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Re: Encourage Singapore To Come Out Of the Stone Age

On Sat, 7 Sep 1996, James A. Donald wrote:

> At 12:39 PM 9/3/96 +0800, Enzo Michelangeli wrote:
> > The idea that rights and values can be "natural" is contradicted by
> > several thousand years of history, during which absolutism or downright
> > tyranny have been well more common than freedom. 
> The existence of foot binding in China is not evidence that women's 
> feet have no particular natural shape.

Sure, but that was a particular case in the history, not the rule.

> > The success of that misleading view in America, and by extension in most
> > of the western countries, is largely due to the unfortunate influence of
> > [...]
> When one engineers bridge, designed according to one theory of 
> materials physics, stands up, and another engineers bridge, designed
> according to a different theory of material physics, falls
> down, does that not suggest that the first engineer knows 
> what he is talking about, and the second engineer does not?

Absolutely: but here the two theories are market economy vs socialism, not
political freedom vs. lack of it.
> > In the real world, freedom is a by-product of a materially prosperous
> > society (which is why capitalism generally produces free societies, but
> > socialism does not).
> First, you have this completely the wrong way around:  Prosperity is
> the product of a free society.  For example when the Dutch revolted
> from Spain, they were at first poorer than spain.
> Secondly there is ample counter evidence:  For example in America
> before the european conquest, some Indian societies were extremely
> free and others, such as the Incas, had institutions very similar to 
> modern totalitarianism, yet their material level was very different 
> to today's, and not very different from each others.
> Again the Germanic tribes that conquered England had very high levels
> of liberty, yet were terribly poor, and the Icelanders of Saga period
> Iceland were very free, yet very poor.
Er, methinks that those examples strenghten more my thesis than yours:
if liberty alone could bring prosperity, how would do you explain the
cases of those free-but-poor?
In any case, I would stick to periods for which there are reliable written
documents and provable evidence, or else we'll end up believing that
faith in God may split sea waters, and wars start because of an unfaithful
bride. And I can give you plenty of counter-examples where, instead,
industrialization, modern techniques and, crucially, open markets have
brought prosperity to politically totalitarian countries that,
*subsequently*, have developed more open institutions: Taiwan and Korea,
until recently, were more or less ugly fascist dictatorships. China's
GDP, since they ditched communism in favor of capit... er, "market
socialism", has grown on average about 10% a year: I believe that in 10 or
20 years the consequent increase in education and public awareness will
force some form of political liberalization as well (but don't forget that
their per-capita GDP is still 30 times lower than Hong Kong's and 10 times
tha Taiwan's).

Regarding the Habsburg Netherlands, that was very clearly a case of
rebellion for economic independence (not unlike the Boston Tea Party,
OTOH), and, before that, those provinces witnessed the birth of two
modern financial instruments: the tradeable government securities
tied to the excise and property tax imposed by Charles V in 1542, and, a 
few years later in Antwerp, the negotiable international bill of exchange.

> > Trying to build a free society by screaming loud
> > what the "natural" rights are supposed to be, has no better chances of
> > success than [...]
> Succeeded the last two times it was tried.

It succeeded where and when liberty symbiosed with capitalism, and failed