Sunday, September 13, 2009

One party autocracy

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.
This pean to China was written by noted columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, in "Our one party democracy". At a time when many in the world are appreciating, while others are apprehensive of China's growing presence in the manufacturing sector. On the other hand, and at the same time, there are many within China who are articulating the need for political reforms. The above paragraph illustrates two fatal intellectual flaws. One, Friedman implies that enlightened leadership can improve on the market mechanism. But if that was indeed the case, Fascist and Socialist regimes would have continued to thrive, rather than being in the dustbin of history. Secondly, Friedman, coming from the oldest democracy and the world's largest economy - the United States, which is also largely a market economy, tragically shares a belief among many intellectuals, that democracy and market may not be compatible. Both these propositions are false, historically, politically, and economically.

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