Wednesday, January 20, 2010

'Lazy Haitians and Muslims, Hard Working Asians'

Apparently the rather ignorant New York Times columnist David Brooks had a column recently on Haiti where he blamed the country for not having an 'achievement culture', and said it was their fault they were poor. The achievement metaphor is basically the new way of saying an ethnic group or person is lazy. In a weird way, it does represent an improvement from maybe 50 years ago. At that time, reactionaries would just have said that a person was poor because of genetics or that they were an inferior 'race'. Now, it's not genetics, but choice. This is a small improvement , but still an important one.

This leads into Thomas Frideman's recent harangue against Muslims . He contrasts the Middle East with Taiwan, and asserts that the Taiwanese are working hard while the lazy Muslims are relying on oil.

Of course, East Asia was as poor, or poorer than Africa after World War 2. Its development mainly has to do with compromises the U.S. made in the Cold War. The US was forced to bolster certain key areas against Communist influence, and this took the form of market favoritism and technology transfer through military hardware export/import. The US more or less gave Japan its electronics industry during the LBJ era in exchange for military bases. Likewise, both South Korea and Taiwan received large amounts of US technology through the import of high tech military hardware. And for all of East Asia, US markets were opened unconditionally. One can find this type of analysis not just in Left organs, but in rightist publications such as Stratfor. It's not a mystery. At the same time, these economies managed to not fall under the sway of mainstream US economic thought, more or less ignoring free market dogmatism as they protected nascent industries.

The basic problem with Friedman and Brooks is not that they are racist per se, they are just completely ignorant of history. Their anti-intellectualism is the hallmark of a ruling class drunk and reckless with its power.

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