Monday, July 14, 2014


Last week I read two articles about the development process. 

On the one hand was "Devaluing the Bolvarian revolution" an article in The Economist that tried to describe the challenge of getting the Venezuelan economy up and running after years of populist policies that have sunk the economy, never mind that the South American nation is one of the world's largest oil producers.

The second article was about China, "The most disciplined organization in human history". According to the article the Chinese Communist Party is that organization, judged by its role in spearheading the rise of China characterized not only by its huge leap in its macro economic numbers but by the tens of millions of its citizens it has lifted out of poverty in the space of under half a century.

At the heart of China's reemergence as a world power is the principle of "the State as a work of science or Scientific development". That "state’s affairs should not be a matter of opinion, intuition, impulse, emotion, religion, personal preferences or lineage, but based on the scientific approach of “seek truth from facts” in political and economic affairs."

The determination to do this came following the death of Mao Tse Tsung who led the country on a series of disastrous social engineering experiments that they have however exploited to their advantage.

Venezuela under Hugo Chavez however has gone down a dark tunnel not unlike one that Robert Mugabe has taken Zimbabwe. The supporters of both men argue that they were forced to do the things they have -- Gut the productive classes, expand the government to unsustainable levels and indulge in populist but economically unsustainable policies because of external threats.

Anyone who has observed world events would not discount their fears and may be tempted to cut them some slack. But one could also argue that China has developed in the same environment and even under harsher circumstances.

As a communist nation, which not only had to fend off western holier-than-thou democrats but also interference from its once ally the USSR, who wanted to bring the world's most populous nation under its thumb and expand it sphere of influence beyond eastern Europe, the rise of China was never a forgone conclusion.

China comes under a lot of criticism for its human rights record but they have a response to that, arguing that the time will come for that, that it is in fact inevitable, but for the time being what they most need now is discipline.

The current appreciation of human rights in the western democracies came out of a long evolutionary process. We may study about them in the text books but the world's majority have no real appreciation for them. Even in those same western democracies there are still significant pockets of racism, bigotry and xenophobia.

It's all very nice to cut and paste these rights into our constitution and laws but is something else to practice them.

I would be loath to call for a roll back of the few rights we now enjoy, least of all my freedom to express myself, but China provides a compelling argument for a unified authority. As did Europe before democracy came a few hundred years ago in the wake of the industrial revolution.

The development process is a series of trade offs depending on the particular circumstances of a particular country or region. It also a long winding process that never proceeds in a straight line.

The basic principle has to be that whatever is planned or implemented is done for the eventual benefit of the population. The benefits may not be visible in the short term but it is hoped they will be seen in the long term.

But we know that even the best of intentions do not necessarily deliver the desired result. That's life.

China's is set to overtake the US as the globe's largest economy within a decade, but going by its per capita statistics it is still a middle income nation. A lot of work is still to be done. 

You can be sure when they started this journey in 1978 -- when they decided to introduce some elements of the market economy or even in 1949 -- when it was proclaimed the People's Republic, the naysayers outnumbered and outshouted the believers. That's what happens at the beginning of any human endeavor of any significance.

I guess we will find our own way but it will be useful to remember, 

Without discipline we would accomplish Nothing.

With Some discipline we can solve only Some problems.

With Total discipline we can solve All problems.

- Peck Scott, The Road Less Traveled.

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