Am I wrong in thinking that the most interesting thing about North Korea is that it is a living anachronism that illustrates how most countries around the world were governed in the pre-enlightenment world? Ostensibly North Korea is a Communist country ruled by a dictator, but now leadership has passed to third generation, I think it’s pretty clear that North Korea is for all intents and purposes a monarchy. As economic systems go, North Korea is home to an expansive state that keeps most of its people in a equivalent to serfdom. Any wealth generated by the country is used to maintain an army, build monuments to the ruling class, or fund the lifestyle of the “royal” family. Prior to the enlightenment, that’s how pretty much every country operated. As frustrated as I am with our government, even our somewhat shabby democracy is better in just about every way to what preceded it, monuments like Versailles, the Taj Mahal, and the Egyptian pyramids notwithstanding.

Update: Brad Plumer looks at the results of decades of misrule. Per capita income in North Korea is 5% that of South Korea, meaning that even if the two countries wanted to reunite, they probably couldn’t afford it.