Reading Hayek in Beijing

That’s the subject of a fascinating account of life in China through the eyes of a dissident in this last week’s Wall Street Journal. An excerpt:

Put another way, the conventional notion that the modern Chinese system combines political authoritarianism with economic liberalism is mistaken: A more accurate description of the recipe is dictatorship and cronyism, with the results showing up in rampant corruption, environmental degradation and wide inequalities between the politically well-connected and everyone else. “There are two major forms of hatred” in China today, Mr. Yang explains. “Hatred toward the rich; hatred toward the powerful, the officials.” As often as not they are one and the same.

There is more, too:

There is, of course, a rational reason why the regime tolerates Mr. Yang. To survive, the regime needs to censor vast amounts of information—what Mr. Yang calls “the ruling technique” of Chinese leaders across the centuries. Yet censorship isn’t enough: It also needs a certain number of people who understand the full truth about the Maoist system so that the party will never repeat its mistakes, even as it keeps the cult of Mao alive in order to preserve its political legitimacy […] But there’s a more sinister reason why Mr. Yang is tolerated. Put simply, the regime needs some people to have a degree of intellectual freedom, in order to more perfectly maintain its dictatorship over everyone else.

Read the whole fascinating piece. You can find our own musings on China here. The bit about Hayek is fascinating, but I wish they had done more accentuate Hayek’s ideas as dangerous ones when it comes to the current regime in Beijing. I sometimes get frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement about liberalism’s radicalism when it comes to intellectual discourse. The socialists and self-styled “radicals” on the Left don’t really have an alternative to despotism. They just pretend to have one by switching up the lyrics that go along with the same old tune.

We have written about Hayek as well.

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