Friday, September 18, 2015

Is China Freer Than The USA?

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China, the land of an oppressive totalitarian government where the people are definitely not free. Or are they? While I am not a fan of the Chinese government (or any governments for that matter, since they all commit terrible acts against people) I have seen enough good stuff in China to come back after my first year there. Could China really be freer than the U.S.? Here are a few things to consider...

Chinese people don't get to vote for their leaders – their country wisely resists democracy, which history has shown always ends up as stupid people “ruling” as a mob. Now, if you can't influence a country of about 300+ million people, how could any one person influence a country with almost FOUR TIMES as many people? To think it is possible would be lunacy. The Chinese system is more honest – you don't get a choice. The difference is that Americans get a false choice. The rulers of American society force the illusion (delusion, rather) that you have any political power whatsoever on the direction the country goes in.

1. Political Freedom and Free Speech

The Chinese people don't have political freedom and free speech do they? I can hear the typical American parroting this kind of tired line already. Well, Chinese can't protest the government. The average American can – on paper. But good luck doing that without a high chance of arrest and being monitored for the rest of your life. The thing is, political freedom is a myth. Not only is America highly controlled – its “democracy” is a farce at best – think about this: as one man, you can't possibly have any real influence over a country of 300+ million people. To think otherwise is silly. And to anyone with a bit of knowledge about how the system really works, we can see that Americans get prefabricated choices of “leaders.” You get two pre-selected choices for president. And even then how do you know that your votes (which don't matter anyway) are even counted? 

It's like that old joke: What's the difference between a free country and an un-free country? In an un-free country you get one choice of leader. In a free country you get two choices. (But hundreds of choices when choosing consumer products.)

2. Education, Jobs, and Business

China is communist, right? Sure, it has some elements of a communist society. And it definitely thinks of itself as communist. But is it really? If you think it is fully, truly communist, then explain to me how China has such a massive private sector? In a communist society, government and business are intertwined and the government selects jobs for the people. But that's not the case in China these days.

As anyone who has lived in China can tell you, China is big on business (big and small) and people choose what they want to pursue. It's much like a Western country that prides itself on the freedom to do the exact same thing...

Students enter university and choose what course they want to pursue. It doesn't work the exact same way as in the U.S., but the government doesn't force you to study something or to take a certain job. People compete for good private sector jobs – just like in the U.S. These things are at least comparable to the U.S.

What about small business? If you live in the U.S., you frequently hear empty platitudes about needing to help small businesses which are said to be the backbone of America. But they are constantly threatened by government regulation and interference, while big business gets a free pass or is so loaded it can afford to deal with the bullshit. Big business in China is said to be very corrupt – therefore, comparable to the U.S. on that point as well. But what about small business? Well, if you've ever lived in China, you've noticed how many street vendors there are. How many people selling food and goods on the streets. How many small, family owned restaurants there are. You rarely see that kind of thing in the U.S. anymore. Now, one is “free” to be a vendor in the U.S. also – IF you go through the process of getting licenses and permits to do your modest business. However, in China, if you want to sell something, you can just go out and sell it. So not only is small business much bigger and more profitable in China due to the government not regulating everything, but vendors can offer their food and goods cheaply as well. Thus the customers benefit a great deal. It's a win-win situation in China, which the U.S. should learn from, but refuses to due to its over-privatization.

The truth is that China is freer than the U.S. for small businesses. For such a big government that supposedly wants to control peoples' lives, China sure does give its people a lot of freedom to do business without excessive regulation.

3. Personal Freedoms

Ah, but what about personal freedom? I will loosely define it as the ability to go about your day unimpeded by government goons. While Chinese people do have to deal with a massive bureaucracy for certain things (which is partially understandable given the size of the population) they have a lot of everyday freedoms. In my view, they are freer in this aspect than Americans are.

Let's compare a few points.

Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption

U.S.: laws limit the age at which you can purchase and consume these products. Harsh legal penalties for not observing these laws.

China: no age limits. Even kids are allowed to smoke and drink beer. You are allowed to smoke and drink virtually anywhere. (Before anyone points out that this makes society too unclean in some aspects – such as doctors smoking in hospitals – that isn't the point. The point is that they have the freedom to choose.)

Driving

U.S.: Driving is heavily regulated by the government. Police are ubiquitous and essentially run a state-backed scam by fining motorists for the petty and harmless "law-breaking," which is impossible to avoid because there are so many laws. Most Americans are essentially forced to own a car and drive because of suburban life. 

China: Although driver's licenses are becoming mandatory in more places (from what I've been told), Chinese people have a lot of freedom on the road. Police do not just sit on their asses all day writing frivolous tickets to motorists. Many cops actually direct traffic in China. People drive crazily in China – it is true – but accidents seem no more common than in the West. (This, however, can probably be explained by most drivers in China going more slowly because of the urban environments.) People can drive as well or as poorly as they wish and be allowed the freedom to do so. In addition, Chinese people can choose not to drive (cars are expensive anyway, and not everyone can afford them) because they have several other options for getting around. So not only is driving freer in China, it is also optional, unlike in the U.S.

Police

U.S.: The police are ubiquitous and threatening. They have been militarized and will probably soon be federalized. They often do not even come from the communities they are working in. They are paranoid that their fellow citizens are threats and consider themselves as above the law they claim to serve. American police frequently murder people and get away with it with zero repercussions.

China: Police are mostly lazy, although plenty direct traffic. While they are more high-strung in the biggest cities, most police throughout China are friendly and do not interfere with citizens' lives on a day to day basis. Unless one has committed some severe crime, one can even ignore the police and the police will just shrug it off in most cases. The general rule is that you are free until you actually do something bad – and doing something bad means something really bad, not littering or jaywalking or drinking underage.

Political Correctness

U.S.: Political correctness is stifling to the point where a man must self-censor everything he says publicly (but especially in the workplace) so as to avoid accusations of sexual harassment or racism or being considered a potential rapist. Expressing non-mainstream opinions is often punished with job loss and ostracism. Americans (especially men) have virtually no freedom to speak contrary opinions without suffering a lot of punishment. Because of political correctness, Americans are truly among the most impoverished of free speech in the world. They live in a society similar to Orwell's 1984 – a world in which “thought police” lurk around every corner, ever at the ready to arrest you for unapproved thoughts and speech.

China: As long as you don't protest the government, you can essentially say whatever you like. Chinese people are frequently brutally honest (at least when speaking in English) about appearance, for example. Chinese English-speakers will often tell foreigners if they are handsome or ugly, thin or fat, etc. Such things are considered blatantly obvious, so why should anyone be forbidden from saying obvious things about appearance, sex, or race? In China you can talk about such things openly, because...why the hell shouldn't you be able to?

Gun Rights

U.S.: The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment and despite attempts by liberals to ban guns, Americans retain the right to own firearms. The U.S. Is definitely freer on this point than China.

China: Citizens are not allowed to own firearms.


Final Verdict

While China is hardly some paradigm of a free society, it does excel past the U.S. In many kinds of freedom. While Americans might have more freedom on paper, they are increasingly losing more freedoms in real terms. One oft-quoted statistic on the internet now is that Americans commit an average of three felonies per day without realizing it, showing just how many insane and inane laws they must contend with. And Americans are increasingly subjected to surveillance and police abuses.

China seems to be doing the opposite – getting freer or at least retaining a lot of personal freedom as it modernizes. And while the U.S. May have a few advantages left over China, the gap is closing pretty quickly.