall was demolished in 1989 and the Russian republics separated from the Soviet Union and formed independent republics like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and a number of Central Asian republics like Kazakhstan , Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
Gorbachev’s experiment, encouraged and supported by the Reagan administration, failed because of factionalism and several other factors. Gorbachev wanted openness but had hoped that the Communists would retain firm control.
In 1998, Yeltsin left the Russian presidency and his chosen successor was Colonel Vladimir Putin, a low-key intelligence officer who served as president until 2008. In 2008, Putin became prime minister to succeed Dimitry Medvedev, who became president. Musical chairs.
In 2012, Putin took over the presidency and is expected to occupy the presidential seat until the 2030s when he will be almost 80 years old. In the meantime, the Russian economy is in ruins despite (again or because of) Putin’s total control over Russia. and his device of terror. This is an example of a failed attempt to provide economic benefits on condition that political rights are absent altogether.
So the Russians lost their economic and political rights. The only time the Russians have experienced any kind of prosperity was at the start of Putin’s first term, thanks to favorable oil prices.
Before getting to where it is today, China had the luxury of learning from the murderous and tyrannical regime of Mao Zedong which launched the so-called Great Leap Forward in 1958. The five-year program which was almost a carbon copy of the forced collectivization of Russia. It aimed to turn China into an industrial and agricultural paradise by terrorizing and killing people. Various estimates show that 30 to 40 million Chinese have perished from execution, famine and other atrocities. The economy has also gone into a spin. The total number of deaths in the failed collectivization of the USSR and China is estimated at 51 million (40 million in China and 11 million in the USSR). For comparison, the population of the Visayas and Mindanao according to the latest population count is 44 million: 25 million in Mindanao, including island groups and 19 million in the Visayas.
Coming back to the rapid growth of China solely on the basis of economic measures, it can be said that state capitalism is a huge advantage, especially because it is not, on the whole, appreciated by the liberal democracies. The country’s willingness to challenge and ignore international standards, property rights and international rules makes the Chinese system an unusual system and a formula for increasing international disagreements and tensions.
Ultimately, we have no problem following Moyo’s recommendation. Liberal democracies and private capital will cooperate and compete with China. We did it anyway, especially in regional groupings like ASEAN. We cooperate but we compete. We are, however, guided by the firm belief that you can have political and economic rights and that you don’t have to lose one to have the other.
In 1983, the Philippine economy was at its worst. Marcos declared martial law and promised bread and freedom. We lost our bread because the parties that were supposed to protect our political rights took it from us too. Watch what happens when you lose both. It’s goodbye for some.
Philip Ella Juico’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainable development, social responsibility and sport as a tool for social development. He obtained his doctorate in business from De La Salle University. Dr Juico was secretary of Agrarian Reform during the administration of Corazon C. Aquino.