I got cornered at a lunch conversation with some friends on issues related to North Korea. While a communist-ideology sympathizer at heart, I argued that North Korea isn’t as bad as western media has portrayed. But Daniel pointed out acrimoniously that NK lacks freedom of press etc, that makes it a completely loser to other major powers in the world stage today. So this is my attempt to regain some confidence in my original belief that an alternative political system to the western one is possible and potentially better.
- the 4 year election cycle in the US makes the leaders highly volatile, and coupled with the bicameral legislative system, it has suffered severe credibility crisis in recent decades. This resulted in a series of catastrophic foreign policy deals, including the failure to bring NK to the nuclear deal table.
- NK’s grain output per capita is higher than India; similar the life expectancy is slightly higher, despite the fact that the latter has been a “true” democracy for decades, and the western powers have sought to starve off NK for decades through many rounds of sanctions.
- Given all the precedence of states bombarded and annihilated by the US, including Libya, Iraq, and soon to be Syria, there is no reason for a sovereign state like NK not to resist at all cost and build up its own nuclear arsenal. US’s goal is simply to spread the ideal of democracy all over the world, similar to how Christians tried to spread their gospel around the world, in the form of crusade when necessary. Over time the abstract ideology becomes more institutionalized and outstrips the importance of its original motivation of helping humanity. In short, a bug in code is often worse than no code at all.
- The idea of nuclear containment is itself a highly unfair proposition. Why should smaller countries be banned from building an arsenal just like the big ones? Of course one could argue the fewer players have the technology, the less likely we will see armageddon, and indeed if I were a leader of a big country I would argue the same. But from the small players’ perspective, it’s completely unfair. Also if a country like Pakistan could own nuclear capacity simply because it’s a democracy, why shouldn’t a country with a better peace record and surveillance not be allowed to, simply because its founding ideology isn’t aligned with the major power?
- It is conceited to suggest that an ideology embraced by a whole nation is of no virtue at all, compared to the prevailing political system of the day. True, pure communism may not work in practice, but neither does true capitalism. The real world consists of a mixture of the two extreme visions, where capable workers are sufficiently motivated, and overall population is guaranteed an above-subsistence level of living. Communism has served as a check for workers’ rights during the cold war era, and income inequality has since skyrocketed after the collapse of the Berlin wall. At the same time, the prosperity of capitalist societies has motivated communist nation states to adapt themselves to improve living standards of their people. The greed of capitalists will go unchecked without some form of menace from the grass-root working class. This has been pointed out in the greater leveler book by Scheidel. Without western sanctions and embargoes, it’s very hard to predict what the welfare state of former and current communist states would have been.
- North Korea’s major disasters occurred during the 1990’s under the rule of Kim Jong-Il, who was a stuttering incapable ruler. The new leader appears much more capable and has no reason not to care about the welfare of his own population, even for the selfish reason (as all leaders would) of self-preservation of power. He is certainly a high stake gambler, but to do anything less would signal weakness to the outside powers like US who is seeking every convenient opportunity to dismantle the regime in the name of democratic freedom, much like how a well-meaning doctor wants to destroy the cancer cell, forgetting the true objective should be to save the patient. Given US’s track record in the middle east, no sane person would believe it can do anything better than status quo through its brute force intervention.
To be continued after I read more on the subject..