Fri, Mar 09, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Good things happening in Taiwan

By David Pendery

A thymotic search, and the ultimate granting of decent recognition to one’s fellows is more than simply desire for goods. Liberal economic orders have long been closely associated with liberal political orders, and some have believed that it is the eager search for material gain that is behind humans’ adoption of democratic, liberal politics.

Fukuyama dismisses this conception, writing that a purely economic analysis of political development would be “radically incomplete.”

Although capitalism and liberal democracy are closely intertwined, the quest for more material goods was not what drove humans to develop their best political orders and to be sure such desirous, covetous aims do not account for the vigorous, even-handed conception of dignified recognition.

In a word, free government “exercises a positive pull of its own” and “recognition allows us to recover a totally non-materialist historical dialectic,” Fukuyama said.

Some might argue that Taiwan is different from what is described here. The economy and material gain seem to have had a strong pull in Taiwan since its development from the 1950s on. Are Taiwanese simply economic men, acquisitive souls that want nothing more than “more”?

There might be some truth to this, as one would expect to see in a developing economy, but just as well, free political thought and action have had a strong impact and positive pull in life here.

Taiwanese young and old have taken to the streets in energetic fashion since the late 1970s — and using such methods have managed to pull down an authoritarian apparatus and replace it with a free democracy. That, to be sure, is a lot more than just the search for material gain.

Needless to say, such methods exist to the present, with the recent Sunflower movement, and many protests and demonstrations surrounding issues like labor, taxes and international affairs.

Fukuyama’s thesis has often been criticized.

Jacques Derrida wrote that violence and inequality are rife in the world, and that these factors have often stemmed from the very political orders Fukuyama celebrates.

“Let us never neglect ... sites of suffering: No degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before … have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the Earth,” Derrida wrote.

Even Plato wrote: “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.”

These thoughts might be worrisome in their way, but the actuality in this land is very different. Modes of suffering, subjugation, starvation or extermination are far from the reality in Taiwan and such pessimism seems inapplicable to life here.

Taiwan is a prosperous, generous, healthy and dynamic country that seems to be enjoying the best fruits of its political choices.

Another challenge to the “end of history” thesis is the growth in the economic and political power of China — an essentially autocratic state, nearly a polar opposite of the democracy in Taiwan.

To be sure, our neighbor to the west offers a radically different political view — and the People’s Republic of China has had its own successes that cannot be ignored.

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