Tough Asia

Scott Sumner has a good post on the topic, using low government spending and unemployment (a proxy for “get a job” social attitudes) as indicators. East Asian countries — China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan — do indeed cluster at the ‘hard’ end. Europeans, predictably, are softies. The Anglosphere (or “immigrant”) societies are intermediate.

My favorite part of the post, though, was this:

… the great Simon Leys once suggested that 5000 years of Chinese history could be divided up into two types of periods.
A. Times when the status of the Chinese masses was little better than slaves.
B. Periods of turmoil, when the Chinese masses yearned for period A.

March 26, 2015admin 24 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations

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24 Responses to this entry

  • Tough Asia | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on March 26th, 2015 at 1:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:



    Posted on March 26th, 2015 at 2:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    From a business perspective, slavery represents the ultimate elimination of risk. It is why democracies tend to vote themselves into quasi-slavery through debt and ideological obligation to be seen as “busy.”


    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    That may be but slavery, where people are forced to work instead of incentivized, works for extremely badly for non-gruntwork occupations. The slave driver has to understand what the slave is doing better than himself. Anything that requires independent thinking, creativity, intellectual leaps leans itself very badly to micromanagement by force. And in this age of automation those are the occupations that are most important.

    And for grunt work, robots are better than slaves in any way. At least robot uprisings are only a thing of science fiction. Foxconn etc. are busily replacing their sweatshops with robots.

    No, I see no future in slavery as practiced in the past.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    We do not see well into the future, that much is obvious.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    Give a listen to Stanley Engerman talking about his (co-authored) book, _Time on the Cross_. People kept thinking that American slavery was going to go away on its own for economic reasons, and it kept not happening. Engerman claims that a competently run slave plantation does use incentives, doesn’t engage in micro-management, and differs from a hired-labor plantation mainly in that the owner has a legal monopsony over his labor pool, hence lower costs. That doesn’t mean that the Civil War was inevitable, but getting rid of slavery was a non-trivial problem. It was a depressing podcast.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    In Rome, slaves did all kinds of high-level professional work. There were slave teachers, doctors, bankers and financiers . . . Competent slave-owners used incentives, often some kind of profit-sharing arrangement.

    Distasteful, but like George Washington said, we can’t consult our wishes when figuring out how things work.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    We’re confused. The only type of slavery that is distasteful is the whipping, micro-managing, slough dragging kind. Attempts to get rid of that involved also getting rid of all kinds of servitude, but only in word. Moreover, sexual slavery persists in great numbers, and since it was always more or less extralegal, it was not hit especially hard by the abolition movement.

    I suspect Islam plays a large part in the proliferation of sex slavery, but I don’t really have solid proof. Regardless, the issue of distasteful slavery will never be resolved, it can just be solved for those with the resources to do so. If space travel does happen along with interstellar colonization, all forms of slavery are bound to return. r-strategy dictates that you will have populations where competent but menial human hands are far cheaper than robots ever will be. K-strategy, if successful in the long run, could allow that each human is expensive enough that robots are actually cheaper and not merely cheaper because we have done all kinds of things to make human labor stupidly expensive.

    There could be other outside reasons why either of these things might or might not happen – we cannot limit possibilities to even Moore’s law. The existence we are in is quite mutable aside from its underlying physics (which may not be as immutable as we understand.)

    Meanwhile, please listen to Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and guess the date the piece was written.

    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    Peter A. Taylor / Lesser Bull

    Looks like I was somewhat misinformed on the matter then.

    > Competent slave-owners used incentives, often some kind of profit-sharing arrangement.

    Interesting. How would one share profit with slaves? Could they own things, even though they were owned themselves?

    With slavery I imagined chattel slavery as on the plantations, or forced labor of prisoners (as in WW2), I had not thought about Rome. But you have a point.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    @Hegemonizing Swarm,

    Roman slaves could own things The slave’s owner had a right to dispossess the slave of it, if owner wanted, but usually didn’t. Letting the slave save up a share of his earnings towards the end of buying his freedom was pretty typical.

    @E. Antony Gray,
    I am not aware of any form of slavery that was benign. In classic Roman slavery, for example, the master had full rights to torture, rape, and prostitute his slaves, and the conditions of slavery interfered with family life.

    R. Reply:

    @E.Anthony Gray

    >> If space travel does happen along with interstellar colonization, all forms of slavery are bound to return.<<


    You made my day there, man. The idea that interstellar colonization is possible without industrial-economy-in-a-can or FTL technology is about as likely as the imminent return of great Cthulhu..

    So, it is bound to happen, but slavery in space? About as likely as a space empire..

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    It is hardly worth repeating that human beings set on worlds thousands of years apart are not going to abide by some common culture. Simply do the ‘math’ on that, R. Would you like some mint with your Whig Tea?

    @Lesser Bull

    I have the ability to burn my garden and demolish my house; those things would be harmful and distasteful, but that does not make my property ownership distasteful. You say that slavery interfered with family life; given how some Roman families were, it would be hard to tell if it was a feature or a bug.

    This sounds like an argument suitable for PETA; being a slave or property of another is a constant condition for ‘humans’ regardless of whether they gnash their teeth about it and wear sackcloth and ashes. It isn’t a matter of whether so and so can kill so and so (such relationships exist anyway) but whether there is a incentive to do so.

    Personally, I would prefer to own my employees and family rather than our State, who presently is the actual Owner. But YMMV; it is a ‘benign’ state…

    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:


    > So, it is bound to happen, but slavery in space?

    The energy expended in maintaining a suitable environment for humans is thus substantial, that they have to be extrememly valuable to make them worth their due. This virtually excludes the classic treatment of slaves (though not more modern forms like debt ‘slavery’). As many people, I expect there will be few humans in future spaceflight at all.

    On the other hand @E. Antony Gray was talking about (planetary?) colonization. If a sufficiently earth-like planet is found, and is seeded with human life, the whole history including barbaric forms of slavery could start over.

    @Lesser Bull

    Interesting, so different arrangements have been called slavery through the ages. An arrangement in which a slave is able to eventually buy his/her own freedom seems closer to indebted work with different citizenship statuses that there is in Western countries today. With the distinct difference that slaves have no ‘exit’ possibility.

    @E. Antony Gray

    You have a point that human hands are still way more versatile at the same cost than robots. We could always compromise and use programmed monkeys to do menial work:

    “While Maharbiz and others are using electrodes and wires to physically force neurons to fire, some geneticists and neuroscientists are developing an alternative approach, engineering animals whose brains can be controlled with flashes of ligh”t

    (of course this has its own moral problems – why would using animals be less distasteful than using humans? but madness lies that way…)

    Posted on March 26th, 2015 at 2:13 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orthodox Laissez-fairist Says:

    Whatever Mr. Sumner thinks, future probably belongs to the tough states. The sooner the softies die out, the better, and good riddance. I’m only afraid that toughies don’t themselves become softies. Libertarians of the doom’n’gloom variety seem to think that in century or two, the whole world is going to consist of a few socialist superstates a’la Orwell’s 1984.


    Alrenous Reply:

    The problem with this opinion is it’s more likely about signalling your own toughness and maturity than genuine conviction. Even if you happen to be right. This is indicated by phrases like ‘good riddance.’
    Also blog comments are not good places to signal.


    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    Optimizing a country for “toughness” in itself, instead of as a means to an end, would be a curious experiment. Would Orwell’s 1984 government with sadistic power as ultimate end goal not qualify there? It could be that I missed the part about the rainbows and unicorns in the Ministry of Love, but they didn’t come across as softies.


    Orthodox Laissez-fairist Reply:

    If it is signaling, it was subconscious (and not about toughness and maturity, but about resentment for the current state of affairs in the West). That aside, I really do think that if financial collapse were to happen (which I do indeed desire), that Asian Tigers and PRC would, in such post-collapse world, fare far better than the West would.

    @Hegemonizing Swarm
    I don’t know, I see ‘toughness’ here as of “your actions having consequences” variety, not of “learning to cope with meaningless torment by the government” variety.


    spandrell Reply:



    Posted on March 26th, 2015 at 2:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tough Asia | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on March 26th, 2015 at 5:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Anon Says:

    An article you’ll like, I’m sure:


    Posted on March 27th, 2015 at 12:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • radical lib Says:

    @Anon very good, thanks


    Posted on March 27th, 2015 at 5:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • snorlax Says:

    1.9!!! unemployment in Singapore.


    admin Reply:

    Also striking, government spending in Singapore (as a proportion of GDP) is even lower than in Hong Kong. Both, of course, quite comfortably below the civilized ceiling of 20%.


    snorlax Reply:

    I’m guessing the Singapore figure does not include their mandatory healthcare and retirement savings plans, so if we ignore nebulous accounting questions and look at it in terms of “percent of economic activity directed by the government,” Hong Kong still beats out Singapore. Of course, both are “extreme” free-marketeers by European standards.


    Posted on March 28th, 2015 at 2:05 pm Reply | Quote

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