This post is not a comparison between the system in China and western democracy. It doesnt in any way imply the system in China is a better system, either economically or politically.)
Recently, there is “war” in USA about obama’s plan of healthcare reform. It has become an issue of if government should be allowed to butt into the private business of healthcare insurance. I am not here to judge which way is better, but after reading most media reports, it seems to me that media is trying to make it a conflict between government stand and public opinions; to make it an issue if government should have such power (or do you want socialism in US?).
Let us think deeply, we know this is conflict between government and private insurance companies and financial institutes, not between government and people. For some people, it would be better for them if government stays away from the business; for other people, it would be better for them if government butts into the competition. American people should be properly informed the two choices and then make their decisions.
Then why ” critics got a jump on that debate and are already deep into a campaign to portray the legislation, which is still being written, as a government takeover of healthcare that will disrupt voters’ established relationships with doctors.” ? (http://www.latimes.com/news/nati … are-dems6-2009aug06,0,5019934.story)
a further question, why are so many well educated Americans jumping into this war without knowing much about the proposed system (like how it works in Europe) ?
It is very simple in my opinion : under the idealogy of westesn democracy, society consists of ONLY two groups, one is the government, the other is the people.
Under such assumption, people are afraid that government has too much power. And if people can limit the power of government, the power will be AUTOMATICALLY transfered to people. But this is obviously not the case in all the developing countries, especially in India and Russia of 90s. So what is wrong ?
The phrase “State-control media” is often used when describing the media in China, West media use it million times to discredit CCTV. The problem is if State doesnt control the media, who can afford to buy the media ? not ordinary people, only the rich or the syndicate. Furthermore, ordinary people dont have the power to influence the government decision on economic plans, but the rich and syndicates do.
But under western democracy, which group do the rich and syndicate belong to, the government or the people ? obviously they dont belong to either of them. So we have a paradox in the concept of western democracy : a group of the people is either considered as part of people or missing. But this group of people has huge power, they control the media and almost all the important financial sectors. annnnnnnnnnnnnnd there is nothing government can do about them, as they are protected because …. they are part of people.
Therefore western democracy is fundamentally wrong as it is built on wrong assumption. With such assumption, the group of the rich and syndicate doesnt even exist, any conflict between the rich and government becomes a conflict between people and government;any people’s anger will be directed towards government. the rich CONTROL media will report any conflicits between government and people, hence the so called free media.
Now what if we insert this group of the rich and syndicate into the theory of political systm ? we have a society of at least three groups : the govenrment, the people, and the rich. then we see :
1) limiting the power of government doesnt mean people will have more power.
2)the so called free media is only “free” about the relation between government and people, NOT about the conflict between the rich and the people, NOT about the relation between government and the rich(anyone knows where the 700 billion dollars went ?)
3) Government is kicked around, slapped around by the rich and the people, it has no power doing what is necessary or the best plan for the future of countries. Not only that, as most people are selfish, govenrment officials are the same., they will go where they can gain most personaly, they will serve the rich first, though they are elected by people
Interesting piece – at least from an American perspective. I wonder how our European friends here would react. In Europe, are most issues cast as big vs. small gov’t?
In Taiwan, everything thing is viewed as pro-Mainland vs. anti-Mainland. I wonder if there is something in the human psyche that polarizes most things we see into dualities – or whether it is something has more to do with “modern” institutions?
Why cant I see my thread on the board ?
BTW, can any European here give me a GOOD link of how their health insurance plan works ?
Otto Kerner says
I think this analysis is weak because “the rich” is not a single group, and neither is “the people”. Actually, neither is “the government” because there are many “private” interests which actually have enormous influence on government policy.
“Not only that, as most people are selfish, govenrment officials are the same., they will go where they can gain most personaly, they will serve the rich first, though they are elected by people”
What does this have to do with your argument about democracy? Government officials are venal both in democracies and in other systems. Furthermore, this contradicts your previous sentence, in which you assumed that the government is an institution which primarily does “what is necessary or the best plan for the future of countries”.
Hi Wahaha, #2,
Thx for the post. I’ve posted it in the right area now. Sorry about that.
@Otto Kerner #3,
I think I agree with you that in reality, the rich can broken down into further consitutents and the “people” can obviously be broken into many more segments as well.
However – in popular discourse, in political rhetoric, we often do use simplified language to communicate political thoughts with real consequences.
I believe what Wahaha talks about the government vs. free market (choice), the goverment vs. the people (freedom) is real – at least in the U.S. I won’t go so far that it is a characeristic of Western liberal democracy or thinking, that’s why in comment #1 I solicited feedback from European colleagues here. (Not long ago, in the U.S., we also had strong rhetoric of black vs. white, men vs. women, religious vs. secular that infused into all issues facing society)
What is the rhetoric of the left vs. right in the various nations of Europe?
I thought the healthcare debate was fundamentally on whether there should or should not be a profit motive in providing healthcare. A second question is whether or not this should be a uniform decision at the national level rather than varying locally. These are serious questions even though there is no hope in the American system to sit down and think through these issues and arrive at a reasonable compromise. Such is the flaw in the American system.
Yes, the government is supposed to be an institution which primarily does “what is necessary or the best plan for the future of countries”. but it needs power to do that. What I mean is that under democracy, often government doesnt have enough power to carry out the best plan, as the power is given to “people”.
I’m really busy now so I don’t have time for a long answer. Like Allen said this might show a difference between Europe and the US. Some of my two cents:
* “Big government” vs “small government” is not a dominant dichotomy in Europe. In Northern and Western Europe, as far as I know, people are more concerned about the difference between the rich and the poor. Of course there is also a discourse about “ordinary people” and “the establishment”, but the rich are often seen as part of the latter. Perhaps because of a history of aristocracies and hereditary riches, people don’t see rich and successful people in the same glorious light many in America does. In the same way, in many European countries poverty is seen as a failure on the societal level, rather than the individual.
* The idea of government as evil never took root in Europe in the same way, though I would like to hear what people growing up in Spain, Portugal or Eastern European countries think. Since this meme isn’t as common, people don’t worry about things like universal healthcare as being socialist – the fear of communism mostly translated into fear of totalitarianism, not that the state has power in itself.
* Isn’t there state radio in the US? In the same way, many European countries have state-owned media, though it’s not directly controlled by the government.
I don’t think I’m doing justice to your effort by jotting down these lines, so I’ll be back later with a more detailed discussion. One problem I see in the US (and one I hope can be solved in the future) is that politics really seem like war – the two parties are really out there to kill each other, instead of sometimes working together for the nation when a crisis is looming. Perhaps this is a cultural thing.
The problem is not that the American system is particularly defective, the problem is the expectation that it should be somehow perfect. In that case, those of us found its defects are often sickened by the hypocrisy of the whole enterprise.
Many social systems worked, and some even worked very well for a long period of time, like that of the US system in the 20th century. Like gamblers and Wall Street money managers, a period of near perfection tends to create the illusion of inevitability. Until they loss their shirts, bailed out by the government, or dysfunctionally paralyzed.
Otto Kerner says
I think I understood what you meant. However, I was not talking about what the state is supposed to be, but what it is.
National Public Radio in the U.S. enjoys some benefits from the government and serves state interests, but it is mostly privately funded.
Wahaha, you ask why democracy is “fundamentally wrong” in your header yet I don’t see what is fundamentally wrong about it. You’ve raised the issue of the health care debate in America. Are you arguing that democracy is wrong because it allows media debates to occur that the government cannot control? Or that it limits governments’ power and they can’t rule by diktat?
Charles Liu says
Don’t feel too bad about the rich and powerful in America. The WASP homeboys that runs our country, exports our jobs, wreck our finances, may get some pretend Tsao-Tsao style whipping for public show once a while, but they are the ones that keeps the government going and the big wheel turning.
For example Look at the bail out money – do I really know what’s happening with my tax dollar? I as a citizen is pretty much powerless when it comes to that. The word “trillion” recently lost its meaning for me.
And the money pumped into war in Iraq or Afghanistan does it really matter who I voted for? Not really.
Yes I can bitch and moan, but if I do something about it it’s a FBI file for me, and hassle down the line. Does anyone still remember what happened to vocal war critic Scott Ritter? Take money from the Chinese for some needed anti-defamation counter POV? You’ll be hung by your balls with Foreign Agent Registration Act.
I think it’s best to reconcile with the fact our alligence and loyalty to our respective empires are not all that different, and just the same we’ll muddle thru it all and keep our empires going the best we can. It’s a moot point to compare invading Iraq to gaurantee 30 years of oil supply, and keeping the Uyghurs down to gaurantee 30 years of oil supply, as nobody is riding to town on a high horse (but at least the oil in Xingjian is theirs to begin with.)
A good democratic system requires educated citizens (so their vote is meaningful) and usually a richer country.
Most of the current and past ‘democratic’ countries in Asia are/were not successful and full of corruption.
I wouldn’t say Western Democracy is fundamentally “wrong”, but as with all types of governments it certainly has its disadvantages in certain environments.
The fact is that no matter which country you are from and what type of government it has, we all live in Plutocracies where the powerful elites rule over everyone else. If you look at the members of US Congress, almost all of them came from wealthy, established families. Even if they are not, once they got to that point they associate themselves with this group and their actions will reflect that. They have to, because no matter how much “grassroots” efforts can bring in, powerful business groups can easily outmatch that. At the end of the day, politics in western democracies is all about the media and whoever has the money to buy ads/staffs will win.
Having said that, the biggest benefit of a Western Democracy is that if something bad happens, the blame is shifted back right onto the people. If Obama cannot perform and the US falls, people cannot blame anyone but themselves for voting him in. Although most Americans have no idea that both Democractic and Republican parties are all bought off by the same elite Business entities/lobbyists, because the people have the chance to take part of the power selection process they feel empowered even if their influence is virtually zero. Also, the election cycles are shorter so that leadership can be swiftly changed.
Whereas in a country like China, if anything happens people will blame squarely on the Communist Party because the people were never any part of the decision making process. Anything and everything goes wrong in China is the Communist Party’s fault. This is exactly why authoritarian governments’ don’t tend to last long. On the good days they can take credit for everything (like now, with China’s economic progress in the last decade), on the bad days they will get blamed for everything and ultimately they will be overthrown. The Communist Party thus has to control the media in order to protect itself.
Your post doesn’t prove democracy wrong or right. There is a debate going on about the health reform and some media are for and some against it, just like many Americans are for and many are against it. So what is wrong with all this? I still don’t get it. I am not American so I might be missing something here.
You say the media support the rich: not necessarily. The media lives from ads, and for people to see the ads they need to like the paper and actually buy it. So in the end the media is forced to please its readers, not its owners (this also has some problems to be sure, but not the kindergarten version of marxist class struggle that you imply in your post).
Has anyone read Bevin Chu’s 2004 article “Democracy, the Worst Form of Government Ever Tried”: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/chu6.html . The title comes from one of Winston Churchill’s quotes.
This is a very good post. You point out many of the problems we have in the U.S. in trying to achieve a better health care system, and believe that Western Democracy is fundamentally flawed because of it. One of your complaints is that it seems only the rich and powerful have the means to get their messages across, while “the People” are not heard.
I think you are right in that respect. One of the “fundamental flaws” that crept into our system of democracy is the elimination of the “Fairness Doctrine” during Ronald Reagan’s administration (1981-88). The “Fairness Doctrine” was a regulation that had been put in place since the earliest days of mass communication broadcasting – as early as the 1920’s. It held broadcasters to a standard of “fairness” in presenting public interest issues:
“The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.” (see Steve Rendell, “The Fairness Doctrine, How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back”, http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0212-03.htm, quoted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine).
The ascendancy of the Reagan era and the ideology that free markets are best included the notion that free speech within the “marketplace of ideas” will lead to the best outcomes for society. The idea is that a competition of ideas among a rational populace (the townhall concept) will let the best ideas win out. Even if sometimes the best ideas don’t always win, the fact that people have a choice gives them participation in the debate, and that is the essence of democracy. Therefore, the Fairness Doctrine regulation was regarded as violating free speech principles because it meant the government was forcing broadcasters to present opposing views.
And here we are, 20 years later, we live in a world of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, Michelle Malkin and all the other “Lying Liars” (as former comedian and current Senator Al Franken calls them) dominating the public airwaves with their versions of the truth.
The other key piece of the picture also came to the fore during the Reagan presidency, and that was the formation of Grover Norquist’s operation, Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist’s main program is to reduce taxes, taken to an extreme. He said, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” This single issue unites a whole range of conservative groups. To the super-rich, a single percent reduction in the income tax rate could mean millions of dollars in savings.
See: “Grover Norquist: ‘Field Marshal’ of the Bush Plan” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20010514/dreyfuss/single
As a result of these changes – one in government regulation led by a “freedom” ideology, the other by a political movement to reduce taxes for the rich – it has become more difficult to find broadcast media presenting “fair and balanced” news. The public interest loses out against the weight of private money.
This is a thought provoking piece.
I think the general public perceive Democracy as a multi-party elected government system, which is assumed to be able to consistently deliver a government that acts in the interest of majority.
I agree more or less with Uln #15. How to judge Democracy is wrong or not? If we view Democracy or Republic or Dictatorship as government systems, then, there is no issue of correct or wrong. We probably rarely say a ruler, knife, or screwdriver is fundamentally wrong. Rather we often say you applied the wrong tool for the problem.
My point is that the tool, the system (Democracy or Dictatorship) is not the problem. The problem is the people who use the tools, the way how people use the tools.
For the health care problem Wahaha raised can be solved by either a Democracy or a Dictatorship. It is simply a selection process for a matter of multi-collective preferences. Unless there exist a universally measurable standard against which you can evaluate, there is really no right or wrong choices. No system can make everybody happy.
Thx for the link, Jason, to Bevin Chu’s article. Looks like he has a blog and he’s been writing for a very long time:
As usual, another thoughtful perspective about this issue. I think the problem is that many Americans have some kind of notion that the American ‘free’ press is free because it is not controlled by the government. But it is the news executives, board, and other elitists tells what is okay to broadcast. Who stands to lose the most when some kind of ‘socialized’ healthcare is passed? These elitists. So as long as we don’t hear the dissenting views that these elitists hate so much, the Western Media is no better than Chinese propaganda.
Charles Liu says
Wahaha @ 2, there was a PBS special that looked at healthcare systems around the world, including Taiwan:
Otto Kerner says
fyi, Bevin Chu is a market anarchist and a hardcore libertarian, which is about 180 degrees opposite the “give the government enough power do whatever is necessary or the best plan for the future of countries” position that wahaha argues for here. Lots more good stuff along the same lines on lewrockwell.com.
How about instead of saying a system leads to a “right” or “wrong” result – we discuss whether it leads to a “just” or “unjust” result. I know I am shifting words, but the idea that a government exists to serve a purpose – and that purpose is to create and maintain a “just” society. That’s seems pretty basic. Governments don’t just exist for the sake of existing. If governments exist to serve a nobler role – then we ought to try to measure it against that purpose – rather than simply accepting that the government did what it was created to do.
I wrote an entry last year about why freedom of speech has little to do with getting to the truth – of facilitating substantive discourse.
What “sticks” in a “free market of ideas” depends often more on the packaging (spin) of the idea rather than the substance of the idea. Our human brain seems to be hardwired in a way that allows us to be continually deceived.
Stinky Tofu says
A very poorly written and poorly edited mess of a post, if you ask me.
The ongoing health care debate is indeed an unseemly mess. But heck, that’s democracy. Two hundred plus years ago, the founding fathers were far more concerned about the issue of political legitimacy than with preserving decorum. The Chinese system may appear less messy, but it’s not. A wiser man than I once said, “Democracies are good at revealing problems. Autocracies are good at hiding them.” Such is the case with the health care debate.
Truth be told, I’m disgusted by much of what I’ve heard in recent weeks from ignorant Americans afraid of death panels, socialism, and a black president. Even so, I’d rather live in America under the present system than in China and under the thumb of the CCP. It’s no contest really. China’s economy will not expand forever. When the good times end (and they always do), we’ll all learn that much of what we thought about the last 30 years was wrong, that not everything was as it seemed.
In short, I agree with Winston Churchill’s famous quip about democracy being the best of all bad systems. It’s easy to hate democracy. Then again, it’s even easier to hate autocracy.
@Stinky Tofu: “The ongoing health care debate is indeed an unseemly mess. But heck, that’s democracy.”
No. That’s the current disgraceful state of American political discourse. Unfortunately, it’s a disease that is not limited to America. What the world needs is courteous, respectful, rational debate. Democracy works much better that way.
What is wrong in the concept of western democracy is that it pictured the power distribution in a society as the two ends of a stick. For example, it MISLEADS people to believe that taking power away from govenrment = people have the power.
if that was the case, I wouldve supported democracy 100%. Unfortunately, that is obviously 100% wrong, at least in developing countries. People fight, protest agaisnt government, the power is not necessarily shifted to people, but to the rich, which in my opinion, would be a disaster for vast majority of the people in a developing country.
Let me give another example :
Obama and congress cut the budget for F-22 Raptor. it means that some jobs would be lost. There were two ways that might save the jobs : one, no cutting, or the manufacturers gave away some profits.
The 2nd way was never mentioned, hence the only way to save jobs was congress not cutting the budget, the conflict became a problem between people and government, and the rich had nothing in this. so if people had any anger, the anger would be directed to the govenrment, not the rich.
Can any give some examples in Europe that were exceptional ?
“One of your complaints is that it seems only the rich and powerful have the means to get their messages across, while “the People” are not heard.”
Thx for the very informative reply,.
Yes, that is part of my complain. Furthermore, the rich and powerful use their control of media leading people to believe what they want people to believe, and distracting people from the issue that may hurt them, (like how the hell 700 billion dollars disappears.)
Sigh… I just have too much to do at work. But before you continue to go on about China vs. USA, consider that the US is the only developed country without a universal healthcare system, either national or insurance-based. When discussing different systems, bear in mind that Singapore with its de facto one-party system or Switzerland with many direct democratic elements have very similar healthcare systems. If you can consistently prove that one sort of system lacks a kind of service, you will be able to state a claim.
I know my home country is a sort of exception, but from what I remember as a kid it was the government, trade unions and people against the rich. A democracy isn’t necessarily based on government against people.
#26 – Disgraceful state of… political discourse.
Yeah, OK, sure. It would be nicer if all politicians were courteous and respectful and the debate was more rational. But at least there is a debate, and people don’t get arrested for voicing their opinion, how about that?
I see many problems with OP, some noted above by #25. But the biggest problem is the title. “why is western democracy fundamentally wrong?” You see, this title is a conclusion even before analyzing the case. OP is writing about a subject he/she clearly doesn’t understand well, with the goal of justifying a pre-drawn conclusion: Western democracy is bad. In other words, this is not a well-thought piece suitable for debate, it is a (very poor) political pamphlet.
Just to pick an example why all is wrong in OP: “under the idealogy of westesn democracy, society consists of ONLY two groups, one is the government, the other is the people.” No comment.
@Uln (#30): “In other words, this is not a well-thought piece suitable for debate, it is a (very poor) political pamphlet.”
I still think there are some points in the piece that we can discuss in more depth. Since you’re also European, what do you think is the dominant “conflict discourse” in your home country? I guess it’s not people against government. How would you describe it?
When reading this post and some of the responses, I think it would be interesting if more people could share the experience of living in a society with a political system different than the one they grew up in. For me it’s been a process roughly like this:
1. New in the society, didn’t know much. Communist propaganda seemed exotic, and national politics interesting.
2. Annoyed and critical. More appreciative of Western political discourse.
3. Understood the Chinese national story (well, at least I think so), and got more balanced in my viewpoints.
4. Sometimes annoyed and critical, sometimes appreciative when I see the good things the CCP has done. Systemwise not too positive, because most of the things that are different from a democracy seem to be things that hinder or obstruct people. Have learned the conflicting parts of the story, like a fundamentalist finding contradictions in the Bible.
(3) was kind of special, and perhaps a story I could share later. I’m still thinking I might be naïve when it comes to the big picture, and ought to be more critical… But this is also a problem with a country of this size. I wonder if it’s possible for anyone to really get a feel for what is happening in the country as a whole.
You haven’t provided any evidence that the rich are more powerful in democracies than autocracies. Arguably they’re more powerful in autocracies like China.
I have no idea why you raised the F-22 as its an argument against your case. Everyone was questioning the need for more of them, bar special interest groups who benefit from F-22 sales and some hawks. The massive cost of them outweighed any jobs benefit and arguably shifting funds from that to the F-35 was a better way of sustaining jobs. It was through the democratic process, discussion in the directly elected Congress and with the directly elected President, that a decision was made to ignore the special interest groups.
The issue of profit is a pointless discussion because you haven’t provided information to show that the F-22 provides disproportionate profits in relation to its actual cost. There’s no point reducing profits to near zero if they still cost $120 million each.
I would like to second Raj and also ask why there is any belief that rich people are not in control in China? It’s a well-known problem these days that politicians sit on two chairs, often doing business in the real estate market. Any company needs political connections to keep going, and it’s not only the businesses bowing down to the politicians – the businesses at the same time shape politics.
“China’s censors worked overtime to block all news of a tawdry bribery scandal in far away Namibia.
It tangentially involves President Hu Jintao’s son, so no one in China can know about it.
Until a year ago, Hu Jr. was president of Nuctech and he is now party secretary of Tsinghua Holdings, the state-owned company that controls Nuctech and more than a score of other firms.
He is the privileged offspring of a member of the ruling elite.
Like many of the golden sons and daughters who were his playmates and are now his peers, he has been trusted to lead a lucrative state-owned enterprise, and it could easily be a stepping stone for him into politics one day.”
@Stinky Tofu #25,
What has the democracy in the US revealed about healthcare?
We had a discussion earlier this year about China needing healthcare reform. We are now having a discussion about US needing healthcare reform. Of course, what China needs is very different from what the U.S. needs … but I don’t think the U.S., by fact of it being a democracy, has revealed more problems than China has… (U.S. by its being more developed may have less problems than China … but that’s another issue altogether…)
There are many many problems with this health care reform. I agree with the idea but have you read the bill? it is 1018 pages of monstrocity. That is fundamental problem number 1. Democracy is supposed to be about the people yet they wrote in a language that everyone can interpreted it any way possible. That approach to my second problem, half of the time, there are bills in congress that were passed and no one knows what it is unless they heard it from their main or sub stream media ands once they look into it they are already looking at it from a biased eye. Now as someone said earlier, U.S democracy is not about the people it is about the rich people governing. If U.S democracy itself need to survive, we need to get rid of the lawyers(no offense) some of the lobbyists and the special interest groups.
To be quietly honest, americans really don’t know what they want. I have been listening and paying too much attentino to news, I am starting to think, Americans want a deformed version of socialism where they want all of the benefits but government stay out of their lives (whether or not they realize the first point).
There is one good thing about western democracy that I am really proud of is that I can voice my concerns about the government in a public place, to my representative, or/and apply for a protest permit. Whether or not we are heard is a different story. But at least I can voice it. Yeah, people may argue that you can do that in China too, but why is it some radical idea shows up, the people who came up with the idea gets arrested? or hushed? Either the centeral government really doesn’t know what’s going no on a local level OR they know and they just silently condone the local government’s behaviors. Either way, it is not healthy for the people and it puts a seed of fear in people’s mind.
Stinky Tofu says
chriswaugh_bj: “That’s the current disgraceful state of American political discourse. Unfortunately, it’s a disease that is not limited to America. What the world needs is courteous, respectful, rational debate.”
Utter poppycock. The good ole days never existed, jack. Political discourse in the U.S. has never been courteous, respectful, or rational. The role of the media has changed, to be sure; but we’re saying the same kinds of awful things about each other now that we’ve always said. In fact, one could make a pretty good argument in favor of the idea that things were much coarser way back when. Political culture in a democracy is an ugly rough and tumble. To expect anything less is simply, insufferably ignorant. Lament the rise of talk radio and cable news if you must, but don’t wish for something that doesn’t exist. You want the cultivated appearance of civility? Turn on CCTV.
Democracies air their dirty laundry for all to see; autocracies like China go out of their way to hide it. Democracies have their debates in public; autocracies like China have their’s behind closed doors. In a democracy, the loonies are in plain sight; in China, they wear Armani suits and profess to serve the people.
… Democracies air their dirty laundry for all to see; autocracies like China go out of their way to hide it.
… Democracies have their debates in public; autocracies like China have theirs behind closed doors.
… In a democracy, the loonies are in plain sight; in China, they wear Armani suits and profess to serve the people.
— Partially agreed, the loonies in a democracy also wear Armani suits and profess to serve the “public interests”
Now I will take the liberty to continue this nice train of thoughts:
… In a democracy, when loonies get in trouble, they are still in plain sight (if slightly embarrassed … e.g. Mark Sanford) In China, they either hide further behind the closed doors (still in pinstripes) or be stuffed into jails (another kind of closed doors, but this time in prison stripes.)
… In a democracy, when loonies get into trouble repeatedly, they are shamed in plain sight (which may serve as a badge of honor for a later revival … e.g. Sarah Palin.) In China, they are executed (a third kind of closed doors!)
Conclusion: Democracy is all talk, no action … and autocrats in China have a thing closed doors.
#38 – “all thought, no action”.
Yes sure. To continue with the same example USA: since it is a democracy it developed from a remote colony into the most powerful country in the World, from an unexisting culture to the most influential culture in the World, and from a precarious improvised army to the strongest military power in the World, in the process inventing thousands of important things, including the computer on which you write now.
I suppose that is the result of all thought and no action.
On the other hand, some systems are “all action, no thought…”
By luck, I have anticipated your rebuttal back in my post #9. That is if you insist on reading #38 in such serious way, I don’t like to insult everyone by inserting smilies.
#40. Oh well. Right, I see. So let my last post be a response to OP, instead of to yours.
There are still something to be salvaged from this line of inquiry. Do you agree then that American democracy is now paralyzed? It cannot take actions on any issue that really matters, and those actions that it did take (like the invasion of Iraq,) they were taken autocratically. So my serious charge is this: either US is currently a democracy in name only; or democracy can no longer function effectively in a country such as US.
#42 – No. I think I misunderstood your #9, it wasn’t so clear.
No I don’t think the US is paralyzed at all. It got itself in trouble with some excess of liberalization in the financial sector, and also did a mistake in Iraq, in my opinion.
But where do you see the paralysis? On the contrary, even in the midst of a crisis, they innovate politically and elect for the first time a president from a minority, how many years do you think this will take still to happen in Europe? In China I don’t even ask!
No seriously, US is as dynamic as ever. If it was paralyzed that was during the Bush period, where the said 2 mistakes happened. But the new president is the best proof of how the system reacts to errors and is able to find new solutions to continue advancing.
Regarding the healthcare: if Americans want it reformed it will be reformed, and if they don’t then it won’t. To NOT reform is also a decision, and just as legitimate as to reform. Paralysis? I don’t think so.
Regarding American health care reform (which I favor, BTW), if the Democrats want to pass it, they’ll pass it. They control the Presidency, the House, and not only control the Senate but have a filibuster proof majority there (provided Teddy Kennedy doesn’t die before the vote). There is nothing to stop them from passing it unless enough Democrats decide the majority of Americans don’t want it passed and it’d hurt their political careers to do so.
The worry isn’t with Republicans or right wing talk show pundits (they’d hate whatever the Democrats did) but with the independent voters who voted for them in the last election. Certain politicians and media might be trying to make this into “paralysis by analysis” but that will only work if the Democrats choose to go along.
There are at least 3 substantive issues awaiting solutions for America:
— The current financial crisis and the basic structural imbalance the crisis revealed. This is a biggie. In my view, we Americans don’t deserve our current living standard. Because we have not produced enough genuine wealth in exchange. The only known way to solve this problem is by forced hyper inflation. If that happens, there will be a true test of the robustness of American democracy.
— The need for real health care reform. Yes, Democrats are going to pass some kind of reform bill. But there is no obviously link between a “reform bill” and the actual reform. As for whether this is the will of the American people, who said this will is not subject to (gross) manipulation?
— The need for a policy addressing the global climate change. This is also very hard and not entirely the responsibility of the America. To get anything done in this field, it requires functioning governments to carry out a common long term goal for the good of mankind. The last time such thing happened here was the Marshall Plan.
I was exited by the election of Obama (I announced my vote on in the open thread!) Until this symbolic victory is translated into effective governing actions, it will remain just a symbolic victory.
Book review — The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World
By Quentin Peel
“That is a question David Priestland puts in the introduction to his hefty new history of communism, The Red Flag. But it will never be quite the same again, he admits: “Communism will not return as a powerful movement in its old form, but now globalised capitalism is in crisis, it is no longer inconceivable that at least some of the autarkic, populist and illiberal features of the old communist world will resurface.”
He has a point. He thinks it is still worth trying to understand what made communism tick. His book is not a defence of the system but nor is it a hatchet job. It is an attempt to understand why communism happened the way it did.
It is more than that, too. It attempts to discover why such a muddled, pseudo-scientific hotchpotch of revolutionary romanticism and ruthless pragmatism (my words, not his) succeeded for so long. Why did it become so violent and repressive? Why did it prove such an economic failure in the Soviet Union, yet lay the foundations for such an extraordinary economic success in China? And why did it manage to inspire so much idealism in spite of the violence wreaked in its name?
It is a huge task. There are different answers for every country that took the communist route and adapted the ideology of Marxism-Leninism to local conditions. But there are common currents.
Priestland, a lecturer in modern history at Oxford University, has been studying the subject for the past 20 years. His thesis is that there has been a tension at the heart of the ideology, at least since the starting point he takes – the French Revolution in 1789. It is a tension between romantics and modernisers.”
For something smaller than the great national or global issues, let’s consider the case of New York’s 2nd Avenue subway. New York has the only highly functional metro system in the whole country. However, the very much needed additional subway line on the east side of the Manhattan has been dreamed about, planed and discussed for over 75 years, but nowhere close to be realized. The last time New York state and city was able to build significant infrastructure was in the Robert Moses era, when he ruled New York infrastructure construction as a dictator. The result of his dictatorship was an extensive, very controversial Parkway (expressway) system, which is probably on balance bad for the city and the state.
Here lies the lessons for both the advocates of democracy and the advocates of autocracy. The democracy prevented any more of such white elephants from being built, but the democracy also prevented anything big from being built.
By all measurements, New York City should extend its subway system, New York and other northeastern states should be linked by a high-speed rail network like that being built between Beijing and Shanghai and other parts of China. But can anything like this ever happen again?
Shouldn’t we count a political system like that as being paralyzed?
Glasshouse Forum : Is there a China model? – a video documentation of a China-West Intellectual Summit.
“It is now 20 years since Francis Fukuyama launched his renowned theory regarding the end of history. Liberal democracy on a capitalistic foundation had defeated its rivals. Those who did not adopt this system would be irrevocably left behind.
The country that most clearly contradicts this hypothesis is China. It has seen unparalleled economic development at the same time as the regime has retained its grip on society and the economy. Powerful voices in the Chinese debate say that China should not attempt to emulate the West, but should find a way of its own.
Can we now speak of a Chinese model, an authoritarian capitalism, which perhaps can even inspire others, in particular now when the crisis that has emanated from the USA drives many people to a critical view of the West?
Glasshouse Forum assembled prominent academics from China and the West at Maison Louis Carré outside Paris on 23-24 February 2009 to an intellectual summit on the theme “Is there a China model?” In the video documentation which Glasshouse Forum has produced in cooperation with the production company Edinim, we can follow the occasionally tense debate, moderated by Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, on the issue of whether there is such a model and whether the rest of the world, including the West, might have something to learn from it.
It is significant that no one at the meeting subscribed to Fukuyama’s theory on the end of history. No one saw any signs of China adopting liberal democracy. It was also evident that the Chinese participants considered China to have good prospects to overcome the global economic crisis.
This documentation gives fascinating and thought-provoking insights into what may become the political landscape of the future.
The participants in the film are: Gideon Rachman, moderator of the summit and Chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford University, Daniel A. Bell and Zhiyuan Cui of the Tsinghua University in Beijing, Azar Gat, Tel Aviv University, Simon Long, Asia editor for The Economist, Vivienne Shue, Oxford University, Shaoguang Wang, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Feng Zhang, The Foreign Policy Centre in London, Wei-Wei Zhang, Centre for Asian Studies in Geneva and Fudan University in Shanghai, and Yongnian Zheng, National University of Singapore. ”
“the idea that a government exists to serve a purpose – and that purpose is to create and maintain a “just” society…. If governments exist to serve a nobler role – then we ought to try to measure it against that purpose – rather than simply accepting that the government did what it was created to do. ”
Is there such a thing as “just”? to whom?
The closest standard I can think of is the Pareto equilibrium in welfare economics, which states that if a change in goods allocation results in someone being made “better off” without anyone being made “worse off”, then, it is a just move.
Kenneth Arrow and Gerand Debreu mathematically demonstrated that under controlled conditions, the free markets will lead to a Pareto “just” outcome. What are the conditions? : perfectly competitive markets, zero transaction costs, no externalities, participants must have perfect information.
Greewald-Stiglitz mathematically demonstrated that in the absence of perfect information or complete market, the outcomes will not be Pareto “just”.
About Pareto optimality – you may be right. But I think there is something to justice beyond Pareto optimality. A slavery based society could theoretically achieve pareto optimality (assuming also that slave labor are efficiently put to use) – though that society may not be Just…
“Why is western democracy fundamentally wrong ?”
Why is this blogging for China?
real name says
47 “Shouldn’t we count a political system like that as being paralyzed?”
how it is possible i saw document about story of complete rebuild of chicago underground (not just subway, also nets) from the same country?
(long years i’m listening about beijing environmental problems – why autocracy…?)
Otto Kerner says
I’m from Chicago, but I’m not familiar with the fact of our subway having been completely rebuilt. Also, I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean by the underground nets.
Hi Ted, #51,
““Why is western democracy fundamentally wrong ?”
Why is this blogging for China?”
Haha, so China one day can solve these dumb mistakes the “West” cannot solve – or to avoid these pitfalls to a better democracy (eh, to a dictatodemocracy – one that people would line up to learn rather than one that needs to be forced down someone’s throat). 🙂
Hmmm…I find this article titled: Americans: Serfs Ruled by Oligarchs–http://original.antiwar.com/roberts/2009/08/19/americans-serfs-ruled-by-oligarchs/ that might help Wahaha’s argument.
Some highlights from the article.
*Our real rulers isn’t the people but oligarchy of financial and military/security interests and AIPAC, which influences US foreign policy for the benefit of Israel, has stripped American’s democracy and liberty
*Goldman Sachs runs American’s economic policies
*$700 billion in TARP funds is not going to the helpless American citizens rather to banks.
*It reveals how the US govt screwed up the Federal Reserve starting in 1999 with the repeal Glass-Steagall Act
*It also argues that American govt uses tons of money to go to meaningless wars rather than help the need.
What dumb mistakes? Having a debate in public on a matter of national importance? Not sending in the Police to break up/beat up demonstrators on every occasion? Not silencing anyone who disagrees with the government’s view?
I don’t know if you think that’s dumb, but ignoring people’s views on a controversial topic like this is arguably dumber. 😉
@ Jason #55: Please read the site rules. I changed one word because you might not be aware of them yet. An asterisk doesn’t make it ok. Thanks!
My apologies and sorry for the younger readers.
@ Jason: No problem at all. Even some of our older readers prefer we keep things civilized. 😉
Hi Raj, #56,
Hey, do you mind if I simply defend Wahaha for having this topic on this blog? 🙂
“Having a debate in public on a matter of national importance?”
You are not saying this is not allowed in China do you? If you can’t read Chinese, then turn on the Google Chinese->English translator and look inside the Chinese blogsphere.
“Not sending in the Police to break up/beat up demonstrators on every occasion?”
Are you saying whenever there is a demonstration in China, the demonstrators are always broken up and/or beaten up? Are you serious?
You know as well as I do in the “West” you also have to apply to get permission to demonstrate for the simple fact that large number of human beings often get out of control and therefore need police supervision.
“Not silencing anyone who disagrees with the government’s view?”
I actually think there are tons of Chinese citizens dissenting within China. I think they are able to do it because they do not break Chinese law.
You are not going to ask me to show proof that Chinese citizens are debating things of national importance are you? You made the accusation and I was kind enough to show you how to proof yourself wrong. 🙂
In a matter like this, it seems quite common that people bring up their hobby horses and discuss from there, but there is substance in Wahaha’s piece that I would like to sum up and give my opinions about:
1. In Western democracies there are only two groups, the government and the people. The people are against the government and the people include rich and poor people.
2. The rich control the media so “free media” as a concept is bogus.
3. In Western democracies, there’s an idea that the government should be as controlled and limited as possible, so the people get more power. This [that the people get more power] is however false.
4. Governments in Western democracies have too little power and are kicked around by people and the rich.
Some thoughts on this:
As for (1), it’s more true for the US than anywhere else. Government (or the state) is not necessarily seen as evil in other parts of the world. I’ve talked about that in #8. I won’t get into (2) right now.
(3) is not really a strictly “Western democratic” thing either. In some countries the rich are seen as a class that has to be contained, and that power has to remain with the government and trade unions.
I see a contradiction between (3) and (4). People don’t have more power because the government is limited, but government is still kicked around by the people and the rich?
What do others here think about points 1-4?
“You haven’t provided any evidence that the rich are more powerful in democracies than autocracies. Arguably they’re more powerful in autocracies like China.”
I said the power taken away from government isnt necessarily transfer to people, but it is possible that the power is transfered to people in countries when the power of the rich is not strong enough (I think Canada is such an example).
The only meaningful form I know people can have power in democratic countries is union, and unions are for workers, not peasants, hence, until a country is industralized, people have little power in government’s decisions, the country is controled by rich just as much as CCP control China. (hence, in my opinion, country must be industralized before talking about meaningful people’s government.)
India is such an example; also Chinese is a very smalll minority in Indonesia, but have huge political influence, how? money.
Democracy is good form of system that can effectively limit govenment’s abusing power (not on the rich), but it is not kind of system you want when reform and significant change are needed. As reform will always make some people very unhappy, someone have to scrafice unwillingly, which is against the spirit of freedom.
Two examples :
The iron bowl system in China, when it was broken, lot of people lost their job and medical insurance. Such change would be impossible under democracy.
India water system. Government has long paid part of price of water for the poor people. Cuz of that, no rich is willing to invest to improve the water system as there is no profit. But under democracy, govenrment cant take the benefit away as it would affect millions of people living in slums. so everything is stuck there year after year.
In my two previous posts, I talked about the paralysis of American democracy (at the national and local levels); and the structural imbalance of the American economy (by this I mean the disproportion amount of GDP being “created” in the service sector, especially the financial service sector.) These two trends are closely inter-related.
The obvious cause and effect is the paralysis of the government making it unable to carry out the necessary rebalancing of the economy. There is also a more subtle cause and effect another way round. The structural imbalance further paralyzes the government.
I ask myself the question as to why New York has not been able to expand its public transit system for more than half a century. I think one reason is the increasing power of the Wall Street. The current crops of the richest Americans are mostly the financiers of finance, who build virtual pyramids. They are nothing like the industrialists of the 20th century America, who were most delighted in erecting physical pyramids. If you can make billions by writing CDOs in matter of days, why bother with those millions made over months or years by being a rubber baron? For this reason alone, the 2nd Avenue subway in New York City will never be built.
So what all these got to do with Wahaha’s theme? First, I agree with him that America is really in the hands of the rich, which is not a new phenomenon. What is new is that the interests of these post-industrial rubber barons are not aligned with the long term interests of America. Second, I agree with Wahaha that American democracy, in its current state, can do nothing about it.
@huaren 54: Yesterday I was able to hear the argument against government intervention in health care from Ambassador Terry Miller of the Heritage Foundation. There was an open and frank discussion in a room of approximately 100 people and I was able to listen to a perfectly reasonable defense of the argument against government intervention. Views were exchanged by all but in the end, I just couldn’t agree with some fundamental assumptions made by the other side. There we have it, an open exchange of ideas. Some agree, others disagree and the wheels keep on rolling. What’s fundamentally wrong about that?
Perhaps it would have been better if the original post had been a little more insightful rather than basing its theories about the nature of Democracy on the miscellaneous rantings of various media pundits.
@Wukailong: I can’t agree on point 1. Government vs. the people is simply the way the health care debate is being framed. I don’t think people generally view the government and the people as separate (though I will distance myself from my state Governor… Senior Sanford).
As for point 4, I always thought it was the role of the government to be kicked around by the people. They’re working for me 😉
“I see a contradiction between (3) and (4). People don’t have more power because the government is limited, but government is still kicked around by the people and the rich?”
What I mean is that the power taken away from the government is transfered to the rich.
If government control the economy, at least legally what they control belong to people.
If the rich control the economy, what they control belong to themselves.
So people on average get less when the rich control the economy,( if the group of the rich is strong enough.), Though people can protest, but any anger is redirected towards government by the media controled by the rich, the rich are safe.
“As for point 4, I always thought it was the role of the government to be kicked around by the people. They’re working for me”
Imagine it takes you 2 hours one way to get to work. The only way to get to work quickly is government building a railway. But government has to move some families before starting construction.
The negotiation may be only 1 month if the govenrment is rich, may be 3 years if people are reasonable, maybe 10 years if government is poor.
As government cant do anything to you, it cant do anything to those who refuse to move unless government gives them what they want. During the mean time, it takes 4 hours a day on the road to work.
What would you think ?
I believe that the frameworks we use: democracy and autocracy, capitalists and the poor people, freedom of speech and censorship, are the frameworks used to describe the industrial age and hopelessly 20th century. Perhaps somewhat relevant for China, but almost useless for the post-industrial west.
Maybe instead of “Workers of the World, Unite!”, it now should be “Workers and Industrial Capitalists of the World, Unite!”
Where is Old Tales Retold when we need him?
@wuming: “Maybe instead of “Workers of the World, Unite!”, it now should be “Workers and Industrial Capitalists of the World, Unite!””
Hey, you just summed up the Three Represents (三个代表)!
@Ted (#64): I was summing up Wahaha’s points as I’ve understood them. These weren’t my own points. 😉 I sometimes worry that very special American phenomena, whatever you think of them, like the idea that government is evil, translates to many here as some sort of feature of Western democracy.
@Wahaha (#65): That makes sense. I didn’t understand your point completely at first.
“Hey, you just summed up the Three Represents (三个代表)!”
I just know the 15 years of communist education will have some use some day.
@Wahaha: I think we had a similar discussion about this on another thread a while back. I mentioned eminent domain and the BQE, you brought up an airport in Chicago then I mentioned a few recent supreme court cases. There’s always give and take and I feel healthy debate is a good thing. Is your argument simply that open discussion is inefficient?
Besides, your original post is about the debate over significant alterations to a multi-billion dollar industry that could potentially impact the life of everyone in the US, not a fictional subway line. I think a better parallel would be whether to throw out the question of the acceptable balance between economic growth and environmental stewardship to the people of China. I keep reading about over-turned police vehicles in factory towns, this doesn’t strike me as a healthy discussion. (I will grant that the recent town hall meetings in the US have been circus shows 😉 )
@Wukailong: I knew you were summarizing Wahaha’s points, sorry I wasn’t clearer in my response.
“I sometimes worry that very special American phenomena, whatever you think of them, like the idea that government is evil, translates to many here as some sort of feature of Western democracy.”
Based on my exposure to the Chinese media I think that’s largely an effect of the way Democracy is presented to the Chinese people. Letterman once ran a blooper reel of President Bush that was picked up and run on CCTV. I’m no lover of Bush but, knowing that nothing like that would be run about China’s leadership, I was actually pretty offended.
real name says
i’m sorry, boston (another north american big city with o inside name) and primary it was not subway reconstruction…
(now i’m in doubt how it is with that environment, be sure it is related to any chinese capital and fortuantely xian and nanjing haven’t e inside name)
About your points.
1. Things are not that adversarial. Many members of the public are members of the ruling party or vote for it repeatedly. Others will have varying levels of support for the government, depending on the specific policy area.
2. It’s not bogus. Rich people have opinions too, and they’re not always the same – they’re often the opposite. In any case they do not always dictate on a day-to-day basis what the media groups produce. In democracies, even in individual newspapers you will get columnists disagreeing with each other.
When one talks about a free media it is not to say that all media groups are independent and express a view dispassionately. Everyone has a bias of some sort. It’s to say that the government does not control the media so they are free to operate as they see fit.
3. Who says the government must be limited as much as possible? It’s powers should be restricted to a degree so that it can’t do whatever it likes and shut people up. But of course it needs powers to do the business of government on a daily basis. No one disputes that.
Equally the people do have power. They can vote governments or individual legislators out of power, they can write to the media or political parties to gain support on various matters and/or express views, protest, etc.
4. I disagree. Arguably in many countries they still have too much power. Elsewhere, as Ted said, they work for us so why shouldn’t they sometimes listen to what we have to say? If we have no influence over them then there’s no democracy. It’s not like we’re able to intervene over every single policy decision and override government policy. The government still has lots of power.
I don’t see how your point is a logical link to democracy being “fundamentally wrong”. So theoretically rich people might do somewhat better than ordinary people in terms of “power transfer”. No system is perfect. Democracy more often than not helps re-balance the power than rich and other people have. Without it rich people can have far more power because there’s little or no oversight of political matters.
Not knowing the specifics of your point about India, there are cases where undemocratic countries never get any infrastructure upgrades because corrupt, powerful politicians spend the money available on luxury cars, silence anyone who tries to say they stole it and blame foreigners for not giving them enough aid.
Anyone with their heads screwed on knows that what you can talk about in public, the extent to which you can criticise the government, the ability to protest, etc are all far more limited in China than in a country like the US. 🙂
Bu maybe you could spell out what the “dumb” mistakes that the “West” are making because of their democratic institutions that China can learn to avoid. I’m sure we’d all love to read what they are. 😉
@real name #73,
After a very close reading, I think I finally got what you were trying to say … somewhat.
By the project in Boston, you must mean the Big Dig (1982->2007, $2.8->$22 Billion). Big Dig was indeed a large scale infrastructural project. So yes, there were exceptions in US when big (at least expensive) infrastructural project did go on. You got me there.
But let’s look at a comparison between the Beijing Olympics and Big Dig (they all started with a “B” seeing your interest in occurrences of particular letters)
While Beijing Olympics cost $40 billion and 7 years to accomplish, where the $40 billion included the cost of infrastructure building in several cities as well as the cost of hosting the games. The Big Dig is mostly a transportation infrastructure project, similar to the transportation link between Beijing Airport terminals and downtown Beijing, except that Logan Airport is much closer to downtown Boston.
Boston is nothing like a big city many of us had imagined it would be. You can get from any point in the city to any other point in less than 10 minute by taxi. Which means two things to me: first, Boston is small, second, Big Dig worked.
Big Dig said something about the political cloud Teddy used to have. It also may well be the last such project ever build in US, that is until you find the next exception.
Hi Raj, #75,
I think you are right that it is far more limited in China on politically sensitive matters. My optimistic view is that this gets relaxed over time.
And, it is fair that you ask what are the “dumb” mistakes. Couple of things that come to mind about the USA, an example of democracy:
1. $12+ trillion national debt and the sneaky usage of American’s social security and other trust funds to patch the fact this democratic process is unable to curb spending.
2. Iraq invasion
You may argue this is not related to Democracy. But these are indeed practical mistakes of a democracy. You might say the USA is not representative of all democracies, but then you would have to argue in places like the UK if they are just as powerful, they wouldn’t commit this kind of mistakes.
My optimistic view is that this gets relaxed over time.
In the mean time various people have to choose between suffering in silence and getting arrested. They can’t wait decades for the CCP to reform at a snail’s pace.
You may argue this is not related to Democracy. But these are indeed practical mistakes of a democracy.
But they have nothing to do with America’s political system. Autocratic states go to war and run up big national debts as well. Other democracies don’t start wars and keep their debts lower. So why attribute the failings to democracies when it’s not special to them?
In any case it would be impossible for China to develop a political system that stopped it from accruing a large national debt or going to war. Humans have free will, which means they can always choose to do those things, whether or not the system is democratic.
@Raj: As with Ted, you probably realize these points of mine were actually summaries of Wahaha’s POV. I agree with your rebuttals, though I would also like to have the European angle. I do think there is a concept of “government as evil” in the US that is clearly different from Europe, but most people commenting here live in the US and therefore draw the conclusion that whatever is in the US is indicative of Western democracy as a whole.
I’m not even sure of the concept “Western democracy” – for starters, there are republican and parliamentary systems.
Finally, a note on the claim that large-scale infrastructure projects are not possible in democracies: it seems to me that large buildings are more difficult to put through than basic infrastructure. Things like communication (telephone lines, roads, computer networks) are the most developed in democracies, as far as I know. It might also be common sense – people need these things more than they need enormous highrises or monuments that show national prowess.
I’m not even sure of the concept “Western democracy”
Neither do I – it’s never properly defined. As far as I can see it’s a generic term used to distinguish between democracy that we actually see, such as in Europe and North America, and a theoretical form of democracy that doesn’t exist at the moment.
I find that it is often the case that people who use that term accept that “democracy” is a good thing (or that other people hold that view so they need to take the same position). However, they don’t like the democratic freedoms we see today. For example, they might not want to allow too much criticism of a centrally powerful State they strongly support, or they fear that current government policies that they like might be changed after political reform.
So in order to be able to claim that they support democracy yet still be able to oppose current democratic freedoms, they use an imaginary term “western democracy”. This enables them to pretend that there may be other political systems that are democratic but do not have the usual characteristics of a democracy, or any freedoms offered are heavily caveated.
Hi Raj, #78,
“But they have nothing to do with America’s political system.”
Okay, can you explain what those two problems have to do with then?
The analogy is like this. Raj has been evangelizing Christianity. He goes and steals a loaf of bread. My argument is Christians can steal bread. It is correct to say Christianity has nothing to do with stealing bread. Well, Buddhism has nothing to do with stealing bread either.
Then I’d like to caution not to take our eyes of the real issue – which is to stop people from stealing bread.
Okay, aren’t we going in circles? You evangelize democracy will solve all these wrongs in society. If I take your way of thinking, don’t I simply say everything you claim has nothing to do with meritocracy or democracy or whatever?
Finally, a note on the claim that large-scale infrastructure projects are not possible in democracies:
When I talked about large-scale, I meant that lot of people would be “inconvenienced”.
1. CNN: All aboard China’s new bullet train
“When China’s $300 billion high-speed train system is completed, it will be the world’s largest, fastest, and most technologically sophisticated. Photographer Benjamin Lowy captures the epic project and reveals its human side.”
“This year alone, China will invest $50 billion in its high-speed passenger rail system, more than double the amount spent in 2008. The U.S., by comparison, has only $8 billion allocated for high-speed trains, all from the Obama stimulus package and to be spent by 2012.”
2. Fortune: China’s amazing new bullet train
This year Beijing will spend $50 billion on what will soon be the world’s biggest high-speed train system. Here’s how it works.
“Construction on the vast multibillion-dollar project commenced in 2005 and will run through 2020. This year China will invest $50 billion in its new high-speed passenger rail system, more than double the amount spent in 2008. By the time the project is completed, Beijing will have pumped $300 billion into it. This effort is of more than passing historical interest. It can be seen properly as part and parcel of China’s economic rise as a developing nation modernizing at warp speed, catching up with the rich world and in some instances — like high-speed rail — leapfrogging it entirely.
But this project symbolizes even more than that. This monumental infrastructure build-out has become the centerpiece of China’s effort to navigate the global financial crisis and the ensuing recession. ”
“As David Li, an economist at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, says, there’s no doubt that “the acceleration of [the massive railroad build-out] is playing a key role in China’s recovery.” In mid-July, Beijing announced that second-quarter growth came in at 7.9%, and that the quarter-on-quarter upswing was the fastest the nation had seen since 2003. Economists at Goldman Sachs now believe China will expand at 8.3% this year — exceeding the 8.1% goal set by Beijing in January, and dismissed then as unrealistic by most private economists.
That the government-led infrastructure spending, as Li says, is driving this growth is beyond dispute. A recent survey by Australia’s mining industry shows that China’s overall steel production capacity has actually increased by 10% to 12% over a year ago, despite the worst global downturn in decades. But nearly all that production is being used domestically, the survey said.
And across the Chinese landscape, it’s pretty easy to see why. Whether in Dalian in the northeast, Wuhan in the west, or Shanghai in the east, one constant is the sight of massive concrete buttresses about 246 feet apart, lined up one after another in rows extending as far as the eye can see. The buttresses support the tracks over which the high-speed trains will run. They weigh 800 tons each and are reinforced by steel cables. There are close to 200,000 of them being built, all across the country. ”
“The result is that when plans are made, they also get executed. In America, jokes Sean Maloney, the No. 3 executive at Intel, “NIMBY-ism [Not in My Backyard] is still an issue. In China, it’s more like IMBY-ism. They plan, they build things, and they move fast.”
@Shane9219: Thanks for the article! And in general thanks for being one of the better contributors here: I like more in-depth links like the ones you provide. Just a note: I think I know what you want to say, but please add a comment on how it relates to the topic at hand. Some angry moderators like Steve have been known to collapse comments because they don’t see the relevance. 😉
Hey hey, I get the connection. 🙂 I had also read those articles about the new bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai and agree with Shane that undertaking a project like that is much easier in China than in the States. I’ve also ridden Shanghai’s maglev train and had met the chief engineer at the project. I think major infrastructure improvements are usually the best way to spend state money wisely (except for the ‘bridges to nowhere’ type projects in Japan) so I’m all for this type of transportation. I’d much rather take a bullet train than fly.
Since I’m such an angry moderator, I’d better go punch a heavy bag for awhile. 😉
The only ‘high speed train’ that I have taken was the Accela from NY to DC. I like the comfortable ride, but top speed of 79mph might be low compared the China’s high speed rail system. Can’t wait to see it.
Hi Shane9219, #83,
Since WKL likes it, I’ve highlighted your post. What you wanted to say, you actually had a quote from Sean Maloney towards the end.
Hi Steve, #85,
How did you get to meet the chief engineer? I was impressed on the maglev to Pudong airport a number of times, looking at the meter going towards like 430kmh (forgot actual number).
I got to meet Maloney along with Carig Barrett few years ago. They told me they liked China.
@ pug_ster #86: I’ve been on a few high speed rails, the TGV in France, shinkansen in Japan and the new bullet train in Taiwan last year. I love high speed rail, it’s smooth, comfortable and takes you from city center to city center rather than having to take a taxi to an airport outside the city. Plus, your luggage never gets lost.
@ huaren #87: I actually met him through my wife. When we were living in Taiwan, I had a trip to China that would last a month so my wife came with me. Rather than stay by our office in Puxi, we stayed at the Ascott Hotel in Pudong since it’s really nice. The German engineering staff for the Maglev train was also staying there and while I was working, my wife befriended the chief engineer’s girlfriend who was from Ningbo. I remember everyone called him Ziggy and he was a typical quiet German engineer. We all went out for dinner one night.
430 km/hr seems about right. I remember it got up to full speed for only a few seconds before beginning its deceleration.
real name says
did you ever speak with him about very fast development of chinese own maglev technology or famous night visit in 2004?
real name says
all needs balance, see also another side:
… accelerating the construction of dams in China’s Southwest – part of the P.R.C.’s ambitious stimulus package to fight the global recession – is worsening the already considerable environmental and social risks involved, with some projects beginning before any Environmental Impact Assessments have been completed. Protests against Three Gorges by some leading scientists and engineers did not stop that project;… Recent reports that some poorly built dams …
In this crisis, plans for new water projects have sprouted in large numbers. … And, ironically, the loss of water storage capacity that has occurred as some old dams have silted up has become an argument for more dam building.
Hi real name~
No, our meeting took place in 2002 so before that happened. In fact, we didn’t talk much about the Maglev during dinner. My philosophy has always been to stay away from “work” subjects at social functions and try to relate to people by finding something in common with them. The guy was actually pretty quiet and serious. We talked more about history, politics and philosophy.
@real name #89
1. China has several home-grown maglev programs in R&D for years. It just operated at lower speed, but one will be used in Beijing very soon
2. China already bought the IP rights of Shanghai Maglev from Germany
“China, Germany agree on maglev technology transfer”
real name says
thanks for new info
in 2006 it looked like china has high speed technology：”We have already reached a consensus on the issue: the high-speed railway line will be fully based on our own technology,” Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun told China Daily.
anyway it seems minister is still in office
I agree the Maglev is really cool (especially the sound it makes is the closest I’ve ever come to science fiction) but it’s still very much a showcase thing. Wasn’t it originally planned to go all the way down to Puxi? However, I think this discussion on large infrastructure in democracies vs. authoritarian states is interesting, though inconclusive. As Steve noted, the highspeed trains that really transport people large distances are mostly found in Europe and Japan. Certainly there must have been a group of people that were “inconvenienced” when building the tracks, and these structures were still built.
Here’s my theory: an authoritarian state can build large-scale structures easily while it’s still poor, relatively speaking, because it can choose to funnel large parts of money from other projects without worrying how they will turn out or what the public thinks (due to lack of information and open media, they probably won’t know anyway). If this is successful, it can turn out like the Olympics in China. If not successful, you get revolving golden statues or the world’s largest unfinished hotel. Arguably, the latter are extreme cases, but it has happened again and again in poor countries.
This Maglev line in Shanghai was built for demonstration only. Cost is way too-high for any long distance project. In the end, bullet trains are the right choice on China’s next generation rail network, and it is super-fast too and a large part of core IPs are owned by China.
Next month, China will debut her own commercial jumbo jet C919 in HK designed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd (COMAC) (http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90881/6740461.html)
China is also in the process of building the second-generation GPS system with 24-satellite navigation network, called Compass.
real name says
95. debut her own commercial jumbo jet C919
yet another info:
will present a miniature of the homemade passenger jet C919 …, which will take off in around eight years
COMAC was set up in May, 2008
@Shane9219: The thing about satellite navigation systems is interesting. Actually, it seems the world-wide competition is between four different systems:
GPS – USA
Galileo – EU
Compass – China
GLONASS – Russia
China backed out from Galileo, apparently because of European infighting, though it seems to be back on track. I think this example might be valid to the discussion because it shows that governments in different systems are creating very much the same thing. The most important thing seems to be the size of the governing body, rather than what political system it has.
real name says
can’t simplify it to military reasons?
>> “China backed out from Galileo, apparently because of European infighting”
That is NOT true. EU flip-flopped its promise under US pressure, and not given China due access even though China was a major contributor on funding. So China has to come up her own GPS, now it sounds more like a sweet revenge 🙂
“More than a decade ago the EU, unhappy with its dependence on the US-owned and controlled GPS, set out to build its own system and invited other countries to join.
When China signed up in 2003 it was a major coup for then-French President Jacques Chirac’s vision of a “multipolar” world in which US influence would be diluted. Later, however, the Europeans got cold feet, denying Beijing a seat on the Supervisory Authority, which owns and oversees Galileo, for security reasons.
“The Chinese felt insulted and disrespected,” says Taylor Dinerman, a US space expert. China’s treatment at Europe’s hands “really moved the Chinese schedule ahead” in the construction of Beijing’s own system, adds Eric Hagt, a space analyst at the World Security Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
“We felt that we were not treated equally,” explains Shen Dingli, a national security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. “In fact, China has no big need to join Galileo and Europe forced China to understand this.
“As a major power,” he adds, “China needs to assure its national economic and security independence. These will in turn assure its political independence.”
@Shane (#99): Thanks for the information. I only heard that China backed out because of European stalling and infighting (from a Chinese colleague), but I didn’t know exactly what the US pressure amounted to.
It’s too bad this happened, or maybe it’s good there are now several competing systems. 🙂
@ Shane #99: I had also heard what Wukailong has stated, that the dispute was between Europe and China. I read your linked article and didn’t see anything in there about US pressure. Where did you hear about that? Do you have a link I could read? I’m really curious about it. Thanks!
@ Wukailong #100: From a security standpoint, I can’t see how a country like China could rely on a potential enemy for critical military technology. In the long run, I think it best for China to put up her own satellite system. I am puzzled why China would want to use the same frequency as Europe. If China can jam Europe’s signals, couldn’t Europe could also jam China’s?
Something not mentioned is that India is a partner in the Russian GLONASS system.
You really do not understand western democracy…
1 – USA is not western democracy… it is very different from Europe where we do not fear the government but seek him to solve social problemes.
2 – Whatever no media are perfect, just compare the full propaganda that you have everyday in China with many quite good newspaper we have in western country.
3 – Just check that in Western we quite have countries rules by law, when in china you need money and connection with the government to do what you want… when in China your gov do not even respect your constitution which say: “the government respect and protect human right”
4,5,6,7,8,9… I do not want to use to much time saying all the other points I have… I also have a life out of here.
And by the way, I need to use a PROXY to be able to access this page when the other pages of this website are available… is it not the final proof that Chinese censorship is fundamentally wrong, when not even letting people discuss freely?
@ smith #102: I changed your obscenity since you’re new to the site. My normal reaction is to delete the entire post. Please check out the site rules. You can make your point just as well without using profane language.
@Steve (#101): It’s embarrassing for me to miss that there was no mention of the US pressure in the article that Shane9219 brought up. I should have read it more carefully. Now I guess the onus is on Shane to actually produce proof for this claim – I’ve done a group of web searches and I’ve come up with nothing.
Charles, where are you when we need you? 😉
As for smith’s descriptions, I can understand some of the frustration. These discussions on democracy get so theoretical and vague that it looks as if it’s basically the same living under these different systems. I seriously do believe your current location does have an effect on what arguments you choose – it’s much easier to defend censorship and other tenets of authoritarian countries as long as you don’t need to suffer them. This applies to me too, of course, As an example, perhaps one reason I don’t bother too much about nationalism is that I usually don’t suffer it. People I work and live with aren’t that nationalistic and I usually don’t get into heated arguments anyway, so it might seem lighter to me than it really is.
@ Wukailong #104
Your post above showed there is a good degree of political naivete inside you, especially after you did your own research on a such a plain issue.
Then-French President Jacques Chirac was a big believer of a “multipolar” world. China was able to get involved in Galileo project at the project’s earlier phase mostly due to efforts from his government. US government under then neocon hawks like Paul Wolfowitz raised concern about the potential military use. After EU signed up China, they tuned up their pressure by threatening to target Galileo Satellites if Chinese military used Galileo signal during a conflict with US.
You may take a look this report from notoriously conservative Asia Time.
AsiaTimes: Galileo: Why the US is unhappy with China
By Federico Bordonaro
@Shane9219: “Your post above showed there is a good degree of political naivete inside you, especially after you did your own research on a such a plain issue.”
So if I have a strong reason to believe something, but not a source to back it up, then I should just claim it as a fact and say people who ask for sources are naïve? That’s interesting. Anyway, the link you provided is a bit meatier and actually contain sources to back up your claims.
@ Shane9219 #105: If Wukailong’s question was naive, then China’s joining of Galileo with any expectation of using the system for military purposes was just as naive. Of course the US would disable the system (they didn’t “threaten”, they stated a plain fact) in case of war, just as China has tested weapons to disable the US GPS system under the same circumstances. Chirac was naive to think the US would not bring this up. The least naive person was Wukailong, whose question (along with your answer) had merit.
Most of my postings on this forum involve both current and historical facts, not merely something of blank claims. If you were aware how this EU-China cooperation on Galileo project evolved as I did, you would know that is the kind of typical outcome of current and past international relation establishment.
Anyone who is familiar with the West’s shameful dealings at Far East during the past century and half, they would realize anything China gained had been earned through her own hardworking.
The West nations come to seek their own interests, and exploit the weaks and cracks/faults as much as they could. They don’t come to play charity regardless their old play of race card under colonialism or this new play of democracy card under neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism. As much as they wanted people to believe, the history and current affair just point a different direction.
>> “Of course the US would disable the system (they didn’t “threaten”, they stated a plain fact) in case of war”
The fact was that US said forcefully at the time they wouldn’t rule out the possibility of shooting down Galileo sat. I was trying to avoid such mentioning until you really pushed this “envelope”
@ Steve #103: Did I say any obscenity??? can not recall any?? except maybe “bs”. But maybe what is not obscenity for me is for you… maybe living a few year in china is not enough to think the river crab point of view.
4 – the basic of this article argumentation is that a few people with money an power in democracy can force the choice of the majority.
—-> First I would like to remind you that there is free elections that enable population to change government when they are unhappy (change from W Bush to Obama is a huge change for example)
—-> Second, nowhere in western democracy the rich and powerful control as much the politics than in China. Government here is not elected, control all the media, and a huge part of the economy. more than 95% of Chinese billionaire are son of high rank official. The rich are the party official, and the businessman who manage to get rich quickly join the communist party to be able to become richer. Thus, if Chinese communist party care a bit about the poor it might be that they fear a revolt of the poor if their life do not improve.
Generally speaking I am not against the government, I dislike many of his actions, like some of them, but it is to Chinese to choose what they want, not to me to force a change… I still can express my point of view, but will never take any real life action.
Yes, BS in its long form is an obscenity in the English language. You’re smart so I’m sure you can come up with other ways to better state your opinion. I also very much agree with your basic premise that the Chinese can choose what they want and it’s not for us to force a change, though fine to express our point of view. I’ve mostly stayed out of this discussion because I think the basic premise is flawed.
@ Shane9219 #109: If the US said it, it’s not “forcing the envelope” but just a statement of fact.
>> “change from W Bush to Obama is a huge change for example”
Mr. Bush did finished his two terms, right? Even though he invaded Iraq for his fairy tale WMD and oil during his first term.
>> “95% of Chinese billionaire are son of high rank official.”
This has been totally discredited, while you repeat such b… made up by liberals
>>” The rich are the party official”
How many China’s top leaders are millionaires? You can tell people the number if you know. Otherwise, it is just a shame of you. You may wish to know how many rich people among western politicians, even among politicians in India.
>>” and the businessman who manage to get rich quickly join the communist party to be able to become richer.
What is wrong for wealthy Chinese to join CCP? That showed you understand very little about the true nature of CCP.
CCP started mostly as a party for depossessed and poor, but fundamentally, it wanted to be the major political force for China’s progress. It evolves itself as China changes …
real name says
i also found mention about 90 per cent only 😉
law is usualy step behind of praxis
cpp ‘party law’ enabled to be capitalist member of party after some became capitalists
there was enabled private ownership after some found they need protect their existing property
@Shane9219 (#108): “Most of my postings on this forum involve both current and historical facts, not merely something of blank claims. If you were aware how this EU-China cooperation on Galileo project evolved as I did, you would know that is the kind of typical outcome of current and past international relation establishment.”
To be aware of the facts you want to present, I’m happy when you provide links that present these facts. I’m no expert on Galileo (the whole thing was quite new to me) and I’m not surprised if there was a lot of political infighting. This is the EU after all, and the political system of China still is, shall we say, slightly controversial there.
“Anyone who is familiar with the West’s shameful dealings at Far East during the past century and half, they would realize anything China gained had been earned through her own hardworking.”
The problem is if you think this line of reasoning makes it possible for you to deduce facts and come to conclusions. Even if Peter threw rocks on the other children 99 times, you can’t deduce from that that all the other children are nice, or that none of the others didn’t throw rocks.
In general, when people really have facts, they don’t need to make claims about the people they’re discussing with.
@real name: Thanks for the link. Victor has a lot of interesting things on his blog, though I wish he would present the information in a bit more structured way. It’s a royal pain in the neck trying to read even a handful of his entries, and have to process what’s comments and what’s part of the main text. 😉
Go tell that “western democracy fundamentally wrong” to the hundred millions of Chinese who live in countryside and many of them who can not afford to pay basic health-care.
If they could vote, they will definitely vote for a government who provide at least basic health care for them…
And kids will not become blind because of a basic eyes infections… but you will have less blind massage person to serve you.
real name says
Somthing for you.
With an average annual growth rate of 10 percent, China has lifted over 600 million of its 1.3 billion citizens out of extreme poverty–those who earn less than $1 a day–since 1981. In the same time period, India’s 6.2 percent average annual growth rate has brought an estimated 30 million out of its 1.1 billion people out of extreme poverty. But an estimated 100 million Chinese and more than 250 million Indians remained under the extreme poverty line in 2005, according to the latest World Bank poverty estimates (PDF). Roughly 470 million Chinese and 827 million Indians earned less than $2 a day, the median poverty line for all developing countries.
Let me repeat :
600 million out of 1.3 billion. 600/1300 = 46.15%
30 million out of 1.1 billion. 30/1100 = 2.73%
You can bash all the problems in the system in China, but dont foolishly claim that a government under western democracy is more a people’s government.
There are 3 tiers at least when distributing wealth :
1) The first level : State level, state government makes major decision about how much money must be allocated to each field, like military industry, energy, infrastructrue, etc.
2) Local level : like cities, local government gets money from state and local taxes, it must decide how much money must be allocated to local business, infrastructure and service.
3) people decides how to distribute the remaining.
Under Western democracy, the rich deal with government in first tier, like the US military expense increased in 2009, not decrease. People have no business in this tier, no matter how often you change government and change president.
The 2nd tier, that is where your local government officers get money for themselves, or the corruption. you cant prevent that, like a major New york politician got a nonsense job for his son with $120,000 payment.
Now the 3rd tier, see here? the crumb left by the rich and government officer, that is where your right plays a role. You can speak, protest, but you may fight for the benefits that should belong to your wife or your children.
What if govenrment doesnt have money, well, they issue bonds or borrow money. Get a picture why all the developed countries had huge debts ? who wil pay those debt ? you and people.
Western democracy does have a good part, that is, it provents government abusing power. but it has no power whatsoever in controling the rich.
Under Western democracy, government begs the rich, remember Obama “begs” people buying American bonds ? who did he speak to ? the rich, the group of people who benefited most during good time.
In China, the rich begs government, If you want to be a millionaire, you better have some close relation in government helping you.but government still controled the most profitable industries, like banks, oil, steel, etc. As those industry in the name still belong to people, the vast amount of profits belong to people, though with the corruption.
Get a picture why with 6.2% increaing rate, only 30 million out of 1.1 billion indians were pulled out of extreme proverty ?
BTW, no country was ever industrialized under western democracy :
Europe exploited people in China and India, and Asian countries.
America built their superpower on the misery of Europe and black slaves.
Japan killed thousands of Samurai during Meiji Restoration.
South Korea and Taiwan were industrialized under one pary system.
“Europe exploited people in China.”
You really can’t help yourself, can you? Btw, nobody has exploited Chinese people to a greater extent than the present CCP dynasty.
“America built their superpower on the misery of Europe and black slaves.”
America (following Britain’s lead) abolished slavery. By so doing moral imperatives were put before economic considerations. When will China be able to say the same? Incidentally, present Chinese power is also built on subjugation and exploitation; it’s not OK just because those people happen to be Chinese.
Don’t hate China so much, get a life for yourself 🙂
Aren’t NPR and PBS state-sponsored medias in U.S? And what about ITV IN UK? As far as I am concerned PBS works reasonablly good, the lawmakers may have considered the downfalls of a completely private media market long ago, as pointed out by the author of this paper.
@ Shane #122: Attacking the message is fine, attacking the messenger is not.
Definitely PBS and NPR is ‘reasonably’ good because it has the government approved message there. However, the US government also funds these NED types who funds other groups which sends other kind of messages.
You really can’t help yourself, can you? Btw, nobody has exploited Chinese people to a greater extent than the present CCP dynasty.
Gee that’s a naive statement. Who benefited as the result of this ‘exploitation?’ Most of the Chinese people are happy to be ‘exploited’ because they got decent jobs and increased in living standards.
@Steve, I think you should warn Stuart because he said ‘you can’t help yourself can’t you’ is attacking the messager.
@ pug_ster #125: Per the PBS and NPR comment, they don’t have a “government approved message” and only receive about 15% of their funding from the government. They are independent as to content, as I’m sure Republican administrations can confirm. They are not comparable to, for instance, the BBC.
Charles Liu says
Steve is right. Good examples of media sponsored by US governemnt would be VOA and RFA, who’s funding and content is controlled by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (America’s “United Front” of sort):
“Taken as a whole, the overseas broadcasting enterprise is the product of two separate philosophical forces that have shaped U.S. foreign policy over the past half-century. One is the militant anti-communism of the Cold War era; the other is “American exceptionalism” – the belief that the U.S. experiment in democratic governance stands as an example for the rest of the world to emulate.”
@ stuart #121: pug_ster is correct. I know you’re new to the blog but please try to stay on track and not judge the intentions of individuals. We all take it as a given that everyone here cares about China but that everyone also holds different opinions as to what that means.
Personally, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Europeans exploited Chinese once upon a time but I don’t see the particular relevance of that to the thread topic, so there are ways to answer Wahaha’s argument without judging Wahaha. Thanks!
Haha, I may be overstating the influence of government on PBS and NPR, but I was trying to demonstrate that a path in the middle could be figured out to provide well-balanced information to people without going to extremes, PBS and NPR’s model of funding(part-government and part private donations, membership fees) are actually good examples. In fact, fully government-sponsored U.S broadcasting agencies are usually highly biased, especially RFA.
Yes, PBS is quite independent, but not always, at least in the Children’s program department. 😉
PBS has pulled an episode of the children’s show Postcards From Buster that includes children with lesbian mothers. The episode was yanked the same day that PBS received a letter from new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings condemning the episode and asking PBS to “strongly consider” returning the federal money that went toward its production.
@ admin: I’d compare that example to what recently happened over at FOX. Glen Beck said something moronic (I forget what since he’s always saying moronic things) and many sponsors pulled their advertising from the show. Because his ratings are so high, FOX didn’t pull the show. PBS could have run the show and lost the funding but chose to keep the funding and pull the show. That was during the Bush years when many conservatives wanted to eliminate funding altogether. I’d guess that today, the show would have been aired no problem.
Personally, I don’t care for exposing little kids to complex social issues.
“Europe exploited people in China.”
You really can’t help yourself, can you? Btw, nobody has exploited Chinese people to a greater extent than the present CCP dynasty.
Go to TAM square, see who line up for hours to see Mao’s body.