Thursday, January 5, 2017

Political Freedom v. Economic Freedom

A difficult choice. In my opinion, some countries would do better with the first, some with the second, some with both, and some, probably, with neither. But this post is about two countries, Russia and China, especially China. Now, after the fall of communism, Russia became sort of both politically and economically free, to some extent, at least. China isn't anywhere near being politically free, and seems pretty satisfied with things as they are, but has become rather astoundingly economically free, with obvious effects that the US is, or should be, trying to cope with as we speak, so to speak. Thing is, the idea of political freedom, as an idea, is something very foreign and incomprehensible to much of the world, especially a place like China, which has developed, over many centuries, a political and social system that operates well enough without any thoughts of political freedom of any kind. You don't just introduce a foreign idea like that and expect it to be embraced. And even if it's somehow embraced, it's naive to expect it to work.

Look around you at the world. Places that are politically free are almost exclusively places that are in Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, or are their colonies. It took centuries for the idea of freedom to develop, and for institutions effectuating freedom to develop. And those of us from that tradition have to struggle to keep freedom from being wiped out by politicians. Just ask Orwell.

Stuart Schneiderman [link] has been giving this a lot of thought. He writes:

A few decades ago two world leaders tried two different ways to overcome the horrors of Communism. In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev proposed openness and democratization, glasnost and perestroika. Free markets were a second thought. In China Deng Xiaoping promoted an unfettered free market capitalism. Deng declared that it was good to get rich.

If we are comparing two experiments, which one turned out better? Did liberal democracy take over the world or did free market capitalism prove to be dominant? Or is China telling us that authoritarian capitalism is the wave of the future?

Soon after Mao Zedong died in 1976 Deng Xiaoping took over China. Among his first actions he ended to the Cultural Revolution by arresting the Gang of Four, led by Mme. Mao. He also moved quickly to privatize agriculture. The Chinese people had suffering a massive famine in the early 1960s. By the time Deng took over the extreme poverty rate in China was over 80%, so his first priority was feeding the population.

Deng was referred to as the Supreme Leader. He did not hold the offices of president or premier. His only title was: Chairman of the Military Commission.

Obviously, his reforms did not run smoothly. In April, 1989, upon the death of party leader Hu Yaobang, students began to protest in favor of liberal democracy and openness—that is, the Gorbachev agenda. Their protest movement grew and attracted serious support within the ranks of the party rulers. Eventually, the students occupied Tiananmen Square, the central square in the capital of Beijing, for weeks.

Read the rest here:
Quibcag: I know I've been using this illustration of Kagura from Gin Tama (銀魂 Gintama, lit. "Silver Soul") a lot, but, really, ain't she cute?

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