Friday, December 16, 2005

Beating Malthus Down

There’re two ways to beat Malthus and his grim prophecy of unending suffering. You can out-produce him or you can fool him by artificially maintaining ZPG. The U.S. and its economic imitators have shown that free-market Capitalism can make your productivity increase at exponential rates, rates greater than the impact of your population growth, thus leading to the hope of, and actual happiness, through abundance. The People’s Republic of China has demonstrated that you can do it the other way as well, though, to be fair, they adopted free-market measures at the same time as population control policies. Their economic growth rate, however, has been unbelievable, exceeding even the decades long annual eight percent increase of GDP experienced by the renascent post-war Japan. How have they been able to do it without corruption eating up the excess? ans: Force!

Why doesn’t corruption eat up the US? ans: Force!

There is admittedly a difference in the application of force by the two entities. In the US force is applied by a legal system that allows all, the big and small, to protect the integrity of their contracts and property. That’s not to say that the crooks and pirates don’t find a way to squeeze us, but we can fight back, even in New Jersey. In China it depends on the wisdom and might of a central committee and its ideological pile-driver, total intimidation. It is tempting to pooh-pooh the virtues of the PRC’s governing structure, but you can’t argue with the kind of success they have been experiencing since the 80’s.

Our government’s policies have supported them as well, working on the hope that peace and freedom will follow economic well-being. The local emergence of party functionaries as robber barons, getting wealthy on the backs of the people, makes me worry sometimes that the warlords are returning, but I believe the balance is leaning toward the well-being of the long-suffering people of China. The central government at some point became enlightened. They saw that while the USSR failed, Hong Kong and Taiwan prospered. Mao was a monster, but the Kruschevs and the Gorbachevs of the PRC have learned to recognize type and how to control the totalitarian impulse. The only problem is the momentum of his memestorm, not to mention 5,000 years of brutalhistory. How to get from where they are to where we are is a very tricky question for them. While they visit our universities for a few years, the thinking types get to see how it could be. They can’t yet say what they think, but they can’t not think it. At home, they wallow in pollution, some of it the detritus of our own society, but they do not wallow in despair any longer. They can discern a path of stepping stones through the torrent of history to green fields of plenty on the far shore.

Now, why doesn’t it work in Nigeria? It’s got to do with the nature of the Force.

12/16/2005 12:13 AM

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At Friday, December 16, 2005 7:57:00 PM, Blogger Frank Warner said...

So far, China's Red Army is the great beneficiary of the "free market" there. Its officers are stealing the Communist Party-owned companies, making international deals to bring in new technology, and profiting hansomely.

But not everyone in China is doing so well. As the Red Army gets rich from capitalism (which, by the way, I define as free markets gone amuk from lack of democratic regulation), the poor are getting poorer and many are losing their land to Communists building new factories. There's a reason China is experiencing wave after wave of riots.

Oh, and don't forget that, while all this is going on, China's Communist regime arrested about 800,000 Chinese last year for crimes that amount to nothing more than expressing an interest in freedom.

On top of that, the single-baby policy has to have made China a fairly lonely place for countless millions of its young men.

You can argue with this kind of success.

At Friday, December 16, 2005 11:41:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

I'm not happy with the place. But things are getting better for them. The point is that most of the thinking young people in the PRC, as in Iran, don't really believe in the Communist ideology, but have to continue to pretend that they do. There is enough of this enlightenment in high places to keep them on track. Progress is inconsistent and not well distributed, but there is progress, and I believe they are heading in the right direction. For the most part, I believe we are heading in the right direction as well, but we both know that we haven't arrived yet.

At Friday, December 16, 2005 11:43:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

As far as the 1 child policy, there are two ways that you can beat back Malthus ...

Capitalism is cruel too.

At Saturday, December 17, 2005 12:03:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

The trouble with beating Malthus with productivity alone is that you have to get lucky. You need lots and lots of people like Norman Borlaug. You also lose a lot of things that didn't really matter enough to save, like American Chestnut trees, local hardware stores, soda fountains, trolleys, stone houses, fraternal societies, fox hunts, pension plans, trout fishing, garbage collection, Fuller Brush salesmen, grouse, savings and loan societies, theatres, liberal arts, tenured professors, skating ponds, hospital beds, walkable highways, volunteer fire companies, afternoon ballgames, ...

I know, it wasn't necessarily capitalism and productivity pressures that foreclosed our access to these advantages, at least not completely, but I think we have been too willing to accept such changes without a fight.


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