Paying the Price of Indoctrination over Education

| September 13, 2010 | 19 Comments | 16,403 views

People respond to incentives.

And in Thailand the incentives normal everyday people faced are as fucked up as they can be.

Because of the endemic corruption, the predations of the government, and the control which the powerful families that have controlled Thailand for generations have over the police and the bureaucracy there is little incentive for normal everyday people to be industrious, entrepreneurial, and devote themselves to getting rich and building better lives in the normal Western way.

Sure they can go to work 6 days a week 10 hours a day, slave away at low paying menial jobs, live low, salt away a few hundred baht a week, and eventually be able to buy a modest house back in the home village for their dotage but I am talking about the industriousness and entrepreneurial drive that takes normal everyday people who are talented and creative and makes them into Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and Warren Buffet.

Because most large corporations are controlled by those same powerful families, promotion is dictated by class and the family you were born into and not on personal merit, hard work, and not on how much value you bring to the firm.

There is little incentive to invest in human capital and  get rich by working your way up to positions of power and wealth within large Thai corporations the way it is commonly done in The World. No matter how much value you bring to the firm the lazy, no talent, third cousin twice removed of the family patriarch will always be promoted ahead of you and the option of taking your talents to another firm where things are different isn’t there. All the large corporations are controlled by the same cadre or powerful families.

And even if you did build a large profitable business on your own, there is no way to protect it from capricious or directed government regulation and changes in the law which would take it away from you or destroy its value.

And even if you did accumulate a ton of wealth there is no way to protect it from government confiscation. Look at what happened to the bank accounts of the families that supported the losing side in the recent government unrest.

Normal everyday men and women are trapped by the Thai system into staying normal everyday people and the schools and official culture indoctrinate them into thinking this is a virtuous living.

Being born a poor rice farmer scratching out a subsistence lifestyle and dying young because of limited access to medical care, whose parents and grandparents scratched away their lifetimes eking out a subsistence lifestyle and dying young because of limited access to medical care, is somehow sold and bought in the schools as a virtuous life.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Roam around Thailand and what you will find is a vast pool of untapped potential.

You see legions of poor people held down by the endemic corruption and the predations of the powerful, yearning for a shot at a better life.

These people start off life with the same intelligence, creativity, energy and innate ability as people anywhere in The World.

They live their lives poor and below the line not because of innate personal limitation but because they were the unfortunates who were born in Thailand where they will live out their lives within a crappy system that never gives them a chance at a better life or gives their abilities, creativity and energy a level playing field to compete on.

I am not talking about a better life created by some cheesy government handout or a do nothing job with a lifetime sinecure as a drone in some obscure government bureaucracy.

I am talking about a better life produced by putting these legions of poor people into an economic system where they are free to pursue the accumulation of wealth by producing value in the marketplace and, just as important, a legal system which will protect that wealth and their persons from predation and confiscation by the government and its minions.

I am talking about a better life produced by unleashing and harnessing, the talent, creativity and drives of the legions of downtrodden.

Close your eyes and imagine a Thailand where a western style system of free market capitalism was established and allowed to work its magic, a Thailand where the rule of law was established, enforced, and applied equitably regardless of class and wealth and a Thailand where the yearning for a better life and the suppressed creativity, drives, and talent of the downtrodden were unleashed and harnessed to create a better Thailand.

Close your eyes, look 20 years down the road, and imagine hordes of noveau riche dark skinned former rice farmers  and their apple cheeked sun wrinkled wives  rolling down Rama 1 in their BMW’s and Mercedes, buying expensive shoes and watches at the Emporium, slurping designer sushi at Central World, and “polluting” the previously exclusive domains of the old time Thai elites.

Think it couldn’t happen if the system was changed in Thailand?

Read this article from the New York Times.



Business Class Rises in Ashes of Caste System


CHENNAI, India — Chezi K. Ganesan looks every inch the high-tech entrepreneur, dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of denim shirt and khaki trousers, slick smartphone close at hand. He splits his time between San Jose and this booming coastal metropolis, running his $6 million a year computer chip-making company.

His family has come a long way. His grandfather was not allowed to enter Hindu temples, or even to stand too close to upper-caste people, and women of his Nadar caste, who stood one notch above untouchables in India’s ancient caste hierarchy, were once forced to bare their breasts before upper caste men as a reminder of their low station.

“Caste has no impact on life today,” Mr. Ganesan said in an interview at one of Chennai’s exclusive social clubs, the kind of place where a generation ago someone of his caste would not have been welcome. “It is no longer a barrier.”

The Nadars’ spectacular rise from despised manual laborers who made a mildly alcoholic palm wine to business leaders in one of India’s most prosperous states offers significant clues to India’s caste conundrum and how it has impeded economic progress in many parts of the country.

India is enjoying an extended economic boom, with near double-digit growth. But the benefits have not been equally shared, and southern India has rocketed far ahead of much of the rest of the country on virtually every score — people here earn more money, are better educated, live longer lives and have fewer children.

A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

India’s Constitution abolished caste, the social hierarchy that has ordered Indian life for millenniums, and instituted a system of quotas to help those at the bottom rise up. But caste divisions persist nonetheless, with upper castes dominating many spheres of life despite their relatively small numbers.

While in the south lower caste members concentrated on economic development and education as a route to prosperity, in the north the chief aim of caste-based groups has been political power and its spoils. As a result India’s northern lower castes tend to be less educated and less prosperous than their southern counterparts. Charismatic leaders in the north from lower castes have used caste identity as a way to mobilize voters, winning control over several large north Indian states. Caste so thoroughly permeates politics in the northern half of the world’s largest democracy that it is often said that people don’t cast their vote; they vote their caste.

Caste is so crucial to northern politics that caste-based parties have demanded that caste be included in India’s census, and the government, bowing to pressure, agreed to collect data on caste for the first time since independence. They hope that by showing their large numbers, caste-based parties can force government to set aside more jobs for their communities.

Tamil Nadu’s Nadars belong to a community in the middle of India’s caste system, occupying a place barely above the untouchables, now called Dalits. Academics and analysts have closely watched the rise of the Nadar caste for clues about the role caste barriers play in holding back India’s economic progress.

Unlike northern India, where caste-based political movements are a fairly recent phenomenon, lower castes in southern India began agitating against upper-caste domination at the beginning of the 20th century. Because these movements arose before independence and the possibility of elected political power, they focused on issues like dignity, education, and self-reliance, Mr. Varshney said.

Nadars created business associations to provide entrepreneurs with credit they could not get from banks. They started charities to pay for education for poor children. They built their own temples and marriage halls to avoid upper caste discrimination.

“Our community focused on education, not politics,” said R. Chandramogan, a Nadar entrepreneur who built India’s largest privately owned dairy company from scratch. “We knew that with education, we could accomplish anything.”

As a result, when independence came the southern lower castes, who had already broken the upper caste monopoly on economic power, enjoyed political power almost right from the start. Tamil Nadu set aside 69 percent of government jobs and seats in higher education for downtrodden castes, which helped rapidly move lower caste people into the mainstream. The north put in place affirmative action policies, but because education was widely embraced, southern people from lower castes were better able to take advantage of these opportunities than northerners.

When India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, the south was far more prepared to take advantage of globalization, said Samuel Paul of the Public Affairs Center, a research institution that has looked closely at the growing divide between north and south India. “The south was ready,” Mr. Paul said.

Nadar businessmen like C. Manickavel have skillfully ridden the waves of prosperity that have crashed over India since liberalization, making small fortunes. Mr. Manickavel’s father had started a small printing business in Chennai, which at its peak made $40,000 a year. But he sent his son to one of the best engineering schools in India, and Mr. Manickavel has turned that modest business into a $1 million-a-year operation that designs e-books for big American publishers.

“We are supposed to be a backward community but we don’t think of ourselves that way,” he said in an interview in his state-of-the-art paperless e-publishing facility here. “I make sure my daughter studies at the best school in Chennai. We are as good as anybody else.”

It remains to be seen if the political agitation around caste in northern India will produce prosperity for lower caste people there, experts say. In India’s liberalizing economy these communities must prepare themselves to compete, not simply demand a bigger slice of the shrinking government cake, said Rajeev Ranjan, the chief bureaucrat in charge of industrial development in Tamil Nadu.

He is originally from Bihar, a northern state thoroughly in the grip of caste politics, but he has been stationed in the south for 25 years. He said northern states must heed the southern example. “Without that kind of social change it is very hard to do economic development,” he said. “One depends on the other.”

Comments (19)

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  1. ICP says:

    Editor’s note: Parts of this comment were redacted due to the Lese Majeste laws in Thailand.

    “Think it couldn’t happen if the system was changed in Thailand?”   This is a statement made by BBK in this posting.  The happy go lucky answer to this question is yes.  However, the key thing to remember is that the people in charge of Thailand have to much at stake to let things change.  Thus the question is not hypothetical, merely impossible.  There is no way that change will ever take place in Thailand without massive amounts of bloodshed.
    BBK then uses a story from India as an example of the possibilities of Thailand.  Through extensive studies I have come to the conclusion that this is a bizarre and incorrect comparison, that can only be made if one wishes to prove their own point.  A better example would be Nepal, a country just to the north of India.  It is ridden with all the same problems that Thailand has as it relates to the holders of power in both the economic realm and the political realm.   As anyone with a modicum of knowledge on Nepal knows change is only to come from the barrel of a gun, actually many guns.
    How can change occur in Thailand?  …….  Second, all officers in the Thai police force and military must be killed in a popular uprising.  Third, the intellectual classes all must be killed in a popular uprising.  Four, all person of a minimum of 10% Chinese blood must be killed in a popular uprising.  Once this happens, the cities must be evacuated and the remaining people must begin to work the land and live on collective farms.  Time must begin anew. From this point forward there should grow and agrarian society in which the internet, phone and electricity play no part.  Only then will Thailand know true happiness.

  2. Pol Pot says:

    Well, it’s been tried before.

  3. BBK says:


    I must disagree with you about the inevitability of violence.

    There is no need for it.

    If the current government just allowed a real capitalist system to be established in Thailand all of the social unrest would fade away over time as everyone in Thailand experienced an increase in their wealth, income, and general standard of living.

    That is what is so great about free markets. Everybody is a winner.

    It doesn’t redistribute wealth from one group to another, it creates wealth that can be divided so everyone is better off.


  4. ICP says:

    I hear what you are saying, however it is pure fantasy.  Its like saying oh if tigers had lazer beams for eyes that could burn a man in two the tigers would not be slaughtered in the wilds.  That isn’t going to happen either.  The fallacy that you proffer is that the government is there to help the people in any meaningful way.   The government of Thailand is there to keep itself in power, no more no less.  If the government can keep itself in power longer they people that control the government will have more money in their pockets.  Anything that the government does to help out the people, be it the credit scheme from villages or OTOP or the medical program are not to help the people, but to get the loyalty of the people.  The people are easily manipulated and if you give a village a million baht as a loan they are just happy with the money.  They like you fir giving them the money.  Don’t ask for it back!  Call it a loan, but it is a bribe, so all is good.  They will give you their vote.
    So why would the government want an educated populace.  They would not.  They just want a populace that has enough skills to keep the export economy going.  And nothing will ever change as if the people ever did become aware of what could be, of what should be, it would be a disaster for the government, so that isn’t going to happen.
    For change, for true change, there needs to be massive amounts of bloodshed.  If this doesn’t happen, Thailand will live forever is a blissfully ignorant state of being, and the government would like

  5. BBK says:


    Look at the some of the countries surrounding Thailand -Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Singapore.

    After World War 2, Singapore was poor and had more cultural, racial, and economic differences between different groups that could have been the root cause for violence, civil unrest, and a breakdown of social order than Thailand.

    Singapore could easily have devolved into the nasty shit that took place and is still taking place in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

    The nasty shit that not only killed millions, destroyed the lives of the populace, and left the people in those countries dirt poor today.

    Instead Singapore allowed a real free market capitalist system to be established which gave everyone, including the poor,  a fair free shot at creating and accumulation wealth and protected the wealth that was created from government predation and confiscation through taxes, regulation, corruption etc.

    And the result is that not only did the country not devolve into violence and come apart at the seams, but the standard of living increased dramatically. Increased almost to the point where today they are approaching levels seen in the West.

    And there is no reason Thailand can’t go down the same path.

    The root cause of the Red Shirt protests is that the poor legitimately feel that they don’t have a fair shot under the current Thai system.

    They legitimately feel that the rules of the system are fixed against them.

    And I agree with them.

    If the government were to adopt a free market capitalist system like Singapore did, the problem and root cause of the current social unrest would eventually fade away—-without violence.


  6. Prufrock says:

    Mr ICP
    The parts of your post that apply in Thailand would probably apply elsewhere, anywhere, for that matter.
    When I ran the US through that  filter of yours up there and the federation only got skinned in the knees and maybe a haircut and a wax job.

    Never saw a government that wanted to lose its power.

    (Well, wait a minute. There was that MaCain/Palin ticket that had me  giving Karl Rove all the credit he deserves for having the GOP sit out these four bankster patch-up years during which the feckless Democrat dorks now carry the can for eight years of insane military spending and the bank frauds.

    But maybe that just goes to prove that the elements who really run the play in the US never gave up the reins.
    Unlike the power elite in the major world states, (China, Russia, Japan) governments like Thailand’s don’t get into “long range”
    This type of  government governs like they do everything else.   Short-time smash and grab.

  7. ICP says:

    I completely understand what you are saying, and trust me, I think it is a noble, if unobtainable goal for any country.
    You list some countries around Thailand: Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Singapore, and I will include Malaysia.  Lets take a look at these countries.  Three are complete failures, one is a semi-success, and one is a success.   Now, at this point I am going to make some assumptions that we all know are correct but as Americans are not allowed to talk about.  Singapore is a success because of the overwhelming percentage of Chinese living there.  It is also a tightly controlled police states.  I am going to safely assume that their success is based upon their Chinesiness.
    The difference between Singapore and Thailand is the amount of Chinese in the country.  In Singapore there are enough to spread the wealth around more generously.  In Thailand at/or about 10% there is less room for spreading around that wealth.   Because this small percentage control the economy, the armed forces, and the political structure of the country they know what they have to loose by becoming more democratic an allowing true freedom to exist in the country, and even true education in the country.  If there was allowed to be a free and fair exchange of ideas, as in US Universities, then people would start to question the system.  By keeping education an exercise of rote memorization of pointless facts about the wonders of Thailand and its institutions the Chinese not only keep their position in power, but they keep the rest of population subjugated to a role most can never escape from.
    And BBK I agree that it should not be like this.  I believe that knowledge empowers and the the way to move ahead is via education, and I want that for Thailand, for I love the land and people of Thailand with every fibre of my being.   But it is not going to happen with out massive amounts of bloodshed.

  8. Jizz vomit says:

    C’mon guys give us a break, this topic and your comments are so boring !

  9. BBK says:


    Singapore was a partial success as you say.

    But it was because in Singapore they were afraid to allow social and political freedom at the same time they allowed economic freedom.

    But I think Milton Friedman (in his book Capitalism and Freedom) had it right.

    Economic freedom, capitalism and political freedom are intertwined.

    If you allow free markets people get rich.

    When they get rich they begin to have disposable income to spend on whatever goods they get enjoyment out of.

    One of the things people in a dictatorship start spending their money on, when they do get some, is on getting rid of the dictator.

    And, in the end, when you have enough people spending enough time and money, they eventually succeed.

    That is what is happening in Singapore. It is what is happening in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. And it is happening without serious violence such as occurred in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

    Although it got aborted, it is what almost happened in Thailand with Thaskin.

    And it would happen in Thailand too if they would change the rules of the game and let a free market works its magic.


  10. ICP says:

    I see Taksin in a different light.  Of all the people to benefit from his rule he did the best.  Yes, he did create some programs that assisted the poor, but how I see it, this was not done to improve their lives of to bring them into the capitalist mainstream, but rather to buy their loyalty at the polls.
    If you look at his programs they are all of the sort that sound good to the politically naive NE rice farmer.  Yes give a village one million baht, go to a doctor for 30 baht, get a cow!  Everybody gets a cow!  But what about fundamental structural change to the the educational and economic structure of the country?  There was no change.  If Taksin really wanted to unleash the power of the poorer population of Thailand there would have been massive changes in the educational system, but there was none.  And the people can not be empowered if they are not able to ask questions or and about the political structure and economic structure of the country.  Not only is talk cheap, but so are actions that have no meaning.
    On of my funniest memories from the Taksin era is when he picked out a dark skinned girl from the NA to become a flight attendant.  That was his equal rights program.  That was his idea to bring the people of the NE up to a higher level.  A flight attendant!
    So once again, it all comes to massive bloodshed.  That is if you want change.  Thailand is nice now.  A lot of the people there are just happy to watch the rice grow.  Swinging in a hammock under the house is pleasant and a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  The girls that are pretty can ride around on a motorbike and go to the disco or hang out by a lake get drunk and pregnant.  A constant flow of prostitutes to the flesh pots of the south keep prices affordable even for the American whose dollar is dripping monthly.  Food still cheap.
    So change, in theory its nice, but things are fine for me just as they are.

  11. Junkie says:


    Good call.

    Kenny i hear ya – but its to amerikanized.

    Educating people brings knowledge.

    Clever, informed people ask questions.

    Any government wants control. Dumb people who dont ask questions are easy to control.

    Heroin is one of the most enlightening things on the planet.

    Thats why its one of the most demonised things on the planet.

    “What we want is mushrooms”

  12. BBK says:


    I think our views of Thaskin are the same.

    He’s not the Thai Milton Friedman who wanted to establish the rule of law, enforce strong property rights, remove regulation from the marketplace and allow everyone to get rich by participating in a free market and capitalist system.

    Thaskin was from the same elites that are in control now and followed the same path to power.

    He got his money from corruption and using the government and police to carve out, protect, and increase the value of government created monopolies which he eventually sold tax free for billions of dollars.

    His social programs were just minor redistributions of income that were meant to and succeeded in buying the support of poor voters and were not going to result in any long term improvement in the poor’s standard of living or the institutional constraints that keep them down.

    He did nothing to actually change the system that keeps the poor poor.

    He just got control of the levers of power, used them better than his opponents and used them against his rivals — who eventually got him.

    On the subject of “massive bloodshed” that is certainly a possibility.

    The yellow shirts are putting some serious hurts on the Red Shirts, stealing elections, imprisoning people on trumped up charges, confiscating bank accounts and wealth, and actually shooting them in the streets and running them over with armored personal carriers because they simply try to protest injustice and have their voices heard.

    If the Red Shirts ever do get back on top, they have a long laundry list of grievances to redress and people to settle scores with. And given the number and seriousness of the legitimate grievances they are not likely to show much constraint if that day ever does dawn.

    I sometimes wonder if the Yellow shirts really understand the crop that they are sowing and the real consequences if it is ever harvested.

    What I want to say is that the “massive bloodshed” is unnecessary. There is a better way which leaves everyone a winner.

    Converting to a truly free market capitalist system, establish the rule of law, end the corruption, and let everyone get rich.


  13. Mr Cheesecake says:

    “Converting to a truly free market capitalist system, establish the rule of law, end the corruption, and let everyone get rich”

    Just like the USA today eh?

    USA seems to be going backwards at a great rate of knots. Just this week Thai commerce minister did not want x-rate to go below 30Bt to US$1. To me this means Thailand economy growing and/or USA economy tanking

    They are getting there slowly. Look at the basket case countrys around thailand 

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  16. crickets says:

    It’s over PRUFROCK, you and your propaganda’s irrelevant!

  17. PRUFROCK'S DAD says:

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  18. PRUFROCK'S DAD says:

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