Thursday, May 20, 2010

A few points on Thailand, China and stuff

Now that the Thai uprising has been acknowledged by even the mainstream, Western media as a class war (see this article from The Guardian and a blog post from the Wall Street Journal comparing the uprising to the situation in China)---and a pro-democracy one at that---it seems to me like the only moral response a person can have to the unrest is to support the Red Shirts.

Wishy-washy liberals won't back the Reds Shirts. They would unconditionally, of course, if the protesters were all middle class Chinese students marching for free speech or monks facing down the Burmese junta---both of which are worthy causes, but not legitimate litmus tests for what constitutes a worthy cause.

However, left-leaners and principled liberals should support the Thai protesters because the protesters are on the side of the basic tenants of electoral democracy (the Red Shirts' middle class opponents, the Yellow Shorts, want to reduce the voting power of rural areas because they don't like the leaders that rural people have helped elect, simple as that); because the alternative is an endless series of democratic votes overruled by courts or by military coups because, again, the wealthy and the monarchy don't like the outcomes of the votes, with resulting chaos again and again and again; and because the Red Shirts are poorer than their opponents.

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In China, the nexus of property speculation / local government budgets / giving middle and upper class people somewhere to invest their money when banks give next-to-zero interest is a mess.... The worst example of the mess is what is going on in Hainan. See this NY Times article.

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There's a lot of argument over whether privatizing China's land makes sense. I tend to think that it does not make sense, at least not without a court system that can support farmers' claims against the more powerful interests of developers and local governments. But the gall of the liberal intellectual cited in an an article I just read (and am trying to find so I can link to it) who took a longtime farmer-activist's manifesto and changed it so it didn't demand expropriated land to be returned to the public but instead demanded that the land be given to individual farmers as private property... is astounding. The activist ended up in jail for a belief he (apparently) didn't hold. The intellectual scored a point for his rigid free market view of freedom.

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