Finding economic democracy

Globalization is a positive force driving freedom in both economic and political arenas. It is a more effective force than military engagement or political pressure in affecting large scale change in political and economic forms of exchange within a country.

These are considered controversial statements, though they probably shouldn’t be.

The only truly functioning liberal democracies to arise in the last half-century have used globalization’s main tool, free trade, to develop. "Liberal" is the key word in liberal democracy, as a liberal approach is the reason these democracies function. In turn, free trade further fosters liberalism.

South Korea is a perfect example of the development of democracy through capitalism.

In 1950, it was considered a backward nation, poor and destitute. In recent times, it is often referred to as one of the most successful non-western nations in terms of economics and advancement in democracy.

They achieved these results by using an export-driven economy and an authoritarian government. The government may not have been democratic, but it managed to be pretty liberal. It provided the legal framework necessary for development to flourish. It provided security of contract, property rights and safety of the person. After it developed enough, it started democratizing in the 1980s.

To develop economically, the population must develop as well. Education must become a priority.

Problem-solving skills become paramount as businesses develop strategies to make their products attractive on the world market. A middle class is a consequence of economic development.

The middle class, in turn, becomes a democratizing force because they are well-educated property owners, with no outlet to determine their country’s destiny. The moment a well-educated and responsible middle class demands proper representation and a voice in the direction of their country for their own benefit, democracy has the best chance to sprout and stay.

After 35 years of economic development this happened in South Korea, and it remains one of the world’s most successful non-western democracies despite constant fear of its neighbour, North Korea.

Though geographically proximate, the contrast between these two nations could not be sharper. North Korea has remained economically isolated and, not coincidentally, it has poorly developed in both the economic and political spheres.

It is a question of openness. Those who are open to international trade are generally more open in general. The more transparent a society, the more it will develop the ideals of liberalism and democracy. Free trade was the key to development this century.

South Korea may have used protectionist policies to foster industries at home, however it did not shy away from foreign investment. True free trade does not exist there at the moment but a major step towards truly liberal trade happened not too long ago in Cancun, Mexico.

At a meeting of the World Trade Organization, developing countries walked out of trade negotiations after the agenda they had been pushing was passed over. They want an end to agricultural protectionism by the western world. If they are able to gain these concessions from the European Union and the United States, it would be a major victory for development and, in the long term, democracy.

It is time for countries with power to start walking their talk, stop paying lip service to free trade and start practicing it–even when it is not convenient.

Developing of industry and politics takes time. It is true people are being subjected to horrible working conditions, and it seems business owners and western consumers are the only ones profiting from their labour, however, if we look at the development of the Western world we will find the same things being said in the 1850s.

Karl Marx reasoned this would lead to communism. He, like the anti-globalization movement of today, underestimated the malleability of the capitalist system.

In Western society, a number of Marx’s proposed reforms have been incorporated into the capitalist framework. Some Marxist ideas are important in these countries because they lead to a class consciousness which will lead to reform. At the same time, we need to understand sacrifices were made in the process of development in the West, and sacrifice will be necessary to develop the rest of the world.

It comes down to this, the most amount of people have been the most free under capitalism. In countries with a capitalist system and a liberal democratic government, women are most equal, children are safest, the poor have the best living conditions and everyone possesses civil and political rights that cannot be taken from them unless they deprive someone else of those same rights.

Globalization should continue, and it is time for those who oppose it to be honest with themselves and take a long look at history.

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