Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 8 News List


Shocking ignorance

I can't believe that someone at the Academia Sinica would state: "It is definitely related to the economic situation because democracy is indeed less effective than authoritarian politics when it comes to bringing wealth and stability" (Taiwan's democracy is now at a cross-roads, July 1, page 8).

The level of ignorance of the so-called political scientists in Taiwan simply shocks me. It's akin to PFP Chairman James Soong screaming a constitutional crisis every time the president sneezes.

First, it is well accepted that democratic institutions tend to foster and develop the economy more than authoritarian regimes. One need only look at North Korea and Cuba's closed societies and compare them to nominal democracies like South Korea and Singapore.

Second, the China sympathizers may point to the 8 percent economic growth that the PRC is so proud of. I respond with two arguments: you can never trust the numbers coming out of the PRC and, even assuming the numbers are correct, it's always easier to obtain large percentage returns when you start with very little.

It's a very basic concept of math, really. When you are dividing by 10, the same gain in the numerator yields a 10x return than if you are dividing by 100.

Sure, China has an 8 percent growth rate, but don't we factor in the population as well? China may have a trillion dollar economy, but they have 1.3 billion people.

Taiwan has an economy one-fourth to one-fifth the size of that of China. But we have one-sixtieth of the people. Not too shabby, and certainly not a reason to worship China.

For those of you envious of China's growth, I ask you when was the last time you saw a developed economy expand 8 percent? Not very recently. Even in its heyday four to five years ago, the US economy grew at less than 8 percent.

So the proper argument isn't that we look across the Taiwan Strait and see a Chinese economy growing at 8 percent; and therefore we should question our democratic institution to the point of scrapping it for an authoritarian one. The proper argument should be how do we reform our democracy to make it even more transparent and competitive?

What the research failed to note, and it's a glaring error, is that authoritarian regimes tend to be rampant with waste and corruption, precisely because power is concentrated in the hands of a few.

That's really a glaring omission, something I'd expect from someone like Soong, not an Academia Sinica researcher.

Ryan J. Shih

Stanford, California

Lien's sinister flip-flops

Only days before, KMT Chair-man Lien Chan (連戰) was saying an "independent referendum will bring disaster to Taiwan" (`Pan-blue support is `insin-cere,' June 30, page 2.) Now the pan-blue alliance is pushing for it, just so they can blame DPP for the resulting "disaster."

Lien seems to have forgotten already, if a "disaster" does come to Taiwan, what election would be left to be won? A special administrator? What kind of presidential candidate, would allow or push for disaster for his nation, just to blame his opponent in order to win the election?

His flip-flop can not be characterized as anything but sinister.

The DPP is consistent in this matter. Taiwan is a sovereign state, dependent on no one but itself. A-bian (阿扁) goes further. He says Taiwan is not the province of any nation, nor a state of the US. Therefore, no independence referendum is necessary. The referendum, instead, should be on the name of the nation.

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