Friday, January 20, 2012

The DPP versus corporate greed

Beijing co-opted the elite and big business in Hong Kong to create dependence and ensure compliance. With four more years of KMT rule, the same could happen in Taiwan

The jury is still out on which factors were predominant in the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) inability to regain power in Saturday’s election.

Pundits have put forth sundry explanations as to why presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) did not do better, from a failure to allay fears in Taiwan and abroad of the potential impact of a DPP win on stability in the region to “gatekeepers” making it nearly impossible for her to access the information she needed from the intellectuals on her team.

The extent to which those aspects undermined Tsai’s efforts remains unknown and will be better understood in time. What cannot be denied is the impact of big business on the election. This is a serious challenge that the DPP will have to address if it is to regain high office. And that challenge will only become more formidable now that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has been given four more years to further liberalize relations across the Taiwan Strait.

One clear theme that emerged from the elections is that Taiwanese, in general, desire stability. Rather than jump into the unknown by electing Tsai — notwithstanding her efforts to allay those fears — voters showed a preference for continuity and went for the devil they know.

One group, above all, that made the case for continuity, or the “status quo,” was the corporate sector, which resents instability and stands to benefit tremendously from closer ties between Taiwan and China.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


Mike Fagan said...

"And that someone is the DPP."

And in entirely the wrong way, though of course this escapes them.

Given, the PRC's debt problems, distorted capital markets and corrupt banking system, there is ample reason to suspect this "stability" is not going to last much longer anyway.

We're not exactly much better off ourselves here in Taiwan.

With that said, I think it would be wise for the DPP leadership to start over and reposition themselves as the party of constitutionally limited government, fiscal restraint and monetary reform.

Mike Fagan said...

I also find your deliberation over the choice of term ("self-interest" vs "greed") to be a poor and unnecessary one.

In the first place this is because the term "greed" slanders the profit motive itself and not just the rotten political conditions in which people put this motive into action (or the form of those actions themselves). Yet the profit motive, along with the social conditions on which it depends (e.g. private property rights), are an essential aspect of a free society and of the ongoing challenge of raising material living standards throughout the world. The Left's continuing failure to recognize this is a great tragedy (at least it is in the case of those few on the Left who are not tacitly committed to totalitarian pragmatism [who curiously enough usually happen to be Marxists embarassed at the craven stupidity of their nominal comrades in the so-called "99%"]).

In the second place, it adds nothing to the analytical content of your piece to refer to the motivations of big business with the pejorative "greed" rather than the more neutral "self-interest". Actually that's not quite true - it does add something, but what it adds is merely a strong odour of sour petulence unbecoming of the editor of a national newspaper (and yes I know I am guilty of petulence from time to time too). Instead of sulking at big business for being "greedy", the DPP and its' supporters should be re-examining their own assumptions - especially those which dictate that the poor can only be helped either through State welfare systems or State provision of public goods but both of them funded though progressive taxation. Those assumptions are not at all warranted, yet it is an almighty uphill struggle to even get people on the Left to try to think about them critically (I speak from experience). Their typical reaction is to cover their eyes and ears and try to shout me down - because they are afraid of the light.