60th Anniversary of 228 Incident

Today is the 60th anniversary of The 228 Incident in which protests by native Taiwanese on this date in 1947 led to the wholesale execution of Taiwanese leaders by Chiang Kai-shek’s forces who occupied Taiwan after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

According to TaiwanDC.Org, in addition to those outright killed,

Thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned in the “White Terror” campaign which took place in the following decades. Many of these remained imprisoned until the early 1980s. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the events of 1947 were a taboo subject on the island. The Kuomintang did not want to be reminded of their dark past, and the Taiwanese did not dare to speak out for fear of retribution by the KMT’s secret police

Wikipedia also has a long entry about the incident and its aftermath.

Taiwan Accuses China Over One Child Policy

Taiwan claims that China is pressuring Chinese women who are pregnant by Taiwanese husbands to abort their pregnancies as part of China’s one-child policy.

China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. In the 1990s, contacts between Taiwan and China increased dramatically leading to as many as 150,000 marriages between Chinese and Taiwanese citizens.

Taiwan, however, has a strict immigration policy that allows only 3,600 Chinese per year to permanently settle on the island. According to Taiwan, pregnant women who have returned back to China have been threatened and harassed into having abortions or sterilization procedures.

Taiwan has responded by extending the temporary permits that Chinese women use to visit the island long enough to cover their pregnancies. Taiwan maintains taht since the infants woudl have Taiwanese residency that the one-child


Taiwan and China in abortion row. The BBC, July 18, 2002.

Taiwan Knows How to Do Sex Scandals

Bill Clinton and other American politicians look rather tame compared to an ongoing sex scandal in Taiwan. Leave it to an Asian country to distribute videotapes of politicians having sex on video CDs inserted in magazines. Lets hope that is one journalistic practice that does not become popular in the United States.

Bush Lacks Constitutional Authority for Taiwan Guarantee

When George W. Bush recently said that the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan if the island nation were invaded by the People’s Republic of China, the ensuing firestorm in the media centered around whether or not such a guarantee was wise from a foreign policy standpoint. Myles Kantor is the only other person I’ve run across who noticed that Bush lacks the Constitutional authority to make such a promise.

Apparently Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution has now officially joined the Second and Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments as being no longer in force, despite the lack of their repeal through the processes called for in Article 5.

Is Democracy An Impediment to Economic Growth?

In a recent column (The solution to Africa’s problems is not socialism but freedom) on Africa’s perennial economic problems, Walter Williams made an argument that rears its ugly head all to off ten in free market conservative thought — namely the claim that democracy isn’t necessarily a good thing. If Williams were advocating on behalf of philosophical anarchism that might be understandable, but instead he is defending what might be called mildly authoritarianism.

Williams’ impetus for making this claim is a state by Cote d’Ivoire minister of planning and economic development Tijdjame Thiame that, “Africa has paid too little attention to political modernization. Too many African governments pay only lip service to democracy, which is often limited to simply holding regular elections.”

Williams has a simple retort to that — democracy isn’t necessarily desirable for economic growth.

“Whatever are the benefits of American-style democracy,” Williams writes, “democracy is not a necessary condition of economic growth and, in fact, democracy might impede economic growth.” Williams goes on to cite some non-democratic countries that have experienced impressive economic growth — Chile, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Meanwhile, as Williams points out, India has experienced much economic chaos even though it is a democracy.

Reading his article, I kept waiting for Williams to qualify this argument, but alas he leaves it at that — democracy can interfere with economic growth. To be blunt, this is nonsense.

First, Thiame isn’t too far off the mark in his analysis of African democracy. Frequently in Africa there are countries which hold elections which are essentially meaningless. Zimbabwe is a good example of just such a country. While it is nominally a democracy and holds regular elections, the bottom line is that the country is run by a single party and uses all the accoutrements of dictatorships, including ignoring the supposedly independent judiciary when it tries to reign in excesses. Many African democracies are democratic in the same way that Mexico claimed to be a democracy even though a single political party effectively pulled all the strings.

Second, Williams’ analysis is too short term. His claims are reminiscent of Leftists who proclaimed Communism a success because the Soviet Union and other Communist nations achieved growth rates higher than in Western nations for brief periods of time in the 1940s. Unfortunately the problem is that the longer authoritarian policies remain in effect the more likely it will be that such powers will end up screwing things up. It is true that in India voters can go to the polls in favor of socialist policies, but it is conversely true that should Chile have decided to put in place socialist policies, its citizens would have had no recourse. Faith in authoritarianism is the faith that whoever has his finger on the trigger of political power at the moment will be a free trader.

Besides, there are things more important than economic growth. What good was economic success of Chile to those who were kidnapped and disappeared in the days and months after Pinochet’s coup d’etat? How were the pro-democracy protesters in South Korea to spend their money after being shot dead in the streets by the military government?

Fundamentally, Williams’ argument raises similar questions as those raised by the anti-immigrant views that frequently appear at a site such as LewRockwell.Com. Immigration is bad on this view because a) immigrants will consume welfare services, b) they will tend to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates, and c) they will support the expansion of the welfare state. But is free market liberalism really such a weak, anemic idea that it has to be imposed by dictators or preserved by keeping out immigrants who might be hostile to it (and I don’t agree that is the case, but refuting it is beyond the scope of this essay)?

If so, Williams and others might want to re-evaluate if it’s really an idea worth defending at all.


The solution to Africa’s problems is not socialism but freedom. Walter Williams, Capitalism Magazine, November 30, 2000.

Russia, Taiwan Learn All the Wrong Lessons from U.S. Protectionism

For the past several months,
U.S. steel companies and their political allies have been complaining
that Japan, Russia and other countries have been unfairly “dumping” steel
in U.S. markets. The United States threatened to increase tariffs against
such nations unless the “dumping” stopped, and recently U.S. Trade Representative
Charlene Barshefsky bragged that through her tireless efforts Japan and
Russia had both lowered their shipment of steel to this country.

“We think we have undertaken
actions that have brought steel import volumes way down, back to pre-[Asia
economic] crisis levels in many instances,” Barshefsky said. And in the
process sent the message to the rest of the world that the United States
is hypocritical in its support of free markets.

It is a lesson that those living
in Cherepovets, Russia, are learning well. Cherepovets’ economy is almost
entirely dependent on the Severstal steel factory which was Russia’s largest
steel producer in 1998. The story of Severstal’s success is a case study
in what was supposed to happen after the collapse of Communism.

After Russian steel production collapsed
following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Severstal’s Western-trained
managers abandoned the inefficient practices of the Communist era. They
worked hard to boost the profitability of the plant by seeking foreign
investment and by increasing the amount of steel they exported so as to
bring in much needed hard currency. In a country where many factories
still pay their workers in goods rather than cash, Severstal made 60 percent
of its revenue from exports, with a third of that coming from the United

The Russian economic crisis
severely hurt the Severstal plant, and the Russian government’s agreement
with Washington to cut steel exports by 70 percent put the final nail
in the coffin of its success story. The factory managers are trying to
avoid laying off people by paying wages out of the funds they had set
aside for capital improvements, but that tactic will only be viable for
a few months and in any event will further delay much needed modernization
of the plant.

Mikhail Noskov, Severstal’s
financial director, understands the source of his company’s problems —
U.S. protectionist policies. “Such protectionism in favor of American
businesses is a violation of the ideals of a country like the United States
— ideals that they have tried to teach us,” Noskov said.

Is this why the United States
fought the Cold War? So some latter day American apparatchik trade representative
could put Russian steel workers out of business for daring to freely trade
with the United States? American politicians use to deride the Soviet
Union for refusing to embrace capitalism, while today American politicians
sabotage the efforts of Russian capitalists.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is threatening
to turn the “dumping” tables on the United States. After U.S. officials
spent much of the 1980s accusing Japan, South Korea and Taiwan of dumping
computer chips in the U.S. market, Taiwan is now threatening to fine American
companies for dumping computer chips in Taiwan’s market.

The problem is rather straightforward
— at precisely the time when the cost of producing memory chips for computers
was declining, Taiwanese companies invested billions building factories
to produce memory chips. Like the American computer industry who made
similar mistakes in the 1980s, however, Taiwanese companies prefer to
blame anyone but themselves. “Micron [an American subsidiary of South
Korea’s LG and Samsung] is trying to destroy our DRAM industry,” said
Genda Hu, president of Taiwan’s semiconductor association. “It is trying
to destroy our home market.”

As in the American version
of the chip trade wars, the Taiwanese firms haven’t been able to produce
any evidence that they were actually harmed by the alleged dumping, much
less prove that any dumping took place. But as in the United States, political
expediency counts more than actual evidence. If the dumping charge is
successful, Taiwan’s Finance Ministry could impose tariffs of as much
as 67 percent on U.S. computer chip makers.

The tariff game is one that
South Korea learned well, and it’s a competition which the United States
should begin to make a strategic withdrawal from by renouncing protectionist
economics once and for all.