[Marxism] NYT review of Amy Chua's "On the Dark Side of Democracy" i

Chris Brady cdbrady at sbcglobal.net
Sun Feb 1 22:34:36 MST 2004

Emily Eakin reviews Amy Chua's book "On the Dark Side of Democracy" in
The New York Times (31 January 2004). It's worth the quick read.  Here's
a little bit, followed by the URL, and some comments by yours truly:

"To most Americans, the notion that free markets and democracy are
essential to curing the world’s ills is an article of faith. If only
Iraq and Afghanistan, Cuba and North Korea, Syria and Rwanda would adopt
both, their people, not to mention the world, would be safer and richer.

"Yet to Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, such accepted wisdom
is mostly evidence of a persistent and disturbing national naïveté. All
too often, she says, bringing free markets and elections to developing
nations leads not to stability or prosperity but to hate-mongering,
discrimination and even genocidal violence.

"The idea that political and economic liberty could trigger such
atrocities is heretical to many Western liberals. That, Ms. Chua says,
is because people here are blind to ethnicity.
"As she states the case in her recent book, “World on Fire: How
Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global
Instability”(Doubleday, 2003): “Markets concentrate wealth, often
spectacular wealth, in the hands of the market-dominant minority, while
democracy increases the political power of the impoverished majority. In
these circumstances the pursuit of free market democracy becomes an
engine of potentially catastrophic ethnonationalism.” And this, she
adds, is precisely what is happening today in Indonesia, Sierra Leone,
Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Russia and the Middle East.”"

When it comes to free markets and democracy the USA projects that very
order: free access to labor, resources and markets is the top priority.
Democracy is supposed to usher in such freedoms, and legitimize the
order.  But that democracy itself is nowhere near a first principle has
been demonstrated over and over.  I have wearied of the sad litany of
the many nations where the US scuttled democracy so as to keep markets
free.  Why invoke their betrayed memories?  But it remains our duty to
never forget.  If I was writing to any other group than the people on
this list I would reel them off, with only a hesitation as to whether I
should do so alphabetically or chronologically.

The experts who the NY Times chose to interview avoided making any
suggestion that perhaps the two notions, free markets and democracy,
were mutually antagonistic.  Or that democracy worked best in a
socialist society.  The journalist Eakin did close curiously, though:

“In her book, [Amy Chua] argues that one way to reduce inequality and
ethnic tension in democratizing nations is for market-dominant
minorities to share some of their wealth by making ‘significant, visible
contributions to the local economies in which they are thriving,’ by
which she means building universities, hospitals or recreational
facilities, supporting local schools and employing members of the
indigenous majority in their companies.
“It is an idea, Ms. Chua admits, that her wealthy relatives in the
Philippines may not find appealing. But then, she says, she decided not
to send them her book.”

Let’s see, what about a red rewrite:
To reduce inequality and ethnic tension share the wealth.  Make
significant, visible contributions to the local economies, socialize
them, and provide worthwhile employment to all the people.  Build
universities, hospitals and recreational facilities, support local
schools, switch to positive energy sources, clean up the environment,
and enjoy life in all its awesome variety, ethnic or otherwise.

To whom would that sound horrible?  Wealthy people afraid of losing the
power, privilege and defense their wealth provides.  It's the irony of
the gods that their very wealth makes them individual targets, not just
in the Philippines but in Colombia and Italy.  That system sucks for
everybody, it should be clear. But as Amy Chua allows, don't count on
the blinded bourgeoisie to change and change things for the better, even
for them and their loved ones.  Tragic.

Socialism is salvation.

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