Thursday, September 21, 2006

North Korea, Example A In The Failure of High-Modernist Ideology

I want to point out to readers the first part of John Feffer's four part series about the North Korean famine. Feffer points out that North Korea's famine resulted from a series of terrible choices made by the Pyongyang government, including as Feffer states, "blind allegiance to the modernizing ideology of high-energy agriculture and the nationalist chimera of complete food self-sufficiency."

I agree completely. James Scott, in his seminal 1998 book, Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, argues that high-modernist states have brought disaster upon their ecology and population through their plans to create a legible land and populace that serves national needs, order, and security while ignoring traditional ways, the layout of the land, and the desires of the populace. North Korea is the ultimate example of a high-modernist state continuing its mission decades after other nations gave these ideas up. Communism and high modernism fit perfectly together (and capitalism with a large state component certainly can too) and North Korea continues to push land-use policies and state priorities that have made it one of the poorest nations on Earth. I was reading another article somewhere the other day that suggested looking on Google Earth at the Koreas--South Korea is green and lush, despite being severely overpopulated. North Korea has more land and less population and is completely denuded of vegetation. But the government in Pyongyang doesn't care about these things. It is happy to fail to feed its population instead of allowing international agencies to get food aid to the neediest people and it is happy to sacrifice the nation as a whole for the good of the military and government officials.

It's no news that North Korea is a failed state. But reading about just how failed it is and the stupid decisions made by the Kims almost makes one sick.