Smarter than a two-year-old (13 years later)

I have a reflection in today's Korea Times.

Smarter than a two-year old
By Casey J. Lartigue Jr.

I was reading and listening to music in a coffee shop when a Korean toddler approached me, unconcerned that I was deep in thought.

He had been crying loudly a few minutes before ― the snot still running down his nose was evidence. Smiling brightly, awkwardly holding a smoothie, he was adamant that I take a drink. I outsmarted him and held the cup for him to take a drink, much to his delight.

I learned that little trick from a previous incident when I lived in South Korea, in the late 1990s. As I was sitting in the bank, a little girl holding a bag of potato chips was staring at me. Thinking about the expats who then complained about ``run by hello-ings” of children, I smiled. The smile wasn't meant for the little girl, but she broke into a huge smile and waved at me, frantically, as if she were a mile away.

A minute later, she hesitatingly wandered over in my direction. Our eyes met, and I smiled again, that time on purpose. She then walked directly to me and held out two potato chips.

It was my turn to be hesitant. I imagined she might have dropped all of the potato chips in the sandbox earlier, scooping them up before her mother noticed. Or that she had a runny nose and had been dipping into the bag as she wiped it. I took the two potato chips and thanked her. She then walked back to her mother, beaming.

To eat or not to eat, that was the question. She was watching me, so I couldn't toss them. I would have given them to anyone jealous she gave them to me.

I ate the potato chips.

Slowly. First, the large one, then the one that was broken in half. I could see her smiling. She then started handing out potato chips to everyone in the bank. At that time, I wrote that I had learned three things. One, if you ever want to poison everyone, then have a small child hand out poison-dipped potato chips. The police would arrive on the scene with her as the only survivor.

Second, young Koreans may be as spoiled as older Koreans claim. The older Koreans ate the potato chips without hesitation. I could imagine the lecture: ``When I was a kid, we ate dirt! And we were happy to have dirt! Your uncle and I used to fight over who would eat the biggest pieces of dirt! Of course we would have eaten potato chips from a little girl in a bank. But we didn’t have banks, either!”

One young woman asked the girl why she was handing out potato chips. Her friend took the potato chips, then fed them to the girl. Ah! A clever tactic I had not thought of back then! The little girl was happy to eat them.

Or, third, the difference may have been between parents and childless people. The Koreans with that ajumma/ajeossi-look ate the potato chips while younger Koreans who probably weren’t married did not. Adults who have spent years learning table manners seem to completely forget them after they have kids.

I told this story to a co-worker, who she said her husband would suck the snot out of her son’s nose whenever he had a cold, to prove his love. I did issue a challenge: Yeah, okay, but has he ever tried that at the other end when the kid was having a stomachache?

Casey Lartigue Jr. is director of international relations at the Center for Free Enterprise in Seoul. He can be reached at caseyradio@daum.net.


"New employee" Casey Lartigue

I just got a double hit in the Korea Herald

The roundtable discussion I organized featuring Andrei Lankov got quite a bit of media coverage by the Korean press. Here's the text of a Korea Herald article. As the host of the event, I had many considerations.
1) Three different speakers who all have a lot to say about North Korea
2) More people than I expected showed up.
3) Keeping the spirit of a "roundtable discussion" while having a lecture from Lankov and discussion with special guests invited.


The Korea Herald followed up with a nice little article about our rap video.

The Korea Herald, September 29, 2011

Signs of market economy in N.K. emerging: expert

A market economy and new business class have emerged in North Korea since the 1990s even though their government will not acknowledge it publicly, a panel of experts said Wednesday.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Center for Free Enterprise in Yeouido, Seoul, professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University said that the populace was forced into adapting to a new market economy after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Following the collapse of its main benefactor, there are sources that suggest that the North's industrial output was halved by 2000 compared to what it had been in 1990, and that half a million to 1 million North Koreans perished, he said.

Unlike in former communist countries where the government chose to adopt capitalism or the people demanded it, "in North Korea it was just a way to stay alive," he said.

"Only top officials survive on salary," he added.

Walter Klitz of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty said that in his periodic visits to North Korea he has seen the effects of the new market economy on the populace, as those in some rural areas of the nation are relatively well off.

"They don't have a food problem, they have a distribution problem," he said. Furthermore, he has witnessed traffic jams in urban areas apparently spurred by increased economic activity, something unheard of just a few years ago.

This also indicates that sanctions imposed on the North have been bypassed, particularly through increased investments from China.

The increase in this market activity, however, does not mean that the nation is no longer a planned economy, as the main institutions are still in place, they said. For example, laws against activities such as traveling outside of one's home county or exchanging foreign currency are no longer enforced.

The North Korean government attempts to contain such market activity, but no longer attempts to clamp down on it since the botched currency reform of late 2009, Lankov said.

Furthermore, the presence of this new business class ¡ª primarily made up of women because men are required to keep up appearances at their state-approved jobs ¡ª does not mean the nation is more prepared for reunification than before. Lankov said that North Koreans who have succeeded in business would likely be swamped by competition for the South, and much of the nation would form a "permanent underclass" should unification take place.

"You would see much of North Koreans disadvantaged and never recover," he said.

After each member of the panel made their remarks, they took questions from guests, with many questions relating to the succession process from current leader Kim Jong-il to his son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un.

Lankov said that he does not like to talk about succession often.

"I don't know anything about Kim Jong-un, period," he said. Whether or not he is more reform-minded than his father or grandfather, though, may not matter.

"His logic ¡¦ will be much more defined by the political situation than by his own inclinations," he said.

Another panel member was Donald Kirk, Korea correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. In response to a question comparing the unification of the two Koreas to East and West Germany in 1990, Kirk called a comparison between North Korea and East Germany "fallacious."

"East Germany was the most powerful economy in Eastern Europe," he said. "It was not a starving country. It was certainly not a failed state."

By Rob York (rjamesyork@heraldm.com)
This article was originally published in the Korea Herald on September 29, 2011.

Rap gets down to business

2011-09-29 20:05

Complex economic arguments such as the appropriate role of government in the economy are likely to be met with groans of boredom by many outside business and politics.

But one Seoul-based fee market think tank is seeking to change that and get people thinking about economics ¡ª by rapping about it.

"We Can Do It," a rap battle tackling the question of whether the government should protect small businesses from bigger players, is the Center for Free Enterprise's latest endeavor to bring economic issues to unlikely audiences.

"For us, why not try something different? Companies must always innovate, try different things, so the same thing is true with us," CFE head Kim Chung-ho told The Korea Herald.

"We will still mainly focus on research, writing, events, this is just an added feature. A rap battle seemed to be a good way to present both sides of this debate over the role of government and political intervention into the marketplace."
Kim Chung-ho (right) and Kim Mun-kyung go head-to-head over the government and small business. (CFE)

In the video, the think tank's second through rap, pro-free market Kim faces off with Soongsil University Professor Kim Mun-kyung, whose rhyming skills are put to the test in defense of small business.

A "Fail Harder" sign Kim had seen at Facebook's head office in California last year had inspired him to be daring with education when new employee Casey Lartigue Jr. directed Kim to a rap video from his native U.S.

The video, pitting fictional representations of economists Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes against each other, inspired the CFE's first foray into music, "More Grasshoppers than Ants." Before long, a second video was in the works.

"At many companies, the boss is in charge. At CFE, whenever we want to do something new, he (Kim) says, `yes, let's make it big!' We have no excuses here, we have a boss who sets the kind of atmosphere that makes it okay to try and to have no shame if we fail," said Lartigue.

For Kim, if their dalliance with a genre more readily associated with guns and girls encourages people to take themselves a little less seriously and have some fun, so much the better.

"I hope people won't think it is crazy to have some 50-plus-year-old guys rapping and jumping around. We are amateurs at this, but we hope it can even be inspirational for people who feel restricted by social pressure to stop having fun once they become `adults.'"

You can watch "We Can Do It" on www.eng.cfe.org or Youtube.

By John Power (john.power@heraldm.com)

This article originally appeared in the Korea Herald on September 30, 2011.


"We Can Do It" music video

I am the "referee" in a new music video produced by The Center for Free Enterprise. Here is the link at the CFE site. I will be posting the translation and other information related to the video there, so bookmark it for updates.

Yes, I have a tough job. Who would have ever thought a think tank geek would be making a music video?


"Yoegi Anjuseyo!"

* I have a short reflection in today's Korea Times about an encounter with an unfriendly looking Korean man on the subway. It was a reminder not to be too quick in judging people in Korea.

09-13-2011 16:47

'Yeogi Anjeuseyo!'
By Casey Lartigue Jr.

The recent incident in which an American English teacher bullied an elderly Korean man and other passengers on the bus reminded me of a more pleasing incident from years ago.

I was on the subway, taking the train outside of Seoul for a work assignment. I have the habit of standing on the subway to strategically position myself near the doors in case my stop magically appears.

On that particular day, there was a Korean man STARING at me. Not just looking at me, but intensely staring at me.

He had an incredible frown on his face. Not just for one stop, but for several stops the guy just kept staring at me. If I had known more Korean then I would have been able to curse him out or to tell him he had 10 seconds to start looking at something else ― and that I would start counting at nine.

If I had to guess, I would say that he was a farmer, probably in his late 40s or early 50s. He was poorly dressed. He seemed to be headed for a Hollywood casting call for the role of a Korean farmer eking out a living during the Korean War.

Then, the person next to him stood up to get off the train.

An incredible thing happened.

The frowning farmer began to point at the seat next to him, and was almost shouting at me...

``Yeogi Anjeuseyo! Yeogi Anjeuseyo!"

Even if I had not understood ``sit down” in Korean, his body language made it clear that I had to sit in that seat right then!

No one was trying to claim the seat. I was stunned for a moment but quickly sat. He then had a huge grin on his face, as if he had accomplished something by securing that seat for me. He turned to face me, just looking at me, grinning. Had he saved me from a burning building? Helped me cheat on my taxes? No. He was pointing to a seat that had just been vacated. Perhaps he feared that an ajumma would bump me out of the way and claim the seat.

Sitting there, I was embarrassed that I had been so wrong, and frustrated I could not explain it to him. So there we were sitting, unable to communicate, but with enough good feelings that we could have brought peace to the Korean peninsula all by ourselves.

Then, when it was time for his stop, he stood up, forcefully shook my hand, and said good-bye in Korean. I stood up, not knowing the proper protocol for such a situation, said goodbye to him as we bowed to each other on the subway.

After that day, ``yeogi anjeuseyo" joined ``nunchi," ``ajumma," ``han," ``skinship” and a few other phrases in my lexicon of favorite Korean and Konglish words and phrases. But when I tell Koreans ``yeogi anjeuseyo," I don't just say ``yeogi anjeuseyo." It is more of a command, the type I heard on the subway that day:

``Yeogi Anjeuseyo! Yeogi Anjeuseyo!"

Of course, Koreans advise me not to say it so forcefully. I agree with them, promising not to do so again. But I do.

* * *

Other announcements:

* I will be hosting a roundtable discussion on September 28 with Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University about North Korea.

* I will be attending a discussion on K-pop featuring Fulbright Researcher Emilie Chu this Friday night (Sept 16, from 6-8 p.m., at the KAEC Mapo-gu building). You may email them directly at executive.assistant (at)fulbright.or.kr to register and may :cc or :bcc me cjartigue(at)yahoo.com. Emilie will be speaking from 6-7, then Grace Ha will be speaking on Haenyo, Jeju, and the Future of Marine Conservation. RSVP ASAP.


Yogi Anjuseyo

People often ask me, now that I am back in Korea, how things are different. My main responses: 1) I'm different. 2) Koreans seem more open-minded 3) The expats seem more educated, but have many of the same complaints and are using the same analysis I was hearing then.

Robert Neff writes in the newest edition of the Korea Times about the recent fight on the bus. He mentions:
"Scribblings of the Metropolitician brought up an interesting observation ― one that bothers him a great deal ― the empty seat. According to him, regardless of how crowded the bus is and the number of people standing, the seat next to him is always empty. It is insulting to him that no one wants to sit next to him.

"But not all expatriates in Korea have that problem ― some find themselves with unwanted seatmates."
Seoul subway line 5, Sept 8, 2011.
--Casey Lartigue, Jr..

That is one of the low-rent issues I remember from the 1990s. I have learned that Scribblings of the Metropolitican is a 40-something year old mixed race (Korean and black) guy who seems to fancy himself to be a social critic. He recently discussed his secret desire to beat up various Koreans who annoy him on public transportation.

I wrote about this empty seat issue back in the mid-1990s and 1999. If I were to write it today I would write it somewhat differently, probably even more dismissive of the complaint.

* * *

August 4, 1999
While Abroad, Chill Out by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

 It is natural that people living abroad have trouble adjusting to a new culture. Numerous personal essays, scholarly research papers and books have explored the various phenomena associated with culture shock, adjustment and cultural differences. While some of the complaints of visitors to Asia may be valid, some border on paranoia, if not downright childishness.

 When I was living in South Korea, one complaint I heard from more than a few expatriates was that Koreans avoid sitting next to them on public transportation. Apparently some Koreans remain standing when a foreigner is sitting alone, next to an empty seat, on a crowded bus or train.
 If only that were true. While I secretly hoped that no one would try to sit next to me, I could always count on an oversized ajimah with two or three bags to squeeze into the seat next to me. She'd usually give me a big smile after she was all squeezed in. I suspect that most riders on the public transportation are more concerned with their own comfort than with the national origin of other passengers.

 Let's assume for the moment, however, that the expatriates aren't just paranoid. There could be any number of reasons that someone may not want to sit in an empty seat. People who have been sitting in an office all day might dread sitting even more. In some cases, someone who may be getting off the bus soon or isn't sure exactly where to get off might not want to sit. In others, the person may want to give you the "personal space" so many expatriates have complained they don't get in Korea .

I'll even offer a new theory. Some Koreans have been said to suffer from "telephone phobia." Unable to rely on visual clues to help them through a conversation, they will just hang up the phone when confronted by English. Likewise, some Koreans may be suffering from "empty seat phobia." Unable to speak English fluently, they may avoid sitting next to you out of fear that you will talk to them. In short, there are any number of reasons that someone may choose not to sit.
 If the fact that someone doesn't sit next to you when there is an empty seat means that you are being discriminated against, what are we to conclude when Koreans single out expatriates and demand that they sit? Or what about Koreans who often offer to hold the bags of people who are standing on public transportation? If one action is discrimination, then the opposing action would seem to be favoritism, if not downright nice.

 This is not to deny that there are some xenophobic Koreans who avoid sitting next to expatriates. There probably are some Koreans who hate non-Koreans enough that they would refuse to sit next to a foreigner--in which case, you should consider yourself lucky that such a person doesn't want to sit next to you. Who the heck wants to sit next to a xenophobe? Let her stand. Just give her a big smile and enjoy your ride.

 I heard other complaints from expatriates. Some are  bothered by the personal questions many Koreans ask. Some also complain about the lack of personal space and privacy that they have in Korea . By far, the most incredible complaint I heard is that some expatriates feel unfairly singled out by drunks and smart-aleck children shouting, "Hello!"

 Now that I'm back in America , I can see that drunks here aren't exactly the most dignified of souls. And many of the kids will tell you to "go f...yourself" if you tell them to tie their shoes. In our respective countries, when encountering rude or playful children, we say, "stupid kids." While in Korea, far too many Americans will say, "stupid Korean kids," attributing the "hello" to a character flaw in Koreans.

 Some expatriates even plot strategy to handle kids shouting "hello" at them. As a kid, I would have been surprised to know that an adult was plotting strategies to counter my antics. Not that such adult strategies would have been completely unwarranted.

 In my neighborhood, when we weren't shooting arrows or BBs at each other, we loved tossing water balloons at cars and people passing by. From the roof of a house, tossed with just the right trajectory, you could hit a man square on the head from 30 yards away with a water balloon. It was also fun to wait until our friends were playing in the front yard, then to blindly toss two or three water balloons from behind a fence when the first adult walked by. Those stupid kids would get blamed for it while we made our getaway. We'd get a whipping if we caught got, but the thrill was worth it.

 We had fun looking up dirty words in the dictionary and randomly shouting them at each other. Or telling adults to "go f... yourself" if they told us to tie our shoes. Ringing someone's doorbell and then running off before they could open the door was fun, too. Boobytrapping the door in a neighbor's house was worth a laugh or two before we got whipped.

 But I digress. Those Korean kids, winding down from another pressure-packed day of studying for 14 or 15 hours, really shouldn't be yelling "hello" at hypersensitive foreigners. They should be yelling something much more appropriate, like "Yankee, go home!" And "home" is where some people need to be. There's no place like home. Some people never should have left.

* * *

Previous version from 1995 or 1996

* * *

Yogi Anjuseyo
by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
The Korea Times
c. 1995 or 1996

    Koreans may not know it, but many expats here in Korea feel discriminated against on a daily basis. Some complaints have been voiced on many occasions. Koreans point and stare at non-Koreans. They yell obscenities. They are nationalistic, xenophobic, racist. One complaint Koreans may not have heard is that some foreigners feel that Koreans avoid siting next to them on public transportation. Apparently some Koreans remain standing when a foreigner is sitting alone, next to an empty seat, on a crowded bus or train.

    Recalling my own initial experience in Asia, I'm skeptical. After about a week in Taipei, Taiwan, two things quickly irritated me: 1) Taiwanese shopkeepers seemed to be following me around the store. That's a sure sign in America that the shopkeeper doesn't trust you. 2) Taiwanese shopkeepers often did not hand me my change directly. Instead, they would often place it on the counter for me to pick up. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I decided to observe Taiwanese people interacting. Sure enough, the shopkeepers followed the other customers around. Not only that, they placed the change on the counter for Taiwanese customers to pick up. I'm sure they weren't putting on a show just for me, so I assumed that was normal behavior in Taiwan. After a few months, I found myself walking out of stores when shopkeepers did not pay attention to me within a few seconds. I even started leaving the money on the counter for shopkeepers to scoop up. I guessed that I was blending into the local culture. 

    Likewise, I think some culture vultures here have spotted racism where it isn't present. Could there ever be a legitimate reason for someone to leave a seat vacant? One reason could be that some people just prefer to stand. People who have been sitting in an office all day might dread sitting even more. I would guess that some women, especially the lawbreaking, miniskirt wearers, might be wary about sitting next to any men. You might look harmless, but that doesn't mean the person who might later take your seat will be. It might be rude to remain standing when there is an open seat, but it is doubly rude to stand up after someone else sits down. Some Koreans who haven't learned to speak English may fear that *you* will talk to them. Still others may prefer to stand if they think their stop is coming up soon. How many times have you complained about people who remain seated until two seconds before the bus driver gets ready to take off for the next stop? In short, there are any number of reasons that someone may choose not to sit.

    While some expats have stories about sitting alone on a crowded bus, train, or subway, there are just as many expats who can tell stories about aggressive Koreans who are all too willing to fill that empty seat. I've had people actually grab me and physically try to force me to sit. I've seen others similarly accosted. Other Koreans already sitting will hold your bag for you if you're standing. That some expats feel discriminated against by Koreans who allegedly don't want to sit next to them is all the more ironic because many expats complain exactly about the opposite thing: far too many Koreans are all too willing to sit next to them. Some of them want to look at what you're reading, some want to hit you up for a free English class. Complaining about both being ignored and approached might lead some Koreans to conclude that expats can never be satisfied. After years of hearing that foreigners need "personal space" and detest personal questions, I personally wouldn't blame Koreans for avoiding expats.

It seems that some are attributing racism to some very natural occurrences. On public transportation around the world, vacant seats are often as lonely as the last piece of chicken at a picnic: everyone sees it, but no one takes it. Most of the people who believe that Koreans don't want to sit next to them are probably newcomers who have come to Korea expecting to be discriminated against. It has become fashionable in America to picture oneself as a victim. Some have even drawn parallels between themselves and "disenfranchised" people.

    If you seriously believe Koreans standing nearby are discriminating against you, try saying, "yogi anjuseyo." (Have a seat). Beware, however. They may never leave you alone. You might end up with an invitation to dinner. On a bus or subway, I suspect that most Koreans are more interested in their own comfort than about the national origin of other passengers.

* * *

Update: People of Color discussion about race in Korea.

* * *

Linked by Monster Island,


The black race can't afford him no more

An elderly Korean man may have a story about a near riot experience from yesterday. Not the one that is circulating the Internet.

Yesterday I was boarding the subway, a Korean friend called me to wish me a happy birthday (he was wrong, early by one week). I was standing, as I often do on the subway, and talking on my cell. As I thanked my (very busy) buddy for taking the time to call, an elderly Korean man softly tapped me on my knee about two or three times and signaled for me to be quiet. I'm not surprised about Korean men, whether sober or drunk, initiating contact, so I just ignored him, walking down to the other part of the subway car--and continuing the conversation. As I noted to my buddy on the phone, I wasn't the only one talking on a cell phone.

This morning, I saw the video of a black man going off and getting into a physical altercation with an elderly Korean man. People often say that black people all look alike, but I guess in this case that I don't need an alibi.

There have been many comments about it. Of course, we don't know yet exactly what happened off camera leading up to moment someone started recording, but I guess things were getting hot enough that someone figured it was worth recording.

One blogger did the "I don't condone it, but I can understand it" analysis:

"And as a black man in Korea who ain't even that black, skintone wise, and considering all the SHIT *I* get, I really, really doubt the man just got up for no reason and started going buck wild."

This is the "Reasonable Like Me" Standard that people often mistakenly refer to people who suddenly show up in the news. "Hey, I'm reasonable, I get bothered, I can understand why that guy would be so upset." That's fine, except that there are some real sociopaths, liars, criminals, abusive and violent people. So many people do stupid things I would never do, so it is difficult to see why such projection makes sense.

* * *

Hanging out with some friends Saturday night in Hongdae, some white dudes were getting drunk at the table nearby. As the group prepared to leave, the drunkest guy who took off his shirt a few times then stuck his fingers in his mouth, pushing deeply, until he successfully threw up on the floor. It wasn't a case of "Oh, my goodness, I think I'm going to regurgitate." It was more like...well, I don't know what he was thinking, but he clearly had time to walk, perhaps even crawl to the bathroom, before throwing up in the toilet. He had to force himself to throw up on the floor under his table.

Everyone at our table--about 12 of us--was disgusted. Throwing up, as drunk people sometimes do is one thing. Taking the time to force yourself to throw up on the floor as you are leaving? It clearly ruined a fun night for one of the Korean guys at the table. I would guess he is in his late 40s or early 50s. He may one day have such an altercation with a non-Korean, as happened on the bus.

He was guessing the guys are GIs, that they look down on Korea and Koreans, and other mind-reading. After that, he just could not have a good time.

* * *

By the way, the elderly Korean man in the video does look a lot like a Korean man who, about six months ago, was shouting at me and a platonic Korean female friend in Anyang. We had finished dinner and were saying good-bye when the Korean guy came up, staring like I had stolen something of his, then began cursing at us in Korean. Not the first time that kind of thing has happened to me, by the way, so I can understand what the blogger was complaining about. Quite a while ago I did develop the ability to ignore the rantings of crazies, drunks, angry people, both here and back home in America.

In Anyang that night, my friend and I had talked earlier about drunk and crazy people getting into fights, so the old Korean guy was a caricature of what we had been discussing earlier. She pleaded with me to just ignore him, that he clearly was an idiot.

I just looked at him and smiled, then walked with my friend to a police car that just happened to be parked nearby. The old guy followed up, still cussing up a storm.

The cop got out of the car, he listened to my friend's explanation, then listened for about 5 seconds of the older Korean guy cussing and complaining. The cop then opened his own can of whup ass and hauled the older guy into the police station. I must say, after seeing Saturday's video, that the cop was shouting like he was an angry black man on the bus.


Korea Herald article

I have greatly reduced my already slim chances to go to heaven with an article in today's Korea Herald opposing a universal free lunch program.

Two weeks ago I was the MC for an event that brought Aristides Hatzis of the University of Athens to Seoul (photos). In addition to him speaking at a major event at the Plaza Hotel (photos), he addressed the National Assembly. Yesterday, he was mentioned by South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Yonhap article in English, link in Korean to the president's bi-weekly address, .


I'm big in Tennessee

What a surprise--the folks at Tennessee School Choice have posted a series of posts reviewing the 2004 book I co-edited for the Cato Institute.

As they write:"...Educational Freedom in Urban America: Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education edited by David Salisbury and Casey Lartigue Jr. Part one is available to read Here, part two Here and part three Here. Keep in mind we are only sharing that which really jumped out at us as enlightening, helpful, informative or, in some cases, profound, but there is much we aren’t sharing that you may find helpful by reading the book in full. Should we stir your interest to learn more the ebook is available for $9.99 Here."

The folks at the Cato Institute were kind enough to ship me a box of books here in Korea. Next time I am in America, I will stop by Tennessee to give a talk, and see if Cato will send books for me to sign.

My chapter is reviewed in post #2.



Welfare populism: Lessons from Greece policy forum

I will be the MC for an event featuring:

Aristides Hatzis, University of Athens
Oh Se-hoon, Mayor of Seoul
Moo Sung Kim, National Assembly of South Korea
Sungkun Ha of Yonsei University

The event will be held in Seoul, Tuesday, August 9, from 10:30 a.m.-12:40 p.m., RSVP ASAP cjl(@)cfe.org

* * *

Last Tuesday I was the host of a roundtable discussion with Prof. G. Marcus Cole of Stanford University Law School.



Park Chung-hee: Dictator or benevolent autocrat? (The Korea Herald, July 20, 2011)

The Korea Herald published my analysis of Willam Easterly's paper "Benevolent Autocrats." Check it out at the CFE Website. Easterly questions if "benevolent autocrats" really deserve credit for high economic growth.

The Idiots' Collective calls it "a must-read" piece.

I agree.

[Casey Lartigue, Jr.] Park Chung-hee: Dictator or benevolent autocrat?

It ain’t necessarily so. That’s what New York University economics professor William Easterly essentially says about crediting “benevolent autocrats” like South Korea’s Park Chung-hee for high growth rates.

In “Benevolent Autocrats,” a provocative working paper posted in May, Easterly 1) argues that economists should be skeptical of the “benevolent autocrat” theory; (2) questions whether benevolent autocrats truly deserve credit for growth; (3) and concedes he is making a losing argument because cognitive biases lead many to believe in benevolent autocrats regardless of the evidence.

After reviewing research, analysis and commentary from scholars and commentators supporting the benevolent autocrat theory, Easterly notes that it is true that nine of the 10 developing countries (e.g., Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong) that have achieved high economic growth in the past few decades have been led by autocrats (Japan is the one democratic exception). We must be slow to draw conclusions, however. There are 89 countries that he labels as autocratic, meaning that only 10 percent of developing autocratic countries have experienced high growth since 1960. This is a classic case of the “Law of Small Numbers” theory (people will quickly draw conclusions based on a small sample or data point).

There are leaders like Park who apparently can steer the economy toward growth, but there are just as many lunatic leaders like Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or Samora Machel in Mozambique driving their economies into the ditch. It may be that both groups are outliers because 70 autocrat countries experienced neither high growth nor failure.

Easterly then pushes the argument over benevolent autocrats into even more controversial territory: Do benevolent autocrats truly deserve credit for economic growth? Benevolent autocrats are not unconstrained and are just one of the major players in a developing economy with many situational factors. Benevolent autocrats still must answer to the “selectorate” or elite in the country that has the power to remove an autocrat. Benevolent autocrats can’t completely ignore foreign powers that may allow some bloodshed but not outright tyranny. In short, autocrats don’t rule at will.

For all of their alleged expertise at guiding the economy, Easterly notes that growth rates swing more wildly under autocrats than democrats, and often without radical changes in policy. Growth continues either immediately or within a short time after an autocrat dies suddenly or is assassinated, and that’s without a successor waiting-in-the-wings (in South Korea’s case, after a short dip, the economy took off after Chun Doo-hwan replaced Park). There are many things going on in a country, from mass movements from the rural to city areas or perhaps the ending of tyranny or civil war. Yet, the “benevolent autocrat” theory highlights one guy when the results are good and blames many factors when there is failure.

While Chang Ha-Joon of Cambridge University highlights Park Chung-hee building up industry and focusing on exports, Kim Chung-Ho, my boss at the Center for Free Enterprise, notes that Park liberalized the economy, established private property rights for citizens, and cut tariffs below previous levels. Park certainly didn’t liberalize to an extent that a free market supporter would want, but considered within the scope of Korean history, it was economically liberating for every day Koreans.

Easterly concedes that the benevolent autocrat belief will remain popular, for a host of reasons. Intellectuals ranging from George Bernard Shaw (swooning for the USSR in the 1930s) to Thomas Friedman (praising China’s one-party state recently) have long fawned over dictators, autocrats and one-party states, mainly because despots have the power to force their ideas on others. Media tend to over-report the success stories of autocratic countries. For example, an analysis of New York Times articles from 1960 to 2008 found that the newspaper was eight times more likely to report on success stories (41,952) of autocracies compared to failures (5,705).

Easterly cites cognitive biases (i.e., our willingness to believe something despite a lack of evidence) such as “Leadership Attribution” theory (Hollywood giving the audience a hero to identify with, sports fans blaming or praising a coach for the team’s record, and voters blaming politicians for things clearly out of an anyone’s control). Easterly could have also mentioned Koreans in the past blaming kings for droughts, or in more modern times, South Koreans blaming a series of catastrophes in the mid-1990s on then-president Kim Young-sam being “bad luck.”

So what’s the answer: Are “benevolent autocrats” responsible for high growth? Is a dictator who liberalizes the economy but maintains control over the voting booth a good or bad guy? Does increased growth eventually lead to democratic reform?

The debate over benevolent autocrats is sure to continue, especially as Easterly continues to post additions to his working paper, but one thing is clear: For all of his alleged accomplishments in creating the “Miracle on the Han,” the 50th anniversary of Park seizing power on May 16, 1961, recently passed with less fanfare than would be expected for the alleged architect of South Korea’s economic renaissance.

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Casey Lartigue, Jr. is director of international relations at the Center for Free Enterprise in Seoul. (http://eng.cfe.org).



Korea's kings and queens in government even control the temperature

Korea Herald columnist Kim Seong-kon argues in favor of the incorporation of Seoul National University. One of the reasons he notes is too much government control now, including, even the temperatures in government-related institutions.

He writes:
26 degrees, by government mandate.
"Personally, I support the incorporation of Seoul National University. Currently, SNU faculty members are tied up with all sorts of bureaucratic procedures and government red tape that seriously hamper their research activities. For example, government regulations stipulate that all rooms shall be set at 26 degrees Celsius in government-related institutions."

I don`t have a problem with the government controlling the temperature in government-related institutions.

I do have a problem with government control of temperatures in private homes and businesses. If I want a sauna in my home, that`s my business. Or, on the contrary, if I want it so cold that I have icicles hanging from the ceiling, that is also my business, as long as I pay for it.

But there seems to be disagreement over whether or not there is a regulation on the temperature.
Korea Times: "Because of the government regulations on the air-conditioning temperature to be set no lower than 26 degrees, the department store feels even hotter and more cramped."

Joonangilbo quoting Kwon Oh-jung, an official from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy:
"Kwon said the government will continue to advise the service sector, which includes department stores and banks, to voluntarily keep indoor air-conditioning to no lower than 26 degrees Celsius. It will also ask restaurants, supermarkets and airports to set their air conditioners no lower than 25 degrees Celsius."
Kwon uses soft words: "Advise." "Voluntary." "Will ask."

But wait, Kwon kept talking:
"The government will regulate the use of air-conditioning in large buildings that consume more than 2,000 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) of energy during peak hours, and if they are found to be in violation of the measure, they will face a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,769)."
So it is voluntary, except when it isn`t.

Naturally, businesses preferred to pay the fine. As in so many cases, business does well in Korea despite the government, not because of it, paying fines to various government offices in order to remain and business. As is often the case, people do to themselves under democracy what would have outraged them under a king or dictatorship.


CFE forum on Korea-EU FTA (Korea Herald)

Public forum on FTA on Thursday
2011-07-05 19:21

A conference on economic opportunities and challenges arising from the Korea-EU FTA which came into effect on July 1 will take place in Seoul on Thursday.

The conference, taking place at the Koreana Hotel from 2 p.m., will also examine the current economic crisis in Europe and economic development in Korea.

The event is being jointly hosted by the Center for Free Enterprise, a Seoul-based free market think-tank, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, a German foundation for the promotion of individual freedom which has offices around the world including in Seoul.

“We picked the date hoping National Assembly members wouldn’t find a way to delay the agreement going into effect. So this is really timely because we are holding this less than a week after the agreement went into effect,” said Casey Lartigue Jr., manager of international relations at the CFE.

Speakers at the conference titled “Economic Freedom and the Wealth of Nations” will include independent political and economic consultant Stefan Melnik, Barbara Kolm of the F.A. v. Hayek Institute and Choeng In-kyo of Inha University in Incheon.

Lartigue said the conference was free and open to the public but recommended that those interested RSVP in advance.

“We are always trying to remind the public about the benefits of free enterprise, trade, voluntary exchanges. Agree or disagree, we are happy to present our analysis to the public,” Lartigue said.

Those interested in attending can visit www.cfe.org (Korean) or http://eng.cfe.org (English) to register, or call (02) 3774-5000 (Korean) or (02) 3774-5056 (English).

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Korea Herald link,


Korea Herald, CFE conference

1) TODAY: Korea Herald article

In a Korea Herald debate, I argue in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution. See below for the full text.
2) NEXT WEEK: You are invited...

to a joint conference hosted by the Center for Free Enterprise and the Naumann Foundation for Liberty, July 7, from 2-6 p.m. As long as the world doesn't come to an end tonight then the EU-Korea FTA will go into effect tomorrow. The FTA will be one of the topics discussed at the event. I will kick off the conference by introducing the event sponsors.

Please let me know if you are interested in attending. It is absolutely FREE of charge for attendees, we truly welcome your attendance.


In a Korea Herald debate, I argue in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution.
Yes: Prohibition is worse than the crime
by Casey Lartigue Jr.
June 30, 2011
The Korea Herald

The South Korean government can keep prostitution illegal, but it can't make it unpopular, to borrow a phrase from a former mayor of New Orleans.

I argue that prostitution should be legalized (state regulation) or decriminalized (neither legal nor illegal) for two main reasons. One, the consequences of prohibition are worse than the original "crime." Two, prohibition is an attack on the individual freedom and economic liberty of consenting adults.

Prostitution is denounced around the world ¡ª even by its customers ¡ª in opinion polls, churches, the political arena, and news media. It is unpopular in rhetoric but quite popular in reality. Visiting a prostitute is said to be a rite of passage for young Korean men and part of a night out for many Korean businessmen. An estimated 4 to 8 percent of Korean women are engaged in the sex industry and the industry's value is equivalent to 20 percent of men buying sex more than four times a month.

In 2003, before a serious crackdown, about $22 billion (probably an underestimate) was spent on prostitution here. That is similar to the amount the Korean government spent on education that year and half of what it spent on defense. Despite denunciations, crackdowns, public humiliation, arrests and punishment, prostitution remains quite popular here.

Prostitution will remain popular because of supply and demand ¡ª one side willing to pay for sex, another side willing to supply it. Crackdowns drive it underground, as Korea's 2004 Act on the Prevention of the Sex Trade and Protection of Its Victims did, reportedly pushing prostitutes to creatively expand beyond red-light districts targeted by police.

Perhaps, as some advocates of prohibition argue, law enforcement just hasn't tried hard enough, and that leads to one of the main reasons I support legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution: There are unintended consequences that make enforcement worse than the "crime." Prostitutes are less likely to call law enforcement when they are abused, beaten or cheated, and can't go to court to have contracts enforced. Criminalization means that people who have decided it is their best alternative among currently available options are condemned to dealing with criminal organizations, violent patrons, crooked cops (and, perhaps, rough IMF presidents).

As bad as prostitution may be, it can't be as bad as the 18,351 reported rapes and sex crimes, 1,374 murders, 6,351 robberies, and 256,423 burglaries among 590,087 violent crimes committed here in 2009, according to Korea's National Police Agency. Why waste taxpayer money and resources chasing prostitutes when there are violent crimes with clear victims and victimizers?

The supporters of criminalizing prostitution have their own arguments, not all of which can be easily waved off. One that is a real concern is that poor people aren't free to "choose" prostitution because of economic and cultural reasons. While that is a real concern, it isn't clear how many prostitutes are in that position and why eliminating choices, including bad ones, would help. Even those prostitutes allegedly forced into it evade law enforcement ¡ª apparently they prefer prostitution to prosecution.

That leads me to a second main reason I support legalization or decriminalization: Prohibition is an attack on the individual freedom and economic liberty of consenting adults. After trading debating points, we are left with the key question: Should adults who aren't directly harming others be allowed to engage in activity (even when others disagree)? If adults can give away sex for free, why can't they sell it? It should be up to a spouse or partner, not politicians or the police, to object.

American journalist H.L. Mencken once said, "Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time." It isn't the government's business what you do with your time and money, as long as you are not directly harming others. Legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution wouldn't be perfect, there would still be problems. But allowing adults to engage in prostitution without the threat of arrest would make things better for those participants, could reduce the incentiive for the activity to be spread beyond designated areas, and government could stop wasting resources trying to punish an extremely popular voluntary activity.
By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

The writer is director of international relations at the Center for Free Enterprise in Seoul. (http://eng.cfe.org). He can be contacted at cjl(at)cfe.org or cfekorea on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Korea Herald on June 30, 2011.



Too Many Grasshoppers, Not Enough Ants

Here is an original rap video produced earlier this year by the Center for Free Enterprise. CFE is putting together another video, this will even include Casey Lartigue, Jr., in it.


(chorus) ba bam ba, ba bam ba, ba bam ba
More grasshoppers than ants
"Ba bam ba, ra ra ra ra ra ra ra, ba bam ba
Ba bam ba, ra ra ra ra ra ra ra, ba bam ba
Ba bam ba, ra ra ra ra ra ra ra, ba bam ba
Say 1-2-3 Go

Where are our jobs, that's the question of the day, but we need more people who can make their own way
Who, what, when, where, the jobs created by who, always looking for someone else to come to your rescue
Take the initiatve, create, there's no free lunch, too many handouts, country's in a credit crunch
Spending money like you’re a drunk politician, we can't get saved by political magicians

Too much debt, spending money like its free, but even the National Assembly doesn't have a money tree
Tax the rich, that's what the scholars say, but tax enough, the rich hide their money on tax day
make your money, then spend it away, soon you're left with nothing on a rainy day
you just sleep, dance, complain, just wasting your talent and brains
Too many grasshoppers, not enough ants

Enough is enough
government's debts are getting out of hand
Enough is enough
too many acting like work is banned
Enough is enough
look around, you're an adult, you're not in the womb
Enough is enough
don't expect government help 'til you're in the tomb

Check it out, Independence Gate is at So-Dae-Moon
our weakness hit our country worse than 100 typhoons
We get weak, other countries get stronger
history repeats itself, we lose our freedom
Who, what, when, where, will it happen again?
Get so weak that our country is in pain
Korea in the middle, squeezed like shrimp in the big food chain

G20, yeah, we made it, that ain't no lie
like Germany and China, so we can cope with China
Korea needs to be a powerful nation, we'll have it made
we can do it, through competition, not welfare and foreign aid
Trade, competition, yeah, oh yeah, that's the way

Enough is enough
government's debts are getting out of hand
Enough is enough
too many acting like work is banned
Enough is enough
look around, you're an adult, you're not in the womb
Enough is enough
don't expect government help 'til you're in the tomb

Too many grasshoppers, not enough ants

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Korean lyrics by Noh Hyun Tae and Kim Chung Ho
Translation and English lyrics by Eric DeokJin Song, and Casey Lartigue, Jr.

linked by Tom G. Palmer,