Economic Freedom and Civil Liberties

by Don Boudreaux on August 20, 2009

in Complexity & Emergence

Are freer markets in China obliging that country’s government to afford greater political and civil liberties to the Chinese people?  This report in the New York Times suggest that, perhaps, such a happy outcome is in the works.

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Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm

One would hope so, but in reality it is still all a guessing game.

If we know nothing else from history it is that people can take a government towards freedom, and government can take a people towards serfdom.

To access the wealth of the world the Chinese government obviously has to allow business to be done and I think they are smart enough to realize that China is not the only place in the world where labor is cheaper than in the USA, England, Germany, Canada, et. al.

But, I am essentially no more than repeating what the article said.

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Let us all channel Ronald Reagan at the same time with this thought:

“Premier Wen, break down those trade barriers”

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

The answer is not to put up trade barriers out of spite. Who would have thought China would come so far in 30 years? We need to be patient.

Dave August 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Great article, but what a display of bias by the NYT:

“In each of those matters, politics and business collided, and business won . . . China appears to be facing the reality that the outside business world can be freewheeling and defiant when its profits are threatened.”

The language here makes it sound like business is a repressive beast which unleashes “when its profits are threatened.” That’s a typical interpretation of business here in the USA. Corporations are bad because all they care about is profits. But we fail to appreciate all of the positive benefits of business. In reality, “business” or rather economic freedom, is not a means of suppression in China, but rather a force in opposition to the repression of political power. While the article does acknowledge this, it’s as if they couldn’t resist the opportunity to also paint business in a negative light.

Curious August 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Happy outcome in the works? Not likely.

Chinese politicians work for their own self interest only (every person does). More liberty would mean less power to the politicians and therefore, a happy outcome is as likely to happen in China as it is here in the US.

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 1:37 am

Politicians also act in their own self-interest. Perhaps it will depend on what the politicians perceive as preserving themselves or guaranteeing their survival. South Korea made the hard choice for political freedom in the 1990s.

Very interesting……

Chuck August 21, 2009 at 6:43 am

Why is there a distinction between “economic freedom” and “civil liberties”?
Freedom is freedom.

Many people seem to forget that China was once a totalitarian dictatorship on par with Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany. Now it is just a regular autocracy, which is so common in the developing world.

Maybe the current rulers of China are less stupid than the past ones or maybe their power was restricted against their will.

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