Sunday, July 19, 2009


Sorry about the delay, for that you get both of the remaining alleged results of a market-dominated minorities' dominance.

After a comparatively lengthy description of the so-called horrors the black Zimbabwean population has committed against the white minority (tellingly, Chua has omitted the atrocities the Zimbabwean leadership under Mugabe has brought to both whites' and blacks' doors), Chua gives us the mirror-opposite, the shocking knowledge that, yes, wealthy minorities are often undemocratic. She writes-
In the contest between an economically powerful ethnic minority and a numerically powerful impoverished majority, the majority does not always prevail. Instead of a backlash against the market, another likely outcome is a backlash against democracy, favoring the market-dominant minority at the expense of majority will. Examples of this dynamic are extremely common. Indeed, this book will show that the world's most notorious cases of "crony capitalism" all involve a market-dominant ethnic minority--from Ferdinand Marcos's Chinese-protective dictatorship in the Philippines to President Siaka Stevens's shadow alliance with five Lebanese diamond dealers in Sierra Leone to President Daniel Arap Moi's "business arrangements" with Indian tycoons in Kenya today.
That's all she wrote. The basis of an entire suite of despotism apparently only deserves a paragraph made into anything more than a four sentence description with egregious name-dropping. The populist-uprising result she mentioned yesterday, on the other hand, supposedly deserves a multi-paragraph explanation with in depth description of the regime headed by Mugabe.

To be fair to Chua, Ferdinand Marcos and Siaka Stevens are such common household names that they don't need introduction, unlike Robert Mugabe, a completely unknown individual for the primarily American audience that Chua was addressing.

More seriously, the inclusion of this paragraph feels slightly like the now famous liberal showcasing people feel they have to include for the mysterious PC police (who never seem to be around when I'm with them...). I've seen Crash. I know how hard some minorities have had it. I've read all about this. I'm not racist. And we're all supposed to nod knowingly to the speaker while still exchanging nervous glances and pained looks.

Worst yet, Chua seems to have embedded this apologetic sidestepping in between two more obviously questionable arguments. She returns those immediately:
The third and most ferocious kind of backlash is majority-supported violence aimed as eliminating a market-dominant minority. Two recent examples are the mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda and, to a lesser extent, the ethnic cleansing of Croats in former Yugoslavia.
Two sentences in, Chua has already pulled all sorts of red flags. Within the first sentence alone, her parallel wording in the first two potential reactions makes this final one appear odd - the first two were defined by their origin and their opponents, and out of nowhere we see majority-led genocide, without the parallel capacity (minority-led genocide) addressed, or even dismissed.

Furthermore, the examples she selects have particularly complex histories which contradict the picture she seems to be painting, with a lot of general description (the impoverished majority attacks the elite minority with intent to eradicate) supplemented with name dropping, not actual descriptions. In fact, the only explanation she gives fails to even differentiate between the two examples:
In both cases a resented and disproportionately prosperous ethnic minority was attacked by members of a relatively impoverished majority, incited by an ethnonationalist government. In other words, markets and democracy were among the causes of both the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides.
Except massive differences between that description and the realities of those horrific atrocities. In the case of the former Yugoslavia, a patchwork of religious, ethnic, and political fault lines lined up in a perfect storm, resulting in a dangerous de facto war between three primary blocs - the muslim Albanians, who had become an elite proxy under Turkish rule; the catholic Croats, who had originally risen to prominence as proxies for the Nazi government but had very effectively refashioned themselves as proxies for the West, building on historical ties between Croats and Italians, Austrians, and other "westerners"; and the Serbs, historically the greatest beneficiaries under pan-slavism and similar "eastern" nationalism, most notably under communism. The opening of the former Yugoslavia threated the Serbs' rule, and ultimately, the Serbs snapped and attacked those they perceived as their greatest historical enemies - the muslims, especially the Albanian Muslims, and the Croats. Ironically, the alleged market-dominant minority very effectively defended itself and avoided in large the Serbs' attacks, at least in its rich sections - countless impoverished Croat villages found all their women raped and their men killed. Ultimately, the violence proved to be undone by the economics, and continued on in purely ethnic terms. Alternatively, the Albanians were massacred much more uniformally. The situation is complex and could be studied for decades without acheiving a proper summary. Chua's very quick analysis seems to have been delivered in good faith, but could easily be interpreted as insensitive.

Alternatively, Rwanda displays a much more complex political event - the first attacks were on moderate Hutu, an preemptive attempt at weakening a potential retaliation of centrist Hutu and Tutsi against Hutu attacks. Combined with continual brutality of the Tutsi minority over the Hutu majority in neighboring Burundi, extensive European meddling, and constant influx of radicals from Uganda, this clearly is a much more complicated situation than Chua seems to be willing to give it credit for.

Next Friday, we'll see Chua finally give her critics a bit of credit.

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