Monday, March 10, 2014

Wealth and the Staying Power of Nationalism

“in Crimea right now[, w]e're approaching this in the language of Marxism. . . We're the ones that believe in economic determinism if the stock market tanks, if the oligarchs have trouble with their wealth. I'm not sure Vladimir Putin thinks that way. He's thinking like a nationalist, not in terms of economic categories.”

 --George Will, Conservative Panelist, “Fox News Sunday”

This blog believes the success of capitalism and democracy will bring about peace. If the people have their way, government will allow the market to flourish, because people want “peace and prosperity.”

Unfortunately, government, activist government, gets in the way--a kleptocracy that has to justify its existence by searching for problems to solve. So governments tend to fan nationalism (government as protector) and push socialism (government as provider)--two “isms” that cut against “peace and prosperity.” (With Hitler, the two came together as “National Socialism,” forming a true witches' brew.)

So no surprise, really, that Vladimir Putin would risk damaging his nation’s economy in order to advance Russian nationalism. No surprise, but sad anyway.

If you look at the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of world nations, measured in purchasing power parity and using CIA data, Russia at $17,200 is roughly half as wealthy as the European Union as a whole, and as Japan, France, and Israel individually.  Russia instead is in the same neighborhood as Argentina, Malaysia, and Panama.  Russia’s per capita GDP, in fact, is only $4,500 above the world average.  No wonder Putin boosts nationalism, not economic progress.

Hong Kong
In a ranking of nations by per capita GDP, who are some of the surprising winners?

Singapore’s per capita GDP is $61,400, near the very top and ahead of the U.S. at $50,700. Also ahead of the U.S.--Hong Kong at $52,300. In my lifetime, what a change! Taiwan, another Chinese entity, is at $39,400 nipping at Germany’s heels ($39,700), and ahead of the United Kingdom, Japan, and France. This truly may be China's century.

The Czech Republic has come out from behind the Iron Curtain to lead the old Soviet Warsaw Pact nations at $27,600, now ahead of old NATO’s Greece ($24,900) and Portugal ($23,800). Botswana, at $16,400, leads Sub-Saharan Africa, and ranks ahead of European Belarus, North American Mexico, and NATO member Turkey.

What about struggling nations?

Modolva’s per capita GDP is only $3,600, leaving a European nation that borders the Ukraine trailing India ($4,000) and just ahead of Ghana ($3,500). Thailand, at $9,900, is now barely ahead of China ($9,800). It used to be the rich rice bowl of Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, at $4,700--less than half Thailand’s per capita GDP--continues its economic struggle. Sadly, the West Bank and Gaza have a per capita GDP of only $2,900, less than 9% of Israel’s $32,800.  Finally, Haiti ($1,300), Nepal ($1,300), and Afghanistan ($1,100) are the poorest non-African nations.

No comments: