Democracy vs. Economics: Terry Gou and Wen-Je Ko Speak Different Languages
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 19, 2014
Executive Summary: Taiwan's economy is of course, not about to collapse tomorrow. Rather it is like a sick person who is constantly coughing. Yesterday, a fever. Today, vomiting. The symptoms persist, but are ignored. How can such an economy stay healthy? And with doctors such as Wen-Je Ko, whose diagnoses drag in Hitler and the Soviet Union, what chance does the patient have of surviving?
Full Text Below:
Concerned about the impact of the PRC-ROK FTA on Taiwan, Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou publicly urged voters motivated primarily by economic considerations to clear their heads and join him in saving Taiwan. "Do not force me to leave Taiwan," Guo said. Wen-Je Ko lashed back. Ko said Gou's goal was correct, but his methods are wrong. Taiwan must become a "good democracy," and not emulate the Hitlerite or Soviet model of development.
The two men spoke entirely different languages. Part of the problem is that the two men are using arcane language and logic. But part of the problem is they reflect Taiwan's long-standing political and economic polarization. And so far, no solution is in sight.
As an industrial tycoon, Terry Gou is concerned that Taiwan’s economy will be undermined because the STA and MTA remain stalled. The concern was written on his face. That was of course understandable. With elections approaching he added, "If I was a foreigner, I would not invest in Taiwan. If I were Taiwanese, I would reduce the scale of my operations on Taiwan." He said what many entrepreneurs were thinking. Some will inevitably interpret his remarks as "intimidation." Meanwhile, Wen-Je Ko, a candidate for the mayor of Taipei, the capital city, lept up to respond. Ko however, responded in a bizarre manner. He said Taiwan should learn from "American democracy." Ko did not respond to Chairman Guo’s call for "economics first." Instead he abruptly invoked Hitler and the Soviet model. One has to wonder what era Wen-Je Ko thinks he is living in.
The KMT has long played the "economics card" during election campaigns. During this election however, even the blue camp has given up. Clearly it too doubts its utility. Terry Gou came forward and appealed to economically motivated voters 56 times. This revealed the depth of his concern. His remarks however, are unlikely to arouse voter vigilance, never mind turn the tide. The economy remains hostage to politics. The general public, meanwhile, remains numb and past caring. Consider the exchange between Terry Gou and Wen-Je Ko. Peoples’ real concern is whether certain companies intend to flee. The economy has long been hostage to politics. The problem is insoluble. If anything, it has worsened. Taiwan's economy has long been hijacked by politics. It has been bound and bent. So what is the solution? Democratic elections ought to be an opportunity to evaluate the political parties’ and candidates’ economic policy platforms. They should not be stages on which to mouth irresponsible rhetoric. The DPP has dodged the issue. Clearly it realizes the best response is no response. Wen-Je Ko ranted and raved. He merely proved he does not know what he is talking about.
Politics and economics do not run in parallel. The purpose of democracy is to solve peoples’ problems lives through political means. Therefore "min sheng" (peoples livelihood) issues are where politics and economics intersect. The definition of “min sheng” is of course very broad. It includes food, transportation, social welfare. It also includes medical care and employee wages. Finally, it includes industrial development and national policy. During elections, vital issues concerning the peoples livelihood are the ones most easily demagogued by political candidates. That is why there is invariably a run on "policy vote-buying." Under such conditions, cunning politicians pander to voters’ myopic demands, then leave the mess for the next generation or others to clean up.
Over the past 20 years of democratization, we have seen this scenario enacted too many times. During every election the candidates invariably raise the ante. The most popular policy on Taiwan this year, is free or subsidized dentures for the elderly, and the restoration of year end bonuses for military and other government personnel. No matter what the side effects, there are always candidates eager to play along. Higher level economic issues include the impact of the PRC-ROK FTA, the STA, and the MTA, and whether they can be fast-tracked. They include incentives for businesses to increase employee salaries. But in the current political atmosphere, such issues are taboo, and cannot be discussed. This is true even of local government job creation. Whose economic policy platform is more conducive to local economic prosperity? Such questions are beyond the pale. The candidates’ economic policy platforms cannot be evaluated. Candidates merely claw at each others’ scabs. Candidates merely demonize each other. How can such a democracy possibly serve the people?
Looking forward, Taiwan's economic problems are not about whether any particular company increases its investments or flees from the island. Nor are they about whether the Mainland increases economic and trade exchanges. Nor are they about whether A-list companies are able to upgrade. Taiwan's biggest economic problem, is that politicians simply do not care what happens to Taiwan’s economy over the next five to ten years. Will industry on Taiwan become the Mainland’s OEM industry? Will the next generation on Taiwan become low wage labor in foreign lands? The only thing ruling and opposition party politicians care about currently is how to pass the buck for the recession on to their opponents. When their terms of office expire, they will congratulate themselves, and leave behind them a ruined landscape, one that the people will regret and have to bear, no?
Taiwan's economy is of course, not about to collapse tomorrow. Rather it is like a sick person who is constantly coughing. Yesterday, a fever. Today, vomiting. The symptoms persist, but are ignored. How can such an economy stay healthy? And with doctors such as Wen-Je Ko, whose diagnoses drag in Hitler and the Soviet Union, what chance does the patient have of surviving?
2014.11.19 02:12 am