Reply To: Greetings from Beijing!


Thanks for the reply, Osgood.

You write:

“If you can find value in libertarianism why keep it to yourself? What good does it do us as some ideal held privately, so with each passing slight on mankind we can quietly say to ourselves “if only”. We have an opportunity to help others understand that there is another way. Is it the ultimate paragon for society, who knows? I have no Marxian delusions of utopia, not due to fallibility within libertarian ideology but because we are and should never be anything but individuals. If more people become aware of the possibilities, maybe we can put this to the test.”>

Good points and well put. A few notes in reply.

First, and not that you accused me of this, but do not mistake me: It’s not as if, upon finding myself in a political discussion, I shy away and disavow having a strong opinion (or, worse, that I mimic the opinions of those with whom I’m in discussion, regardless of actual belief, just to avoid confrontation). Rather, my situation is simply that I seek out such discussions — and thus espouse my firmly-held viewpoints — less often than in the past. I think partly this is just a function of moving from youth to adulthood and the academy to the office place: you find yourself shackled with fetters — of decorum, free time, energy, etc. — that you previously did not have to deal with. But as I mentioned above, I’m very much dissatisfied with that state of affairs! And in signing up for Liberty Classroom I’m very much hoping to rekindle the spark and begin discussing my beliefs with the world anew — and thus doing my small part to make it a freer place.

Second, you raise a terrific point that I hope all those who go out in the world and defend libertarianism bear in mind: Ours is not a utopian ideology. We do not promise that, should our ideas one day be fully put into practice, the world will be rid of murder and rape, hatred and jealousy. So long as men are men there will be wickedness. One of the most salient points that we libertarians bring to political discourse is that it is precisely in light of the fact that men ARE fallen (and I say that as an agnostic), prone to base and ignoble action, that a system in which power is consolidated among a select few men is bound to lead to ruin and ought be avoided. Whereas a system in which power is dispersed and shackled is one in which the iniquity of abuses will at least be muted. This is the general idea behind centralism vs. federalism, but it applies in just the same way when discussing statism vs. libertarianism/anarchism.

“As much as Tom Woods got me interested in Austrian Economics and many other related topics it was Dr. Casey’s logic preview that ultimately caused me to sign up. Something about that guy, just a real cool cucumber.”>

It’s that lilting Irish accent. Mellifluous! But I called an audible and switched to Dr. Jewell’s Western Civ courses as they can be more easily digested on a subway or while walking. Dr. Casey and Dr. Herbener’s lectures will need to wait until I finish up the history courses, at which point work will have quieted down a bit, I hope.

“I would be interested to know your opinions on the demeanor of the people over there and how they interact with their government.”>

Good and complicated question that I’ll just give you my top-line, probably somewhat haphazard thoughts on.

You’re probably familiar with how, in the United States, essentially every poll conducted which poses the question of “Are you satisfied with the job the U.S. Congress is doing?” finds respondents overwhelmingly, hilariously dissatisfied. I don’t think the “satisfieds” even crack 10% these days. (And I always wonder who, exactly, these 5-9% of Americans are that are proud of and happy with the job the cretins in Washington are doing. A combination of suckers and the leeches themselves, I suppose.) And yet, Americans tend overwhelmingly to support their local vampire. He’s wonderful. He brings home the bacon. He loves America! What a hero! It’s a very strange disconnect which is representative of the contradictions at the heart of American democracy.

A somewhat similar situation prevails in China, but in reverse. The people inveigh against and lament the rampant corruption of specific officials. They tend to pick sides among leaders — not among leaders squabbling for power in the present, but among leaders past and leaders present — and so evince an aversion for some faction or another. In a word (and a word that many unfamiliar might not realize), a multiplicity of political opinions prevails in China at the micro-level, and that multiplicity swells with each passing year.

But at the macro-level of politics, there is no meaningful desire among the people for a wholesale change in the nature of their government. This is partly a function of the dangers that attend holding such opinions — though, unless you’re very stupid and/or brazen, those dangers are not nearly so real or severe as you might be led to believe. But more critically, it is a function of two things: First, on the back of the market liberalization that began with Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening in 1978-79, China has experienced such phenomenal, world-historic growth, and has seen so many hundreds of millions of lives changed irrevocably for the better, that it has necessarily granted a sort of halo effect to the organization that, however ironically, brought it about: the Chinese Communist Party. And with the Party’s foundational justification now only tenuously linked to Marxism/Maoism, and instead far more firmly tethered to facilitating continued economic growth, there is a sort of mutually reinforcing mechanism that now obtains: the people supporting the Party (and its system) because through it they grow fatter and their childrens’ lives look better; and the Party doing what it needs to to maintain that growth lest that critical link of legitimacy rust and disband.

Second, the Chinese, as a people (and forgive this not particularly individualistic line of thought), hate chaos. Their word for it, luan even sounds ugly and rolls poorly off the tongue. They are also a people that, through their long history, have learned to chi ku — to eat bitterness. Things would have to get very bad indeed for them to do something so severe as launch a revolution, for they have experienced chaos and death and wanton destruction in recent memory (the utterly insane Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 most recently) and would only very, very grudgingly welcome it again.

But, in a final word, the people here — young people especially — do not just accept things for what they are. They do not merely take it for granted that their system and their world is the best of all possible worlds. Much discussion, on their version of Twitter (Weibo) in particular, makes it through the censors and is very cutting and pointed indeed.

Much more to be said on this but these are just some preliminary thoughts.

I very much look forward to discussing further!