Oddly, the underlying problem is that this Republican president doesn’t appreciate free markets. Mr. Bush doesn’t see how capitalism helps drive history toward freedom via an algorithm that for all we know is divinely designed and is in any event awesomely elegant. Namely: Capitalism’s pre-eminence as a wealth generator means that every tyrant has to either embrace free markets or fall slowly into economic oblivion; but for markets to work, citizens need access to information technology and the freedom to use it – and that means having political power.
This link between economic and political liberty has been extolled by conservative thinkers for centuries, but the microelectronic age has strengthened it. Even China’s deftly capitalist-yet-authoritarian government – which embraces technology while blocking Web sites and censoring chat groups – is doomed to fail in the long run. China is increasingly porous to news and ideas, and its high-tech political ferment goes beyond online debates. Last year a government official treated a blue-collar worker high-handedly in a sidewalk encounter and set off a riot – after news of the incident spread by cell phones and text messaging.
You won’t hear much about such progress from neoconservatives, who prefer to stress how desperately the global fight for freedom needs American power behind it (and who last week raved about an inaugural speech that vowed to furnish this power). And, to be sure, neoconservatives can rightly point to lots of oppression and brutality in China and elsewhere – as can liberal human-rights activists. But anyone who talks as if Chinese freedom hasn’t grown since China went capitalist is evincing a hazy historical memory and, however obliquely, is abetting war. Right-wing hawks thrive on depicting tyranny as a force of nature, when in fact nature is working toward its demise.
Now, somebody please tell me how the fact that "Johny can’t read," or any number of other sillinesses, stupidities, or
minor injustices is going to halt or slow down the general global trend, as evidenced above.
It used to be that we were talking about the global spread of communism, about death and labor camps–and I was a Navy officer studying studying Soviet tactical missiles, keeping up on how to counter them. Now, people are becoming millionaires and even billionaires in Russia, and in many respects, the business climate there is arguably freer than here. China is taking a different, slower, more authoritarian approach, but I visited communist China in 1986, nearly 20 years ago. Last night, I saw a TV program where much was shot in Shanghai and I could not believe it. It looks like Hong Kong.
Update: I’m kindly reminded by Billy Beck, here, and in an email, that the actual severity of a "minor injustice" depends upon the the evaluation of the victim. Indeed. John Lopez jumps on the bandwagon too, here. Of course, they’re both right, but it still doesn’t mean that darkness is upon us. See, I’ve stricken through the word "minor," above, but the essential meaning is the same. I’m guardedly optimistic about the future. I’ll also keep reading and linking to Billy and John, because they too perform a valuable service.