[Marxism] Krugman and capitalist successes

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Nov 30 22:19:46 MST 2003


One of the things about Krugmann and others who hold up South Korea and
a couple of small Asian countries as examples of the viability of
capitalism to transform the Third World, is that capitalism has been
operating in these parts of the world for hundreds of years and, in its
imperialist phase, for about a century.

South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.  Two small-medium
countries and two city-states have made the transition to something
approximating First World living standards since Japan.  Even if we
simply accepted this view that they've made it and they've made it
because of capitalism, it's hardly a lot to show for all that capitalist
history and blood, sweat and tears globally.

In any case, these are rather bogus examples.  South Korea and Taiwan
succeeded for a couple of very specific reasons.  During the Cold War,
the US needed to oversee a couple of capitalist success stories in Asia
to counteract the example of China.  So the US specifically helped South
Korea and Taiwan in a way that imperialism normally wouldn't.  

Secondly, South Korea and Taiwan had brutal military dictatorships up
until very recently, which extracted vast amounts of surplus-value
through intense exploitation of their own workers.  So is Krugmann
saying, or admitting, that the only way you can have 'success' in the
developing such modern capitalist economies is through brutal
dictatorships and that the path to capitalist success has to come at the
expense of basic workers, indeed basic human, freedoms?  I think not.
Instead, he is simply leaving out of the picture the reality of capital
accumulation in these countries. 

Thirdly, while SKorea and Taiwan may have achieved a high level of
capitalist development they have not really escaped their position in
the Third World.  Politically, they are dominated by Washington and
economically they are intensely vulnerable, as revealed during the Asian
meltdown in the late 1990s.

And, this is without even visiting the reality in *the vast majority of
the Third World*.  It is not difficult for capitalism to develop some
limited areas of the world - even feudalism could do that.  What
capitalism has not been able to do, in 400 years or more, is create
unified, developed world.  Capitalism can't even banish hunger, let
alone poverty and under-development, globally.

Let Krugmann answer why that is.

Philip Ferguson

 







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