6/11/13

Change we can believe in, sure--but how to get it done?

RE: When everyone agrees there must be change, but when change is slow...

Don't most people who experience Korea agree that there must be some serious societal changes (high suicide rate, constant complaints about inequality, other daily news complaints). At least, that seems to be true among intellectuals, politicians, culture vultures and others in the chattering class. But when there is such broad agreement, and that change doesn't happen, then what is the explanation?

Andrew Salmon writes in today's Korea Times about the kinds of stuff that I suspect most Koreans would agree about: that the education system needs to be reformed so that it can be more individualized and less competitive, there must be more diversity of talent, more variety in Korean life, more diversity in business, diversity of opportunity, etc. More and more, different and different.

So when almost everyone agrees, I suppose there will be a tipping point and change will come about. But it isn't like the American civil rights movement or push for democracy in Korea where people can go to the government and say, "Yo, government, get your boot off my neck." What Salmon and others are discussing is change in the mindset of people in society.

I guess he and others have taken the first step by making their argument, that change comes from people changing their mindsets or the old generation dying off, and someone needs to often make those arguments for change.

* * *

Even if Salmon gets the laundry list of what he suggests needs to be changed, I predict that a short time after that--and definitely a decade or so later--that people would still be complaining about the need for more and better change. When is the last time there was a public policy change that a large percentage of the population later concluded, "Wow! That's exactly the change we needed. And now things are exactly the way they should be."

The key point: People who want to change society are rarely, if ever, satisfied.

* * *

Of course, when I criticize the criticize the criticizers, people want to turn the mirror on me. I guess I am a reformer of the reformers, constantly questioning the never-ending plans of the planners.

* * *

A few asides:
* There has already been tremendous change in Korea, as anyone who has been here for more than a few years will tell you. Perhaps the amount of change has made people impatient about remaining problems.

* American and Brit friends of mine seem to be even more impatient about change than Koreans are. I like to remind them about the slow pace of change in their own countries.

* Okay, there should be change. So how is it to be done? Even advocates of limited government, huge government, or a mixed economy can agree there must be change in the economy. And that's where the agreement often ends, once it is time to implement change.

* One of my predictions from years ago is that Barack Obama was the one person with the potential to undermine trust in government. That's because he had convinced so many people that "change" was needed. Five years later, his change is looking like an extension of previous bad policies.