The Lure of Authoritarianism
There seems an odd attraction towards Chinese-style authoritarianism among certain more technocratic/elitist segments of the left-leaning political elite. On the one hand we have we have people like Thomas Friedman arguing that Chinese one-party-autocracy is more efficient in passing the sort of regulations (“green” energy and nationalized health care) that he cares most about. On the other, we have Harold Meyerson’s claim that China is doing a better job of providing clean political process and economic recovery than the US, and that if Republicans don’t get in line behind Obama’s agenda the rest of the world will resolve to follow China’s autocratic example rather than American-style democracy.
There so much to mock in these forays its hard to decide where to begin (and thus perhaps its better not to do so in too much detail.) For instance, despite Friedman’s worries that China will steal all our green jobs if we don’t install a carbon tax soon (in other worries, they may steal all our broken windows and thus exceed our glass-making economy) their superior ability in crafting green legislation seems to have left a few loopholes as compared to the US.
I think the quickest and most telling way to examine the validity of Friedman and Meyerson’s worries, however, is simply to look at the direction of immigration world-wide. There are a great many Chinese people who seek to study and then settle permanently in the US. There are notably few US citizens who seek to make the opposite journey. (I have several Chinese natives on my team at work, all busily pursuing green cards.) Similarly, however successful Chinese funded outlets may be in badmouthing the US in South America, Africa and other developing regions (it is, after all, rather easy to dislike the US for a number of reasons — we are, as the saying goes, over-paid, over-sexed, and over here) it doubtless means something that people from these developing regions apply in large numbers to emigrate to the US, and yet do not seek to emigrate to China. (Yes, China is rather restrictive on immigration, but one does not exactly see people crushing to get there the way people do in response to our own immigration restrictions.)