Monday, May 30, 2005

Mongolians saying 'No' to the Free Market?

I'm posting this, but my fellow-blogger Nabetz has edited it substantially for grammar and the like. Just so you know!

Thanks to Jacob (view his blog here) for directing us to the Moscow Times op-ed about the recent election of Enkhbayar, a Communist, to the presidency in Mongolia. The article is by two American Russia-experts, Ethan Burger and Marc Greenfield, who believe they hold insight into Mongolia's success in the world. Whether they actually do or not, they're certainly glad Mongolians are, as they see it, thumbing their collective nose at American-style democracy and capitalism.

Let's start with at the beginning of the article
Promoting democracy and free-market economics around the globe may be a laudable undertaking, even when the beneficiaries of U.S. assistance freely chose another course. Thus, there might be a lesson to learn from remote Mongolia. In an apparently free and fair election, the Mongolian people have chosen as president the head of the former ruling Communist Party.
What lesson might this be?
Nambariin Enkhbayar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, or MPRP, received 53 percent of the 927,586 votes cast on May 22. Like their counterparts in Poland and Hungary, the Mongolian Communists have successfully morphed into a modern social-democratic party. Enkhbayar is unlikely to be seen with trepidation by the West. His victory cannot be attributed to any single factor, but it seems that Mongolians may want a more egalitarian society than one built on private ownership and free markets.
I think that these people are talking about something they don't know enough about. First of all, Mongolians chose him because he was the best of the four candidates. The name of the party he is affiliated with doesn't mean much (see nabetz's previous post). Mongolians know that the MRPR (aka Communist Party) is more reform oriented and democratic than some outside observers think. They keep the name MPRP keep their party name simply for sentimental reasons. Mongolians are very pleased to take the way that the USA has taken, even though it is admitedly fraught with challenges and difficulties. If you ask any Mongolian whether they would go back to the Communist system, nearly all would say a resounding "No!"

Observers should not confuse the traditional name of the party with the system that the party is advocating. Mongolia has gone too far to go back. People have seen too much, tasted too much, learned too much about the free market to ever go back to the old Communist system.

People who think that Mongolia is regressing to a communist past need to go to Mongolia and talk to the people. Everyone in Mongolia wants the free market to work and want to live in this kind of system. To this end, many, whether well-off or poor, want to see more foreign investment, more available capital, and more privately owned businesses. This is because they believe that the free market is the best way to improve the foundering economy. The fact that they voted for the MPRP does not mean that they're going back. It means that the MPRP is finally matching people's desire for a more open economy free-market based economy.

I have lots of friends and family members that are solid members of the MPRP. Incidentally, they are also private business owners who are gunning for a more western-style economic system. They send their children to study in the USA, England, Japan, and other well-developed countries, hoping that they can pick up up-to-date ideas on politics, economics, and the like. If the MPRP were really stressing economic egalitarianism of the communist sort, these people would be the first to leave it for the liberal parties.

The article continues:
The MPRP's platform seems more in tune with the views of the majority of the Mongolian electorate. In its strategic plan 2004-08, the U.S. Agency for International Development identified two central strategic objectives in Mongolia: to accelerate and broaden sustainable, private sector-led economic growth, and to achieve more effective and accountable governance. While few will quarrel with the latter goal, at times it seems Washington is incapable of understanding that the U.S. model is not readily transferable to countries as diverse as Iraq and Mongolia.
My goodness! Well, first of all, the writers shouldn't put Iraq and Mongolia in the same sentence! They're two different worlds. True, the USA model may not be readily transferable to Mongolia; however, we Mongolians do want these changes. Mongolians welcome changes and policies that will result in something approximating the American model. The situation is very different in Iraq, where some portions of the population are utterly opposed to an American-style democracy and/or economy.

It hasn't been an easy transfer to capitalism, but this is the direction that Mongolia taking, and this is the direction that the people want it to go in. There are no signs of people wanting to go back to the previous economic model.

Burger and Greenfield continue:
The MPRP is a well-organized political party. Its well-developed social program is intended to "provide conditions for human development and ensure a comfortable and prosperous life for every household." Its social program calls for improving educational quality, strengthening the public health system and reducing the unemployment rate. It says nothing about privatization, which in the view of many modern social-democratic parties leads to social inequality.

I'm not trying to cover up the fact that the MPRP is strongly socialist, but it has also incorporated a free market principle. If we study the MPRP's program, we will find that open markets are central. In fact, a visit to the MPRP's own website demonstrates just how deeply free market principles have penetrated the party's ideology (scroll down; near bottom):

Today, the MPRP, which irreversibly adhered (sic) to basic principles and concepts of democracy and free market economy, is fully open to international organizations and expands and develops relations with political parties around the world. (Italics mine)
Besides, as I mentioned above, all the MPRP members are private business owners. Need I say more?

Back to the article:

The implications of the Mongolian elections could far outweigh their geopolitical significance. In a former communist state, the free election of a political leader who does not share all of the principles touted by the United States is a very positive statement.

I think that the authors are still confusing what the MPRP was with what the party is today. The party no longer has an anti-capitalist platform. Rather, it is open to capitalism and takes the free-market as a given. The free market is here to stay. The MPRP not only recognizes this, but it also supports it. To say otherwise is to betray a certain level of ignorance concerning Mongolian affairs.

The MPRP is in constant flux. It is in constant contact with other parties that are overtly capitalist and to a large extent is learning from those parties. Outsiders should realize that Mongolia hasn't been on its own two feet for too long. For years, it was essentially in the sphere of Russian control (as much as it galls the Mongolians to hear it). As such, it derived much of its subsistence from the Russian political machine. The Mongolian politicians who were in power during the time of the USSR have only recently been exposed to democracy and the free market. Indeed, most of the older Mongolian elite were educated under the Russian system and were raised with communist ideals. However, the elites have been constantly been engaged with the reform-minded youth, and, in the process, have become quite reform-minded themselves. One could say that the old MPRP elite are learning from their younger and more liberal compatriots. Democracy and a free market are permanent fixtures in Mongolia today as a result of the MPRP's and most other parties' having assumed them into their party platforms. If there are any true communists left in Mongolia, nobody knows where they are.

Burger and Greenfield conclude:
Let's hope that the international community will be united in supporting policies to improve the lives of average Mongolians, along with their new Communist president.
If the international community understands what the MPRP stands for and does not misunderstand the voice of the Mongolians in electing one of the MPRP members as president, it will find that it can completely support the Mongolian people and the new president. The USA has supported so-called communist presidents in the past; it will continue to support them today. I hope that the international community will support us and help us as we seek to improve our lives.


Anonymous yan said...

Well said. I wondered as well why they put so much meaning into a mere word.

But is there a way to hide away portions of your posts on tzhe main side?
Currently you have to scroll almost for minutes before the Lenin picture becomes visible.

5/31/2005 10:05 AM  
Blogger samraat said...

4/04/2010 10:09 PM  

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