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Transforming the Tortoise goes to the heart of some of the major problems now confronting Australia and the West generally, as economies stagnate, unemployment grows and communities threaten to fragment.
At different times in their history the Chinese have used the following exhortation: 'Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools contend!' Australia needs a hundred schools if, for instance, the rational economists are to be seen for what they are - just one, and not necessarily the best school.
John Craig has made a major contribution in Transforming the Tortoise by focusing on the many assumptions of Western economic theory and by raising many profound questions about Australia's place in the world. For example, he highlights limitations in the way we think, in the way we do business and in the way we use democracy.
One profound problem is picked up in the following words: 'the market economy in East Asia involves commercial relations that are an inseparable part of long-term social relations, rather than an arms length relationship under contracts and laws'.
This book has posed many such profound riddles for thinkers in Australia and
other Western countries. The rigid truths of many mainstream authorities will be
hard to stand upright again after a serious reading of John Craig.
Reg Little is co-author of The Confucian Renaissance and was a diplomat for 25 years during which he spent 10 years at diplomatic posts in Asia. He is an authority on the cultural foundations of East Asian economic development and the consequences for Australia and the global economy (Publisher).
This book is based on two decades of practical involvement in Government administration and economic development in Queensland, and on extensive research into international and Australian trends and literature. It has arisen because methods which are effective in practice, ie the development of real administrative and economic processes, are not taught by universities, are discouraged by the reward systems in public administration, and seem to lack any accepted theoretical foundation. This material was first assembled in 1991, and has been updated to reflect events and literature since that time.
The value of this present work, such as it is, lies in:
It is hoped that this results in a useful view of the issues which is accessible to ordinary people. Some of the theory is esoteric, eg why 'scientific' economics assumes away the possibility of directly managing development. However, the practical implications are straight forward, and the scope for further research is immense.
In using systems concepts to begin to interpret the experience and implications of many different disciplines and cultures, it is inevitable that errors of detail have been made which will be obvious to expert readers. These should not however be fatal to the main purpose of this book.
Author's Note in 2001
The author's foresight about actual events since this book was written in 1993 was certainly no more accurate than other observers - and this has dated the context in which its analysis of presented.
However the principles presented tend to have been born out by experience since Transforming the Tortoise was written in 1993, in particular:
Australia's general failure to achieve satisfactory economic outcomes (despite claims about 'economic miracles') appears to be more-or-less as would have been expected - as outlined in Defects in Economic Tactics, Strategy and Outcomes.
both the strengths (ie in rapid development) and weaknesses (eg great difficulty in managing finance as an objective in itself) of East Asia appear to have been further revealed (eg see Understanding the Cultural Revolution). Insights into the significance of proposals for an Asian Monetary Fund are also available through Transforming the Tortoise.
Transforming the Tortoise continues to provide the foundation for understanding how Australia might have a genuine economic miracle.