Arnold Kling  

The China Example

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WIN and the PBC... And a Child Shall Lead Them...

Will Hutton writes,


My hypothesis when I began was that China was so different that it could carry on adapting its model, living without democracy or European enlightenment values. I have changed my mind and now see more clearly than ever the kinds of connection I identified in The State We're In between economic performance and so-called 'soft' institutions - how people are educated, how trust relations are established and how accountability is exercised (just to name a few) - are central. They are equally important to a good society and the chance for individual empowerment and self-betterment.

This is interesting, in light of some previous discussion on this blog.


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Hasan Jafri (From Hong Kong) writes:

With all due respect to Will Hutton, the Chinese would have said, if asked at the beginning, China did not "carry on while adapting its model, living without democracy or European enlightenment values." If asked today, they would diagree also with Hutton's "soft" institutions hypothesis. The consensus among Chinese is that China always had a very strong substitute for Europe's enlightenment in a range of other historical constructs, including Confucian values and Buddhist and Daoist ideologies.

To my Chinese friends here in Hong Kong, "how people are educated, how trust relations are established and how accountability is exercised" would sound very close to repeating verbatim from the Analects by Confucius.

They also might point out that the herald of accountability, the independent civil servant or Mandarin who obtains his position through merit rather than court favor or heredity, was a Chiinese construct. As Voltaire himself observed, enlightenment Europe did not have an equivalent of the Chinese Mandarin. This theme has been explored in depth by Professor Martin J. Powers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and by the Washington Post journalist T.R. Reid in his excellent book "Confucius Lives Next Door."

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