[VIEWPOINT]Conserving Capitalism Is a DutyAbout 120 wealthy Americans, among them William H. Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, members of the Rockefeller family and the financier George Soros, have signed a petition urging Congress not to abolish the estate tax and have taken out newspaper advertisements warning against the Bush administration's plan to repeal the death tax. In the United States, the so-called death tax is paid on bequeathals of more than $1 million at a rate of up to 55 percent.
Why are these affluent Americans campaigning to pay tax when Korean business leaders take such pains to try to reduce or avoid taxes?
They do it to protect American capitalism. They contend that an estate tax is necessary to maintain a system of fair competition, by which anybody can succeed with enough effort and creativity. The children of Olympic gold medalists do not necessarily become Olympic gold medalist themselves. These men and women are afraid that if inheritance is not controlled, chance and competition, the greatest companions of capitalism, will disappear and the United States will decay. They are willing to hand over part of their wealth to avoid this.
The head of an economic research institute in Korea has recently called for "the right wing to awake from its slumber." Since the present administration came to power, a number of people have become worried about a possible crisis in the system here. These people are commonly called conservatives. The monicker is correct, because conservatives are those who aim to conserve the system in place. In the former Soviet Union, the conservatives were those who wanted to protect the communist system and the reformists were those who wanted to introduce democracy and a market economy.
Korean conservatives wish to protect our system based on the principles of democracy and a market economy.
But will awakening the conservatives automatically protect democracy and market economy? No. As they awaken and add their voices to the cacophony, the dispute will grow. Accordingly, it is important to decide what to do after they awake. The attitude of these American business leaders should be a model.
What have Korean business leaders done to protect capitalism? They have been bent on making money and expanding their companies, violating laws at every opportunity. Due to these failings, they are punished whenever a new government comes to power. But their attitude is that while governments come and go, the chaebol are here to stay. Due to such immorality, they arrive at a situation where, though capitalism is threatened, they cannot protest.
Religious circles are also at the center of conservatism. If the theory of progressivism, which proposes that every problem can be solved by human power, results from pride, religion comes from modesty, because it acknowledges the limits of human power. Modesty is the root of conservatism. But are local religion leaders paragons of modesty? Recent reports suggest that priests of large churches are greedily trying to bequeath the churches to their sons. On such news, we worry whether the conservatives will be able to survive with such religious leaders.
The press is no exception. Though we have fought for free democracy, the foundation of conservatism, we need to review whether the press has done things to deserve the abuse it is currently attracting. The so-called reform of the press, promoted by the current government, is an attempt to use the faults of the press as an excuse to clamp down on its freedoms. Accordingly, the press must act properly, avoiding blame and thus protecting its own freedoms.
If the conservatives are really worried abut the nation's future, they must at all costs stick to morality. To protect our freedoms, human rights and property, we must fulfill our social duties and endure sacrifice.
The writer is Washington Bureau Chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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