October 02, 2003

Neocolonial Origins of Comparative Development

"The examples of Taiwan and Korea do not fit Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson's story of the colonial origins of development and underdevelopment very well."

"Why not?"

"The colonial power was Imperial Japan. And it viewed the two very differently. Taiwan was to become one of the Japanese Empire's heartland islands. The Japanese Empire sought its rapid economic development, built roads, bridges, factories, and so forth. It had every incentive to introduce 'developmental' institutions in Taiwan, and tried hard to do so. Korea, by contrast, was to be plundered and used as a stepping-stone to Manchuria. In Korea Imperial Japan worked hard to introduce 'exploitational' institutions. Yet both have grown spectacularly."

"Ah. That's very interesting."

[pause]

"But consider what happened later. Both South Korea and Taiwan become front lines in the Cold War. Their successful development becomes an aim of U.S. policy. Lots of economic and security aid. An eagerness on the part of the U.S. government to see them successfully export manufactured goods to America. In both countries the decapitation of the landlord class left them with a remarkably egalitarian land distribution which is one of the objectives and supports of 'developmental' institutions..."

"But Imperial Japan did not kill off the Taiwanese landlords. That was done later. By the Kuomintang..."

"Very true. But it still gave Taiwan a very favorable distribution of income and a large rural middle-class. "

"Ah."

"So what I am saying is that even though Taiwan and Korea as a pair provide no support for the 'colonial origins of development and underdevelopment' theory, they provide a huge amount of support for the 'neocolonial origins of development and underdevelopment' theory..."

Posted by DeLong at October 2, 2003 08:54 PM | TrackBack

Comments

YIKES!

All right then. I think we have some work to do in South America, if we're of the neo-con persuasion. We need more Cuban land though to hold all the 'detainees' we're going be holding, if we're going to do an effective job of decapitating the landholders. (Justifiably according to this evidence).

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on October 2, 2003 10:59 PM

Huh? Where are you getting this stuff Brad? Korea was closer to the center of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere than Taiwan at that time. In fact, weren't Koreans the only peoples who were forcibly "Nipponified"? Anyway, there's a whole subfield in Japanese colonialism and its relationship to later Korean political economy -- Carter Eckert at Harvard, and Meredith Cumings at Michigan spring to mind right away.

Posted by: Joyce Park on October 2, 2003 11:39 PM

The problem with reading historians like Cumings-Woo is that many (like her) fail to grasp some important economic concepts. It is a problem because while I'm sure she knows a great deal, you have to step around parts of her writings any undergrate econ student could spot as incorrect. The same is true for her husband and unfortunately several others.

Posted by: Remo williams on October 3, 2003 02:23 AM

The problem with reading historians like Cumings-Woo is that many (like her) fail to grasp some important economic concepts. It is a problem because while I'm sure she knows a great deal, you have to step around parts of her writings any undergrate econ student could spot as incorrect. The same is true for her husband and unfortunately several others.

Posted by: Remo williams on October 3, 2003 02:24 AM

While I agree that Korea may have been physically closer, I am certain that that no Koreans voluntarily fought for the Japanese military, which many Taiwanese did. Force was not necessary. I very much doubt that Koreans were ever assured that they were on the verge of becoming full Japanese nationals.

Many Taiwanese still regard the Japanese as a friendly civilized nation, as opposed to the Chinese, who they regard as dirty, smelly, uneducated, and poor. Koreans might agree about the Chinese, but they would be likely to hurl even more racist insults towards the Japanese.

Still, regardless of attitudes, the Japanese colonial governments in both places created a legacy of competent government bureaucracies that knew how to tackle and accomplish ambitious projects. At the lower levels, these are the people who engineered the economic miracles of both nations.

In my mind, forget the landowning classes. It's all about the legacy of competent administration and Japanese civil engineering.

Posted by: Data Dawg on October 3, 2003 03:21 AM

"I very much doubt that Koreans were ever assured that they were on the verge of becoming full Japanese nationals."

My Korean father-in-law wasn't certain he was on the verge of becoming a full Japanese national during WWII -- he was certain he already WAS a Japanese national. He had a Japanese name, was taught Japanese language and history, and fully expected to take part in Japanese society after school was over (though his Japanese rulers may have had other ideas about his future). He and all of his young classmates burst into tears when they were told their country -- Japan -- had lost the war. After a period of un-schooing and re-schooling, Father-in-Law regained some of his Korean identity. He gathered up the rest of it during the Korean War.

"In my mind, forget the landowning classes. It's all about the legacy of competent administration and Japanese civil engineering."

Interesting. Was the Japanese influence weaker in North Korea, contributing to the weaker results we see there today?

Posted by: LHP on October 3, 2003 07:18 AM

Interesting.

Do you offer a similar interpretation for post-war Italy? Fear of elected communism etc?

Posted by: P O'Neill on October 3, 2003 07:54 AM

I would have to second the call to know where you are getting all this from. There has been a lot of work done of late on the Japanese colonial empire, and your account seems to have nothing to do with any of it. The Japanese state actively encouraged economic and especially agricultural development of both Taiwan and Korea and eventually Manchuria. How this played out in each place was somewhat different, but you can’t say that Korea was “plundered” and Taiwan “developed.” Also, the GMD did not shoot landlords in Taiwan. They carried out peaceable land reform partially at American urging. All the facts in your post seem to be wrong, so I’m not sure I can agree with your conclusions.

Posted by: Ssuma on October 3, 2003 08:10 AM

Meredith is not a historian and never has been -- she's a political scientist to the core. She's worked for economic institutions as well as having impeccable academic credentials in her field of political economy, so evidently others do not agree with your assessment of her skills. Bruce _is_ a historian, although his degree is also in political science. I've read his books, and I don't even remember any econ. His main conclusions have always been political ones, his sources are almost entirely government archives.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with Brad's quotes about the relative developmental paths of Taiwan and Korea after colonialism? If you don't like Meredith's work, feel free to jump off from Carter's conclusions instead.

Posted by: Joyce Park on October 3, 2003 11:05 AM

Meredith is not a historian and never has been -- she's a political scientist to the core. She's worked for economic institutions as well as having impeccable academic credentials in her field of political economy, so evidently others do not agree with your assessment of her skills. Bruce _is_ a historian, although his degree is also in political science. I've read his books, and I don't even remember any econ. His main conclusions have always been political ones, his sources are almost entirely government archives.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with Brad's quotes about the relative developmental paths of Taiwan and Korea after colonialism? If you don't like Meredith's work, feel free to jump off from Carter's conclusions instead.

Posted by: Joyce Park on October 3, 2003 11:25 AM

Sorry about the double post... there's something wrong with your comment system, it's unbelievably slow.

Posted by: Joyce Park on October 3, 2003 11:32 AM

"She's worked for economic institutions as well as having impeccable academic credentials in her field of political economy, so evidently others do not agree with your assessment of her skills."

Yes, I'm sure there are quite a few who admire her in the field of political economy. (And to me she and others like her are useful to read when they stick closely to politics separate from economics) Unfortunately these same people also lack fundamntal economic knowledge. Having impeccable academic credentials does not guarantee you understand economics. Just ask Robert Reich.

Posted by: remo williams on October 3, 2003 08:09 PM

As you can probably tell I'm posting from Taiwan (I'm not Taiwanese by blood). Guess I should learn to check my facts about places I'm not familiar with before I post.

What you said about Koreans crying after the end of the war was interesting, I'd been told that such scenes were more or less unique to Taiwan - that the Japanese were widely hated in Korea, and widely respected in Taiwan. It's not at all uncommon here to hear wishes that Taiwan had never been 'liberated' from Japan. Of course that is probably related to Taiwan's insane national status.

As for North Korea, I'm not sure, but my feeling is that the competent engineers and builders were largely liquidated there both in the war and after.

And North Korea does have some impressive engineering achievements to its name, but they are all in the military field. So I guess it's also a question of national priorities.

While the KMT never liquidated large numbers of landowners here, enourmous swaths of land were expropriated and given to various KMT worthies - not so much in the country but in the cities. Even today you have a landowning pattern where mainlanders live in the center of major cities and Taiwanese live in the suburbs and the country.

Posted by: Data Dawg on October 3, 2003 09:23 PM

As you can probably tell I'm posting from Taiwan (I'm not Taiwanese by blood). Guess I should learn to check my facts about places I'm not familiar with before I post.

What you said about Koreans crying after the end of the war was interesting, I'd been told that such scenes were more or less unique to Taiwan - that the Japanese were widely hated in Korea, and widely respected in Taiwan. It's not at all uncommon here to hear wishes that Taiwan had never been 'liberated' from Japan. Of course that is probably related to Taiwan's insane national status.

As for North Korea, I'm not sure, but my feeling is that the competent engineers and builders were largely liquidated there both in the war and after.

And North Korea does have some impressive engineering achievements to its name, but they are all in the military field. So I guess it's also a question of national priorities.

While the KMT never liquidated large numbers of landowners here, enourmous swaths of land were expropriated and given to various KMT worthies - not so much in the country but in the cities. Even today you have a landowning pattern where mainlanders live in the center of major cities and Taiwanese live in the suburbs and the country.

Posted by: Data Dawg on October 3, 2003 09:24 PM
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