Thursday, April 10, 2008

Burning down the blog

A small item at the Swilling about the Olympic Torch protests have resulted in an explosion of comments about China. It's worth a long read.

Some of the comments are very good. Some are simply jibbering gut-shouts, of the "how dare you?" variety. (Short answer - we dare, because we are allowed to dare. Would that the Chinese people had that freedom.) And a few are laughable: "Be assured amercians are very smart people they won't make illegall and non-profitable investment in any foreign countries."

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Best joke I've heard on the Internet in a dog's age. Second best is telling Dave, a lawyer and prosecutor, to get a legal education. Can we hire you for parties?

Plenty of people have tried to make illegal deals overseas and wound up losing their shirts over it. Neither the illegality nor the risk would stop them. But then again, that's why we have jails and stuff. If you choose to break the law - we put lawbreakers safely away from their potential victims to protect the innocent and law-abiding. That isn't enslavement. If they had wanted to remain free, they wouldn't have hurt other people and taken their stuff. (And here we have prison ministry, intervention, and outreach programs to educate, teach trades, and attempt rehabilitation - we don't simply stuff these people into a hole.)

A fellow named NP tries to quote prison statistics to prove that the West enslaves its people, overlooking two things: 1. calling another person wrong for doing the same thing you do is not absolution for your crimes; 2. punishing a theif, rapist, or murderer is not the same thing as jailing a dissident - in the West we follow the dictum of the great St. Thomas More: "He should go free, were he the Devil Himself, unless he broke the law." (In fact, just rent "A Man for All Seasons" and watch that scene in its entirety. It's the perfect summation of the argument.)

His math is off, too - 1 in 9 is only 11%, not 25%. Still ridiculously high, but not the fault of the people who catch and prosecute criminals. In fact, there is one huge correlating factor in crime and poverty - fatherlessness - that is rampant in Western society. Fix that, and families prosper: children learn better discipline and diligence in pursuing their goals; they are less prone to joining criminal gangs as surrogatets to their ravaged families; they do better in school and thus have greater economic opportunities; and they generally make better spouses and parents themselves, having had strong examples while growing up.

I would also suggest to prochina that China's investment in Tibet is hugely profitable - not in money, but in public relations. It makes good press. No doubt there is also a good deal of genuine motivation to do good works for one's fellow citizens, but this is where things get difficult for a totalitarian government - they do those works for you whether you want them done, or not. Then the totalitarian feels perfectly justified in jailing, beating, or killing those who resist, because "it was for their own good." If I tried to give you a free sandwich that you didn't want, and then hit you with a hockey stick when you turned me down, I'd be in jail with the other 1 in 100 people - nobody would waste time saying what a wonderful guy I was, and what an ungrateful jerk you were, unless I was China and you were Tibet. (Or if I was Castro and you were Cuba, etc. etc.)

Now, because of the economic reforms in China, the Communist government has plenty of sandwiches to give away - unlike most Communist countries, which eventually grind to a bloody halt because nobody has anything left anymore. Freedom works, and ultimately everything else fails. China has been savvy enough to permit economic freedoms in order to avoid the fate of the Soviets. Full marks for intelligence, but why not permit freedom of speech, of faith, of the arts, of the press? Those things also die when caged. Think of any country you care to that is ruled by tyrants - the great works of art, literature, and philosophy are almost exclusively from before the rise of those governments, or else from the dissidents speaking from jail or exile.

To answer your question: "Do you know of any Corporation that would make such an investment? I doubt that." Doubt no more. In the West, plenty of corporations do astounding amounts of charitable and public works. Major cities are full of museums, libraries, and civic improvements that were completely paid for by old-time industrialists like Carnegie, duPont, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Ford: in fact, even my small hometown has a Carnegie Library. Most major companies fund and/or run non-profit Foundations today, and even some private citizens such as actor Paul Newman. (By himself he's donated about $275 million through his food company's sales over the past 25 years or so.) Private charitable funding in this country, through church, business, and personal gift, is staggering: just over 295 billion dollars in 2006 - up $35 billion from '05. There are over one million charitable organizations in the United States (according to the UN Fund for Internatonal Partnerships) - that's one group for every 320 or so people in America, dedicated solely to giving away stuff.

Philosophically, there's more to say about it, but this for now.

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