Monday, September 26, 2005

Defending the Tyrants

Mike sent me this link to a commentary by Tina Rosenberg about China's role in the internet for its citizens.

Its immense, compulsive, authoritarian role.

Because the country's such a powerful potential market, many companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, etc) are setting aside basic rights and ethics in order to stay in the market. For example, the government asked them to reveal names of those reporting on stuff they don't want reports on. One such person (Shi Tao)--who used a Yahoo e-mail account to e-mail a story to a friend--now sits in jail.

No doubt these companies are doing crappy things, but are they the root cause? Rosenberg thinks so: "It was the force of capitalist profits, not Communist law, that compelled Yahoo to hand over Shi Tao."

What? Let's read that again.

"It was the force of capitalist profits, not Communist law, that compelled Yahoo to hand over Shi Tao."

That's right; she's blaming the companies, not the government, for putting an innocent woman in jail. It's the government that's to blame. In the heavily competitive world of a globalized economy, a company's long term future's at stake if they don't get in on the big markets. I'm not defending what they did, just explaining why they did. The Communist Party, however, has no excuse and they are the ultimate cause.

The claim gets even more inaccurate when you understand what capitalism means:
an economic system in which all or most of the means of production are privately owned and operated, and where investment and the production, distribution and prices of commodities (goods and services) are determined by the influence of supply and demand in a market, rather than by the state or the collective [Emphasis added]
Thus when the government tells private citizens how to run their company, that portion of the product (in this case privacy) isn't really capitialism.

Rosenburg is making the classic mistake of equating the pursuit of profits with free market economics. It's sloppy and she should be ashamed of the Orwellian government she implictly defended.

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