2012-01-13 / Columnists

A Rising Tide

The People Vs. North Korea
Commentary By Dr. Harold Paez

The New Year finds our nation struggling to locate its political center in what looks to be one of the most electorally charged periods in American history. The two sides of the political struggle might be distilled to a choice between President Obama’s larger government less free market approach versus the smaller government, free market approach of Republicans.

Meanwhile, the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has focused the world’s attention on a real world interpretation of these same diametrically opposed ideas.

One nation (N. Korea) based on the idea of a centralized communist system and the other based on a free market capitalist system (S. Korea). As a controlled study, these two nations provide invaluable comparative insight into which societal structure might prove most beneficial to people in the long term.

With over 60 years of field data and both nations basically identical in population make-up, geographic size, natural resources and other such variables, the tale of the two Koreas lends itself to a sort of amplified analysis of two extremes.

A comparison, nonetheless, which may give valuable insight into which direction our nation needs to choose for our own future.

Today’s N. Korean leader, Kim Jongun, is the 28-year-old grandson of the original communist leader Kim Il-Sung, who was hand picked by Josef Stalin during the frenzied years of geo-political chess that followed WWII.

For 60 years N. Korea has become increasingly isolated from the “free” world, holding its citizens in a tight grip of hard line policy with little to no tolerance for dissent and even less tolerance of outside influences.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, North Korean leadership, already cut off from a world advancing rapidly into the 21st century, chose to double down on a cult-ofpersonality styled social structure based on communist/socialist principles in which the means of production, exchange and distribution were owned by the state under the ostensible mission of improving the lot of all citizens.

The years since have seen that nation live through massive famines and societal regression, due to poor production capacity and a restrictive centralized power structure, at the estimated loss of close to a million souls to starvation and associated illnesses.

Over the course of twelve U.S. presidencies, the N. Korean leadership has deftly played their hand as rogue state to exact tribute from prosperous democratic nations in exchange for “good” behavior on its part.

While the South has flourished as a free market economy in which the ideas of individual liberty and accountability are held as central tenets, the North has withered in comparison on such objec- tive measures as life expectancy which is 10 years shorter in the North. Infant Mortality, a potent indicator of a nation’s stability and advancement, is among the lowest in the world in South Korea at approximately 5.23 per 1000 live births and near the highest in the North at a staggering 36.93 per 1000 live births (United Nations statistics).

Additionally, malnutrition/stunted growth is nearly non-existent in the South while a 2002 study revealed an estimated 40 percent of North Koreans to be stunted in growth due to chronic malnutrition. Examining further, while the Korean population in the North can expect to be educated, schooling is based in the rigid doctrine of the state and only with an eye towards their future potential as followers meant to serve the larger machine of power. Individual expression is verboten. They can also expect to have a free healthcare system, but it begs the question; how does a free healthcare system treat a famine and malnutrition without the availability of food?

What are we in the West to learn from the real world applications of such competing economic and social structures? While the United States may not be electing a “Dear Leader” any time soon, it nonetheless becomes apparent, based on an objective understanding of failing societal structures like North Korea or failed nations like East Germany, that centralized/statist forms of governance have an inherent flaw which dooms them to failure from the start. My own assessment is that this “ghost in the machine” is the spark of human liberty, individuality and free will inherent to democratic nations but absent by necessity and definition in statist societies.

This year, 2012, will be a precarious one, based on a whirlwind of competing ideologies sweeping across the globe from the Middle East and Europe, through the United States and into East Asia where a newly named and untested 28-year-old “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Un, finds himself taking up the mantle of a regime spanning three generations of oppression and isolation backed by a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons and 100 years of failed collectivism.

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