Monday, September 30, 2019

China and Hong Kong: What's Really Happening?

It’s such an intriguing intellectual puzzle that no one has really addressed it. Today’s China, a testimony to free enterprise, a repudiation of Communist economic policies, is routinely denounced as a Communist dictatorship.

One suspects that people are confused to see a one party government, a government that rules with an authoritarian hand raise so many people out of poverty in such a short period of time. One emphasizes that in the late 1970s, soon after Mao died, and just as the No. 2 capitalist roader was taking over economic policy, the extreme poverty rate in China was over 80%. Today, its in the low single digits.

How could this happen without free speech, free elections and respect for human rights. We Westerners are puzzled. We are thrilled to see rebellious young people rising up against the regime in Hong Kong, not realizing that they are damaging their city and its economy, perhaps irrevocably. We see a yearning for basic political freedoms. The government of China sees the noxious influence of Western culture, weak and decadent, prone to anarchic displays and to electing imbeciles. 

While we are rooting for the demonstrators, we suspect that they are fighting a losing cause. After all, Gordon Chang, a man who has the distinction of being consistently wrong about all things Chinese, declared that the Hong Kong protests signaled the end of Communist rule. Twenty years ago the same Chang predicted that Chinese Communist rule was ending.

What do you call someone who is consistently wrong? Why, you call him an expert. One sees Chang on television all the time spewing his bad predictions and his worse analysis.

As for democracy, we like to think that other Asian countries, like Singapore and Japan are democracies… because they hold elections. And yet, these countries pay lip service to democracy. They have one-party political rule. And they are regimented. Imagine the authorities in Singapore allowing their cities to become open air toilets. Imagine them allowing fascist protesters to harass people in restaurants and to beat up citizens on the streets. If that is what human rights look like in practice, they want none of it.

The problem with the "China is Communist" meme is quite simply: China’s economic success over the past four decades. If China has risen from historical irrelevance to compete against the United States in the clash of civilizations, if it has succeeded economically… do we really want to credit that to Communism? Many of America’s leading conservative intellectuals insist on labeling China a Communist dictatorship. Do they understand that in so doing they are reviving the reputation of the most destructive economic policy the world has seen?

One party rule, led by a new emperor, is not to our liking. As Ian Buruma explains, it’s a grand bargain, one that the authorities made with the Chinese people. The party opened the economy to free enterprise and allowed people to prosper. The people would sacrifice their wishes to vote in elections or to turn their universities into indoctrination mills. As long as the people of China believe that life is good, and that they have gained the world’s respect, the Hong Kong protesters are playing a losing hand. 

It’s all about authority but it’s also about order and discipline. The Chinese people despise discord. In their history, it turns into civil war or cultural revolutions. Ian Buruma sheds some light on the question of today’s China. His is a sober assessment.

First, he asks why China still clings to the image of Mao Zedong. After all, Mao’s successors were victims of the horrors his regime visited on the nation. 

And yet, Mao’s feat of unifying the country and restoring national pride is still a reason for many people in China to respect his legacy, and for the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) to justify its continued monopoly on power. The fear of violent disorder runs deep and is consistently drummed into Chinese of all ages. Party propagandists insist that China without Communist rule would descend once more into chaos and fall prey to hostile foreign powers.

Doubtless they feel the way they feel. And yet, Mao caused tens of millions of people to starve to death. China under Mao was not respected. It was a charnal house, a horror show, a disgrace. The first thing that Deng Xiaoping and his cronies did was to arrest the leaders of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

More importantly, Buruma notes the different ways that Deng Xiaoping and Mikhail Gorbachev tried to revive their nations after their ill-fated experiment with Communism:

The party has adapted extremely well to capitalism. Seeing what happened to the Soviet Union after Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic reforms, China’s rulers refused to follow his example. After the Chinese who demanded similar reforms were brutally crushed during the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, the C.C.P. made a tacit deal with the educated urban class from which most of the protesters came. One-party rule would create the orderly conditions for people to become wealthy, in exchange for which they would refrain from political protest.

In this sense, China is not so different from Singapore, where a similar deal has been struck, if in a somewhat less oppressive manner. In fact, Deng Xiaoping, considered to be China’s great modern reformer and the man who cracked down on the dissidents in 1989, was an admirer of the Singaporean way of combining capitalism with autocracy.

For the record, it wasn’t just that the authorities crushed the Tiananmen protests because they were opposed to democratic reforms. They did so because bands of marauding young people reminded them of the Red Guards… and they were not going to make that mistake again.

We emphasize that Gorbachev put liberal democracy ahead of free enterprise. Deng sacrificed liberal democracy in order to make free enterprise work more efficiently.

The new emperors used Confucianism to impose authority. One understands that in today’s America authority is a bad word. At a time when teachers routinely fail to exercise authority in the classroom, when people do not follow rules of good behavior or proper decorum, where we are excessively tolerant of bad behavior, we inveigh against authority. Duh.

I take some exception with Buruma’s view of Confucianism, but here it is:

Confucianism, originally a moral as well as a political philosophy, became an ideology imposed to instill obedience to authority — from fathers in families to clan chiefs all the way up to the emperor.

This may not have been what Confucius, or his follower Mencius, had originally intended. They were more interested in the cultivation of virtue in scholar-officials and the proper observance of ethical rules: Ancient Confucianism is a kind of blueprint for harmonious social order. And the recent protests in Hong Kong, as well as a vibrant democracy in Taiwan, show that many Chinese are actively opposed to authoritarianism — notably in places where traditional Chinese culture has generally been better preserved than on the mainland.

But rulers have used Confucianism, today no less than a thousand years ago, to support social hierarchy and autocratic rule. Official promoters of the creed have put an authoritarian spin on what started as a humanist philosophy.

I take exception on one ground: Confucianism is based on filial piety, and nothing is more conducive to authority and to social hierarchy than the practice of filial piety… that is, of children being required to revere and respect their elders. Confucianism is not humanist philosophy.

In America, as in China, we have Tiger Moms whose authority is imposed on their children strictly. In New York City charter schools, called Success Academies, discipline and respect for authority are never to be questioned. In both cases children thrive. In schools where discipline is not imposed and where authority is not respected, children flounder.

As for Mao, it is too facile, as Buruma does, to consider Mao a Confucian scholar. Especially since the Cultural Revolution was designed to root out Confucianism. When children murder and cannibalize their teachers, when they humiliate the party elites and functionaries, we are not dealing with a Confucian culture. We are seeing its opposite… in action. 

As you know, Mao had to call in the army to put down a Cultural Revolution that got completely out of control… and that was destroying the nation.

Buruma suggests that the end of party rule is nowhere in sight:

But a harsher version of the Singaporean model could succeed for quite a long time. The C.C.P. will continue to justify its rule by standing for order, national greatness and something called “Socialism With Chinese Characteristics” while (some of) the people continue to get rich. The exact nature of this type of socialism is not so important, nor is whether people really believe in it. There were many schools of Confucianism, too. The important thing is that this form of socialism compels obedience. And as long as the party remains in power, state control of spiritual and intellectual life will prevent people from coming up with any viable alternative.

In effect, there’s more to it than a rage for public order and social harmony. The Chinese people do not want what we have. They believe that their way is superior and that they will outcompete us in the long run. They see America falling into warring factions and Western Europe falling into terminal decadence… all by following a certain number of discredited ideas. They are prospering while we are destroying ourselves fighting thought crimes. 

The Communist Party of China is less concerned with maintaining its own power than it is with inoculating the nation against the pernicious and noxious influence of Western liberal democracy. They believe that the habits inculcated by Western values undermine economic growth and progress.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Decline and Fall of California

It’s an old story. It’s such an old story that one is tempted to ignore it. After all, if the citizens of California continue to render their state uninhabitable, why should any of the rest of us care a whit?

And yet, the story still intrigues. After all, California is the laboratory for all radical leftist economic policies. Such policies have produced a calamity. No one cares. No one wants to change course. They are oblivious to evidence.

Besides, their political leaders are consumed by their hatred of Donald Trump. Rather than help fix their state, Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff have launched an attack on the rule of law, the validity of elections and half of the American people.

You wouldn’t want to think that leftist Democrats are candy-assed weaklings, would you?

This time Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog explains that California is becoming so unaffordable that large numbers of its people want to pick up and leave the state. Snyder quotes a Los Angeles Times story:

Just over half of California’s registered voters have considered leaving the state, with soaring housing costs cited as the most common reason for wanting to move, according to a new poll.

Young voters were especially likely to cite unaffordable housing as a reason for leaving, according to the latest latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times. But a different group, conservatives, also frequently suggested they wanted to leave — and for a very different reason: They feel alienated from the state’s political culture.

A useful qualification, especially if you fear that that California’s dispossessed leftists are about to turn your red state blue.

In fact, it was recently reported that it now takes approximately $350,000 a year to live a middle class lifestyle in the city of San Francisco.  If you have a ton of money, it can partially insulate you from the problems that are increasingly ravaging the state, but unless you never go out in public nothing is going to insulate you completely.  

And, of course, major cities are now rat-infested, crime-ridden open air toilets:

Cities all over the state are degenerating into drug-infested, crime-ridden hellholes that are literally being overrun by millions of rats.  

And, of course, the state has managed to attract illegal immigrants and other destitute rent seekers:

California has some of the worst traffic in the entire world, unchecked illegal immigration is causing a whole host of social problems, and gang activity has become a massive problem.... 

On the other hand, California’s reputation for handing out free goodies has been a magnet for another class of people.  Today, almost half of all homeless people in the entire nation live in the state of California, and this has become such a huge crisis that it literally makes headlines all over the globe.

Snyder concludes:

It is such a shame what has happened to the state.  California should be one of the most beautiful, prosperous and enjoyable places to live in the entire world.  Unfortunately, Californians have been making exceedingly poor choices for decades, and the consequences of those decisions will be extremely bitter indeed.

She Married Mr. Wrong

She married the wrong man. In fact, she did not know the man she married until she married him. She is 30, recently married to a man she has been with for six years. Now, she discovers that she has been conned, that he is not the man she thought he was, that he is a freeloader, who is feeding off of her. And who is probably ruining her credit rating.

As always happens, when writing to Carolyn Hax the woman neglects to mention the husband’s occupation. If she does not think it relevant, she had no business marrying him. If she imagined that feelings were all that mattered, she has been reading too many advice columnists. She says that she went to premarital counseling. As though that were a sign of maturity and good judgment.

I do not know what she learned in premarital counseling, but I would like to know what her friends and family thought of the man. He might have bamboozled her, but I guess that members of her entourage saw through the deception. 

Since she says that she has a career in finance and that she allowed him to control the family finances, it seems possible, at least, that he is not gainfully employed. If she hides his indolence the chances are good that she feels embarrassed for him and for marrying him. She says nothing about the possibility that he is spending money he earned.

Now, she has just discovered that he is a deadbeat. Why it took her six years to figure this out, I have no idea.

Anyway, here is her letter, to brighten up your Sunday:

I am a 30-year-old, recently married woman. My husband and I did not get married in haste — we went to premarital counseling and have been together six years — but I am beginning to feel like the wool was pulled over my eyes this entire time.

I have been slowly uncovering financial issues such as unpaid rent and car notes, credit card charges, and extra equipment and phone lines in my name. My husband is not being cooperative in explaining this, and I teeter between feeling like a complete idiot for allowing him to handle our finances — my career is in finance — and just completely overwhelmed and hurt.

I have started the process of removing his access to my accounts, but how do I know if this is something to walk away from? Where do I start to pick up the pieces? This is not how I imagined starting out.

— Falling Apart

Evidently, this marriage ought to be headed straight for divorce court. Hax understands this well, to her credit. 

She writes:

Removing his access to your accounts is a good first step and also the model for your next ones: Specific, financial remedies first, one by one in order of greatest urgency. Lock down what you need to lock down, talk to an attorney if you haven’t already, etc.

That methodical, business-first approach will eventually leave you with only the central emotional problem to deal with, by which point you presumably will feel more ready to face it: that your husband lied to you, caused you harm and apparently does not see getting caught as an opportunity to stop doing either one.

He is okay with hurting you. Is there any question, really, about whether to walk away?

But, this is not all she says. For some reason she decides that the man is entirely at fault and that the letter writer should escape all blame.

Fair enough, if the man is embezzling funds, then the fault is all his. If he refuses to explain himself, she ought to divorce him. She hesitates, for a good reason.

SHE MARRIED HIM. And that, dear readers, is entirely her fault. She should feel shame for allowing herself to be duped by a scam artist. If she divorces him she will have to explain it to her friends and family. She will need to take responsibility for her failure. And it will not be easy to do. It is one primary reason why women stay with abusive men. They do not want to admit that they got conned.

Here is Hax, going off the moral rails:

But being faked out is not a reflection of your personal failings — it is all about his. So stop inviting in shame as another party to this already crowded problem.

You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Plus, a career in finance hardly inoculates you against fraud, especially when the fraud here appears to have been largely emotional. You were trusting because you loved him. In presenting himself as loving and trustworthy, he just managed to lie well enough to fool you. If there’s any shame to feel here, it’s all his.

She was not just faked out. She was with the man for six years. She married him. She did not just get conned out of some money. She got conned out of her life. She is a competent professional. She ought to feel her own shame. To say otherwise is to set up a moral calculus where the perfidious man bears all the blame while the woman who got duped does not bear any. Naming herself Falling Apart, the letter writer shows that she understands her own moral failing. Let’s not try to turn off her moral sense. 

As for the emotional fraud, aren’t women supposed to be more sensitive to emotion. What happened to that? How does a finance professional throw it all to the winds for "true love?"

She was presumably living with him. She must have seen signs of his irresponsible behavior. If she did not, she might console herself by saying that she was blinded by love, but that does not really count for an adult. And beside, I would venture that her friends and family knew exactly what was going on, and told her. She probably ignored it, possibly in the name of love. For that she should feel ashamed.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

"You Didn't Build That!"

Some people build things. Other people do not know how to build anything. They shore up their sagging sense of self-respect by deconstructing what the first group has built.

On the one hand, it’s the Palestinian cause. Compare and contrast what Israel accomplished and what Palestinians accomplished. You might frame the reference in terms of before and after the founding of Israel. You might compare what Israel has accomplished over the past seven decades with what the Palestinians have accomplished.

Oh, the Palestinians have accomplished precisely nothing. In economic and political terms, they are a pathetic basket case. They have sacrificed generations of their children to a lost cause. Their sole contribution to world history has been Islamist terrorism, especially directed against Jews. They have kept the Nazi dream alive. 

For that a myriad of leftists, led by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have flocked to their cause.

Naturally, they believe that they are doing it in the name of their honor. Of the honor of their ancestors, the ones who accomplished nothing during the time when they inhabited what is now Israel.

The hoary rules of ancestor worship requires us to give all territories back to their first owners. Of course, the Israelites inhabited what is now called Israel long before there was a Muslim religion. But that does not count. Osama bin Laden wanted to give Andalusia back to the Moors… who owned it until the eleventh century. And some believe that there will be no justice on earth until the United States is returned to the indigenous peoples who inhabited it before the arrival of Hispanic conquistadors, French adventurers and British colonists.

The mere fact that these displaced European built a great country does not count. It’s the injustice and only the injustice that matters. 

As for what you have or now built, consider the rant offered by one Elizabeth Warren, to the effect that capitalists did not build anything. You didn’t build that, intoned the indigenous ranter. As you know, the phrase was first pronounced by Barack Obama. It’s an ego boost, nothing more or less. When your constituents have not built anything of consequence you must tear down or deconstruct what others have built. If not that, you must tell them that they did not really build it. 

Has anyone considered the psychic cost of tearing down pride?

Meantime, Obama and Warren wanted to say-- give them their due-- that no one could have built a great business without national infrastructure… which supposedly was bought by everyone.

Or else, by everyone’s taxes.

This would be a great argument if everyone were paying taxes. As it happens the people who built great businesses or even great shopping malls pay some very serious taxes to various governments. Nearly half the nation, those more inclined to vote for Obama or Warren, do not pay federal taxes.

Now, the American left has embraced socialism. They have found no better way to deconstruct the capitalist economy that others have built. They want to strangle it with regulations and with bureaucratic red tape. And they want to confiscate the wealth of those who have too much money, the better to redistribute it to the poor and disadvantaged. If property is theft, as an old philosopher once said, then those who have more are thieves, deserving of being dispossessed of their wealth.

Now, no one sympathizes with those who have amassed colossal fortunes and who are using said fortunes to promote leftist policies. And yet, when it comes to a wealth tax, the truth remains that France has been taxing wealth for quite some time now. It has produced economic stagnation and a chronic 9% unemployment rate. And then, the best and the brightest of France’s young people are decamping by the hundreds of thousands for more welcoming climes… like in Great Britain. 

Let’s also mention that the rich normally have their money invested in assets. If you choose to confiscate wealth they are going to be obliged to sell their assets. This will naturally bring down the value of the assets that everyone else owns, too. It feels good to confiscate wealth, but it turns out to be bad policy.

The other day two of the founders of Home Depot, Kenneth Langone and Bernie Marcus appeared on the Neil Cavuto Show to take socialists to school. (via Maggie’s Farm) If the nation votes for the Bernie Sanders variety of socialism-- which would also include the Elizabeth Warren school-- there will be no more Home Depots. The regulatory environment will stifle new entrepreneurs. 

Under the new plan there will be limitless promises but no wealth to fund the promises. Rather than allowing people to compete in the marketplace, to win or lose fairly, the new socialists want to make it impossible for anyone to build anything. Then, those who have not built anything of consequence will feel better about themselves. 

And, that’s what we really, really want. Isn’t it?

Compassionate Immigration Policy in Action

Meanwhile, back in Sweden….

Having given the world Greta Thunberg, Sweden also merits recognition for being the laboratory for compassionate immigration policy. It has opened its bountiful heart to a vastly disproportionate number of Muslim migrants over the past few years.

How’s that working out?

First, we need to note that the open door policy was promoted by the leader of the center right Moderate Party, Frederik Reinfeldt. He promoted a new immigration policy on compassionate grounds:

In 2014, Reinfeldt urged Swedes to "Open your hearts" to the refugees of the world.
"Now I ask the Swedish people to be patient with this. To have solidarity with the outside world... In the long run we create a better world in this way... It will cost money, we will not be able to afford so much else, but [these are] really people who are fleeing for their lives."

Now, five short years later, the new leader of the Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson,  has accused the current prime minister, social democrat Stefan Lofven of having lost control of the country. 

Judith Bergman reports for the Gatestone Institute:

"Löfven, you have lost control of Sweden," the leader of the largest opposition party, the center-right Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, recently wrote in an article in the daily newspaper Aftonbladet, in which he criticized Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for failing to solve some of Sweden's biggest problems. According to Kristersson:

"Two areas that we [the Moderate Party] highly prioritize are law and order and integration. Because Sweden's biggest problems are there now.

"Last year, 306 shootings occurred and 45 people were shot dead. According to the police, the number of people killed has doubled since 2014. During the same period, the number of people who have been subjected to sexual abuse has tripled according to BRÅ [the Swedish Crime Prevention Council]...

"Concrete reforms are necessary. We have proposed them - the Social Democrats say no…

Kristerssen adds that the nation is now in crisis:

At the same time, we have an integration crisis: More than half of all the unemployed are born outside of Sweden. In our exclusion areas, [utanförskapsområden] there are schools where not even half of the students pass all subjects... Many children born in Sweden hardly speak Swedish, and there is extensive repression [in the name of] honor culture. Here too we have called for reforms, but the Social Democrats say no.

Repression in the name of honor culture… for those of a stronger stomach that means oppression of women, obliteration of women’s rights, murdering girls for wearing short skirts and for holding hands with boys. Of course, honor culture is a misnomer. Murdering your children and raping your wife does not restore your sense of honor. It erases it.

Oh, and of course, the new refugees have brought terrorism with them:

One of the realities, according to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) -- the state authority for community protection and preparedness -- is that terrorism is now a threat everywhere in Sweden, and therefore even smaller municipalities need to be prepared for terrorist acts to occur.

"First of all," said Jonas Eriksson, who is responsible for security in the public environment at MSB, "you have to be aware that this can happen in smaller cities... Then you have to think about what is in the municipality that can be vulnerable and sensitive." The statement came after police intercepted a potential terrorist act in the city of Östersund in August. The suspect was trying to drive into a crowd and run people over, according to Aftonbladet. He is also being investigated for links to Rakhmat Akilov, a terrorist who was convicted of killing five people by plowing a truck into a department store in central Stockholm in April 2017.

From the beginning of 2019 to the end of July, there were 120 bombings in Sweden, according to police statistics. The figure represents an increase of 45% over the same period last year, when 83 bombings took place. The south of Sweden has been particularly badly hit, with 44 bombings.

Terrorist bombings… a great way to thank the nation that welcomed them. These migrants are acting more like an invading army than refugees seeking succor. After all their own special honor culture tells them that it is more humiliating to be a refugee. Thus, they do better to identify themselves as an invading army. They do not seek to assimilate, because that would dishonor their ancestors. They want to convert Sweden to Islam.

It should not be too complicated. But it is:

"At present, one can only really speculate on the reasons why. We have an increased problem with crime and exclusion," said Petra Stenkula, chief investigator at Police Region south. "It is possible that the supply of dynamite is good, whereas the supply is somewhat more limited when it comes to weapons today compared to before."

In the southern Swedish city of Landskrona alone -- a place of roughly 35,000 inhabitants -- since December 2018, there have been seven explosions or bombings. In August, the entrance to Landskrona's city hall was blown up.

"Those who do this want to disrupt organized society; we will not let that happen", said municipal council member Torkild Strandberg from the Liberal Party.

Since Swedish feminists openly embrace the policy of compassion, the new migrants have shown their gratitude by bringing a new rape culture:

Rape and sexual assault also continue apace. In Uppsala alone, a picturesque Swedish university town, where 80% of girls do not feel safe in the city center, four rapes or attempted rapes took place in early August within four days. In Stockholm, two rapes occurred during the "We are Stockholm" youth festival in August, in addition to about a dozen other sexual offenses. At the "Piteå Dances and Laughs" summer festival in Piteå, another rape, involving ten men, took place.

And also:

In a recent op-ed in Aftonbladet, a member of parliament for the Moderate Party, Josefin Malmqvist, appealed to Morgan Johansson, who serves as Minister of Justice and Minister for Migration Policy, to "Stop the rapes – you are letting the women down." In her article, Malmqvist wrote:

"Exposure to sexual crimes has risen sharply during Morgan Johansson's (S) time as Minister of Justice: for the third consecutive year, the number of reported rapes in 2018 increased to 20 reported rapes per day. So far this year, the number of reported rapes has increased by 14 percent... In Sweden -- one of the world's most equal countries -- women's freedom is diminishing. That women do not have the same opportunity to move freely in the streets and squares without having to worry about being exposed to crime, is a serious restriction on women's freedom and self-determination. While more women are reporting sexual offenses, the rate of resolved rapes is still frighteningly low. A review of the rapes reported in recent years shows that only 5 out of 100 reported rapes lead to conviction."

She concluded:

"Now is the time to stop talking and start acting. The Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats' budget raised funding for the police, but more needs to be done. In May 2018, a majority in Parliament approved the Moderate Party's motion to tighten the penalty for rape. Since then, nothing has happened. It is high time for the Minister of Justice (S) to begin acting for Sweden's women."

Sweden shows us what happens when you make compassion your guiding principle. And when you do not distinguish between different cultures.