Friday, 23 August 2013

Comment To Ketty Chen On The "Taiwan Rural Front"

My comment awaiting moderation, here. Update: the comment got through and there is a reply from Ketty Chen, to which I have made another reply already - will cross-post if it doesn't get through.


I doubt you will allow this comment through but I am going to write it anyway, because as much as I would like to applaud the TRF, I cannot. In my opinion, professor Hsu and his organization are wrong with respect to the third, and most important of their stated aims.

The Land Theft Act should not be amended, it should be repealed. The ethical heart of the matter is a simple violation of property rights; stealing land from poor people (or rich people for that matter) does not suddenly become morally acceptable if it renders a "service to the community". That is a dangerously subjective standard - specifically, it is a standing threat to the freedom of individuals from the demands of the community, or of the professional monsters who manage to get themselves into community "leadership" positions.

By arguing for the Act's amendment instead of its outright repeal, the TRF are not actually opposing the theft of people's properties. They are merely opposing the circumstantial aspects; the manner in which the theft was carried out and the purposes behind it. Much though the contrary impression might be given by their sit-ins, they are not actually fighting for an end to state-sanctioned theft per se.

Why not?


The answer to that last question is, I strongly suspect, that the TRF people don't actually want private property rights at all, but that what they are trying to do is to effect a rearrangement of the terms on which permissions to land and other forms of property may be granted and rescinded by those in possession of political power. However, a true defence of private property rights would require the severe curtailment and abolition of political powers. 

Elsewhere, there have been protests against the cross-strait agreement on trade in services. No doubt this is partly a disguised attempt to engineer further de-facto CCP control over Taiwan by allowing Chinese investors to buy up land and to acquire controlling stakes in large Taiwanese companies - as Cole argues here. However, instead of targeting those aspects of the legal system that restrict the freedom of employees within the labour market and effectively render them part-time slaves to their employers, there have been - predictably - protests against "free trade". 

What seems to me to be happening is that, as Taiwan is being subtly taken over by the Chinese, not only has the DPP become an irrelevancy, but the supposedly "radical" student protests are conceptually disintegrated; the splinter terms "land justice", "social justice" and "environmental justice" have been a common sight in the editorial articles of the Taipei Times published over the past four years. I tried to change this but was quickly sidelined.

The students might - in theory - be able to wrongfoot the KMT by embracing free trade and focusing on dismantling labour market restrictions and so on, but the sea-change in perspective needed to even begin to try this, let alone accomplish it, is so vast that I cannot see it happening. There is also the lack of international support to be considered, now that the U.S. has become a proto-totalitarian State.

It is not easy to find reasons for optimism in any of this.

Later (10pm)... the second comment didn't get through as yet, so here it is...


I appreciate you letting my comment through - and even replying too.

However, your remarks don't answer my question. If as you say the TRF people are in agreement with me, why are they not pushing for repeal?

I could understand it if they thought there was a better chance of getting the amendments passed than a repeal bill passed, and the choice was therefore tactical, but since as you say, the composition of the legislature precludes either then why are they opting for what an Australian might call the "softcock" version?

I suspect there is a reason for this.

I dunno. Maybe she thought the "softcock" expression was unnecessarily yellow, or maybe the point is rather uncomfortable for somebody who is obviously sympathetic to the Taiwan Rural Front and perhaps is even familiar with the leadership. Of course I could be wrong about the motives of the TRF, but given what I have read from both professor Hsu and assistant professor Tsai and given what I have seen from politically active academics in Taiwan in general, I don't think so: until the higher education swamps have been drained, all academics in Taiwan must initially be regarded as doubtful friends of liberty, at best. 

Many of them will be carriers.

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