The photos below show South Korea after the Korean War and South Korea today.
In what observers refer to as the “the Miracle on the Hangang River”, South Korea managed to transform its economy from one of the poorest after the Korean War to one of the wealthiest today in a relatively short span of time.
From a GDP of just $4 billion in 1960, the country’s economy grew by a whooping 37,400% between the said period and 2017 with a GDP of $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, its GDP per capita grew by a rate of 18,724% between 1960 and 2017, from $158 to $29,742.
But what transformed South Korea into an economic powerhouse within fifty years after the Korean War? Certainly not the Western brand of selfish, individualistic, excessively hedonistic, freedom-from-responsibility “human” rights!
It’s the country’s Asian-Confucian values emphasizing on the collective good, discipline, hierarchy and work ethic, coupled with economic liberalization, that have been consistently cited by economic experts as a heavy influence in the astounding economic development of South Korea.
In fact, during the country’s economic boom, South Korea was under the rule of military dictator Park Chung-hee who laid the groundwork for stability in the country and its subsequent democratization. Confucian values were also an important linchpin in the establishment of chaebols (large business conglomerates) which largely support the country’s economy.
The same story applies to Singapore, a city-state that, for 31 years, was ruled by Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister and continued to hold key positions in the cabinet for decades more.
Lee transformed Singapore into one of the most prosperous economic centers, not just in Asia, but in the world with his brand of “soft” authoritarianism characterized by “rigid pragmatism, an unyielding commitment to material well-being that is cloaked in anti-ideological garb”.
Lee understood that you cannot fill empty stomachs with freedom.
In effect, hundreds of extremists, chauvinists and communists were detained during his administration with the use of the Internal Security Act, a law that “grants the executive power to enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organized violence against persons and property, and do other things incidental to the internal security of the country”.
Today, Singapore is one of the world leaders in terms of ease of doing business, competitiveness, human development and economic freedom. It also ranked first in the 2015 OECD Global Education Report and 9th in the world in the Rule of Law Index by the World Justice Project.
All these success stories are a slap in the face of Francis Fukuyama who, in 1989, haughtily hypothesized and declared that the universalization of Western-style liberal democracy as the pinnacle of human government.
But even China’s rise from practically tatters — a result of the violent Cultural Revolution sanctioned by their then leader, communist Mao Zedong — to a potential superpower today is an achievement of an Asian enlightened authoritarianism.
Surely, authoritarian rule may not always be ideal (but so is laissez-faire a.k.a. lazy democratic rule) but may be benefical given the proper socio-economic and cultural context. And in my opinion, the Philippines is at a point in her history when she needs strong leadership that will inspire, even coerce, Filipinos to get their shit together.
(Well, it’s either that or we undergo thorough decentralization through federalism.)
Either way, the truth remains: Without material security for all people, there can be no genuine freedom. And we cannot achieve economic security with all these destabilizers in our midst.
Western-style human rights are not universal. They are an instrument of Western domination to curtail the right to self-determination of other nations and spread their political culture all over the world (see cultural hegemony).
In this day and age when more and more countries fall prey to these lofty, esoteric, contextually specific ideals at the expense of stability and economic development, we, Filipinos, must do our best to realign our priorities.
The Duterte government must not kowtow to Western-brainwashed “human rights” advocates and should continue to make practical choices when it comes to economic development and wealth creation no matter how unpopular these choices are.
Surely, with pragmatism comes a fair share of sacrifices, but the path to material freedom is not freedom from responsibility, consequence and trade-offs.