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The People are supreme, the state is secondary and the Ruler is the least important: only those who please the people can rule. Mencius[1]Confucius’ most famous disciple, Mencius, lived 372 BC – 289 BC.

In Roman politics, citizens lost control of politicians after electing them. It’s one of the system’s greatest weaknesses and it is no wonder that, like our Roman forebears, we regard government as our biggest problem[2]Record High Name Government as Most Important Problem. Gallup. February 18, 2019: we cannot compel them to keep their promises.

Imagine that, instead of hiring eloquent amateurs, we hired professionals–sociologists, statisticians, political scientists, economists–and told them to create solutions to our problems identified by publicly conducted surveys. Then they should support state and local governments to implement policy solutions, track public satisfaction with them for a few years and discard failed policies. California would probably try Canadian medicare and if their medical bills fell fifty percent and Californians showed a three year gain in healthy life expectancy, we’d elect a thousand volunteers and send them–all expenses paid–to Washington so they could audit the results and pass legislation.

That’s what China does and it’s why their democracy resembles Proctor & Gamble more than Pericles of Athens.

Large-scale national surveys, the Chinese Labor Dynamics Survey (Sun Yat-Sen University), the Chinese Family Panel Survey (Peking U), the Chinese General Social Survey (Renmin U), the Chinese Income Inequality Surveys (Beijing Normal U) and hundreds of polls by overseas scholars and institutions like Harvard University, Gallup, Edelman, World Values and Asian Barometer, rival the world’s best in sampling techniques, questionnaire design and quality control.

The results, all available online, are a treasure trove of democratic data that Mao created by wresting policy control from scholars and commissioning extensive surveys[3]The “Surprise” of Authoritarian Resilience in China. Wenfang Tang saying, “Public opinion must guide our actions.” Today, says author Jeff J. Brown, “My Beijing neighborhood committee and town hall are constantly putting up announcements, inviting groups of people–renters, homeowners, over seventies, women under forty, those with or without medical insurance, retirees–to answer surveys. The CPC is the world’s biggest pollster for a reason: China’s democratic ‘dictatorship of the people’ is highly engaged at the day-to-day, citizen-on-the-street level. I know, because I live in a middle class Chinese community and I question them all the time. I find their government much more responsive and democratic than the dog-and-pony shows back home, and I mean that seriously.”


Mao introduced universal suffrage in 1951 (ten years before America[4]The Voting Rights Act of 1965) on the basis of one person, one vote. Everyone voted to elect a legislature that would control of all legislation and approve all senior appointments. He even extended democracy to non-citizens, as Quaker William Sewell[5]William Sewell, I Stayed in China., a professor at Jen Dah Christian University in Szechuan recalls,

As a labor union member, I was entitled to vote. The election of a government in China is indirect. We at Jen Dah were to vote for our local People’s Congress. Then the Local Congresses would, from among their own members, elect the Duliang Congress. From these members and from the congresses of the great cities and many counties would be elected the Szechwan People’s Provincial Congress. Finally emerged the National People’s Congress, every member of which had in the first place been elected to a local body. The National Congress made the laws, elected the Chairman, and appointed the Premier and members of the State Council. In our chemistry group we discussed the sort of men and women who might best represent us; then we put forward half a dozen names.

Each group in our Jen Dah section did the same. All the names were then written on a board so that everyone might see who had been suggested. The names which several groups had listed in common were put on a short list. They amounted to over a dozen, any groups being still at liberty to put forward again any name which they considered should not have been omitted. Those whose names were on the short list had then to be persuaded to allow their names to remain. This took some time as a genuine sense of inability to cope made many of them reluctant to undertake such responsible work. Each person was discussed at length by the group. Those who were unknown were invited to visit the various groups so that they might be questioned. At length a still shorter list of candidates was obtained, which was cut down eventually, after further discussion, to the number desired.

When the day of the election came, the flags were flying and the bands with their cymbals and drums with their constant rhythm made it all pleasantly noisy. Voting slips were handed out at one end of the booth and students, all sworn to secrecy, were available to help if you couldn’t read. Then alone, or accompanied by your helper, you sat at the table and cast your votes. The list contained names which had by now become very familiar but there was a space at the bottom for additional names to be added should you so desire. A ring was to be put around those whom you wished to be elected and the paper dropped into the box. In England I had voted for a man I didn’t know, with whom I had never spoken and who asked for my vote by a circular letter and who had lost to his rival by over 14,000 votes. I had felt that my vote was entirely worthless. In China, at this one election, I had at least had the happy illusion that my vote was of real significance.

By the 1980s the electoral process had deteriorated, powerful family clans dominated local elections and villagers regularly petitioned Beijing to send ‘a capable Party Secretary to straighten things out’. So the government invited The Carter Center to supervise the process and, by 2010, voter turnout had outstripped America’s and the Prime Minister encouraged more experiments, “The experience of many villages has proven that farmers can successfully elect village committees. If people can manage a village well, they can manage a township and a county. We must encourage people to experiment boldly and test democracy in practice.” Five years later President Xi asked the Carter Center to reevaluate the fairness of election laws and to educate candidates in ethical campaigning, “Democracy is not only defined by people’s right to vote in elections but also their right to participate in political affairs on a daily basis. Democracy is not decoration, it’s for solving people’s problems.” Like Capitalism, Democracy is a tool in China, not a religion.

There are six hundred thousand villages and successful candidates, who need not be Party members, begin their five-year terms with a trial year at the end of which, if they fail to achieve their promised goals, they’re dismissed. Otherwise they spend their second year reviewing and adjusting their objectives, knowing that their successes could be propagated nationwide.

Village representatives choose peers to represent them at district level where further voting elects county representatives until, eventually, three thousand provincial congresspeople, all volunteers, convene in Beijing and strive for consensus as earnestly as they do in their villages. Congresspeople are volunteers, ordinary citizens whose progress to the national level requires prudence and common sense. Tiered voting makes it difficult to join a higher level assembly without the support from politicians below and impossible for the Party to completely control the process. As a result, one-third of National People’s Congresspeople are not Communist Party members, nor are other parties merely decorative. Parties like the China Democratic League[6]The China Democratic League is for teachers from elementary school to universities. Since Confucius is China’s archetypal teacher and teachers are held at an high regards by the society as a whole, this is a highly influential party., the Kuomintang[7]The Kuomintang of China, KMT; (sometimes Guomindang) often translated as the Nationalist Party of China) is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei and is currently the opposition political party in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. and the Jiusan Society[8]The Jiusan Society is for PhD scientists, mostly physicists and engineers, whose position is ‘everything should be run by science’. Very big on pushing for climate initiatives, environmental protection, more R&D budget, better health policies, etc. (whose all-PhD members campaign for climate initiatives, increased R&D budgets and data-driven health policies) regularly produce outstanding Ministers.

The Constitution is clear: “The National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at various levels are constituted through democratic elections. They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision. All administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the State are created by the People’s Congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised.” Most legislation receives ninety-percent support in Congress but does this make the NPCC a mere ‘rubber stamp’ as critics claim[9]Wikipedia?

The ‘rubber stamp’ misunderstanding arises because policy development is managed like double-blind, randomized clinical trials, called Trial Spots, and Congress is primarily responsible for publicly evaluating data gathered on them. Europe has started universal income trial spots but China has been doing them for thirty years and has a mature system to support it and manage it.

It’s not hard to muster ninety-percent support if the data is sound. Policy proposals are first tried in villages, towns or cities and the vast majority die during this phase for the same reasons that most scientific experiments fail. The process has created the most trusted government on earth but Congress is no pushover. Congresspeople visit, inspect and audit Trial Spot cashflows, calculate affordability and debate scalability and national impact.

When, after thirty years of engineering studies, the government presented its proposal to fund the Three Gorges Dam, Congress demurred. The project’s cost and scale were beyond most members’ imagination, retired engineers and foreign experts damned it and a million people who would be displaced criticized the project so vehemently that legislators demanded a similar dam be built nearby to demonstrate geological stability. The government duly built the Gezhouba Dam downstream yet, when they re-presented the funding request, just sixty-four percent of delegates supported it and, when the government decided to proceed, people loudly accused it of ‘ramming the bill through.’

Though China’s process is neither fully scientific nor totally democratic, labeling it ‘authoritarian’–a Western concept–also misses the point. China’s reliance on data for course corrections is its greatest strength, though even solid data does not guarantee smooth sailing. Fifty percent of legislation[10]Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in the Chinese Legislative System. Rory Truex. Journal of Comparative Political Studies, April 2018 is not passed within the planned period and ten percent takes more than a decade, thanks to the Peoples Consultive Congress, a gigantic lobby of special interest groups–including peasants, indigenes, professors, fishermen, manufacturers and Taiwan’s Kuomintang Party–who ensure that pending legislation does not damage their interests. Legislators must use both trial data and political tradeoffs to craft the laws which, by the time they emerge, have almost unanimous support[11]The lowest recorded legislative support is sixty-four percent for the Three Gorges Dam project, which now repays its original investment every two years. It was the biggest, most expensive single-site project in history whose lake has changed the earth’s rotation, so legislators’ caution in their generation is understandable.. Even then, legislation is issued ‘subject to revision’ because data collection continues after implementation, too.

Congress commissioned the Guangzhou-Shenzhen high speed rail Trial Spot in 1998 before voting to fund today’s massive HSR network. In 2016 the administration advanced legislation permitting genetically modified food crops because they had promised that GM maize and soybeans would be in commercial use by 2020. Two years later–after an intense public education campaign–a survey[12]Public perception of genetically-modified (GM) food: A Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study. Kai Cui & Sharon P. Shoemaker. npj Science of Food volume 2, Article number: 10 (2018) found half the country still opposed to GM, ten percent were supportive and eleven percent considered GM ‘a bioterrorism weapon aimed at China’. Legislation was shelved. Venture capitalist Robin Daverman describes the process at the national level:

China is a giant trial portfolio with millions of trials going on everywhere. Today, innovations in everything from healthcare to poverty reduction, education, energy, trade and transportation are being trialled in different communities. Every one of China’s 662 cities is experimenting: Shanghai with free trade zones, Guizhou with poverty reduction, twenty-three cities with education reforms, Northeastern provinces with SOE reform: pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything. Mayors and governors, the Primary Investigators, share their ‘lab results’ at the Central Party School and publish them in their ‘scientific journals,’ the State-owned newspapers.

Beginning in small towns, major policies undergo ‘clinical trials’ that generate and analyze test data. If the stats look good, they’ll add test sites and do long-term follow-ups. They test and tweak for 10-30 years then ask the 3,000-member People’s Congress to review the data and authorize national trials in three major provinces. If a national trial is successful the State Council [the Brains Trust] polishes the plan and takes it back to Congress for a final vote. It’s very transparent and, if your data is better than mine, your bill gets passed and mine doesn’t. Congress’ votes are nearly unanimous because the legislation is backed by reams of data. This allows China to accomplish a great deal in a short time, because your winning solution will be quickly propagated throughout the country, you’ll be a front page hero, invited to high-level meetings in Beijing and promoted. As you can imagine, the competition to solve problems is intense. Local government has a great deal of freedom to try their own things as long as they have the support of the local people. Everything from bare-knuckled liberalism to straight communism has been tried by various villages and small towns.

Yiwu, a sleepy town in the middle of Zhejiang province, started an international trade Trial Spot in the 1980s and became the world’s center for small commodities like stuffed animals (and the subject of endless books and articles). Today, townships are running Trial Spots on smart towns, schools ran Trial Spots on academic quality, labor unions ran labor rights Trial Spots, state-owned enterprises trialed mixed compensation (cash and stock) and maverick officials tried ideas knowing that any damage would be contained and successes quickly replicated. Even the conservative Chinese Customs had ‘trade facilitation Trial Spots’ at border crossings.

The Health Ministry asked thirty-three Provincial Health Ministers–PhDs and MDs–to bring childhood obesity under control by 2030. The ministers involved a thousand County Health Directors and today hundreds of Childhood Obesity Awareness Trial Spots are running in cities and townships across the country. One billboard warns, rather dubiously, that obesity reduces children’s intelligence but wheat and chaff will be separated by 2030 and overweight children will become as rare as they were when we were young. Overall, the process keeps the government in sync with people’s wishes better than any on earth:

Every five years since 1950, planners have readjusted the nation’s course towards the country’s ultimate goal of dàtóng, issued progress reports and gathered feedback. Results encouraged them to allow entrepreneurs to compete in non-essential industries like automobile manufacturing but showed that profits on essential services were as burdensome as taxes. Profiting from healthcare, they found, taxed every business needing healthy workers, and profits from education taxed every businesses that needs literate workers. The government now provides them at cost and even supports loss-making corporations (‘zombies’ to neoliberals) that serve a social purpose.

Researchers begin Five Year Plans with questionnaires and grassroots forums and, after mid-term assessments, Congress commissions scholars to evaluate and economists to budget for their recommendations. Teams then tour the country, appear on local TV, listen to local opinions and formulate proposals. One planner[13]Jeff J. Brown, China Rising. explained, “Computers have made huge improvements in collecting and analyzing the information but still, thousands of statisticians, actuaries, database experts and technicians with degrees in urban, rural, agricultural, environmental and economic planning invest thousands of hours interpreting and analyzing this vast trove of data, statistics and information. Needless to say, for a continent-sized country with over a billion citizens, it takes hundreds of thousands of people to develop each Five-Year Plan.”

Next, the State Council publishes a draft Plan and solicits input from employees, farmers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, officials and specialists and feasibility reports from all twenty-seven levels of the bureaucracy responsible for implementing it. The Finance and Economics Committee analyzes the Plan’s budget and, after the State Council and Politburo sign off, Congress votes. Then discussion is suspended and implementation proceeds unimpeded. Here’s the cover sheet for the 12th Plan:

Over the five years, economic growth averaged 7.8 percent, services became the largest sector and consumption became the major growth driver, energy intensity fell eighteen percent and emissions dropped twelve percent, the urban-rural income gap narrowed, rudimentary health insurance became universal, three hundred million folk gained access to safe drinking water and one hundred million were lifted from poverty. Harvard’s Tony Saich, who conducts his own surveys, concludes that ninety per cent of people are satisfied with the government and surveys found that eighty-three percent think it runs the country for everyone’s benefit rather than for special groups. More remarkably, it’s run parsimoniously:

The current administration has promised to further extend democratic rule of law as education levels rise but there has been another, less formal democracy at work for three thousand years. Any citizen can petition the government with a demand or complaint. Historically at any time but especially now, when Congress is meeting with the Peoples Consultative Congress, thousands of insistent constituents appear on their doorsteps with written petitions. Protocol requires them to start at the neighborhood level then, if they are still dissatisfied, go to the next level, all the way to the NPC if needed. In fact, there is a special office, the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, where everyone, even resident non-citizens, can lodge petitions.

Legislation, once published in newspapers and posted on neighborhood bulletin boards, now blossoms online. Every draft is posted for citizens, non-citizens, national and international businesses alike to comment and critique–and they do. If there is strong pushback or resistance to proposed laws they’re sent back for amendment. And if that is too cumbersome there is the constitutional right to demonstrate publicly.

Today, smartphones, social media and streaming video to multiply the effects of public demonstrations (as 150,000 ‘mass incidents’ in 2018 testify). Rowdy protests–usually triggered by local officials’ unfairness, dishonesty or incompetence–are cheap, exciting and safe since police are unarmed. Indignant[14]Tang, Populist Authoritarianism. citizens paint signs, alert NGOs and the media, recruit neighbors, bang drums, shout slogans and livestream their parade. Responses which once took months now take hours. Targeted officials–usually after a phone call from an angry superior–speed to the scene, bow deeply, apologize profusely, kiss babies, explain that they had no idea that such things were going on and promise brighter tomorrows. Since cell phones became ubiquitous local officials’ approval has risen from forty-five to fifty-five percent and, by 2025, should rival Americans’ seventy percent.

From land redistribution in the 1950s to communes in the 60s to the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, Reform and Opening and anti-corruption, Chinese politics are almost unrecognizable from one decade to the next yet policy support rivals Switzerland’s. Tsinghua Professor Daniel Bell[15]The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy.(p. 9) Daniel Bell credits democracy at the bottom, experiments in the middle and meritocracy at the top for a string of policy successes. And The New York Times’ Tom Friedman says wistfully, “If we could just be China for one day we could actually authorize the right decisions.”

Former President Hu Jintao, who formalized Trial Spots, wisely observed that there’s more to the process than meets the eye, “Taking from each according his ability and giving to each according to his need requires democratic rule of law, fairness and justice, honesty and fraternity, abundant energy, stability, orderliness, harmony between people and the environment and sustainable development.”

Words to ponder.


[1] Confucius’ most famous disciple, Mencius, lived 372 BC – 289 BC.

[2] Record High Name Government as Most Important Problem. Gallup. February 18, 2019

[3] The “Surprise” of Authoritarian Resilience in China. Wenfang Tang

[4] The Voting Rights Act of 1965

[5] William Sewell, I Stayed in China.

[6] The China Democratic League is for teachers from elementary school to universities. Since Confucius is China’s archetypal teacher and teachers are held at an high regards by the society as a whole, this is a highly influential party.

[7] The Kuomintang of China, KMT; (sometimes Guomindang) often translated as the Nationalist Party of China) is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei and is currently the opposition political party in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.

[8] The Jiusan Society is for PhD scientists, mostly physicists and engineers, whose position is ‘everything should be run by science’. Very big on pushing for climate initiatives, environmental protection, more R&D budget, better health policies, etc.

[9] Wikipedia

[10] Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in the Chinese Legislative System. Rory Truex. Journal of Comparative Political Studies, April 2018

[11] The lowest recorded legislative support is sixty-four percent for the Three Gorges Dam project, which now repays its original investment every two years. It was the biggest, most expensive single-site project in history whose lake has changed the earth’s rotation, so legislators’ caution in their generation is understandable.

[12] Public perception of genetically-modified (GM) food: A Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study. Kai Cui & Sharon P. Shoemaker. npj Science of Food volume 2, Article number: 10 (2018)

[13] Jeff J. Brown, China Rising.

[14] Tang, Populist Authoritarianism.

[15] The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy.(p. 9) Daniel Bell

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Democracy, Polling 
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  1. Very interesting article.
    My economics thinking has some grave deficiencies: could someone please explain how (for example) the UK, Germany & the US governments’ can spend between 40 & 50% of total GDP ? In the US case that would mean the government spends around \$10 trillion. I’m missing something….

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
    , @Anon
  2. @animalogic

    I don’t think the figure for the US is correct. Total government spending would be more like 35% of GDP with the federal government representing a bit less than three-fifths of the total. IMF (Roberts’ source) says 41.45% for the USA:[email protected]/USA/FRA/JPN/GBR/SWE/ESP/ITA/ZAF/IND/TUR

    This source has a lower figure:

    That said, government spending in America is often underestimated because of a misleading tendency to only report the spending of the federal government.

    \$10 trillion in total government spending in America would be perfectly feasible with a more aggressive tax structure. Every country in the European Union for instance has at least a 15% VAT for instance.

  3. Anonymous [AKA "RedReadder"] says:

    I greatly enjoy reading your articles they present a perspective not available in the West. They are TRUE insights into China. You might enjoy reading the articles in this link and in particular this one the articles are by Chinese academics from China, two of which are of rural backgrounds, I know you are familiar with two of them because you have cited them before. Please keep bringing authentic analysis and insight. Hopefully people will be able to learn effective models for governance and statecraft and hopefully a more harmonious ethics/value system.

  4. RedRobbo says:

    China is leading the way in minting new billionaires: two per week! This should not come as a surprise as capitalist hallmarks, such as class society, commodity production, profit motive, exploitation of wage labour, markets, etc., exist there as they do worldwide. Further evidence is supplied by an article titled ‘Always Stay Professional’. Inside China’s Booming Butler Schools, Nothing But the Best Will Do’ (Time, 1 November, 2017). Here we learn that some of China’s 1,590,000 millionaires wish to live the life of Riley Downtown Abbey style! ‘Students pay 50,000 rmb (\$7,500) for a six-week course on food presentation, how to iron shirts the proper way, and maintaining serene decorum at all times…. Students learn how to choose fine wine but also good Chinese liquor, teach tai chi, perform a tea ceremony and caddy on the golf course. For many, it’s another world.’ Indeed. ‘…15-hour days and endless drilling. How to clean a toilet, iron a tablecloth, use tape-measures and plastic blocks to get table placings perfectly aligned. It’s a regimen of burns, blisters and bottomless cups of coffee’. The Ju/’hoansi people work only 15 hours a week.

  5. @RedRobbo

    More significant is the fact that, by 2021, every Chinese will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, health and old age care and there will be more drug addicts, suicides and executions, more homeless, poor, hungry and imprisoned people in America than in China.

    By then 500,000,000 urban Chinese will have more net worth and disposable income than the average American, their mothers and infants will be less likely to die in childbirth, their children will graduate from high school three years ahead of–and outlive–American kids.

    Perhaps more significantly, Xi has dedicated 2021-2015 to getting China’s GINI down to Finland’s level. That will be fun to watch!

    • Replies: @RedRobbo
  6. RedRobbo says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    According to a Peking University report from 2016, iincome disparity is getting worse with the top 1 percent owning a third of the country’s wealth and the bottom 25 percent of the population just 1 percent.

    The current Labour Party (UK) leader, Jeremey Corbyn, has in the tradition of many misleaders made a series of pledges similar to the ones you list. They include expanding wage slavery as well as a million new homes being built over five years. Yet no Labour government has ever left office with unemployment lower than when it started and after World War II (Labour has supported all wars since WWI – bang goes the peaceful foreign policy pledge!) Bevan promised to solve the housing problem. Other pious pledges include ‘security at work’ (recall the use of troops as strike breakers against the dockworkers) and a secure National Health Service. Labour Minister Bevan felt more secure with his own private physician, and with the introduction of charges for dental and optical services he resigned, failing to say ‘that’s capitalism folks!’ Tuition fees? That was Labour too. Do not bank on the pledge for them to be reversed! The climate change pledge? That’s likely to be just hot air. Free transport? No, nothing more than the possibility of an expanded publically-controlled bus network. Apparently, FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid 183 times the wage of the average UK worker. Expect a redistribution of crumbs, nothing more. Emphasis on human rights? Your right to be exploited is guaranteed under Corbyn – or Xi!

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
    , @RedRobbo
  7. Anon[411] • Disclaimer says:

    like our Roman forebears

    That’s a major disbelief of the Western, English-speaking culture. You have not the Roman and Greek, but Carthaginian legacy of thalassocratia. Elites of mixed origins being made from sea trade, piracy, trade outposts and colonies, naval domination, not by conquest and virtue. Hired multinational mercenaries instead of conscrtipt peasant-citizens. Compare with the Roman legacy of Russia, where military service is still a measure of masculinity and offers you a state career, and the state itself is sacred (the eternal Holy Third Rome), and the very language is structured after Greek and Latin with declensions etc. Government can be a problem only for a barbaric tribe or society that evolved from such a tribe e.g. USA (armed colonists ruled by freemasons).

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  8. Anon[424] • Disclaimer says:

    It is very easy , in the US and the EU rules socialdemocracy , what means lots of expenses for health , education , pensions , social benefits and big Government and paragovernment institutiones , plus in the US enormous military expenses .

    If you see how much you and your wife make every month , gross , and you subtract the irs taxes , the vat taxes , all tipes of taxes , you will see that one of the salaries goes just to pay taxes , it is the 2×1 phenomenon , two people work for just one salary , the other salary goes to the Government , so 50% of the household income for the Government ,

    • Replies: @anon
  9. Mark Leonard in What Does China Think? (2008) also made the argument that polls and focus groups play a very large role in setting Chinese policy (he called it “deliberative dictatorship”). It will be interesting to see if it proves more competitive than conventional democracy in the long-term.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
    , @anon
  10. onebornfree says: • Website

    Godfree Roberts: “Imagine that, instead of hiring eloquent amateurs, we hired professionals–sociologists, statisticians, political scientists, economists–and told them to create solutions to our problems identified by publicly conducted surveys. ”

    Dream on!

    This just in:

    no matter how many “professionals–sociologists, statisticians, political scientists, economists” etc. get hired by a government, the fact remains : governments never solve problems, only create even more of them.

    Government solutions never work. Never have, never will. Given their record to date, anybody who believes in government solutions for anything is either young and naive, or a blind fool.

    The only “solution” to any “problem” is to get, and keep, the government entirely out of it. The smaller and less intrusive a government is, the fewer problems, and the higher the overall standard of living will be

    “Because they are all ultimately funded via both direct and indirect theft [taxes], and counterfeiting [central bank monopolies], all governments are essentially, at their very cores, 100% corrupt criminal scams which cannot be “reformed”,”improved”, nor “limited” in scope, simply because of their innate criminal nature.” onebornfree

    “Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.” Albert J. Nock

    “Everything government touches turns to crap” Ringo Starr

    “The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic” H.L.Mencken

    See: “The World’s Biggest, Most Dangerous Scam Is..The “Government Solutions Work” Scam”

    Regards, onebornfree

  11. Parfois1 says:

    In Roman politics, citizens lost control of politicians after electing them. It’s one of the system’s greatest weaknesses and it is no wonder that, like our Roman forebears, we regard government as our biggest problem[2]: we cannot compel them to keep their promises.

    And that is the greatest sin of the so-called representative democracy – in fact people elect periodic dictators whose interests are to remain in power for as long as their long list of lies permit: a ruling class totally alienated from the people they pretend to represent.

    I’m not familiar with the workings of the Chinese government and institutions, yet the above quote reminds me of the Soviet electoral system of centralised democracy where the voters themselves, not the party, chose the candidates for election, many (about 30%) of whom were not party members.

    But the striking peculiarity of the Soviet system was the power given to the voters to recall their elected officers if they failed in their capacity of representing them and their interests. And such constitutional provisions were not just dead letter – for the people used them to get rid of liars and opportunists.

    In the hey-day of the end of the Soviet Union, after the tanks ordered by Yeltsin blasted the Duma into submission, I saw a German-produced report on the people’s perception of the “new democracy” introduced by US think-tanks, Harvard and NGOs. A babushka astonished my indoctrinated view of the SU when she said in anger that democracy had been taken away from the people. “We now have no democracy now. Then we could go to the meetings and tell the deputies or functionaries about our grievances and wishes, and they had to do as told otherwise they would be removed from their positions”.

    Can you imagine anywhere in the “democratic capitalist west” such power given to the people, namely the power to dismiss the elected representatives?

    There are many myths about life in the Soviet Union that still cloud our thinking and beliefs.

  12. onebornfree says: • Website

    The “Government Solutions Work” Scam

    “The unspoken assumption of the modern era is that politics can fix whatever is broken: whatever is broken in society or the economy can be fixed by some political policy or political process– becoming more inclusionary, seeking non-partisan middle ground, etc.

    What if this assumption is flat-out wrong? What is politics is incapable of fixing what’s broken? What if politics merely fosters an illusion of solutions, a paper-thin veneer of faux progress? What if politics isn’t a tool that’s capable of fixing what’s broken? What if all politics is able to do is generate delusions of grandeur and unresolvable conflicts? What if politics is ultimately little more than a fatal distraction?

    This is of course heresy of the highest order, for a belief in the supremacy of politics is the secular religion of our era. The orthodoxy is: there is no problem that can’t be solved with a political policy: a tax cut, a new tax, a new incentive, a broader definition of criminality, and so on……..”:

    See: The “Government Solutions Work” Scam:

    Regards, onebornfree

  13. Has China learned to love its servitude, or are they merely lemmings like their North Korean allies, deathly afraid to criticize “Big Brother”? All that glitters is not gold.

  14. Biff says:

    I’ve got a perfect utopia for you – Mumbai, India. Almost no government at all. Make your own roads, and shit right along side them. Sounds perfect for you, and I’m sure you’ll love it.

    • Replies: @onebornfree
    , @Escher
  15. Biff says:
    @Johnny Walker Read

    Nice vid. Ironic that the reporter is British, since London happens to be thee most CCTV video’d place on the planet, a world leader in digital facial recognition, and a world pioneer in scare “quotes”.

    • Agree: Godfree Roberts
    • Replies: @Johnny Walker Read
  16. @Biff

    Yep, and they are doing their best to get it all rolled out here in “Merka”. The R’s and D’s now in power would love nothing more than to see the full blown roll out of the surveillance/police state here. Remember, it’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in it.

    “In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else’s mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one’s own place and economy.
    In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers…
    Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else’s legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed?
    The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”
    ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

  17. Tom Welsh says:

    “Imagine that, instead of hiring eloquent amateurs, we hired professionals–sociologists, statisticians, political scientists, economists…”

    Exactly one of those four categories has any justification for being called “professional”.

    Obviously, statisticians. They practice a branch of mathematics that is quite well understood and can usefully be applied to real world problems – but only by sensible and qualified professionals.

    Sociologists, “political scientists” and economists are all charlatans masquerading as professionals. (Admittedly, there have been and still are a tiny handful of each group who do provide good value – but 99% of them are worthless or worse).

    The term “political scientist” is particularly laughable – and not in a good way. Hardly anything about politics is understood with enough rigour to be remotely deserving of the name “science”.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  18. onebornfree says: • Website

    Godfree Roberts says: ” The Constitution is clear: “The National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at various levels are constituted through democratic elections.”

    ” The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s good-bye to the Bill of Rights.” H.L. Mencken

    “All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. ” H.L. Mencken

    “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.” H.L. Mencken

    “…a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” H.L. Mencken

    “Democracy is a sort of laughing gas. It will not cure anything, perhaps, but it unquestionably stops the pain.” H.L. Mencken

    “Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. ” H.L. Mencken

    “Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses.” H.L. Mencken

    “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” H.L. Mencken

    “If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x times y is less than y.” H.L. Mencken

    “All of democracy’s axioms “resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms. The mob is competent to rule the rest of us – but it must be rigorously policed itself. There is a government, not of men, but laws – but men are set upon benches to decide finally what the law is and may be.” H.L. Mencken

    “every election in a democracy is an advance auction on stolen goods.” H. L. Mencken,

    “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.” H. L. Mencken,

    “I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. ” H.L. Mencken

    Regards, onebornfree

    • Agree: atlantis_dweller
    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  19. onebornfree says: • Website

    “The state—or, to make the matter more concrete, the government—consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” H.L. Mencken

    Regards, onebornfree

  20. JC says:

    5 of those countries pretty much have zionists in money government…all but canada got failing grades

  21. I’ve seen this before, in propaganda about early Soviet state planning. I’ve also seen this in the Pentagon budgeting process [1].

    While I certainly wish the PRC success in their endeavors, plans with this many processes tend to be unworkable. Staff appointed to execute them are typically unqualified and return nonsensical or (at best) random answers. Final decisions are made on grounds of politics and equity and raw political power by a mixture of thugs and naifs.

    There is a good description of the Soviet system c.a. during Nicky the K’s rule and afterwards, Spufford has written an excellent book [3] that gives a feel for real economic planning, and Shalizi has written a quite comprehensive summary [4] from a technical standpoint. I will give the PRC credit for addressing the planner’s preference problem, but as Spufford and Shalizi point out, planner’s preference is just one problem out of several. Even if the PRC effort to measure public opinion were completely successful, it would encounter the fact that (a) people often don’t want what they say they want and (b) people often don’t want the consequences of what they want.

    So: clearly PRC governmental planning has, to date, been as successful as Bismark’s planning back in the AD 1800s, or as Adenaur’s post WW II planning. Of course, all these plans were ridiculously simple: learn how to use the new production methods and let individuals do the heavy lifting locally. The detailed plan described by Roberts is simply unworkable, and the operations research people involved, at least, know that. The _actual_ plan might or might not produce good results. Good things: since the PRC could clearly mandate a few things (air quality, other industrial waste, perhaps working conditions within human tolerance) that might head off mass illness. Bad things: I’ve seen it said that Confucius wanted a nation of gentlemen, but got one composed of some gentlemen and a vast number of gamesmen [5]. The Soviets never could get accurate figures to put into any of their models. My work has found that an accurate report of system state is much more important than the control algorithm, a problem the PRC undoubtedly finds chronic [6].

    Final metacomment: An old piece of advice.
    “King Ahab answered, “Tell King Benhadad that a real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it.”
    1 Kings 20:11, contemporary English version.

    R. S. McNamara thought the process up. It’s one of the reasons I’m convinced that government “wise men” are charlatans at best. That’s because politicians pick wise men like a shopper picks a ripe watermelon: they (metaphorically) thump him and listen to the sound. Back under FDR quite a few of the “wise men” were actually Soviet agents [2]!!! Lord knows who the present bunch of “wise men” are working for, but I don’t.
    3] Francis Spufford.
    _Red Plenty: Inside the Fifties’ Soviet Dream_.
    Initial publication date: 2007.
    History in the form of a novel.
    4] Cosma Shalizi.
    “In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You”.
    dated 2012.
    5] Gamesmanship: informal the art of winning games or defeating opponents by clever or cunning practices without actually cheating
    6] One theory of Mao’s famine is that his field reporters vastly over-predicted harvest amounts, but did not dare admit their failure. They shipped what they had predicted they could ship and starved the countryside. I seem to remember a similar explanation for the Holodomor.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  22. swamped says:

    “When, after thirty years of engineering studies, the government presented its proposal to fund the Three Gorges Dam, Congress demurred. The project’s cost and scale were beyond most members’ imagination, retired engineers and foreign experts damned it [cute pun] and a million people who would be displaced criticized the project so vehemently that”…the central government went ahead & rammed it through anyway. Any questions?

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  23. It sounds like paradise… of course, if America hadn’t been conned into to opening its doors to the godforsaken and useless commies with the help of the fifth column within its midst, no “great leap” on the economic front would’ve happened. And now that they are marching forward with the White-Christian man’s technological wherewithal, it can’t be that hard to try attempt at the world hegemony, given that ninety percent of the people are of Han stock and especially, have their own “Jews”, i.e. the mercantile class, who wouldn’t be selling out like our own and the insignificant minorities like the feckless Tibetans and Uighurs. If only the West had loyal Christian “Jews” with no other state to succor but its native peoples, it would have remained the supreme State in all things! God forbid!

  24. Anonymous[866] • Disclaimer says:

    Oh boy. Another libertarian ideologue.

  25. Anonymous[866] • Disclaimer says:

    One of the problems in the American system is that to an extent Democracy and Capitalism are at odds with each other. Democracy seeks equality while Capitalism creates inequality. Democracy seeks to moderate the excesses of Capitalism while Capitalism tries to throw off those restrictions.

    On a less theoretical more practical level we can witness the corruption of our democratic political process through campaign finance rules, PACS, lobbying, trusts, think tanks, corporate-owned media, etc., that favor the wealthy and the corporations. At the federal level where big money talks, the interests of the average person are generally overpowered by organized money. Although occasionally there may be a populist surge that gets achieved for the people.

    It is interesting to read about how things are in China. It is a different model. “Socialist Democracy with Chinese Characteristics” I believe they call it. Although like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” it seems an elite ruling class has appeared, nevertheless the socialist roots keep the focus of government on the benefit of the average person.

    *Yet the coming Chinese surveillance state with its social credit scores is a terrifying idea for individual liberty.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  26. Anon[421] • Disclaimer says:

    The author tried to make it the Western style Texas Holdem’, bluff ’em and crush em’ capitalism that is his Anglo Saxon birthright but failed. After going bankrupt in the 2008 mortgage blowout he moved to Bangkok to savor the vibrant noodle slurping street life where an aging social security recipient can still live the high life. Why you wonder doesn’t a budding Commissar just move to his Valhalla so we can be on the receiving end of even more glowing, fully immersed communiques?

    • Replies: @Johann Ricke
  27. @RedRobbo

    “China is leading the way in minting new billionaires: two per week!”

    Of course !!! they are printing more money than every other central bank combined……I guess it helps when your currency is pegged to the global reserve currency.

    This post is “peek china” ……something is up, these “china miracle” article always come out right around the time the shit is about to hit the fan…….

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  28. anon[302] • Disclaimer says:

    the China shill is still at it

    • Agree: Hail

    You can say a lot about China, but one thing they really know how to do is to KICK start a stock market rally. The entire “plan” is so well designed and beautifully executed. The only problem will be that the average retail client will eventually be the sucker, once again.

    But the best part is the comments section where some apparently haven’t read much about china and printing……here’s a classic example.

    Fed is printing billions.

    China will print same amount in Yuan to keep Yuan weak. Surplus yuan end up in stock market in fiscal spending.

  30. Anonymous[172] • Disclaimer says:

    Sounds amazing. No wonder they’re targeted for extinction by the globalists.

  31. @Parfois1

    There are many myths about life in the Soviet Union that still cloud our thinking and beliefs.

    You are quite right about that.As I have posted many times, I was at university in Scandinavia where I met Soviets, Czechs, Slovakians, and East Germans. Like other people, some were likable, some not. I understood that they were considered “safe” to be let out a little. They were more than happy to tell you about their system and its wonders. The odd one would admit some flaws, but only very quietly and one on one with them. The Soviets were Russians, and had a wicked sense of humor. The East Germans were suspicious of everyone, while the Chechs and Slovaks really didn’t like each other. It was a huge eye opener for me.
    For those opposed to paying taxes, communism is perfect for you, because there are no taxes of any kind, since the government owns everything. By the way, there is no free ride in communism. If repeatedly unemployed, people were considered malingerers, because there was no unemployment that lasted more than a week or two. You were told where to report for work. Efficiency was never in the cards, it was all about employment. Employed people have less time to create trouble for themselves and others. Malingerers could be sent for re-education.
    I met a ship’s radio operator who sailed to Leningrad several times a year. He described the process of getting into the country – walking across vast concreted two areas separated by a 20 foot high chin/barbed wire fence, and a similar fence where the “landed” territory started. Both fences had one gate, through which everyone passed. Documents were scrutinized and the same questions asked at each gate. Getting back to the ship was every bit as arduous.
    Not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, but the one bright spot is that it is extremely unlikely any illegal aliens made it in to the USSR without being detected.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  32. Escher says:

    Mumbai city government collects a huge amount in taxes, a large fraction of which is stolen. If the thievery were reduced, things would change dramatically.
    The other problem is that thanks to “democracy” the ruling party doesn’t think beyond winning the next election – spending money on sops for its voters and replenishing its own election fund.
    China has corruption too, but not of this debilitating variety, AND their government is there for the long term, not swayed by considerations of short term popularity.

  33. @RedRobbo

    Can you provide a link to the Peking University report from 2016?

    As far as I’m aware, the current state of play in Chinese inequality is as follows:

    Much of China’s GINI (inequality) gap is structural: their inland, rural populations have always been poorer than their urban, coastal cousins and, because the country couldn’t afford to build homes or cities fast enough, inlanders were held in place by residential hukous.

    Recently, however, economists[1] found that this aspect of inequality has been exaggerated because the cost of living in wealthy areas like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen is much greater since urban land prices–not housing quality–are vastly higher. If we include the full range of goods and services whose price differ across areas (in rural areas basic foods cost half of Beijinbg’s prices), incomes from most rural areas should be multiplied by fifty percent to make them comparable.

    If we adjust for where people actually live, the difference shrinks even further. Until recently, demographers counted people’s hukous–where they were registered to live rather than where they actually lived–but, migrant workers’ numbers rose to three hundred million in 2018, distorting the comparisons.

    In real life, the coastal provinces have millions more residents than their registered population and the reverse holds for migrant-sending inland provinces, so measures of inequality rose as each person moved from China’s interior to the coast because the migrant contributed to income in the coastal destination but was still counted as living in the origin, interior, area.

    Once this counting error is corrected, regional inequality in China is found to have declined at an average trend rate of 1.1 percent per year from 1978 to 2016. By 2002, fourteen Guizhou workers earned as much as an average[2] Shanghainese and by 2019 it took five.

    Nor was the structural gap as painful as it sounds: as far as everyone could see, everyone around them got richer every year. Villagers buying their first pickup truck found Shanghai lifestyles uninteresting because even at the bottom, their lives were improving steadily.

    When Fortune[1] reported that the lower half of America’s workers got twelve percent[2] of the national income while Chinese workers took fifteen percent (and China’s richest one percent captured thirteen percent of national income while America’s took twenty percent) making the US the fourth most unequal country on earth, the editors offered no solutions.

    The People’s Daily[3], on the other hand, pushed Beijing’s pet program: portable, nationwide pensions. “In developed countries such as America–whose GINI[4] index sometimes reaches 0.4–income disparities are eased through gradually increasing taxation on the wealthy and improving welfare systems to help the poor. China should learn from America’s experience.”

    China did learn and, as usual, Trial Spots played a starring role. Regional capital Chengdu (pop. fifteen million) trialled a progressive tax on luxury real estate to finance low-income housing. Five years later 300,000 handicapped, elderly, structurally unemployed or large, poor families had new homes with upgraded infrastructure. By 2018, everyone had their own home and a shop owner who advertised free meals for needy people confessed that only two had taken up her invitation.

    In 2012 President Xi began promoting officials’ based on their local GINI improvement and, in 2018, announced that the country will spend the fifteen years 2020-2035 reducing both income and wealth inequality–a campaign that is likely to be keenly watched around the world.

    [1] America-wealth-inequality/
    Facundo lvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman.
    Working Paper 23119. NBER. Revised April 2017
    [3] New GINI Figures Show Instability Risks, Need for Reform
    [4] GINI measures income inequality. lower number indicates greater equality

    [1] Chao Li & John Gibson, 2014. ”Spatial Price Differences and Inequality in the People’s Republic of China: Housing Market Evidence,” Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 31(1), pages 92-120, March.
    [2] China’s Got a \$46,000 Wealth Gap Problem. Bloomberg News May 21, 2018

    In other words, here comes China–from another direction

  34. @Anon

    Agreed. ‘Roman’ is shorthand but adequate for the purposes of this piece, I think.

  35. Pft says:

    Mao at heart was committed to socialism but this was unattainable due to Chinas inadequate capitalist base. As Marx said socialism is possible only through capitalism.

    Under Maoism, the state had only a right to manage the property of the whole people, it did not have any right to own this property. Any attempt to own it on the part of any official was dealt with relentlessly as in the Cultural Revolution

    The ‘legitimization’ of state ownership that happened under Dengist governance only opened the way to the looting of people’s property , much like in Russia. State-ownership became privatization into the hands of the party elite.

    Unlike Russia , Deng sought to maintain the supremacy of the Party and the illusion of socialism. Unlike Mao, Deng saw the proletariat as the threat to the party and not vice versa, and used the military to crush dissent and threatened to impose martial law if needed to protect the party.

    The essence of the so called ‘socialist market economy’ is market economy led by the party elite with an unholy alliance between power and capital and the rapid enrichment of some chosen individuals (called oligarchs in Russia) . China today has wealth inequality that matches the neoliberal capitalist West and neoliberal Russia under Yeltsin and Putin

    Total state ownership of economy or concentrated ownership by a powerful elite minority can only be prevented by society and citizens in a truly democratic country. Only when society possesses economic and political rights in the most extensive way possible can there be true socialism. That is why true socialism means true democracy, and a true democracy may be true socialist. China is neither.

    True statism , which more aptly describes China today means true totalitarianism, which is the enemy of socialism and democracy. Contrary to conventional belief, market economy is nearer to socialism than planned economy. Planned economy with centralized political power (statism) is antithesis of genuine socialism. This is China.

    The Chinese people are told they have or are striving for real ‘Socialism’ in the same way as the people were told to believe in the emperor’s ‘new clothes.’ They have used the concept of ‘socialism to keep their people in a state of deception. Much like the West uses Democracy as a deception to cover the elites authoritarian rule by both parties under their control.

    The fact is China is not socialist or democratic. So what is it? A more apt description is Technocratic Fascism. Same in the West. This indeed is the real nature of Communism , which used the ideals of Socialism as a ruse to to the goal of elite (party) control. Socialism is not Communism . China is also called Communist, and it is a non socialist Communist Party.

    But of course Communism can not be imposed on the West unless its named something else. The Fabian socialists said as much a century ago. So we in the West continue to call ourselves Democratic and Capitalist to disguise our true nature.

    That said, within the party itself, China may have some form of Democracy. Thats reserved for only 1% of the population (an additional 5% are invited to the party but have little influence). Probably not much different than in the West but more visible as the ruling elite in the West rule in the shadows.

    East and West are converging rapidly, don’t let the false labels and deceptions fool you.

  36. @Anatoly Karlin

    If Mark Leonard had called it by it proper name, we’d be wiser but he’d be poorer.

    If he had called it by the name it inventors gave it, “the dictatorship of the proletariat achieved through democratic centralism,” his book would not have been published, would it?

    To retain control of the narrative we must control its vocabulary and some expressions are taboo because they empower a rival ideology.

    But as our official narrative about China diverges from observed reality, we may be forced to rectify the names we use. And the rectification of names, says Confucius, is the first step in any enquiry.

    Here’s a snapshot of what dictatorship of the proletariat achieved through democratic centralism looks like in practice:

  37. @onebornfree

    The Chinese have done it and you can’t even imagine it?

  38. @Parfois1

    I traveled widely in the USSR in the 60s and agree.

    Its failure was the absence of a tradition of competent, professional selfless government. Russian governance has mostly been awful.

    And the presence of a tradition of competent, professional selfless government is China’s success. Its pride and joy, in fact.

  39. @Johnny Walker Read

    Can you be a little more specific? The video you posted is nonsense.

    Ten years ago Beijing asked people to find ways to reward the 99% of ordinary good citizens while discouraging the other 1% from being naughty. The idea was that everyone would raise their game, end littering, oafishness, cheating, public nuisances and deadbeats without the State having to take draconian measures.

    Some provinces tried comprehensive systems of reward and punishment and their findings are available online. Most tried eliminating pet peeves (inconsiderate dog owners were high on everyone’s list). Some results were hilarious, some disappointing, some brilliant and many are still running and being tweaked and benchmarked.

    The best will parade their data in a national beauty contest late this year and, by 2021 the best regional experiments will be combined and national trials will begin. They’ll tweak the trials until public approval hits 90%, the threshold for introducing binding legislation, which they hope to do by 2025.

    It’s much more carrot than stick and, Chinese friends assure me, well suited to Chinese society, which runs on very different assumptions than ours.

    Their idea is to use social engineering to create a trusting, trustworthy, hassle-free society: 90% of folks will be able to borrow money or hire a car or board an airplane without being questioned or even stopped. It’s popular, too, as this survey by a German academic, reveals: “China’s Social Credit Systems and Public Opinion:Explaining High Levels of Approval” Genia Kostka, Freie Universität Berlin. ([email protected]).

    Here’s an example of how Social Credit is used to bring corporations into line. A recent story, “Complaints over Online Insurers Surge 121% in 2018: The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) reports a surge in complaints over online insurers in 2018. According to CBIRC the complaints mainly related to issues including inadequate or biased sales disclosures, unreasonable compensation conditions, insufficient reason to refuse compensation, tie-up sales with other insurance products and automatic renewal of insurance policies without prior consent.

    Sound familiar? So they’re going to make the insurers’ Social Credit ratings public and let insurees handle the problem. No regulatory intrusion, less government involvement and expense…what’s not to like?

    Watch and enjoy the biggest social experiment in world history as good folks finally get a little respect and assholes don’t.

  40. @Tom Welsh

    If we use a common definition of science as the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment, then I’d allow those other disciplines to be called sciences. Here’s a thoughtful essay that addresses the issue. I reproduce it in full here with the author’s permission:

    The Scientific Development Concept

    An Essay in Political Philosophy, William Hooper, September 2010

    The Scientific Development Concept, or Scientific Development Perspective, is the current official guiding socio-economic philosophy of the Communist Party Of China. It was ratified into the CPC’s constitution in October 2007 under the leadership of President Hu Jintao.

    Key ideas include: (*) A post ideological vision of scientific government driven by pragmatism, experimentation and empirical validation. (*) Maintenance of broad popular support for government based primarily on performance not democratic participation. In other words, maintenance of Lipset Legitimacy. (*) An increasing degree of openness and policymaking participation at the popular level supported by increased control of information and guidance at the popular level. (*) Full transparency, debate and participation in government policy making at the elite academic level, also an emphasis on collective expert decision making, also a commitment to better lawmaking and regulation. In other words a Weber bureaucracy running a Weber legitimate government under scholastic supervision. (*) Interventionist policy making designed to maximize economic efficiency, social justice and environmental conditions. The realization that as China progresses, policymaking must expand beyond purely growth centric goals. (*) An emphasis on development, on the evolution of China, contentment in the future rather than the present. (*) The guidance of society towards advanced values, even Classical Music and Spiritual Growth.

    One recent author, writing about China, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, argues that it is more helpful to think in terms of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World than George Orwell’s 1984 – “Orwell emphasises the role of fear in keeping people in line, while Huxley pays more attention to how needs and desires are created, manipulated and satisfied”. Yet this statement sounds too cynical, this article will reveal the Scientific Development Concept to be a genuinely idealistic vision of paternalistic government.

    Another recent author writing about China, Martin Jacques, asks if democracy is a necessary component of ‘modernity’. Over the course of this essay we will develop a new elitist model of modernity, which we call the New Eastern Perspective. For example, Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore 1959 to 1990, has said “Americans have become as dogmatic and evangelical as the communists”. We will explore how moral dogma can be conceived of as the precise opposite of modernity. So when Lee Kuan Yew says democracy is turning America into an increasingly ideological society, he means America is regressing, is moving away from modernity. He does not limit himself to American politics, for example, he has described how so called progressive American intellectuals have turned political correctness into an absurd religion. Western politics has become a debate between the morality of compulsion vs the morality of inequality, instead utilitarian Chinese government employs whatever methods promote the greatest good. To Western eyes the New Eastern Perspective appears heartless and authoritarian. To Eastern eyes Western government appears naive and individualist. Lee Kuan Yew’s New Eastern Perspective underlies both the Scientific Development Concept and the Singapore Model.

    Over the course of this essay the New Eastern Perspective is revealed by examining the mechanics of the Scientific Development Concept. Sometimes this perspective is simply described as ‘pragmatic’, but a proper description goes much deeper, it includes rationality, elitism, self-sacrifice and an evolutionary time perspective. This essay shows how the Western and New Eastern perspectives have their roots in fundamentally antithetical religious models. Whereas Christianity preaches a nurturing utopia, Confucianism preaches competitive evolution; whereas Christianity is egalitarian and individualist, Confucianism is elitist and collectivist. Ultimately this essay presents the New Eastern Perspective as a combination of 18th Century Enlightenment Rationalism, 19th Century Social Darwinism, and 20th Century Technological Empiricism. Although the philosophy essentially dates back to Ancient times, it has only recently begun penetrating human culture, and is being embraced by the East not the West, hence the ‘New Eastern’ label. Note, instead of including detailed footnotes, I have simply put the more famous concepts / phrases / words / people etc in quotes and / or brackets.


    One fascinating aspect of the Scientific Development Concept is the extent to which it reflects the traditional Confucian model. Over the next few paragraphs, we will quickly explore the evolution of Chinese government, contrast it with Western Government, and highlight the similarities between modern and traditional Chinese government.

    Looking back at the evolution of Western government, the separation between Church and State is extraordinary. Long ago, when despots competed for territory by dint of military conquest, the separation between Church and State was understandable. Yet as society became increasingly idealistic, it is deeply surprising that the Church was not given responsibility for policymaking. At one time in Europe, almost every citizen was deeply religious, so why wasn’t the Church put in charge of policymaking? If the Pope is God’s representative on earth, surely we want him to design our government. The answer revolves around the nature of Christianity, it is not a very practical moral philosophy which can be sensibly applied to government, it suggests a socialist utopian state, a model which would have been highly controversial and ill equipped to deliver growth.

    Confucianism, however, is very different from Christianity. Confucius (551BC – 479BC) was more a philosopher that a conventional religious figure in the Christian tradition who preaches faith and forbearance. Just as Plato focused on government (eg “The Republic” c380BC), so did Confucius. Both Plato and Confucius concerned themselves with the techniques of self development, the evolution of society, and the ideal form of government. Consequently, Confucian philosophy was ideally suited to government, and the separation between ‘Church’ and State vanished as society evolved. So, in a sense, Chinese and Western government began diverging in 400BC because Plato didn’t win over the masses the way Confucius did, and the religion the West did later adopt was unsuited to the challenges of government.

    By about 600AD Chinese government had reached a stable form which persisted for the next 1,300 years up until around 1950. The traditional Confucian Model of Government during this long time period relied on policy experts – the “scholar bureaucrats” or “imperial elite”. The “Imperial Examination” was an examination system designed to select the best administrative officials for the state’s bureaucracy. It was open to a wide cross section of Chinese society, the core of its syllabus was Confucian Philosophy, and those who passed it were appointed to the civil service. Whereas in Europe the military, the rich, the masses and the church all fought for power, in China the civil servant scholar bureaucrats enjoyed unrivalled authority. Some of them worked in the court as state officials, the majority remained at the local level. Only about 5% of those who took the exam passed, those who failed often took junior civil service roles such as teaching. Becoming a civil servant was not a route to riches, it was an idealistic profession, akin to joining the priesthood, or the academic ivory tower. It was not a vertical power structure, it was a scholastic form of government, essentially China was run collectively by the academic elite.

    The Confucian Model of government was widely admired, and it consequently persisted despite occasional upheavals. For example, even after the Mongol Invasion of China in 1276, the Mongols embraced Confucian government. Confucian government spread to neighbouring counties. In Japan it took on a militararistic form – instead of elite intellectuals, the shoguns were elite warriors. In general China was politically stable, peaceful and prosperous. However, by around 1800AD China was clearly being left behind by the West. Why? Perhaps Confucian philosophy stagnated and became too traditional, it lost its rationality, the elite turned into naive moralists, and Chinese government became as dogmatic and evangelical as 20th Century Communism. Perhaps also war was a vital driver of European economic reform and China was too peaceful and too isolated. Whatever the reason, in the 1800s China’s relative backwardness became increasingly unsustainable. British traders began smuggling Indian Opium into China, when the Chinese Government tried to prohibit the dangerous drug, the British went to war with China in order to safeguard British trading profits (“Opium Wars”). China lost Hong Kong to the British, later Vietnam to the French, then Korea to the Japanese, then Taiwan, Manchuria, Tibet etc. By the mid 20th Century China had been utterly subjugated.

    With the Chinese State facing extinction, the government of scholar bureaucrats was utterly discredited and Mao Zedong, leader of China 1949 to 1976, put in place a completely different form of government. In fact Mao’s government was the very antithesis of Confucianism, instead of elite academics making policy by consensus, Mao created a proletarian personality cult which revolved around his personal leadership. Academics were persecuted and the Chinese Communist Party was filled with hard-nosed and frequently violent peasant revolutionaries. Although Mao and Confucius both believed in equitable society, Confucius was a humanitarian not an egalitarian. Mao Zedong’s violent populist socialism was famously unsuccessful, yet despite killing millions he remains a popular historical figure in China today simply because he defeated the foreign armies occupying the country and restored independence.

    Since Mao’s death China has been gradually restoring a more Confucian model. The Scientific Development Concept clearly echoes Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore Model. Lee Kuan Yew was the Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, and he is generally regarded as the Philosopher King who built modern Singapore. He was educated in the West, yet his political philosophy is Confucian. Western intellectuals generally consider him to be the world’s most eloquent and convincing autocrat.

    Singapore has a degree of “people’s democracy”, but it is best described as an authoritarian country run collectively by elite academics, many of whom have scientific backgrounds, it is a modern take on the traditional “scholar bureaucrat” model. Also following the Confucian model, government in Singapore has unrivalled authority over both society and the economy, and is deeply paternalistic. The government exercises control over the press, and government-linked corporations produce as much as 60% of the country’s GDP. At the same time Singapore is consistently rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and has a highly developed market economy with income tax peaking at just 20%. Singapore has a population of 5 million, 20% of whom are non-resident. Despite her wealth, fourth highest GDP per capita by PPP in the world, Singapore achieved the highest rate of growth in the world in the first half of 2010, 17.9%. According to the Economist Intelligent Unit, Singapore also enjoys the highest quality of life in Asia, and the eleventh highest in the world.

    Famous acts of social engineering in Singapore include: creating the best school system in the world in terms of academic achievement in science, creating by far the most cost effective and enviable health care system in the world, creating the best government housing in the world which has an 85% share of the market, creating probably the best social security and pensions model in the world, forcing government schools to teach all lessons in English, killing native languages (such as Hokkien), banning chewing gum, forcing hippies to have hair cuts in the 1970s, promoting eugenics, occasionally imprisoning or exiling political activists without trial. Westerns find some of these policies laudable, others outrageous. This essay sets out to explain the philosophy behind such policy decisions.


    During the Age Of Enlightenment Western philosophers (eg Auguste Comte) began re-examining traditional moral assumptions based on the idea of rationality and science. Judaism, for example, defined good and evil primarily in terms of moral laws such as those listed in the “Ten Commandments”. Christianity stressed more generalized moral principles such as “Turn the other cheek”. Nevertheless, neither of these ethical systems proved very effective in real life. For example, killing in self defence is vital to the survival of both men and nations. Although all men have an intuitive sense of right and wrong, Enlightenment philosophers searched for a rigorous definition.

    Science’s emphasis on functionality clearly suggests the following definition: Right is that which makes the world better, and wrong is that which makes the world worse. A well meaning act is one motivated by the desire to make the world better, a good act is one which does make the world better.

    Utilitarianism, the concept that ethical dilemmas should be solved by the rational maximization of human contentment, became popular. The theory tore apart the idea of moral laws and human rights, horrified Christians, and famously inspired the French Revolution.

    The English politician Edmund Burke, who is now considered to be the founder of political Conservatism, not only criticised the French Revolution, he correctly predicted that it would end in disaster. Burke had three essential arguments, one rational, two anti-rational. His rational argument was pragmatic, he believed the revolution was too heavily driven by radical, untested, and idealistic metaphysical arguments. He said: “What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them.” This line of reasoning advocates caution, an essence the French Revolution sadly missed. Deng Xiaoping once said words to the effect of: Don’t leap across the river, wade across feeling for the stones. Burke’s other two arguments were intrinsically anti-enlightenment. He rejected Hobbese’s argument that politics can be reduced to a deductive system akin to mathematics, he claimed the complexities of human society are too great, and human intellect is too limited. Consequently he advised against radically challenging the accumulated behavioural inheritance of the ages. Burke also rejected the cold rationality of Rousseau and Voltaire, and described himself a believer in “human heart-based” government which values man’s instinctive moral prejudices. Enlightenment critics rejected these anti-rational arguments. In one case we have the traditional morality associated with Conservatism, in the other case we have the humanitarian morality associated with Liberalism.

    Yet utilitarianism does have a problem. Would utility increase if a student stole some money from a rich man? Probably yes (because the marginal utility of money is much lower for the rich man). Should the incompetent be allowed to breed? Probably not (survival of the fittest promotes evolution).

    The problem is that utilitarianism assumes citizens are perfectly selfless and will happily sacrifice their lives and property for the greater good. In the real world humans do not have the communal idealism of ants, consequently society would rebel against utilitarianism. We can understand why Burke called for human heart-based government.

    Burke also has a point on complexity. Marx reasoned that equality increases utility, but he failed to anticipate that humans, not being ants, are often motivated by personal gain. The failure of central planning is testament to the difficulties of calculating utility. Clearly there are limits to what can be achieved.

    By limiting the scope of utilitarianism, allowing it to operate only across increasingly broad groupings, complexity reduces, decisions become steadily less radical, and the results increasingly resemble conventional human law. For example, if we treat all mankind equally, the optimization can no longer prevent the reproduction of incompetents. Although this technique gives good general principles, it fails on specific cases. Utility grouping is at the heart of jurisprudence, elsewhere it is of limited use. (Note: Kant’s deontological ethics are essentially this technique. Under Kant: We generalize to get should the poor be allowed to steal from the rich, apply universal law and there are no rich any more, negating the proposition. Utility grouping is not a purely rational ethical system because there is no justification for grouping. For example, why should incompetents be treated the same way as all other humans?)

    So even though utility is theoretically the correct measure of good, it suffers from a mismatch between human idealism and utilitarian theory, also it is too complicated to calculate. Yet all is not lost, utilitarianism still works very well in some applications, indeed it is the foundation stone of economic science. There is also a way to overcome the idealism and complexity problem. Ensure the utility maximization is constrained by the level of idealism prevailing in society (use existing laws or opinion polls to set the boundaries), and proceed in small steps continually validating the results. This principle is the key to the Scientific Development Concept, as we see shortly.

    This idea of bounded utilitarianism is not as radial as one might think. In Plato’s Laws he discusses the problem of forcing idealistic policy decisions onto society without their consent (a problem he failed to address in The Republic). He says force should not be used, instead we should imagine a doctor administering treatment, he has to explain the procedure to the patient and win his consent (see Laws section 720a in Plato’s Complete Works by Hackett).


    In order to understand the Scientific Development, or any other system of government, we need to understand the extent to which government aligns itself with the common good. For example, Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786, was an example of a famously benevolent and progressive despot who transformed his country from a relative backwater into an intellectual and military superpower. An interesting question is what mechanisms, if any, protected the Prussians against selfish / incompetent Kings? The answer is brutal: in 18th Century Europe incompetent regimes tended to be annihilated by their neighbours, because in the long run the common good, the flourishing of society, brings economic success and military power. For example, the Ottoman Empire eventually disappeared because its failure to embrace Prussia’s progressive values left it weaker than its European neighbours.

    Today Political Scientists talk about the concept of “government legitimacy”. Legitimacy is best defined as utility maximization with constrained idealism. In other words:

    A government is legitimate if and only if the people generally believe that:
    (a) Policy is fair (b) Policy is optimal.
    By fair we mean reasonably compatible with prevailing moral ideology.
    By optimal we mean performing at least as well or better than that all fair alternatives.
    By performance we mean increases in the public good, especially economic growth.

    Notice that the principles of both competence and consent are integral to this definition. Following Plato’s example of a doctor administering treatment, we would define a legitimate doctor as one who administers the best treatment his patient will accept.

    This utility maximizing model of legitimacy echoes the 20th Century American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset. He explained how “performance legitimacy” (utility) is the source of a government’s stability. A loss of legitimacy ends in tyranny or collapse. For example, the Soviet Union was an example of an illegitimate regime. Growth underperformed the West and citizens regularly tried to escape. Increasingly despotic policy was forced on the people, and they in turn became increasingly revolutionary, until eventually new leadership threw in the towel.

    How does democracy, as a general system of government, relate to legitimacy? Obviously (a) holds, but what about (b)? If it is generally believed that voter choice guarantees optimal policy, then democracy achieves a sort of automatic “democratic legitimacy”. However, political scientists, including Lipset, do not believe this to be the case, and instead the persistence of democracy is still believed to revolve around its ability to generate “performance legitimacy”. (Why? Because history has many examples of poorly performing democracies electing tyrants)

    Until very recently, Western political scientists generally believed that 20th Century Western democracy was economically outperforming all other models of government, demonstrating superior performance legitimacy. If this was ever proven widely incorrect, the decline of democracy follows axiomatically. For example: Robert Kagan, foreign-policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has said: “We lived under the illusion that economic success required political liberalisation. All the [democratic] optimism of the 1990s rested on this assumption. Now it appears that the causality is less certain… The old struggle, the one that long predated the Cold War, has returned.”

    Now that we have equipped ourselves with the concept of legitimacy, we can analyze the Chinese model of government. In fact the Scientific Development Concept essentially targets Lipset legitimacy directly.

    Instead of democracy, China employs policy experts, today generally scientists and engineers, who optimize policy in order to maximize Lipsettian goals such as economic growth subject to the fairness constraint, the popular support constraint. Chinese officials are not allowed to use terror, which is egregious “despotic power”, such as that employed by Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong (In Scientific Development Concept see “harmonious” & “liberal”).

    In the last thirty years these experts have delivered an average annualized GDP growth rate of 10%, approximately matching the “Japanese post war economic miracle”, but outclassing it given size and starting point differences. It is an unparalleled achievement, and just as Lipset predicts, Chinese government is consequently hugely popular with the Chinese masses and politically stable.

    By far and away the biggest threat to legitimacy in China today is, according to popular opinion polls, corruption. Many Chinese believe that corrupt civil servants at the local level are damaging their living standards. Responding to those concerns is a top priority; and the expected next Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is a famously scrupulous fighter of corruption.

    Plato’s Laws opens with the question of government legitimacy, he naturally chooses a utilitarian definition as well. However, because Ancient Greek states faced huge military challenges, they defined utility in terms of military rather than economic power. So we have:

    “PLATO (The Athenian): [So] the definition you gave of a well-run state seems to me to demand that its organization and administration should be such as to ensure victory in war over other states. Correct? CLINIAS: Of Course. MEGILLIUS: My dear sir, what other answer could one possibly make, especially if one is a Spartan” (626c)

    Yet Plato then reveals a number of failings in this definition of utility. For example, in his Sea Battle example (706a), Plato points out that optimization of military power is not a monotonic function, short terms gains can lead to long term negatives. He goes on conclude that military power is only a component of virtuous government, and he offers a better definition of utility which so completely defines the concept that “[all government needs to do is] constantly aim, like an archer, at that unique target… ignoring everything else”. Plato’s definition of utility, in my opinion the ideal definition, is described later in this essay.

    Non-Ideological Scientific Policymaking

    The vast majority of people believe that reason has limits; government policymaking can not be derived from a set of intellectual axioms; science and ethics are irreconcilable. Readers who try to grasp the concept for the first time, will invariably find themselves shocked by it, and will tend to demonize it. For example, Saul Alinsky was an American community organizer who is hated by many non-specialists and has even been called a ‘Role Model for Satanists’. In his book “A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals”, Alinsky said we must forget our obsession with ethical value judgements and root our decision making in pragmatism. What does he mean here by pragmatism? It is letting go of assumption, of dogma, of morality, of emotion; it is creating something arguable, measurable, objective, scientific (further reading “William James on Pragmatism”). Deng Xiaoping once said: “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. If it catches mice it is a good cat.” This rejection of morality, this dehumanization of truth, this elevation of functional analysis over idealistic judgements, horrifies many people. Depending on your perspective, priest or scientist, it is either Satanism or truth.

    Recall: “Edmund Burke rejected Hobbese’s argument that politics can be reduced to a deductive system akin to mathematics” Of course Hobbes though it could be done, but he didn’t know how. Now the Scientific Development Concept adds flesh to his idea.

    Recall that under the Scientific Development Concept, the goal of government becomes the maximization of utility constrained by the necessity of maintaining public support. Now we consider the mechanics in more detail and see how it transcends ideology and becomes purely scientific.

    Chinese technocrats translate the concept of social utility into a basket of numerical indices which include, for example, a growth index, a green index, a poverty index (“Glasshouse Forum – China Model”). The goal of policy makers then becomes the optimization of this basket. Behind the calculation and optimization of policy are vast numbers of academics, economists and statisticians (eg “IFTE CASS”). Chinese technocrats regularly experiment with new policy ideas at the provincial level, and if successful introduce them nationwide. In democracy politicians are generally elected by asking people what they think and then adopting similar positions, in China the government cares far more about how people feel. From that data it is in principle possible to calculate the best basket of statistics which most accurately reflects social utility. Policy making loses all ideological colour, it becomes a purely scientific process, a vast optimization problem driven by statistics and experimentation.

    Massive localised infrastructure investments have leveraged the type of economy of scale economics which Paul Krugman won a Nobel Prize describing. Shanghai has magnetic levitation trains and sky scrapers, but out in the countryside many peasant farmers still plough their fields with oxen. Although these localised investments have dramatically increased inequality, the benefits gradually trickle out across the entire economy, even the peasants gain. Now China leads the world in bullet trains, and Chinese scientists are discussing a magnetic levitation train running in an underground evacuated tunnel at 1000Km/H (faster than a plane). In China there are cities that specialize in steel manufacture, other in solar panels, others in paper towels, others in plastic toys, there are even entire towns devoted to the manufacture of hand painted reproductions of famous artworks. In the West development is generally left to market forces and democracy, but leveraging economies of scale is hugely benifical. Had China more equitably distributed resources it could not have so rapidly achieved mastery. Whereas governments in most advanced democracies spend less than eight percent of government revenue on capital investment, this figure is close to fifty percent in China. In Western democracy, voters choose welfare as the overriding government priority, but analysis shows that infrastructure investment usually delivers greater social gains. The creation and incredible expansion of a highly competitive science and engineering focused educational system has also greatly contributed to the economic revolution. In the West competitive education systems are often seen as morally unfair, but Chinese scientists focus on results not value judgements. Of course, if the Chinese people absolutely insisted on children of all levels attending the same school, policymakers would have to work with that – yet they push the envelope as far as they can. Many senior Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao, have engineering degrees and industry backgrounds. Abandoning Western conceptions of fairness and freedom in the rational engineered antlike pursuit of net social gain is the key to China’s success

    Exploring the popular support power boundary, we can see that better policy generally exists, but not better policy which is ‘feasible’ given the public’s conception of fairness. In a country of strong individualists, neutral observers would likely judge actual scientific policy to appear excessively laissez-faire. Yet the science of policy making, the maximization of utility, transcends ideology and is purely mathematical. The subjective slant is a consequence of the popular support condition. The gap between ideal government policy and actual government policy making is therefore determined by the wisdom of policy analysts and the public support their suggestions command. As the ability of the government to inspire public confidence in policy innovation improves, it is able to close the gap between the ideal and the feasible, therefore creating better policy, further improving public support in a virtuous circle. When this process plays in reverse, as is occurring in some Western Democracies where support levels are at historic lows, a vicious circle takes an increasingly damaging toll on growth (eg American health care reform).

    Returning to Plato’s example of a doctor administering treatment, a good doctor is not only one who correctly identifies the correct treatment, he is one who can persuade his patient to accept it. To Western eyes, one of the most controversial aspects of Chinese government is control of the media. We will return to this point later, yet we can see here how vital it is to educate the public about policy choices.

    In 400BC Plato talked about the concept of non ideological government, of government by reason instead of opinion or tradition, so it is hardly a new idea, but the breakthrough is in the framework scientists have built to embody the principle. The public support constraint was too often missing in the past, resulting both in hopelessly ambitious policy, and hopelessly unpopular policy. Also, statistics and science have made it possible for the first time to objectify policy, greatly purging policy making of human foibles.

    Consequently modern China and Singapore are the first enviable examples in history of ‘scientific government’ / ‘ideology free government’ / ‘enlightened authoritarianism’.


    Before Lispet, the 19th Century German sociologist Max Weber offered the most compelling definition of legitimacy. Weber, who was skeptical of democracy, which he believed regularly elected charismatic tyrants, defined a type of legitimacy based on (1) The perception that a government’s powers are derived from efficient set procedures, principles, and laws which are not arbitrarily violated by government officials. (2) Government being run by a dehumanized expert bureaucracy inseparable from pure rationality, and within which decision making is based on concrete rules and tactics developed solely around concrete goals.

    Weber explains how a dehumanized expert bureaucracy inseparable from pure rationality is incorruptible – because it is the ant colony, the machine, the subjective human motivations of policymakers are infinitely diluted by perfectly objective rationality. Plato describes (715b) “laws which are not established for the good of the whole state are bogus laws, and when they favour particular sections of the community, their authors are not citizens but party-men… [those who make genuine laws] are usually referred to as ‘rulers’, but I call them ‘servants’, not to mint a new expression, but because I believe the success or failure of the state hinges on this point more than any other…”. How does man achieve this selflessness and objectivity? Plato says the common man must develop piety, the exceptional man intellect. Weber’s expert bureaucracy echoes Plato’s exceptional man.

    Recall: “Edmund Burke rejected Hobbese’s argument that politics can be reduced to a deductive system akin to mathematics” Weber’s legitimacy is precisely this type of government, the infinite rationality results in the perfect solution, Weber and Lipset define the same end point in different ways. Christians object, science and ethics are irreconcilable, pure rationality is impossible – but the New Eastern Philosophy follows Enlightenment idealism. What condemned the Enlightenment revolution? Western attachment to individualism is the key. The problem of individual suffering and freedom (problem of evil & free will) condemned the acceptance of a pure rationality which transcends human individualism. The ant hive has no individual rights, nor any morality, nor any dogma, it is the perfect machine completly devoted to the wellbeing of the hive (Plato’s Laws uses the expression “swam of bees” where I use ‘ant hive’).

    Looking at Singapore and China today we see a Webber like government structure evolving. Hu Jintao, President of China, along with most of the current leadership, was educated at a top Chinese university and studied science. The days of an all powerful leader, such as Mao or Deng are gone. In China, especially since Hu, a scholastic government of expert scientists has evolved, and the media profile of leaders is very low. What about ‘Grandpa Wen’, Prime Minister of China, who was famously seen on television during the Qinghai Earthquake wielding a shovel? He puts a human face on government for the sake of the masses, but behind the scenes decision making is collective.

    In the West authoritarian governments once revolved around charismatic despots with vertical power structures. This is also true of Russia today. In Democracy leaders try to embody popular ideological principles and court publicity. Supporters encourage the leader to be strong and impose his vision on the bureaucracy, detractors complain the leader is a tyrant and he should demur to opposing voices. Weber is about the depersonalization of power, the antithesis of old-fashioned despotism and democracy.

    Weber’s model of government also allows transparency, because decisions are rational and empirical they can be subjected to scrutiny. Long a feature of Singapore, Chinese politicians had worried that too much transparency would feed unhelpful debate at the popular level, but the SARS crisis, which occurred under Hu, demonstrated the importance of transparency. So in China and Singapore today we have a transparent Weber legitimate government under academic scrutiny. Proper scrutiny of rational policy making is impossible at the popular level because the masses have limited skills. Instead the popular press is controlled, an issue we will come onto later.

    Both Christian and Democrat thought process are coloured by the assumption of egalitarianism. This is a moral philosophy which holds that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth and moral status. Out of this principle, one can derive various egalitarian political doctrines, including democracy. In opposition to this moral philosophy is the Platonic, Confucian and Nietzschean concept of the “Superman”. This philosophy is associated with Hitler who infamously treated the masses as being as expendable as farm yard animals. Yet Hitler was an uneducated violent psychopath, and was despised by the German elite. True elitist philosophy, exemplified by Socrates and Confucius, is extremely intellectual and selfless.

    Although elitism deeply disturbs egalitarians, Weber would not say that the policymaking experts are perfect Philosopher Kings, simply that they practise their speciality with a great deal of perfectionism, and therefore within this sphere of knowledge they achieve a much higher level of wisdom than non-specialists, achieved by moving past assumption toward objectivity. So the ancient philosophical concepts of inequality are also expressed in the increasing specialization of knowledge in advanced societies.

    Transparency International rates authoritarian Singapore as the third least corrupt nation on earth. This absence of corruption comes about because government ends up in the hands of specialists who love their subject and practice it scrupulously (Eric Gill is a marvellous example of a contemptible man, but an admirable specialist).

    Note: On Weber in The Scientific Development Concept, see “laws and rules of procedure”, “Human Resources”, “Cadres”, “Think Tanks”, “power exercised in the sunshine”.


    Fredrick Hayek argued that the distributed competing opinions of the marketplace are the closest we can come to objective knowledge. He argued that by handing Napoleon unrivalled responsibility for objective knowledge during the French Revolution, the results were not only imperfect, they were disastrous, and created a horrific tyranny. Hayek disliked democracy generally because he rejected the ability of popular consensus to divine objective knowledge. For example, he famously said of Pinochet: “Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism”. Although he did not advocate “woodenheaded laissez-faire”, he became associated with “small government” and “privatisation”.

    What does Hayek mean by marketplace? He believes market prices perfectly reflect utility. Therefore individuals must compete to maximize utility, we must never assume a particular individual has access to greater truth, he must prove it by competition. In essence Hayek is saying that objective knowledge and authority can not be assumed, and must be won by demonstrable gains in utility.

    So Hayek’s competition echoes Lipset’s demonstratable gains in performance legitimacy, and as already mentioned, Weber’s definition of legitimacy amounts to exactly the same thing. Yet Weber’s definition is the most positive, because Hayek ignores the capability of rational counterparties to debate theory and coalesce around an agreed opinion. Philosophically, the need for competition comes out of the imperfections of human comprehension.

    So the endpoint of human governmental evolution is complete rationality and objectivity, and with it maximal effectiveness, maximal power. What about the individual? Plato and Confucius both argued that total devotion to the community is a feature of enlightenment, perfect love if you will. Combining these, the end point of an individual’s evolution, enlightenment, is infinite objectivity and infinite selflessness. So the nature of enlightenment can be derived by considering unconstrained utility maximization, we have the Pythagorean concept of pure rational divinity. We will return to this concept later, it is the Eastern theological viewpoint which is antithetical to Christianity. Man begins the self-centred animal steeped in genetic instinct, he evolves to become a pure rational atom in the infinitely powerful hive, his sense of self vanishes, he conquers his human ego, his species evolves into omniscience and omnipotence, man becomes God.

    Of course, even though we have derived the end point of human evolution mathematically, science can not tell us how the ideal state would look, because the complexity of the problem is too great, and even if it could any less than perfect society would rebel against it. Instead we must slowly progress toward the ideal, applied science works forwards not backwards, toward the pure perfectly simple goal.

    What constraints holds us back from this goal? Lets give an example. The classic example of immoral policy which appals many Westerners is Plato’s termination of disabled infants described in The Republic. Greek City States, however, faced horrendous military and resource challenges, so these policies were relatively uncontroversial in his day. Lawyers in the supreme court of the United States would reject this policy as utterly immoral, but long ago it was widely accepted because it was vital to human survival. It is not just that policymaking has to have pragmatic and rational foundations that transcend ideology, in fact ideology is no more than an unexamined transitory consensus built on emotional attachment to past judgements concerning past challenges.

    Yet these constraints can not be thrown off so easily, for they are tools of the mind designed to lead us toward the truth. Unlike the mindless computer, the human Chess player does not analyze every path, he builds up a system that helps to focus his analysis. If we threw out all our principles we would be blathering babies. So we must work though them, maintaining detachment, dropping the bad and embracing the good. That is the path to enlightenment.

    Earlier I mentioned that Plato objected to the defining of utility in terms of military power and offered an alternative. That alternative was reason – so an optimal state is one which optimizes the collective intelligence of the society. Military power, economic power, and all good things flow from this enlightening essence, so naturally it is the correct target. How does a legislator try to inspire states with good sense and purge them of folly? Primarily by education. Plato talks about the artistic pursuits of singing and dancing. He explains that songs and dances echo particular thoughts, circumstances, objects, feelings etc. These particular forms set off emotional reactions, which ultimately resolve into feelings of pain or pleasure. Good education is primarily about aligning good forms with pleasurable feelings, and bad forms with painful feelings. In this way, even naïve individuals behave wisely. Eventually individuals develop an intellectual capacity which allows them to transcend this instinctive training, those who excel at this are called wise. The old wise members of society should mingle with the young, and inspire them (Dionysus discussion). Looking back at human history, societies that loose the ability to associate pleasure with good and pain with bad disintegrate; dictatorship is poisoned by the personality of tyrannical rulers, democracy is poisoned by populism. Managing cultural forces effectively is a key aspect of statecraft.


    Hayek’s market competition principle is sometimes used to justify democracy and a free press. Yet this theory misses the gigantic disconnect between popular opinion and truth, there is no market price mechanism accurately measuring utility. The BBC once ran an opinion poll asking who is the greatest Brittan of all time, Princess Diana placed higher than Newton. An expert opinion poll that didn’t mention Diana wouldn’t have sold. Today 30% of Americans believe that Sep 11th was a CIA plot, this is an absolutely extraordinarily stupid idea, yet it sells!

    Earlier we spoke of Plato’s ideal doctor educating his patient in order to accept the treatment. Education is everything, not just because individuals require specialist skills in the workplace, but also because the government needs to pursue good policy. In fact the Western world is tottering on the brink of total disaster precisely because of its free press.

    For example, consider the words of Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK 1997 to 2007, in the postscript of his autobiography: “Three years out of office have given me time to reflect on our system of government… I think there is a tendency for those of us in democracies to become smug about the fact that we are democratic, as if universal suffrage and no more were enough to give us good government… Democracy needs to mature; it needs to adapt and reform. I would say that the way we run Westminster or Whitehall today is just not effective in a twenty-first-century world. Many might say the same about congress in the US… [Also] The role of modern media in modern democracy is an issue every senior politician I know believes is ripe for debate. Yet it is virtually un-debated… Every walk of life involving power is now subjected to regulation except one: the media.”

    So control of the popular press is a widely used tool in China which helps (1) Maintains popular support and shrinks the gap between ideal and feasible policy (2) Steers the masses towards more productive and ethical behaviour. At this lower level there is no rational debate, so the masses need to be manipulated by a well meaning paternal force (“guidance”, “core values”). The Western alternative has a negative impact on society. In the UK, for example, the self serving media tycoon Rupert Murdoch inflames the passions of Sun readers in order to sell copy, and the English are consequently famous for their naive viewpoints on Europe. In other words, a laissez-faire market in news and opinion does not optimize long term human virtue, the government must intervene for the greater good. Essentially all intellectuals concur, but some are wary of the practical difficulties and dangers interventionism can give rise to. Nevertheless, Western popular opinion is clearly incorrect in so far as it fails to recognise any degree of goodness or idealism whatsoever in Chinese Government media control. Western popular opinion rejects paternalism both because it can not conceive of a Weber legitimate government which has the people’s interests at heart, and also because it rejects elitism and believes popular opinion is worthy.

    Perhaps the potent example of media failure in the West is Nuclear Power. The arguments for nuclear power are absolutely overwhelming, yet the masses remain implacably opposed, despite a looming environmental catastrophe. In China the popular press is overwhelmingly positive towards nuclear power, and the Chinese masses are enthusiastic about it. In the West politicians are still trying to build Nuclear plants, in China 153 new reactors are in the pipeline.

    Although the average Chinese man is allowed a certain degree of awareness-raising power, petitions and populist campaigns may be quickly clamped down upon. Blatantly challenging government, for example by publishing a petition for democracy, carries a jail term. After the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake the collapse of several schools became an issue which a number of people blamed on corrupt builders. Once the issue was brought to the attention of authorities continuing debate was deemed unhelpful, particularly given the emotive nature of the issue and the way in which it was descending into a witch hunt, so the press was ordered to stop writing about it. In China today, press censorship is not a major threat to popular support (the sense of fairness vital to legitimacy), rather local government corruption is the major issue.

    The government do not need to clamp down on academic debate, because a Chinese intellectual debates the advantages and disadvantages of democracy with his intellectual fellows, he does not condense policy ideas into simple ideological messages designed to inflame the masses, he does not publish his thoughts in the popular press, he certainly does not publish petitions. An intellectual who wishes to change policymaking must convince his fellow intellectuals, he can not approach the masses directly. Notice this is the precise opposite of censorship in tyranny, eg Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot primarily targeted the intellectuals – enlightened censorship is about controlling the masses, despotic censorship includes the elite.


    John Stuart Mill was a utilitarian, yet he saw no conflict between utilitarianism and personal freedom because he embraced Adam Smith’s arguments about invisible hand. Smith argued that in a free market, an individual pursuing his own self-interest tends to also promote the good of his community as a whole, because the total revenue of society as a whole is identical with the sum total of individual revenues. Mathematically this argument is complete and utter non-sense! Most obviously, it fails to account for the decline in the marginal utility of money as individuals acquire more of it. Also, it fails to account for more complex paths to greater social good. Forget the mathematics, what about the soldiers who fought for their country in WW1? Were they optimizing their self-interest? Socrates must have rolled over in his grave.

    As we have already mentioned, utilitarianism actually assumes the collective idealism of an ant. Ants have no notion of personal freedom, the success of the society is everything. For example: In Brazilian ant colonies (Forelius pusillus), some ants remain outside the nest at sunset and seal the hole to protect the colony inside. Since they cannot enter after it is sealed, they remain outside and die by morning. If the Spartan’s had known they would have made a song about it! In Sparta childcare was collective. In Plato’s republic he explains how the nuclear family corrupts children. Instead of giving their love to the community, they give love their family.

    In fact the rational philosophy of the New Eastern Perspective totally repudiates the work of John Stuart Mill who argued for personal liberty, ie the idea that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. Mill failed to understand that freedom is an illusion, primitive man was imprisoned in a cruel untamed world of Darwinian challenge, advanced man is imprisoned in society. Mill also failed to realised that as individuals evolve rationally they become more idealistic and less individualistic. The naturalistic doctrine of the Soul holds that just as an acorn is destined to grow into an oak tree, so the human soul has, to some degree, an evolutionary destiny. Hegel described the Ancient Greeks as conceiving of human life being free only within nature…. remaining confined by nature… advancing to pure thought only in philosophy and not religion… Hegel rejected this limitation, this grounding of spirit in nature, bogging down of spirit in immediacy; and he speculated that the purpose of life is to suspend immediacy, to find freedom, by the raising up of consciousness in religion. Yet Hegel’s objection to immediacy, his idea of individual escape from it, came out of his blindness to the time dimensionality. Eventually mankind masters nature and constructs his own, so becoming, in a sense, God.


    Plato’s Republic makes much of the link between democracy and individualism. In fact Plato believed democracy actually creates an increasingly individualistic society. Democracy, he believed, leads not only to the destruction of collective idealism, it also becomes increasingly irrational and unethical because man refuses to subject his consciousness to higher standards, believing himself already worthy. For example from Plato’s Republic:

    Democracy?… In the first place, are they not free, is not the city full of freedom and frankness, a man may say and do what he likes. And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his own life as he pleases. Thus in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of human natures. This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower. And just as women and children think a variety of colours to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is spangled with the manners and characters of mankind, will appear to be the fairest of States… Eventually we find… complete equality and liberty in relations between the sexes… the father standing in awe of his son, and the son neither respecting nor fearing his parents, in order to assert what he calls independence… the teacher fears and panders to his pupils, who in turn despise their teachers and attendants… You would never believe – unless you had seen it for yourself – how much more liberty the domestic animals have in a democracy. The dog comes to resemble his mistress, as the proverb has it. They are in the habit of walking about the streets with a grand freedom, and bump into people they meet if they don’t get out of their way. Everything is full of this spirit of liberty….What it adds up to is this, you find that the minds of the citizens become so sensitive that the least vestige of restraint is resented as intolerable, till finally, as you know, in their determination to have no master they disregard all laws written or unwritten…

    So democracy deteriorates, at first it’s a light hearted disregard for the ideals of statesmanship and honour, but the decline becomes progressively more serious. Eventually the individualism results in total moral and intellectual breakdown and then tyranny. Roman Democracy suffered from the same problem, the society became increasingly corrupt, violent, sexualised, chaotic. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus, was hugely popular for restoring values. Another example is Weimar Germany. We have sudden increases in sexual liberation, then the notorious German Cabarets, increasing rates of prostitution, homosexuality, drug taking, also economic chaos, a bitterly divided partisan public who can not agree on policy, Jewish conspiracy theories, finally tyranny. One of Hitler’s popular priorities was reinstating German values.

    Why is democracy so popular today? Considering a list of history’s famous philosophers, it is striking how few supported democracy. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas and Hobbes where all clearly opposed. Lock, Rousseau, Voltaire and Kant decried the despotic monarchs who clearly failed to govern either in the interest, or with the consent, of their subjects; yet none of them advocated democracy. Rousseau, for example, championed the aristocracy of Sparta compared to the liberal democracy of Athens. Kant described democracy as a tyranny of the majority. Marx and Nietzsche were clearly opposed. Even Foucault, a 20th Century philosopher, objected to liberal democracy. Perhaps the first heavyweight champion of modern democracy is John Rawls, yet his seminal Theory of Justice was only published in 1971. So, serious philosophical support for democracy only developed within the last 40 or so years.

    The 18th Century historian Edward Gibbon, writing in his famous book “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, describes the height of the Roman Empire as follows: “If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom”. Winston Churchill wrote “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. So Churchill argued that democracy is a necessary evil because power corrupts. Yet he certainly didn’t believe, as modern political scientists generally do, that democracy outperforms authoritarianism in the short term. (Note, Churchill failed to appreciate Webber’s point, a government inseparable from pure rationality is uncorruptable)

    Today democracy, once derided by intellectuals as incompetent and morally bankrupt, is often described euphorically as the ‘end point of government evolution’. However, the intellectual climate in the West profoundly changed during the 1960s. For example, in the 1960s sociologists began arguing that the differences between men and women are a consequence of nurture not nature. By the 1970s intellectuals coalesced around a nurture viewpoint, and critics were vilified. In the 1980s the discovery of the psychological impact of testosterone completely undermined the theory. Yet looking back, the nature vs nurture debate was totally absurd, intellectuals allowed political morality to poison common sense. The Credit Crisis is the most recent example of modern wisdom failing, rational expectations and invisible hand are clearly fallacious, but they were adopted for primarily political reasons. So some argue that not only has the Western intellectual world not progressed since the 1960s, it has regressed back to the 1600s when Galileo’s theory of the earth revolving around the sun met massive opposition, and Enlightenment philosophers would surely be horrified by the prevailing state of blinkered and herd like Western thinking.

    Evolutionary Development

    The goal of maximizing human contentment splits into a deep philosophical divide according to the emphasis one places on the present as opposed to the future. Philosophers such as Plato stressed evolutionary development achieved by challenge rather than measures of contentment such as the absence of pain or want in the here and now. For example, for Plato fulfilment is not a passive possession, it is rather productivity in the strife for enlightenment. Also, for Plato, the aim of government is not simply the fulfilment of its people, but also the fulfilment of future generations achieved by the evolution of society. We may have to wait until tomorrow for our milk, but it will be better milk.

    As a young man Deng Xiaoping was sent to France to participate in a work study program. The night before his departure, Deng’s father took his son aside and asked him what he hoped to learn in France. Deng replied: “To learn knowledge and truth from the West in order to save China”. Deng had been taught that China was weak and poor and needed to be rescued by learning from wealthy neighbours. Inside this sentiment is a strong emphasis on evolutionary growth not the simple fulfilment of human needs in the present. Democracy, especially in mature developed economies, by contrast emphasizes primarily maximization of contentment in the here and now – ie ‘humanitarian’ goals. The Scientific Development Concept, with its idealistic intellectual foundations is not just development orientated, it goes as far as explicitly mentioning “spiritual growth” in a clearly Platonic sense.

    The One Child Policy and the Three Georges Dam are down to earth examples of Scientific Development Concept compatible policies which policy makers in a less future centric system would likely reject. A more idealistic example is the government’s drive to promote Classical music in China motivated by the calculation that advanced aesthetics are an important component of human spiritual growth.

    Speaking of the rise of China and the intellectual hegemony developing around it, Niall Ferguson wrote in the Financial Times: “I am trying to remember now where it was, and when it was, that it hit me. Was it during my first walk along the Bund in Shanghai in 2005? Was it amid the smog and dust of Chonqing, listening to a local Communist party official describe a vast mound of rubble as the future financial centre of south-west China? That was last year, and somehow it impressed me more than all the synchronised razzamatazz of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. Or was it at Carnegie Hall only last month, as I sat mesmerised by the music of Angel Lam, the dazzlingly gifted young Chinese composer who personifies the Orientalisation of classical music? I think maybe it was only then that I really got the point about this decade, just as it was drawing to a close: that we are living through the end of 500 years of western ascendancy.”

    In Taoism this divide between the present and the future is an example of a classic Yin / Yang duality. For Platonists, it is an example of a classic Mortal / Immortal duality. The Western political system is Yin, it is exemplified by the nurturing love of the mother. The Chinese system is more Yang, it is exemplified by the challenging father who encourages his son to climb trees, even though he may hurt himself and it requires physical exertion, because it stimulates the child’s growth.

    The cohesive nature of China’s society, compared to more individualistic modern Western societies, combined with a greater focus on growth and tolerance for pain brought about by a lower per capita GDP, allows the Chinese government to pursue far more idealistic policies than citizens in the West would tolerate. Historians of The Great Leap Forward marvel at the self sacrifice displayed by the Chinese people who were prepared to put their children into nurseries and work day and night for the cause. Press censorship also allows popular support for painful idealistic government policies to be pushed far further than in Western democracies.

    These several factors give the Chinese Government the ability to follow policies with levels of evolutionary idealism that shock Westerns democracies. In Russia a great deal of personal idealism was wiped out by the excesses of Stalin who turned his people into a nation of pessimistic materialists. This is certainly not the case in China. Her people are today easily the hardest working on the planet. In the segment showcasing the Chinese invention of movable type at the Chinese Olympics, the nearly 900 performers who crouched under 18kg boxes donned adult nappies to allow them to stay inside for at least six hours. Despite the sacrifices, performers were grateful for the opportunity to participate in the historic event and viewed it as an honour.

    Yet goes further, the pace of change in China, and in Asia generally, is having a profound impact on the psychological makeup of the people, evolution is not a distant scientific theory, it is at the very heart of life. Thirty years of 10.5% GDP growth works out as 120 years of 2.5% growth. Imagine all the Western growth between 1890 and today being squeezed into 30 years. I once watched a television program in which a Western reporter was shown a model of Shanghai in the future. The official excitedly described the total transformation of the city. The reporter asked, and was was shown, where the official currently lives. “But that’s a park!” he said incredulously. Laughing, and proud, the official said “Welcome to Shanghai!”. How did the Industrial Revolution change Western Society? Love of technology of course, no wonder the Japanese love electronics. Did the expansion of education and entrepreneurship contribute to a sense of justified elitism? More strangely, what about Victorian Morality and the Gothic Revival? More obviously, “Social Darwinism”. Human evolution is now China’s theme, more so than anywhere else on the planet.

    The Eastern Model of God, Man, Enlightenment

    Although non-ideological policymaking policy appears immoral, this was Plato’s ultimate form of government, his Republic, which would transcend the ossified traditions of Spartan Timocracy (meritocratic aristocracy). Plato rejected the assumptions underlying Greek society and religion, but instead of embracing postmodernism his sense of teleological positivism actually intensified. The process of acquiring wisdom, for example by pragmatically solving problems in order to survive, the process of rational thinking, of discarding ideology and illusion, was Plato’s process of ‘spiritual enlightenment’, the movement of consciousness from the flawed subjective human perspective back to the flawless objective divine. Man begins in separate selfish incompetence and evolves into perfect cohesive selfless rational unity. The most famous Neo-Confucian philosopher, Zhu Xi, espoused the same idea. He called his enlightening principle “gewu”, which is the “investigation of things”, the “paying attention to books and affairs”. He was also anti-traditionalist, also pragmatic, and he described God as a rational principle. It must be quickly added that one of the reasons people find the concept of ‘rationality’ so offensive is that the word carries excessively linear connotations – what we are really talking about is an objectivity described by Buddhists as “detachment”.

    It is interesting to digress briefly here and consider the difference between Confucius and Plato. As mentioned earlier in this article, Platonic Philosophy was essentially rejected by Western Society, whereas Confucian Philosophy effectively became both China’s state religion and its governing philosophy. The essential failure of Plato was his almost total focus on the rational path. Confucius realized that not every member of society could follow in Socrates’ footsteps, consequently he created two parallel paths, one philosophical and rational, one traditional and moral. Confucius: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” When reading Confucius, it is vital to keep this in mind, he frequently mixes the approaches, so in one line he might recommend piety, and in the next radicalism.

    This concept of the righteousness of detachment from ideology goes to the very heart of metaphysics. There are in fact two completely different conceptions of God. Instead of detached pragmatic intelligence, the Christian religion advocates love, traditionalism and faith. The concept of good & evil reverses: In one case ideology is evil and pragmatism is good, in the other case the precise opposite is true. The Christians say God is the loving shepherd who cares for his sheep, the other conception describes a God infinitely detached from finite humanitarianism and only concerned with evolutionary idealism. Instead of a single lifetime on Earth, there is reincarnation, death is meaningless, human life is not sacred. The black death was not a tragedy, it was just a moment in man’s evolution. Just as the St Matthew’s Passion is a mixture of harmony and discord, plague is an integral part of the celestial music. Instead of egalitarian utopia, we have evolutionary struggle, exceptionalism is good and mediocrity is evil. Yet this exulted viewpoint is far beyond the masses, so the Jewish Religion taught a single lifetime of passive sufferance followed by eternal utopian bliss in the hereafter (Christianity added nurturing love). As this perversion spread beyond the lower classes, the truth was completely lost to Western Society. The rot goes way beyond the technical details of the Western conception of God, it includes the moral system, the concept of enlightenment, the purpose of life (the infamous idea of a Semitic perversion of civilization – Max Müller). Because this description of God is patently absurd (problem of evil), it has become increasingly unsustainable as humans have advanced, and an unwarranted and destructive pessimism and atheism has now taken hold of Western Civilization.


    I hope readers have enjoyed my big picture philosophical arguments designed to put the detail into perspective. I hope readers can grasp the validity of the scientific approach, which is so radical on first exposure, and grasp the essence of Eastern philosophy. In fact this article has presented the reader with several key converging lines of reason: the detachment from ideology, the inequality of knowledge, the evils of individualism, the illusion of freedom, the evolution of society. In my opinion a new chapter has turned in the pages of history, and it will be the most dramatic and exciting one yet. I believe we are looking at a new Age of Enlightenment. Blinded by Christianity, Western philosophers in the 18th Century failed to grasp the importance of the time duality, which condemned their revolution. At last the new era can begin. It’s probably not the end of history, but it is certainly the opening of a new chapter.

  41. @onebornfree

    I’m a Mencken fan too, but he was talking about Roman government, not Confucian.

  42. @Counterinsurgency

    You are conflating Roman government with Confucian. They’re utterly different systems.

    Here’s how the PRC’s detailed plan has worked out over the last 70 years:

  43. @swamped

    One question: where is the rest of the quote?

  44. @Anonymous

    An elite ruling class has appeared?

    China is managed by a non-hereditary intellectual elite overseen by democratically elected volunteers.

    The result is precisely what you would expect: 95% policy support.

    What’s not to like?

    • Replies: @Johann Ricke
  45. @interesting

    Uh huh. The shit is always about to hit the fan, it seems:

    1990. China’s economy has come to a halt. The Economist
    1996. China’s economy will face a hard landing. The Economist
    1998. China’s economy’s dangerous period of sluggish growth. The Economist
    1999. Likelihood of a hard landing for the Chinese economy. Bank of Canada
    2000. China currency move nails hard landing risk coffin. Chicago Tribune
    2001. A hard landing in China. Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas
    2002. China Seeks a Soft Economic Landing. Westchester University
    2003. Banking crisis imperils China. New York Times
    2004. The great fall of China? The Economist
    2005. The Risk of a Hard Landing in China. Nouriel Roubini
    2006. Can China Achieve a Soft Landing? International Economy
    2007. Can China avoid a hard landing? TIME
    2008. Hard Landing In China? Forbes
    2009. China’s hard landing. China must find a way to recover. Fortune
    2010: Hard landing coming in China. Nouriel Roubini
    2011: Chinese Hard Landing Closer Than You Think. Business Insider
    2012: Economic News from China: Hard Landing. American Interest 
    2013: A Hard Landing In China. Zero Hedge 
    2014. A hard landing in China. CNBC
    2015. Congratulations, You Got Yourself A Chinese Hard Landing. Forbes 
    2016. Hard landing looms for China. The Economist
    2017. Is China’s Economy Going To Crash? National Interest
    2018. China’s Coming Financial Meltdown. The Daily Reckoning.

  46. @Curmudgeon

    I traveled throughout the USSR in 1967 and saw nothing like what you’ve described.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  47. Ron Unz says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Uh huh. The shit is always about to hit the fan, it seems:

    Exactly. Here’s one of my China/America per capita GDP charts to 2011, and I think the trends have pretty much continued since then:

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  48. @Anon

    Why you wonder doesn’t a budding Commissar just move to his Valhalla so we can be on the receiving end of even more glowing, fully immersed communiques?

    Has it occurred to you that he might just be a latter-day Jonathan Swift having a good pull at your leg? Maybe this is the blog version of “A Modest Proposal”.

  49. @Godfree Roberts

    China is managed by a non-hereditary intellectual elite overseen by democratically elected volunteers.

    You’d have to account for the fact that Xi Jinping and most of the Chinese nomenklatura are descended from party bigwigs. And the principal choices for the job of China’s head honcho were between Xi and Bo Xilai, princelings both.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  50. AaronB says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Lol, that was a fun read 🙂

    Minor quibble – man becoming God is the Western ideal. The Eastern ideal is that man is already God, and doesn’t have to do anything.

    The East is now the heir of Western civilization, and its continuator. It is no longer the East.

    This is reflected in your statement that the East represents Yang, and the West Ying. This is an obvious reversal of the classic Western idea that the East is feminine, and the West masculine. Your reversal reflects the desire of the East to become the masculine West, and not the traditional reality.

    Although I enjoyed this philosophical tour de force, I think you have lost yourself in illusions and fantasies about the East. Which is understandable – its one of the classic Western reactions to the East. As a blank screen upon which to project our dissatisfaction with out own societies. I have done it myself. I get the sense you live in some isolated house in Chiang Mai surrounded by papers and books, and rarely venture outside.

    • Replies: @Biff
    , @Godfree Roberts
  51. @Godfree Roberts

    Well there is a long history of people who were not all fairly characterised as “useful idiots” who reported very naively about the Soviet Union because they either lacked the knowledge and instinct to ask the right questions or lacked a BS detector. Curmudgeon’s experience tallies with that of a very observant close relation of mine who went semi-officially as a privileged visitor at film festivals in the early 80s. Arrival in Moscow was marred by hours of detention at the airport and near deportation because she was shown as an Australian delegate travelling on a UK passport or some such. Fortunately a chatty Thai fellow delegate (who had a nice side business in porn went the story) noticed he absence at the Hotel Russia and stirred.

    As well as straightforward experience of privileged life, as at an all night drunken party at a film producer’s dacha outside Leningrad – well observed: she doesn’t drink – she noted the characteristic ignorance of the West in her top-ranked female Jewish interpreter who was very well briefed on her (well up to the point of what a functionary at the Soviet embassy in Australia could get from Who’s Who like number of children and husband being an MP!). Asked how many cars her family had, for example, and correctly giving the true answer “two” she was treated to cynical scepticism in response as in “Yes, we know you are all trained to give us that propaganda answer”.

    So, even you need to be reminded what a changed world it is – at least until countries can effectually censor the internet – and factor in huge H-bd differences in how easily conditioned people are and by what in what circumstances. No doubt the female Russian Jewish interpreter was happy avoiding cognitive dissonance while enjoying her job albeit without ever leaving the USSR and pretty good at believing what supported the continuation of her salary!

    Moi, I could believe that my Pharaoh needed a massive pyramid taking half the population most of his reign to build so he could continue as a god ensuring the rise and fall of needed Nile waters so long as I was guaranteed a life of literate pleasure and little work at the palace and a tomb near the Pharaohs for me and my family. Yep, those subversive circulatory of samizdat only made people unhappy.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  52. AaronB says:

    Also, I have to say I admire that you paint your ideas on so large a canvas, and have such bold ideas.

    Its rare among whites today, when it used to be the Western specialty. Its a refreshing contrast to the petty, nitpicky, trivialities one finds on certain bloggers on unz.

    Although you are insane 🙂 But you have to be a bit crazy to do big ideas today, when most people circle the drain talking about ever narrower technical issues of ever receding importance.

    So stay in your dimly lit Chiang Mai mansion amidst your papers and books.

  53. @Ron Unz

    Excellent. Do you have a source for that chart?

  54. Biff says:

    The Eastern ideal is that man is already God, and doesn’t have to do anything.

    Perfect. I’ll take it.

  55. @Johann Ricke

    By the twelfth century, of 279 senior officials whose families we know[1], 122 had forebears in government.

    By 2018, the figure was forty-four. And no-one of ministerial rank or above has ever placed a

    As Frederick Mote[2] says, “China was very unusual, probably unique, in having had two millennia of experience with an increasingly open social structure and social ethos.”

    Bo was only a candidate in his own mind. Sydney Rittenberg says he’d been an embarrassment to the Party for years but no-one had the mojo to kick him out–which is one reason Xi, who had even more mojo–was elected. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Bo:

    Bo Xilai, a schoolmate of Xi’s and son of a Revolutionary Immortal, ignored his father’s plea not to enter politics, “You know nothing of the sufferings of ordinary people and just want to capitalize on my name.”

    Bo cultivated a charismatic image, was named one of Time’s Most Influential People, rose rapidly to Provincial governor and publicly campaigned for a cabinet position. Conservative scholar Cheng Li said at the time, ”Nobody really trusts him. A lot of people are scared of him, including several princelings who are supposed to be his power base.”

    Michael Wines wrote that, though he possessed prodigious charisma and deep intelligence, he had a ”studied indifference to the wrecked lives that littered his path to power…Mr. Bo’s ruthlessness stood out” (with the help of the Minister for Justice, Zhou Yongkang, Bo even wiretapped the President’s office).

    Then, in 2012, Vice Premier Wu Yi, the nation’s highest woman official, demanded an open investigation of Bo’s activities and a trial revealed that he not only owned expensive property around the world but that his wife had murdered a British employee.

    The couple were prosecuted and jailed for life and joined a long line of disgraced elites like the grandson of the founder of the Red Army and Head of State, Zhu De, who was executed for rape and Yan Jianhong, wife of Guizhou’s powerful Party Secretary, was executed for corruption.

    Life at the top in Chinese politics does not confer the kind of immunity we see here at home.

    [1] China’s Meritocratic Examinations and the Ideal of Virtuous Talents. Xiao, H., & Li, C. (2013). In D. Bell & C. Li (Eds.), The East Asian Challenge for Democracy: Political Meritocracy in Comparative Perspective: Cambridge University Press.
    [2] Imperial China 900-1800. F.W. Mote

  56. @AaronB

    I venture to China 2-3 times a year to do my own fact checking.

    Et toi?

  57. @Wizard of Oz

    History–the subjective interpretation of selective facts–is written by the victors.

    Your comments support our official narrative that we won WWII. In reality, we were bit players who got lucky. We’ve never won a war and have fled even from organized civilian resistance.

    China is currently winning the current war with the West but our media hasn’t allowed us to keep score. That’s why people get upset about my articles and call me names. They feel betrayed and confused.

    Though our current official narrative about the war with China is upbeat, so are all war narratives in wartime: we’re under wartime censorship.

    That’s why journalists, who write history’s first draft, ignored two items from today’s news. As one who follows this topic obsessively, I can promise you there’s at least one of these every day:

    China overtakes U.S. for healthy lifespan: WHO data.
    Empire Unravelling: Will Huawei Become Washington’s Suez?

    In truth, we’re behind in almost every measurable–and, thus manageable–dimension of human endeavor: human rights, life expectancy, crime, hunger, disposable income, justice, scientific research, technology, military effectiveness, government trust and much, much more.

    Nobody knows, so nobody’s doing anything constructive to reverse the situation because that information is censored. I know.

    I published a book of charts in 2005 showing our position relative to China and using their 5 year plans to project where they’d be by 2020. I mailed them to congresspeople and the Administration and got one reply. The Director General of the CIA told me he presented those stats to Congress every year and pointed out that several of my charts referenced the CIA’s World Factbook. “That’s why we publish it,” he said.

    History will be kind to China because China, on current form, will write it.

  58. @Godfree Roberts

    I don’t have a problem with nearly all of that. Indeed it is nearly 20 years ago that I said, in circumstance where what I said mattered, that most of what we decided or thought about certain issues would soon look irrelevant because of the rise of China.

    Nonetheless I am at a loss to understand your second paragraph. I was certainly not intending to support any position on who won WW2 and also fail to see how you could infer that I was or, equally, say that, objectively, I was supporting the view that we (the Western allies I presume you mean) won. Indeed you seem to be muddling the issues on the question of who gets to write history because, on the one hand, you point inferentially to the part that the Soviet Union played against the Germans and the Chinese against the Japanese and yet, on the other, don’t bother to explain how Hollywood has told the mentally embedded stories for most of the world for most of the years since 1945.

    You come through as infinitely more sophisticated in understanding a world in which China looms colossal than the average educated person but perhaps you should give up on the use of oversimplifying, albeit partly true, clichés like your opening par – unless you want to seriously argue for your second par. being an intelligible corollary.

  59. @Godfree Roberts

    PS It might be interesting to do a contrast and compare about the ignorance of not well travelled and only conventionally educated people in different countries. Think of all those new Congresscritters without passports! I think of my Sinhalese driver whose picture of Tamils was of the 19th century immigrant plantation Tamils of the tea country where we had just seen one of them – accused of rape and dragged from a bus – lying beaten to death beside the road: he knew nothing of the 60 per cent of Tamils descended from those at the core of a Hindu kingdom based in the North 1000 years ago! I suppose you could say that the ignorance and mindset of the Russian Jewish interpreter were the typical product of people being mostly too poor to travel or otherwise acquaint themselves with the wider world. Sure but why would you not want to notice that the system of government made Sure of it?

  60. Anonymous[469] • Disclaimer says:
    @Johnny Walker Read

    Has China learned to love its servitude, or are they merely lemmings like their North Korean allies, deathly afraid to criticize “Big Brother”?

    Generally, they don’t think about it much. They just get on with life.

    It’s hard to say how much of this is due to the system and how much of it is due to an innate cultural/genetic tunnel vision, observable in Orientals the world over.

  61. By the people and for the people.. Heck at least some of the people will see some benefit unlike now where none of the people do except the few that are connected.

  62. I’ve never seen any of the UNZ authors reply to as many comments by readers as this author including a longest post by the author himself in the comments’ section… he must really love China for all its worth!

  63. I wonder if Machiavelli read Marco Polo.

  64. Vidi says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Empire Unravelling: Will Huawei Become Washington’s Suez?

    Actually, I think the Suez moment has already happened in 2014, when China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment bank (AIIB) started organizing.

    Obama ordered countries to avoid the AIIB, but many of the world’s most important nations, even a close ally like the UK, totally ignored him.

    The point is that the UK is willing to take a very modest improvement in economic and political ties with China in exchange for a small deterioration in ties with the US. Pretty much every country has decided that this is the right move.

    In truth, [the U.S. is] behind in almost every measurable–and, thus manageable–dimension of human endeavor: human rights, life expectancy, crime, hunger, disposable income, justice, scientific research, technology, military effectiveness, government trust and much, much more.

    The U.S. is ahead in killings by police, so there!

  65. denk says:

    Everybody knows 5lies MSM are virulently anti Chinese by nature, yet even BBC, CNN etc have something positive to say about China….once in a blue moon.

    There’s an army of self styled ‘progressives’ in alt media tho, who’s sinophobia make the likes of BBC looks positively benign.

    Exhibit A…
    China is just as bad,
    NO, China is far worse,
    Hell, China is pure evil of our time,
    YOu aint seen nuthin yet,
    US is only 60% bad, China sucks 100%, without redemption.

    I dunno how do these ‘progressives’ manage to reach such conclusions, but how does it stack up against reality ?

    YOu decide.
    [Pft N CO need not apply]


    Chinese congress session in progress,

    Complete the following in the next five year plan,

    Eradicate poverty completely.
    Reduce air pollution by another 40%,
    Plant another 100M trees ,
    Intensify investments in green tech,
    max crackdown on corruption,…
    Achieve moderate prosperity for all.

    murkkan CON-gress in action,


    Take out Maduro by hook or by crook,
    Send more arms to Saudi to fight the Yemenis,
    Squeeze the Iranians harder until they cry mama,
    Intensity trade war on China,
    Step up provocations in SCS, ECS, TW straits,
    Tell those pesky Okinawans to go fuck themselves,

    Authorise an immediate invasion on Agrabah ! [1]

    Tip of an iceberg.

    The list is too long but you get the drift.


    Enuff said.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  66. @Godfree Roberts

    Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

    So, what you are saying though is that china can print with reckless abandon and build ghost cities until the cows come home and the day of reckoning will never come? AND by extension a market under party control is a BETTER economic system than a “free” market……..not that the USA is a free market mind you but still not as “managed” as China’s, no?

    Does that sum it up?

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  67. @interesting

    You are assuming that our media has kept us informed about China. It hasn’t.

    They’ve not merely left us uninformed or under informed, they’ve misinformed us. Let us count just the ways you alluded to:

    1. China can print with reckless abandon. China is carrying the lowest debt burden of any country on earth and its currency is stable and fairly valued. According the Bank for International Settlements, China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is the same as the US and the E, but with much lower shadow banking exposure, because
    * China’s economy is growing 300% faster than theirs–and growth eats debt.
    * China’s debt is 98% domestic.
    * China’s asset to debt ratio is 3.8:1
    * China’s debt is productive, and of very high quality. Its Keynesian multiplier is 200-300%, according to one Federal Reserve study.
    * China can turn on a dime: everyone is on board and cooperative with the government.
    * 95% of Chinese trust their government because it has kept all its promises for 70 years.

    2. China can build ghost cities until the cows come home. There are no ‘ghost cities’ in China and there have never been. Though many places that have been heralded as ghost cities, they’re now developed and populated. Though most are still works in progress, there is no way that they could rightfully be called ghost towns. When a Chinese “ghost city” does fill up with people and businesses it inconspicuously falls off the radar of the dominant international media. It becomes a regular city, mashed into China’s broader urban matrix—another success story that few seem interested in hearing about. We are amused by empty streets, vacant shopping malls, and barren financial districts in China, not budding new cities steadily coming to life. Ex-ghost cities are rarely news. Take the city of Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province in eastern China. In 2013, the US current affairs program “60 Minutes” ran a segment that profiled Zhengzhou as a supposedly archetypical example of a “ghost city”—overinvested and devoid of inhabitants to populate its gleaming new infrastructure. Zhengzhou’s urban population is now 6.4 million, but the city had spent a decade and billions of dollars building a vast new urban district, which had then failed to draw residents. But even as 60 Minutes went to air, Zhengzhou’s new district was, in fact, beginning to fill with people, and Foxconn was the reason. The new population comprised new hires to staff the city’s new Foxconn plant. Today, Foxconn employs more than 200,000 people at its Zhengzhou facility, and the city’s new district is a thriving community.

    3. A market under party control is a BETTER economic system than a “free” market. The market is not under Party control. The Party controls ideology and strongly influences senior government appointments. It’s a cultural organization comprised entirely of volunteers who contribute \$1 billion in annual dues and gain nothing financially from membership.[1] They leave the market to the government, unions, Congress and entrepreneurs who, as you can see, do a stellar job shaping and guiding–but not controlling–it.

    [1] Economic Returns to Communist Party Membership: Evidence from Urban Chinese Twins. Hongbin Li Pak Wai Liu Junsen Zhang Ning Ma. The Economic Journal. Vol. 117.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @denk
    , @Erebus
  68. Anonymous[213] • Disclaimer says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Thanks for your clear and detailed input. Western (((MSM))) is almost completely discredited among its audience but too many people abandon their scepticism when it comes to anti-China narratives.

    So you get a red-pilled Westerner who completely abhors his traitorous rulers but when it comes to China those same rulers are “his” team and China is the enemy. Weird.

  69. denk says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    You are assuming that our media has kept us informed about China. It hasn’t.

    They’ve not merely left us uninformed or under informed, they’ve misinformed us

    Isnt that the reason why we come to alt media ,…
    cuz 5liars MSM are utterly untrustworthy ?

    Which begs the question,
    Why do Pft n co uncritically parrot 5liars narrative on China “?

    ‘million uIghurs gulags, forced to eat pork, [sic]
    ‘persecution of xtians’
    ‘social cred polic state’
    blah blah blah,

    There isnt one 5liars talking point on China that they dont like !

    Guardaian, Economist, Reuters,Bloomberg ..readers at least can plead innocence, they dont know better.
    There’s no excuse for people who have been squatting here for years.

    It’d seem that some people come here not because they want to know the truth, there’s a hidden agenda.

    Misdirection agent perhaps ?
    Deflecting flak on US towards China/Russia !

    ‘Dont support China/Russia, they’r just as bad or even worse’
    Wow,\ !
    ‘in fact they;r in cahoot with US,”

    Somebody isnt contend with monopolising ‘world opinion’ via the MSM sycophants, They want to neutralise even the last bastion of dissidence to the evil empire. !

    • Replies: @anon
  70. @onebornfree

    Anyone who wants to know what living under a really small government is like, could do worse than get hold of the recent English translation of “The Viking Sagas”. It’s anyway a wonderful read and a real insight into the pros and cons of “small government” recounted by people who lived it.

  71. @Godfree Roberts

    Today 30% of Americans believe that Sep 11th was a CIA plot, this is an absolutely extraordinarily stupid idea, yet it sells!

    I think you have not studied this subject much or even at all.

    Otherwise, a very interesting and thought-provoking article.

  72. @Godfree Roberts

    You could take that list back to 1949!

  73. @Godfree Roberts

    I haven’t yet finished reading William Hooper’s interesting essay from (?) 2012 but, in looking for a convenient way to download it, I came across his web page at – which has many interesting sounding essays linked – and noted with interest that JOHN DERBYSHIRE clearly has a young distant cousin – with hair. Bring this chap on Ron:

    William Hooper

      London School of Economics, Philosophy, Mathematics, Finance, Alumnus




    Birth: Nationality British, Born 1969, Father Court Of Appeal Judge, Mother School Teacher. 
    Education: Ipswich Private School, Undergrad Pure Mathematics at Lancaster, Postgrad Economics at London School of Economics. 
    Career: Financial Markets, primarily in the City Of London, but also a few years in New York. Notable Roles: I started as a trader on the bond arbitrage desk writing yield curve calculators in c++ and trading the Gilt Short Sterling spread back in the good old days (i.e. before Quant Modelling Teams and Bloomberg Analytics). Also lots of complex equity index volatility trading, later even some emerging market interest rate and credit derivatives technology consultancy. In my last and most high profile role I was a high frequency foreign exchange proprietary trader. Favourite employers: Union Discount, BOA, CSFB. 
    Loves: The wife and kids of course, also Willoughby Road in Hampstead Village where I lived for many years while banking. Favorite music J S Bach, building Chartres Cathédrale, furniture Napoleonic. Sports: hiking, climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, 4WDing around the world. 
    Philosophy: In 2011 I retired from Financial Markets and I have been studying Ancient Greek Philosophy ever since. 
    I am looking for the holy grail, the long lost science of metaphysics, I know many today do not believe it even exists, but I know they are wrong, and I am sure the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Chinese were onto something.  
    How is the search going? 
    Slowly, painfully…

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
    , @anon
  74. Erebus says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    The Party controls ideology and strongly influences senior government appointments. It’s a cultural organization comprised entirely of volunteers who contribute \$1 billion in annual dues and gain nothing financially from membership.[1]

    There’s a contradiction hiding in there.

    The subjects of those “senior government appointments” can and do benefit financially – sometimes spectacularly. The latter was much more prevalent say 10 years ago than it is today, but it is still there. Having been placed in a high positions, the subject all too often leverages his position into spreading the wealth to family and to those who helped put him there. Not nearly so brazenly as in the past, but the practice has long been embedded in Chinese culture and it hasn’t disappeared.

    Guanxi still permeates the Chinese political system to a greater extent than I suspect you would give credit to. Of course, the West’s elites are not immune to using a similar system. I’ve long thought that the much discussed control of the West’s political processes by the Jewish Lobby would be better illuminated if the discussion could be turned to examining the Jewish Guanxi system.

    It is interesting to note that the rise of China coincided with their muzzling of their Guanxi system, while the West tipped into steep decline when it finally gave free rein to the Jewish.

    Ebb & flow… It’s their turn, again.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  75. @Erebus

    I think you need to spell that out. As it is I suspect that you are comparing apples with pears and indeed gooseberries and cumquate thrown into the mix. Sure real estate has always been a bit murky everywhere apart from the odd Duke who just finds these chaps turning up and offering to build a suburb on the drained marshland he just happens to have inherited. Government contracts or government financed orvsubsidised projects also also tend to be bit iffy. But the FAANGS are hard to fit into the same cesspit.

  76. Erebus says:

    I think you need to spell that out.

    … and I think you need to spell the rest of your comment out. Not at all sure what you’re on about.

  77. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Hello Wizard Do us a favor for the future. India is in crisis mode as always but does the country have a chance against China in the final analysis of things. Sometimes back you told us of familiarity with Kashmir India China conflict through some Australian diplomat . I need the source again .You told about the resistance from hardliners within Nehru gov that destroyed chances of peace in 1950-1960

    Will India fare better than China in case of US economic collapse?

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  78. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:

    ‘million uIghurs gulags, forced to eat pork, [sic]
    ‘persecution of xtians’
    ‘social cred polic state’”

    These are not incompatible with Chinese development in rest of the places .
    Xinxiang is not about religion .It is about utilization and appropriation of resources and by who.

  79. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:

    at least you get something back in EU . You get more than 1 thing. We in US get to bomb other countries,fatten the chest of the generals with more medals ,and are forced to hear the warmongering of the lobbyists day and night which deprive us of sanity information intelligence rob us of empathy inquisitiveness to understand the other , bury any chance of openness to negotiation.

  80. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Iran is going to have bomb – a nuclear bomb in – well yesterday —- Netanyahu Shamir Rabin Sharon .
    The media never checked what it said yesterday . Media still doesn’t .

    That happens when one believes one set of lies ( Nartanhyu’s lies about nukes ) -the acceptance of the lies as usual business -becomes the default position also . It then hurts . A lot of ills which US faces today has it’s roots in the blind acceptances of the lies,rationale, falsehoods and vague concepts that have originated among and weaponized by Israeli lobby diaspora in US .

  81. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    deliberative dictatorship”

    we still have to label it negatively ,don’t we!

  82. anon[302] • Disclaimer says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Does one conclude that the shelf life of western civilization is 500 yrs?
    Is it written in the fabric ? Is it like organic growth and eventual death ?
    Is there an unifying theory that explains all deaths of all civilizations ? Was the west subjected to same rules?

    Confucian Chinese also rose and fell .
    Will it fall agian because of same principle ?

    Or are we saying this time they have got it right and the equation for everlasting presence ?

    Any society that reaches collective decisions or analyzed and heeds the streets will always do better than when the society diverts its resources for the 2-3 % of the citizen at the center.


    European was not one society or one country or one nation
    China occupies a land mass surrounded by no competing nations of same magnitude

    Europe has always that divisions which gave rise to wars , diversities , clan and ethnic interests and which prevented defining or understanding any common
    goal .

    EU is a failure

    China at least didn’t have to face that diversifying forces from within .

  83. China has been Confucian (and Legalist and other things) for 2100 years. The First Emperor saw to that. Most of his edicts in that regard like, ‘every child must study the Master’s teaching every day,’ are still followed.

    China has always faced diversifying forces within and the government acts towards them as a neutral arbiter shaping national consensus. To the degree it arbitrates well, China prospers.

    It’s arbitrating very well at present and China is prospering as never in its history.

    Some credit for that must go to Xi’s father who, after Mao, was the most beloved Revolutionary Immortal. In addition to becoming a general at 17 and governor at 23, he was one of the greatest negotiators in history. Mao publicly compared him to a famous negotiator in Dream of the Red Mansion. He forbade his other children to enter politics but urged Jinping to do so and guided career until his death in 2002.

    Interestingly, as a beginning provincial official, Xi’s first public project was to build a ‘real’ Red Mansion in his district. A Beijing producer was scouting locations and Xi built a fully authentic building (instead of a flimsy set) and charged the producer enough to cover the construction cost. After shooting finished he rented it to other producers and opened it to tourists who still flood it to this day: subtle homage to his father and a public gift that keeps on giving.

  84. “and China is prospering as never in its history”

    I noticed this was just another post in the thread and not a reply so it begs the question, who are you trying to convince? And this statement also begs the question: is that why China’s central bank printed a trillion bucks in January? To keep the prospering going for a bit longer?

    reading some of these glowing “life is wonderful in China” articles, it seems as if Tiananmen square never happened.

    • Replies: @Biff
    , @Godfree Roberts
  85. JMMorgan says:

    Government can be run well or badly as can private enterprise. An exception to your rule is the first six TVA dams, which were constructed under the directorship of my grandfather Arthur Morgan. They were built at a cost that was within 2 percent of the estimated cost. (page 113 of Arthur Morgan’s book The Making of the TVA)

    The Army Corps of Engineers estimated a higher cost for the first dam, and their dams routinely had overruns that doubled the cost of their dams. Government projects can be run efficiently, so why do we refuse to learn from our successes but instead declare it is impossible? I think that is Godfree’s question for us.

    • Replies: @Vidi
  86. Biff says:

    reading some of these glowing “life is wonderful in China” articles, it seems as if Tiananmen square never happened.

    If you live in the U.S. everything in the Media about Tiananmen Square spring of 1989 was a lie. Just like now regarding Venezuela.

    Tiananmen: The Massacre that Wasn’t or Was?


    The bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square movement and associated protests, in fact, became a clear signal from Beijing to international finance capital that the police-military apparatus would guarantee investments against any challenge by the working class.
    Global capitalism, notwithstanding its initial crocodile tears over the brutal crackdown, responded accordingly. A new flood of capital poured into China, with foreign direct investment inflows increasing from \$4 billion in 1991 to \$45 billion in 1997. At the same time, the CCP accelerated its program of capitalist restoration, transforming China into the largest cheap labour platform in the world and further enriching the country’s new bourgeoisie.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  87. Vidi says:

    Government can be run well or badly as can private enterprise. An exception to your rule is the first six TVA dams, which were constructed under the directorship of my grandfather Arthur Morgan. They were built at a cost that was within 2 percent of the estimated cost. (page 113 of Arthur Morgan’s book The Making of the TVA)

    The Hoover Dam is another exception to the Libertarians’ mindless chant of “govmint don’t work”. The 1930s dam created Lake Mead, which is where California gets most of its fresh water. Without the lake, California would not be anywhere near what it is today.

    A proactive government created the sixth largest economy in the world. The Libertarians never respond when you throw this in their faces.

    • Replies: @AaronB
  88. AaronB says:

    Why can’t we just have a mixed system.

    Obviously extreme capitalism is ruinous. Obviously extreme socialism or extreme statism is ruinous.

    Human experience over the millenia has shown that long term success does not lie in the tails. Every extreme contains a partial truth.

    If the human experiment has taught us anything, it is that all extremes are partial truths. If we ever grow up as a species, we will internalize that simple truth.

    I’m reading a book on nutrition now that suggests that longevity is attained by balancing growth. Too much growth (from eating too much) leads to short term flourishing but dying young. Too little growth (eating too little) can have negative health consequences and lead to early death.

    I keep on seeing this principle vindicated in all areas of human life.

    Applied to the historical development of Europe and Asia, one sees a Europe that invested in growth at all costs, which resulted in a flourishing civilization that did not last very long. The longevity of Chinese civilization surely depends on its opting for greater balance and less growth. But this too came at a price – Asia was not able to realize the human potential.

    Today, in a globalised world, both Asia and Europe have to temper their extreme historical tendencies with some of its opposite. Godfree argues China is doing a rather better job of this at the moment, and he may be right for the time being. But ultimately the West will have to take the same medicine, and history shows it likely will.

    This will lead to less growth globally – the unsustainable innovation of recent European history will taper off to more reasonable and less destructive levels – but greater stability and longevity – and human flourishing.

    The next step for mankind is surely to integrate the historical lessons of East and West in a higher Hegelian synthesis. This involves tradeoffs – China won’t be as stable and enduring as it historically was, and the West won’t be as explosively innovative.

  89. @Godfree Roberts

    So everything that happened then is a lie and everything that you say is now the truth…..okay, got it.

    I hope I live long enough to see how all this insanity plays out.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  90. Anonymous [AKA "Flippy Burger"] says:

    Another China-worshipping article from Mr. Godfree Roberts. A read through this, and a quick read through his articles (including white-washing Tiananmen Square and the disastrous human toll from Chinese economic policies) is all that is needed. Rubbish.

    Agenda driven “independent journalism” is no better than agenda driven “MSM journalism.”

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  91. @interesting

    Do you have any criticisms of what I wrote? Serious reservations? Questions?

    Did you even read it, or did you make up your mind based on stories you read long ago in our mainstream media?

  92. @Anonymous

    No counter-facts? No questions? Just insults?

    IS this how you deal with new and unfamiliar information?

    • Replies: @Raven
    , @Erebus
  93. Raven says:

    Very incisive info as well as argument. I like your approach.

  94. Raven says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Very incisive info as well as argument. I like your approach.

  95. Erebus says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    … did you make up your mind based on stories you read long ago in our mainstream media?

    IS this how you deal with new and unfamiliar information?

    Yes & Yes.

  96. @anon

    I hadn’t seen this till now and I think you must be referring to

    Sorry I would be starting where you are unleas it is a help to toss in the nanes of Owen Dixon, Jinnah and Nehru together perhaps with Dean Acheson who had got to know Dixon during WW2 in DC and was inatrumental in having Dixon appounted UN mediator in Kashmir. My knowledge comes just from recollection of converaations with Dixon who had behaved like the careful lawyer he was and actually spent a lot of time on the ground in Kashmir to devise a partition plan. I recall that Jinnah had indicated he could and would carry the Pakistanis but that Dixon’s impression was that Nehru couldn’t get it through his Cabinet. You might find something about it in Philip Ayres’ biography of Owen Dixon as he had full access to Dixon’s papers

    That followed an earlier comment which you will find easily enough if interested, but it really hasn’t much to do with China.

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