[Viewpoint]Submit to the market

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[Viewpoint]Submit to the market

In this presidential race, some of the candidates are pledging to turn nickels into gold, creating the illusion that they will be able to make jobs appear out of the blue next year.
Needless to say, not many believe the empty campaign pledges. This election is characterized by the fact that both the people and the candidates see such pledges as nothing more than presents underneath the Christmas tree.
Even if those boxes are empty, however, we should examine them carefully. That is because, with careful scrutiny, we can understand the candidates’ ideologies.
We should pay close attention to their ability and professionalism. Otherwise, we may regret our choice for president for the next five years. We must also concern ourselves with the political philosophy of each candidate. In other words, which direction will he take Korea’s society as president?
There are plenty of people who disagree with me. They say, what difference does a person’s political philosophy make in this mess?
However, regardless of what he says as a candidate, a president follows his inherent political inclinations in managing the affairs of state after he is elected.
Although the candidates try to flatter the public by making various political gestures during the campaign, after the winner is chosen the president-elect is destined to expose his true self afterward. This true self is not much different from his political philosophy.
I believe that one great change has to take place in Korea. If the country grows up to become advanced, then its citizens can play the role of responsible members of an advanced society. That change means turning upside-down the conventional hierachy, in which the government has the upper hand over the people.
The paradigm of putting the government on top while putting the people on the bottom, has been maintained for thousands of years. However, that must change in the 21st century.
I thought the old paradigm would be erased when I heard the Roh Moo-hyun administration vow to “change the world.” The presidential attempt to have a dialogue with prosecutors gave me hope, and I saw reckless courage when the president hand-picked non-specialists as cabinet ministers and vice ministers.
However, he was soon surrounded by government officials who made sweet reports to him and flattered his taste. His true self, which is to treat people as objects of control and to pursue a single egalitarian philosophy of rejecting the power of the market, revealed itself.
He continuously pursued making the government grow bigger and hung on to internal adjustments among government agencies.
The administration focused on collecting more taxes. Then government officials, one after another, chose to make their budgets snowball.
The administration’s philosophy strengthened the power of the people in charge of handing out funds. Some universities have even appointed former government officials as presidents and operated doctoral degree courses for civil servants.
Those were done out of efforts to protect the universities from the influence of the government on the one hand and to get a little bit more public funding by pleasing government officials on the other.
Therefore, it is natural for a university administration to stand aloof as an education and research institution. This phenomenon gets even worse in the case of high schools and middle schools.
What is the situation of many national research institutes? Is it going too far to say that the administration has tamed scientists?
The same applies to companies. With an increased budget, they operate various funds under the guise of government subsidies or promotions.
In order to use some of the funds divided into tiny pieces, it is necessary to develop a network of human relations.
For that, you have to hang around government offices.
You have to show yourself to officials at various government-affiliated organizations or associations. Inviting officials to a round of golf, of course, is necessary, too.
Although such public funds do not bring about any fruitful economic results, they continuously create new government subsidies. And imagine how many executives of big businesses have to rely on one public company to secure their survival?
If these problems are left intact, none of the policies promised by the presidential candidates can be effectively pursued. The relationship among the government, businesses and civic society needs to be structurally changed.
If not, the problems of polarization and aging will not be resolved, not to mention economic revitalization.
We need to make our society like a front wheel drive car: Private companies can lead the car as front-wheels, while the government pushes as rear wheels.
The small government we hope for is a government that is faithful to the people, respects the power of the market and lowers itself. If we find a person who can solve this structural problem, we will be able to conclude the year successfully.

*The writer is a professor of political science at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Dal-gon
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