Meanwhile, the regime in Beijing just can’t stop closing down Internet cafes (Register), part of the government’s attempt to stifle political dissent even as it liberalizes economically. In the end, they can’t do both successfully, because a vibrant free economy depends in part on political freedom.
Posted by: Anna on November 1, 2004 08:34 AM
“a vibrant free economy depends in part on political freedom.”
Is this true? what about Singapore?
(I’m curious, not challenging)
Posted by: Dan Gillmor on November 1, 2004 08:40 AM
It worked for a while in Singapore, but they’ve stifled creativity for so long that they’re now in some trouble. In fact, the government is liberalizing politically at this point, and for this reason — they know that in the economy of tomorrow, creativity is essential.
Posted by: Flip on November 1, 2004 11:38 AM
China has closed 1% of the cafes.
Not really a big crackdown.
Posted by: Robert Worstell on November 1, 2004 12:07 PM
Our solution is to simply keep using their cheaper labor while we bring in our fast-food and Western lifestyle franchises to sell them more stuff with their raised standard of living. The more disposable income they have, the more choice they have, the more their politics will lean toward personal freedom and personal responsibility.
That will settle the dust, eventually.
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Posted by: John F on November 1, 2004 04:56 PM
Just some questions… sort of following up on Anna’s comments:
1)”a vibrant free economy depends in part on political freedom.” Any evidence this is more than just wishful thinking on our part? I can’t think of a fundamental reason why this statement would be true.
2)”in the economy of tomorrow, creativity is essential”… again, we hear this so often, but is it more than wishful thinking? In the last chapter of his book “Accidental Theorist”, economist Krugman plays the devil’s advocate (sort of), and imagines a future where the above is not true.
Posted by: Anna on November 1, 2004 05:08 PM
“Any evidence this is more than just wishful thinking on our part? I can’t think of a fundamental reason why this statement would be true.”
I can, now, I think. Not sure if it would scale down to small-country size, but:
Political freedom means voters have control of their govt. If voters have control, corporations don’t. If corporations don’t, they can’t stifle competing “garage company” innovations in the cradle. Hence more freedom to innovate.
Posted by: Frank on November 1, 2004 05:55 PM
And what about Hong Kong (especially before mid-80’s when UK started the process of returning HK to China and introducing some political liberalization)? Or is that due to unique circumstances in spite of the political environment?
Speaking about Hong Kong, are you teaching there this year, Dan?
I don’t know that much about Singapore; been there just once several years back. One impression (whether true or false) I got from the trip was that the major projects or developments over there were led or coordinated by the government. So the corollary would be if you don’t get the government interested, it won’t get done.
Posted by: John F on November 2, 2004 05:57 PM
Again, I don’t see why “a vibrant free economy depends in part on political freedom.” Although Anna makes a good point as to why the assertion may be corect, I still think it could be a case of wishful thinking. The last century was “the American century”, where the US economy was the dominant player. Why? It is nice to think it is because of our democratic institutions, but it could just be an accident of history. If this century indeed turns out to be the “Chinese century”, then all of a sudden everyone will think their political system is superior. In chaotic systems, temporary equilibria can persist, to be replaced by others, yet it is impossible to predict the sequence of equilibria, or even to explain in hindsight why a particular sequence occurred.
Posted by: Domai on November 4, 2004 04:53 AM
The Chinese government confirmed this weekend that it has closed 1,600 internet cafes. 1600 cafes = 1% of cafes…