Thursday, May 20, 2010

Political and Social Growth has not Matched Economic Growth in Asia

Though it appear this round of political upheaval in Thailand is over, the fact remains that economic growth in most of East and South East Asia has outstripped political and social growth. What is meant by social growth in this context ? For instance, the type of non-discriminatory laws taken for granted in the United States do not exist in emerging Asia. Overt discrimination by skin color is a norm of life and a basis for employment without recourse. The working classes lack any type of standardized labor laws, and are shut out of politics by historically entrenched and often (but not always) colonially-originated ruling classes. These issues are not unique to the region, but they are nevertheless overt and oppressive.

The Thai protests show that the folks driving the world economy over the last ten or more years are not quite as happy to be sweating in factories just for the sake of a job and a living. They are gaining confidence and letting their aspirations be known. The economic development in emerging Asia will eventually mean greater democracy and human rights, which will actually end up cutting into the rate of exploitation and capitalist-oriented growth in the region, and worldwide. This is something even the late Milton Friedman might agree with: Capitalism and Freedom (outside the workplace, of course). One slight problem for private capital accumulation is that emerging Asia is the last bastion of large pools of cheap labor coming out of pre-capitalist agricultural relations. It is a pool that is shrinking but will probably still provide enough labor for growth for a number of economic cycles.

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