Great leap forward (into absurdity)

May 28, 2008


I love getting my National Geographic Magazine every month but sometimes I wonder. The latest issue is devoted entirely to China. In this story, Gilded Age, Gilded Cage, I almost vomited when I read this:

Freedom is not always liberating for people who grew up in a stable socialist society; sometimes it feels more like a never ending struggle not to fall behind. A study has shown that 45 percent of Chinese urban residents are at health risk due to stress, with the highest rates among high school students

“Stable socialist society”? Really. Millions of people dying from famine and political violence can be compared to the “health risk due to stress”. Nice.

NatGeo is not alone in longing for the good ol’ days. This college professor, in his letter to the editor, also has a hard-on for Mao:

Today more and more Chinese working-class people look back at the Cultural Revolution years with fond memories. Despite some shortcomings of the Cultural Revolution, China was a socialist society that was overcoming inequality with full employment, free medical care and free education for its citizens.

Yeah. If only they had worked out those shortcomings

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11 Responses to “Great leap forward (into absurdity)”

  1. superdave524 Says:

    Love the retro picture. Frankly, I miss Maoism- as long as it’s them and not us. I globally competitive China strains natural resource limits and causes an increase in demand for things like gas, which ends up costing us more. Let them have their ridiculous old economy: it’s cheaper for me.

  2. John in IL Says:

    You’d be happy to have a billion people stuck in an economic prison so you can have cheap gas? I thought liberals were supposed to care about the poor. Now that I think about, your attitude is shared by many in the Democratic Party. And yet, conservatives are the ones branded provincial and selfish.

  3. superdave524 Says:

    I’m no dewy-eyed idealist. America first, John. Whatever helps the people I care about: Americans. That’s why I’m a Democrat. International cooperation is good because it creates stable markets for our consumers to get goods and for our manufacturers to sell goods. I’d rather not see things like genocide, but neither Republicans nor Democrats have done much about Darfur and did nothing about the killing fields in Cambodia because there wasn’t a benefit to America. I think things like the Marshall Plan were good for the whole world, including America, because they rebuilt markets with rules similar to our own. I get a bit protectionist when I see Chinese export things more cheaply because they don’t have OSHA laws for worker safety, like we do, or restrictions on pollution or other such laws that civilized countries have for their workers but add costs to their products. I have no problem with the use of military force when it’s in our best interest, but can’t see how the war in Iraq has furthered our interests.

  4. John in IL Says:

    You ignored my question. Would you be happy to have a billion people stuck in an economic prison so you can have cheap gas? And this was your premise, not mine (“Let them have their ridiculous old economy: it’s cheaper for me.”).

    I get a bit protectionist when I see Chinese export things more cheaply because they don’t have OSHA laws for worker safety, like we do, or restrictions on pollution

    First you miss the good ol’ days of Mao and cheap gas and now you’re concerned about the Chinese and OSHA rules/environmental regulations? You said yourself you shopped at Walmart. How do you square that circle?

    and I’m not sure how genocide, the Marshall plan or the use of military force are connected to the topic of economic growth overseas causing an increase in commodity prices.

  5. superdave524 Says:

    I would love for the world to be free. Communism was, and is, a bad idea that hurts the people that it’s supposed to help, and I don’t miss Maoism. Economic prison is a strong term, though, and permitting companies in other countries to compete against American companies without playing by certain rules is bad. Want an example? How about toxic paint on Chinese toys? Cheaper, but deadly. I’d certainly hope that we agree that cheaper, but poisonous, paint should not be permitted on toys. As an individual, I really have no way to know which toys are safe and which aren’t. I’m going to buy whatever is cheapest, and hope that it’s safe. We have laws (and products liability lawyers) to ensure that American products are fairly safe, but how can we ensure that the goods we buy from other countries are safe? We count on our government to do that. Clearly some regulation on goods we get from other countries is required by our government if China (or any other country) cannot or will not enforce even those rules we agree on. If we add the cost of enforcing those rules onto their artificially low prices, they may have an incentive to enforce those rules themselves so we don’t have to. Where it gets a little murkier is in things like labor and pollution regulation. Clearly, the fewer regulations on a business, the more cheaply they can produce goods, but, as a matter of policy, we may decide that it’s worth, say, a nickle more for a bottle of sodapop for a pollution deposit. Same can be said for OSHA laws, but there is plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree on where the line ought to be drawn.

    Genocide is trickier. Killing people who are born “wrong” is nasty business, but at what point should one nation interfere with another sovereign nation’s business? We have the death penalty; Canada does not. Should Canada invade us to keep us from killing people who have been convicted of horrible crimes? They’d better not! What if it’s illegal to be Hutu or from a tribe that’s not in the ruling class? Millions of people were killed in Rwanda because tribal affiliation or birth. We didn’t lift a finger. Should we have?

    I mention the Marshall Plan along side OSHA in terms of the kinds of interference we should desire in positive terms like aid, or negative terms like tarrifs, to help level the playing field. In order for me to happily buy at the “Low, Low Walmart price”, I’d like to know that my government’s making sure that the goods I’m buying aren’t dangerous and aren’t produced by ten year old imprisoned sex slaves with tuberculosis from the awful factory conditions (yadda, yadda, yadda).

  6. John in IL Says:

    Communism was, and is, a bad idea that hurts the people that it’s supposed to help, and I don’t miss Maoism.

    Nice 180 there. And yet you still had to throw this in: “Economic prison is a strong term, though”. How would you describe socialism as practiced under Mao in China?

    I’d certainly hope that we agree that cheaper, but poisonous, paint should not be permitted on toys.

    Yeah, poison = bad.

    As an individual, I really have no way to know which toys are safe and which aren’t. I’m going to buy whatever is cheapest, and hope that it’s safe.

    If you think Chinese made toys are poisonous, why would you buy them? Made in China is clearly written on the box.

    We have laws (and products liability lawyers) to ensure that American products are fairly safe, but how can we ensure that the goods we buy from other countries are safe?

    You answered your own question (and I agree): “some regulation on goods we get from other countries is required by our government if China (or any other country) cannot or will not enforce even those rules we agree on.”

    I’m still at a loss why you brought up genocide and the Marshall plan.

    In order for me to happily buy at the “Low, Low Walmart price”, I’d like to know that my government’s making sure that the goods I’m buying aren’t dangerous and aren’t produced by ten year old imprisoned sex slaves with tuberculosis from the awful factory conditions (yadda, yadda, yadda).

    And you buy from Walmart anyway. And in your original comment, you were fine with the Chinese government doing all of that and worse under Mao, but at least you would get your cheap gas.

  7. superdave524 Says:

    I’z only saying that what other countries do is their business, except if it affects us too much. What’s “too much”? Ay, there’s the rub.

  8. John in IL Says:

    Let me know if I got this right. If other countries lift themselves out of poverty and, by your judgment, it negatively affects us (with higher gas prices), you are against it.

  9. superdave524 Says:

    Not exactly. Hey, is that a giraffe over there?!

  10. John in IL Says:

    Yeah. I get it. Dropped. I probably should be less confrontational with my only steady commenter. You’re a good guy, Dave.

  11. superdave524 Says:

    You’re a good guy, too. I enjoy dropping by.


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