Tuesday, November 17, 2009

China and America

President Obama's visit to China is highlighting the differences between the two countries. China is repressive and undemocratic, but its economy is growing at 10% each year and poised to continue this trend. The US is open and democratic, but its economy is staggering and is poised to continue this trend. Perhaps both countries need to move toward the other's system.

The secret to China's rapid progress is unity of purpose. The cause of the U.S.'s slow decline is largely lack of a unified purpose. China sacrifices openness, personal rights, and property rights to accomplish its purposes. The U.S. system allows minorities so many rights that they can effectively block almost any purpose, regardless of its importance. Both countries need to move toward the middle.

I sense that the Chinese know they must loosen up as their population becomes more educated and wealthy; at some point, speaking out becomes a reason for being. However, Americans may only now be concluding that our constitution, our laws, and our legal system have morphed into an almost paralytic maze.

If the U.S. is to have any chance of maintaining some level of parity with China in the coming decades, our political system must change. The battle of "left" and "right" is killing us; what we need is some sort of national unity, and decisions that are important for the long term. But the politicians seem not to care a damn about our future - it's all about them.

On the national scene, the lack of an operational long term storage facility for nuclear waste is a great example of our paralysis. We've spent billions on a Yucca Mountain storage facility, deep in the Nevada mountains, but its use is being held up by endless lawsuits despite general scientific agreement that it's the right answer to the problem. In China, opening this facility would be a slam dunk. Time is money.

On the local scene, New York State is in paralysis because it spends more than residents can afford to pay in taxes. Can our elected representatives deal with this? No way! They play to the folks that bought them their offices, and the general populace suffers. Even the governor is powerless to impose a solution. So, the state crashes but the legislators get all their pay and the immensely overstaffed state bureaucracy lives on. Perhaps it's time for a revolt, since no other solution is remotely in sight.

China needs to allow more freedom while maintaining its ability to implement a national purpose. The U.S. needs to find a way to implement many national and local imperatives while still maintaining freedom. Neither course is easy, but the U.S. is in far greater danger if if does not find a way to break its political and legal logjams.


Ron Davison said...

At least part of China's progress is because of where it is starting. It is easier for dictatorial thinkers to imitate than to create.
But if you want an example of government that can't do anything, look to my state - California. It's crazy and would completely support your claim that it's time to find a better model.

Ron Davison said...
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