Politicians must study their words

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Politicians must study their words

Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan was pounded by lawmakers for advising discretion about overemphasizing economic democratization, a term which politicians now use to mean dismantling chaebol.

“If we go too far, it could hamper foreign investment and trigger trade friction,” he said. As someone spearheading overall economic policies, the finance minister is in a position to speak in such a tone.

Representative Moon Jae-in, a presidential hopeful from the main opposition Democratic United Party, lashed out at Bahk for taking a “negative and defensive attitude” toward a “common direction” in economic policy

Any critical stance against the hype over economic democratization is accepted as being blindly pro-chaebol. Economic democratization has become a buzzword for politicians from all sides. But no concept should be overused or misinterpreted, and of course people should be allowed to challenge it. Such narrow-mindedness and rigidity runs counter to the concept of democracy.

The truth is that few can clearly define the concept of democratizing the economy. Some say greater equality and freedom, while others cite greater mobility and accessibility. Politicians also differ in the ways they propose to achieve economic democratization. The Saenuri Party wants to keep chaebol reform to a minimum, while the DUP calls for disintegration of chaebol as a key reform.

Applying the concept on the welfare front is equally confusing. Some see increased participation as equal to democratization in that it would allow workers to get involved in corporate governance. Others claim that would go against the principles of capitalism.

We’re even skeptical about the way that the terms economy and democracy have been combined. Democracy works on votes and runs on two engines of control and balance. The market economy, on the other hand, relies on capital and runs on liberalization and competition. Too much control can undermine liberty. But democratization can also water down the best qualities of a market economy.

Even the proponents of the idea are unsure about how to balance government interference and the market’s free and innovative spirit. But without studying on the concept first, politicians are busy arguing. They need to take a step back and really think about what they are saying.

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