Challenges for symbiotic growth“What do you want to be when you grow up?” a mother asked her son. The middle school boy replied, “I want to be an heir to a great fortune.”
The mother asked what her son aspired to be, but it turned out that the family background was the obstacle to the dream. She spoke with other mothers and found that many other children envy those who inherit family fortunes. I was speechless when my friend told me this story.
Even middle school students instinctively know the inequality of our society, with parents’ statuses deciding their future. Unfortunately, their intuition is right. According to a recent survey by the Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the wage levels and professions of the younger generation are directly influenced by their parents’ academic and financial backgrounds.
The survey showed 42.9 percent of children whose parents have management and professional careers work in management and professional positions, more than double the average (19.8 percent). And 9.4 percent of children whose parents work in unskilled labor engage in unskilled labor, nearly five times the average of 1.9 percent. Class is passed down from generation to generation. “Boys, be ambitious!” is a deceiving epigram.
Is this how we want the world to be? Aggravating social inequality and imbalance of wealth reminds me of Joseph Schumpeter’s prophecy. The 20th-century economist who foretold the 21st-century economy explained that creative destruction by entrepreneurs was the force that let capitalism grow, but he also predicted the fall of capitalism. As capitalism advances, companies become bureaucratic and inequality intensifies, and people will not tolerate such companies. As a result, capitalism will collapse and society will veer toward socialism.
In fact, his prophecy began to come true in Western society. Last year, radical leftist Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. In the Iowa caucuses, the first electoral event of the U.S. presidential primary, socialist Bernie Sanders came close to beating Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Sanders advocates a world for the 99 percent and has influenced Clinton to make promises for the middle and working classes. In the highly advanced capitalist nations, redistribution of wealth and economy of mutual prosperity have become the keywords of the time.
The Minjoo Party of Korea proposed a meaningful agenda with the “Grow Together” policy promises for the general election campaign. The policies’ core is to pursue fair distribution while investing in new industries and innovative companies to attain economic growth and find new engines. Those with a neoliberal view emphasizing conglomerate and capital-oriented growth criticized the idea as unrealistic. The methodology may seem ambiguous. However, as the paradox of market capitalism has become maximized in our society, it is about time we discuss policies for a symbiotic economy and redistribution. We need to change the conventional mind-set on economic growth.
The concern is whether the Minjoo Party has the ethics and competency to promote the policies. It is not the policy but the people. Last week, the Minjoo Party made a petition against Shin Ki-nam and Roh Young-min, claiming they used their influence to garner privileges, and 40 lawmakers signed it. The Minjoo Party members may be suffering from affluenza and be unaware of what they are doing.
Socialist economic policies have the good faces of symbiosis, sharing, fairness and distribution, but the oppressive structure of control and a planned economy exist on the other side. If some selfish politicians promote populist policies to win votes, it could lead to a society where everyone suffers.
In a socialist economy, leaders’ ethics must be guaranteed. Now, it is up to the voters to elect politicians with ethics and competency.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 3, Page 30
The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Cho Mun-gyu, Yang Sunny