送交者: 吴礼 于 2006-1-11, 13:05:25:
回答: To Her Majesty Wu the Gifted: 由 mangolasi 于 2006-1-11, 08:10:27:
One type of economical prosperity stems from a new social-economical pattern. Examples include industrial revolution, information revolution, etc. I am not very familiar with Western history, but I suspect that some of your examples belong to this type. It is easy to understand that this type of economical prosperity usually accompanies a more open and tolerant society. This is because of the historical trend: modern economy requires free flow of people, ideas, capital, etc. It also creates more diversity in professions and life styles. Therefore, the most progressive country on this path would have the most openness and diversity.
Another type of economical prosperity does not change the social-economical pattern, but improves execution. A good example would be the Nazi Germany. I guess in some sense it helps the liberality of the society because prosperity (especially growth) reduces social tension, and affords less control without the fear of inducing chaos. But on the other hand, openness is not a necessary condition for economical success.
If you go back to ancient history such as Roman and Greek periods, I am afraid that another key difference needs to be considered. When we discuss the social altitude today, we usually mean the mentality of average people. (I consider the intellectuals today as average people, because they don’t enjoy special economical or political privileges, although they are better educated and have more access to information.) But early in history, the social altitudes, at least the ones that we know about today, relates to a very small portion of elites or aristocrats. The impacts of economical conditions are very different on these two social groups.
Another special case is dictatorship societies. On the one hand, economical prosperity would provide ground of legitimacy to the rulers. So they can loosen the control over ideology without fearing of being challenged. On the other hand, the resistance to such control is also weakening in the general public, although the intellectuals may still want more freedom. In contrast, economical hardship usually prompts the tightening of ideology controls, unless the ruler is weakened and has no other choice but to ease the tension.
A good example would be the late 1950s and early 1960s of China. In response to the disaster caused by the “great leap forward” movement, Mao first purged Marshal Peng and in effect shut off all the critics. Later, as the disaster continues to get out of control, he allowed others who were more liberal to take charge and allowed more freedom economically and socially. The economy began to recover and even booming in mid-60s.
Interestingly, there is another pattern in the modern China history: after a few years of economic boom, we would enter an ideologically restrictive period. This happened in 1957, 1966, 1982 (to a less degree), and so on. Usually such periods lead to economical slow-down or worse.
In general, I think the relationship between political freedom/tolerance and economical conditions is very difficult to study. If you compare different periods of one country, the economical operational patterns are usually different (such as US in 70s and 90s). If you compare different countries of the similar economical system, you must include culture and history, which may be much more important. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting angle.
By the way, many people say that the European countries are more open and tolerant that the US. I think one reason is that people in European are exposed more to the different cultures and political systems. In the US, things are more homogenous. But I think a more important reason is that in the US there is not a viable left-wing party or institution. So the political spectrum is much narrower. I am wondering why it is so.