[FOUNTAIN]Reforms often clash with idealism

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[FOUNTAIN]Reforms often clash with idealism

“Reform” and “progressive” are attractive words. Correcting past mistakes and moving on to the future are noble ideas. The two concepts seem to go hand in hand.
In fact, historically they have conflicted many times. One of the most well-known cases can be found in British history. In 1979, the Conservative Party was in power with Margaret Thatcher as the prime minister.
Until the late 1970s, the idealism of the Labor Party had ruled British society. The Labor Party’s policy had been based on the government’s active intervention of the market economy. The party wanted to redistribute the wealth to the working class and create a welfare state where everyone enjoyed prosperity.
After decades of such policies, British capitalists lost the will to create more wealth. Jobs were scarce and unemployment grew. The reality betrayed the progressive ideals that had once inspired the majority of citizens. Ms. Thatcher called inertness the British disease.
She risked her political career to weaken the unions. She implemented tax cuts and cut the budget. She privatized state-run corporations and opened up the financial market. After a painful five years, the economy began to revive. Ms. Thatcher’s policies are remembered as some of the most successful reforms in modern history.
Now Tony Blair of the Labor Party is the prime minister. Today’s Labor Party no longer holds the overly idealistic views of the past. Instead, it is pursuing the market-driven reforms that Ms. Thatcher had promoted.
The recent heated policy discussions between President Roh Moo-hyun and the leaders of the Democratic Labor Party have shown that reforms and progressive goals do not always go hand in hand.
Mr. Roh has refused the labor party’s demands to impose a tax on the wealthy, among others, saying that the policies are unfriendly to the market.
The Democratic Labor Party might consider its progressiveness as reform-minded, but its proposals are trapped in the idealism of the British Labor Party of the past.
It was a relief to see Mr. Roh making it clear that the government is pursuing reforms that are market-friendly. Just like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the president displayed a pragmatic, realistic perspective.

by Chun Young-gi

The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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