Saturday, July 16, 2005

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Talk about your fun accession negotiations!

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman argued that globalization forced states into the Golden Straitjacket, choosing between "free market vanilla and North Korea." This is one of those classic Friedmanisms that is simultaneously overexaggerated and yet tugs at some gut sense that there's a truth embedded in somewhere in that statement.

Anyway, I bring this up because apparently North Korea has called and apparently wants vanilla. Anna Fifield explains for the Financial Times:

North Korea, the world’s most reclusive state and one that prides itself on its communist ideals, plans to apply to the World Trade Organisation for observer status, according to a European Parliament delegation that visited Pyongyang this week.

News of the plan, the first step down the long road to joining the free trade body, is likely to be met by the outside world with bewilderment, optimism and opposition in equal measure....

“North Korea says it has been in contact with the WTO secretariat about observer status,” Glyn Ford, a British member of the European Parliament, said after the delegation for relations with the Korean peninsula met high-level North Korean officials. “Iraq also applied so if one horse can get through the door, maybe two can.”

Observer countries are allowed to participate in meetings but not be involved in the decision making process.

Post-Saddam Iraq was granted the right to attend meetings and hold talks with WTO member countries in February last year. The US had vigorously opposed attempts by Iran, which it also accuses of secretly developing nuclear weapons, to gain observer status but in May agreed to allow Iran to start the membership process.

The WTO on Friday said it had not received any application from North Korea.

I really do not know how much credence to put into this report. But if there's any truth to it, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the accession negotiations start.

posted by Dan on 07.16.05 at 09:15 PM


Friedman reminds me of the Wilburforce/ Pitt relationship. Wilberforce believed slavery was wrong. Pitt said he did too but he was much more like the rest of us, including Friedman - he believed slavery was wrong - but only in the abstract sense. Much like Lincoln. Eventually it became economically expedient to outlaw slavery so the English Parliament did but some twenty years after most people had accepted that slavery was morally untenable.

What on earth was the basis for slavery? Well obviously it helped enormously to build the British Empire, as it did to develope the wealth of the US. I would say another basis for its acceptance was the clear difference Europeans were able to percieve between themselves and Africans. This is why I compare Friedman to early Pitt and to early Lincoln. He presents the world with two choices, the Lexus or the Olive Tree but one of the choices isn't really a choice. Capitalism is inflexible. It must dominate. And contrary to what people say - ( that it is adaptable, cheap and civilized ) it requires an enormously expensive legal, governmental and physical infrastructure, and it will fundamental alter a population to the point that it will not recongnize itself.

Despite the common wisdom that it promotes a kind of productive peace, its developement in each area of the world has and will continue to be orchestrated in terms of extreme violence. Nowhere has it not been successfully developed without a long period of intense civil strive sometimes continueing for centuries.

Friedman is basically an apologist for a passive view of capital. He is a useless road sign. If there is only one road to take and only one destination, you don't need anyone to show you the way.

I am not marxist. Enthusiasm for socialism is quickly cooled in me by the prospect of government doing or running anything. But I do believe that essential aspects of capitalism require scrutiny at the earliest possible moment. Pathological aspects of capitalism may have been morally tolerable in the past and present. Historically morality has never been of much sway in human affairs. But these aspects of capitalism may be actually existentially intolerable in future.

posted by: exclab on 07.16.05 at 09:15 PM [permalink]

What an embarrasing post. I have seven different ideas marching off in four directions. Please excuse.

posted by: exclab on 07.16.05 at 09:15 PM [permalink]

Inside North Korea: Do the North Koreans have a show starring their schoolchildren that could be a smash hit on Broadway or in Las Vegas?

posted by: georgio on 07.16.05 at 09:15 PM [permalink]

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