There is only one Korea. The ideological clash between Socialism and Capitalism split up the country some 50 years ago. Now, at the end of August 2007, leaders from North and South Korea are to hold their second-ever summit. President Roh Moo-hyun will meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-il in the North’s capital, Pyongyang. This is great news. The ice begins to melt. Finally!
The new summit comes seven years after the first one, when Mr Kim met then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. The two sides remain technically at war. South Korea’s presidential office said that the summit would “contribute to substantially opening the era of peace and prosperity between the two Koreas”.
Now, note these words ‘peace and prosperity’. Yes, of course, Korea needs peace and reconciliation. We’re all for that. But what exactly does the South Korean president mean by ‘prosperity’? That must be the same as it is elsewhere in the capitalist world, i.e. 1% superrich, 4% wealthy and 95% paupers. Where exactly is this ‘prosperity’?
Paradigm of inequality
It is significant that North Korea’s public statement mentioned only the word ‘peace’. They know that the ‘prosperity’ of the South is relative. Yes, the South’s poor are better off than the North’s, both in access to goods and certainly in terms of freedom. So, yes, the South’s results were overall better for the people than the North’s. But take away the moral pressure from the communist North and the South’s 95% will soon enough be real paupers again. Social justice is incompatible with the unchecked capitalist paradigm.
The very same day the news about the Korean summit came out, a report was published by the Asian Development Bank stating that the gap between rich and poor has widened sharply in China and many other Asian countries as their economies have boomed. Other countries with rising wealth gaps include India, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. ‘More spending is needed on education, training and healthcare to alleviate the situation’, the Asian Development Bank argued. We all know, however, this is not going to happen. Why not?
Social justice is incompatible with the capitalist paradigm. The fact that the 95% of the population in Western countries can eat and have a reasonable living is not a result of capitalism. On the contrary. It is a result of the fact that 1) on a worldwide-scale at least 80% of the population are real paupers who help feed Western nations and 2) socialist pressure from unions etc. made sure the price of labor was not determined ‘by market forces’. If it had been, we would all have been paupers again even in the West. Because social justice is not compatible with the capitalist paradigm. Capitalism by definition lacks a social conscience. It is a capital paradigm. Socialism does have a social conscience, but lacks freedom and a workable economic theory.
Paradigm of equality.
‘Economic democracy’ is based on the concept of ‘capital power to the people’. Instead of 1% to 5% of the population owning the means of production, it aims to broaden the capital base to 60% or more of the population. This is only possible within a system of political democracy with full respect for freedom and human rights, including free enterprise and a multi-party system with free and periodic elections. So we do warm-heartedly invite North Korea to come on in from the cold and make these democratic changes. But don’t stop there! Make sure to use the transition to introduce economic democracy as well as political democracy. If the North Koreans do this, they will soon leave the South behind. And they can laugh all the way to the bank! They will have the best of both worlds.
‘Economic democracy’ is not a revolutionary concept. It is a logical construct based on the best of both capitalism and socialism. In short, it is realism. If there is to be prosperity, it must be prosperity for all. For in the end, there will not be peace without prosperity for all. Economic democracy is the just ‘third way’, which eluded such politicians as Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and Bill Clinton. They wrecked their brains, came near, but missed. Nevertheless it exists. Once again we refer to the Center for Economic and Social Justice www.cesj.org for more information.
It’s the peace paradigm. It’s the prosperity paradigm. It’s the equality paradigm.
Our daily video is a year-2000 interview with Norman Kurland, director of the Center for Economic and Social Justice. Note particularly how he distinguishes the concept of ‘economic justice’ from the concept of ‘social justice’.