[LETTERS to the editor]A fundamental right
Freedom is a word that both polarizes and unifies. It is also a concept, an ideal and a political and social model of governance. No longer solely associated with the United States, freedom has gained currency with an assortment of democratic nations around the world. The most basic freedom, and, in my opinion, the fundamental right that all nations need to protect is freedom of the press and the closely aligned “freedom of expression.”
If the aim and ultimate political objective of a nation-state is to survive, then its overarching economic mission is to elevate gross domestic product per capita, reduce inequalities and offer everyone an equal chance to achieve the equivalent of the American dream here, or in any other society.
Though some nations have adopted democratic ideals as a means to enter the global production and service economy, it is by no means the only way to accomplish economic goals. China and Vietnam come to mind as exemplars of a grand narrative or a political/economic paradigm conducive to economic growth.
It is now a commonly accepted notion that democracy in and of itself does not engender economic mobility. For instance, China’s censor-inclined bureaucratic institutions are successfully managing double-digit expansion while retaining centralized control of the media, business transactions and the rule of law ― or lack thereof.
Thus, the success of the “China model” has spawned copycat emerging economies, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia, Venezuela and countless others aspiring for the fruits of wealth-creation but reluctant to yield political clout.
From Hanoi to Moscow, concentration of power in the hands of an elite few is pervasive while, at least economically, proving to lift citizens out of poverty and into a bustling middle class. However, as a nation thrives and climbs the ladder of development, its citizens will begin to demand much more than food on the table or decent jobs; citizens will incrementally call for greater equality and a genuine voice in the decisions that affect their everyday lives. South Korea and Taiwan are prime examples of the theory that capital accumulation eventually results in demand for uncensored, unfiltered freedom of expression.
Resisting the inevitable only distorts reality. The primitive need for self-exploration and societal examination is rooted in the most elemental of urges ― the urge to rationalize, persuade and divulge. Economic surges without a foundation of individual rights are limited in scope and duration. Nations can only survive and prosper when people are treated as partners in development instead of thorns on the side of rulers.
Dennis Yang, English instructor, Gimhae Foreign Language High School