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Freer markets do help bring democratic refore

This letter is in response to criticisms by Robert Stainton ["Columnist ignores desires of Third World citizenry," Sept. 29] and Steven J. Fromm and Patrick McDonald ["Free markets do not insure political freedom," Sept. 29] of my column ["Third World countries edging towards freer markets," Sept. 22].

Stainton expressed his fright at my presumed lack of concern for Third World citizens. In fact, my column was motivated entirely by the frustration and misery Third World citizens feel every day at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who claim to rule in their name. The opinions expressed in my column were not just one Third World citizen's; instead, the likes of it are vented every day in crowded buses, smokey tea shops, miserable dwellings, and offices all over the Third World. Common folk are actually smarter than "disgruntled intellectuals" who claim to speak in the name of citizens but who have only managed to trap them with red tape and corruption. These common folk have now begun to openly express their frustration with the bureaucratic controls put in by politicians and justified by leftist intellectuals. Here are some real examples: hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants have been clamoring for freer markets for many years now, tens of millions of Brazilians have voiced support for a novice presidential candidate who is running on a platform to hack down the bureaucratic system, and tens of thousands of East Germans are fleeing the choking economic system in their country.

As regarding benefits of freer markets to Third World citizens, Stainton has misread my column. The debt negotiations actually resulted in Mexico's winning concessions from its creditors, and not the other way around. Similarly, the over 400 million citizens of Africa are likely to win major concessions -- perhaps a complete forgiveness of their loans -- by implementing market-oriented policies in their countries. How about that for benefits to Third World citizens? Fear not, Mr. Stainton, I do care for Third World citizens. After all, I am one of them.

Fromm and McDonald somehow managed to construe my column as an apology for covert Central Intelligence Agency operations in the 1950s and 1970s. A second reading of my column would show that no such apology was intended. Regarding their assertion of the lack of connection between free markets and political freedom, I would agree that the former does not necessarily guarantee the later. But recent events around the world show that free markets are as a good a tool as any for furthering political freedom. That is so because economic participation of the masses in free enterprise spurs their desire for political freedom in those countries where such political freedom does not exist. Case in point: China, where economic liberalization also led to demands for democratic reforms. An interview with Shen Tong, a student organization of the Tiananmen rally, in the Christian Science Monitor [Sept. 29] documents such an intertwining of economic and political demands. The Soviet Union is going through similar circumstances and President Gorbachev seems committed not to repeat the Chinese leaders' mistakes. Similarly, the economic miracles of South Korea and Taiwan have whetted the citizens' appetite for political freedom which they are gradually beginning to win from the establishment. Free markets do not necessarily insure political freedom, but they certainly seem to be doing better in bringing about democratic reforms.

Pankaj Vaish G->