in Seven Days, a weekly newspaper in
Their ambitious aim is to help mitigate the negative effects of the global market economy model espoused by Gov. James Douglas and the
Vermont business leaders who recently concluded a joint prospecting trip to China.
I assume those “negative effects” include a rapidly rising per capita income (it's increased ten-fold in the last three decades), a dramatic fall in poverty, and a shift over the last three decades from subsistence agriculture to an industrial economy that took the West 150 years to accomplish.
Writer Kevin Kelley continues, although I’m not sure if he’s paraphrasing Ms. David-Friedman or inserting his own views:
Child labor and dangerous, slave-like circumstances are believed to be widespread in
China, a nominally socialist country that has prospered enormously by adopting a cowboy form of capitalism.
What he doesn’t note is that child labor on farms and
dangerous, slave-like circumstances were universal under Communist rule and no
organizer could have even thought about traveling there to help workers or otherwise meddle in Chinese affairs. As to “cowboy capitalism,” I’m
not sure who Kevin Kelley has been talking to, but
David-Friedman, a self-described Marxist, acknowledges “there has been a lot of material gain for a lot of people” in the quarter-century since the Communist Party decreed that “to get rich is glorious.”
In the past decade, however, there has also come “a dawning recognition of what has been lost” in
China’s headlong sprint to achieve developed-nation status, David-Friedman adds. She cites slippages in the quality of public education, erosion of the national health-care system and the undoing of what had been a virtual guarantee of lifetime job security. Unrest has spread across
China in the form of rural rioting and workplace protests as political discontent and economic insecurity have metastasized.
Perhaps Ms. David-Friedman missed this recent report on education in China:
A new World Bank report Enhancing China's Competitiveness through Lifelong Learning by Carl Dahlman, Douglas Zhihua Zeng, andShuilin Wang praises China for its many successes in education and training. The adult literacy rate has been increased from 68% in 1980 to 89% in 2004. Primary enrollment has become virtually universal. Secondary enrollment rates have increased from 46% to 73%, and tertiary enrollment rates have gone from 2% to 21% over the
same period. Tens of millions of workers have been retrained as the economy has been restructuring from rural to urban, from agriculture to industry and services, and from plan to market. No other major country has achieved such rapid improvements or made such massive retraining investments in such a short time.
And what else has been lost? In 1975, just before
What about Ms. David-Friedman’s lamenting the passing of the “virtual guarantee of lifetime job security.” Well, yes, you got lifetime job security...and a guarantee of lifetime poverty to go with it.
Ms. David-Friedman says that
China’s communist revolution has gone off the rails
I assume she hasn’t read this report on
something else going off the rails.
I find it simply astounding that anyone could argue that what China had to offer its people in the 1950s and 1960s was preferable to the opportunities available to the Chinese people in the last two or three decades. Ms. David Friedman is, as the article notes, a “self-described Marxist” and
David-Friedman notes ruefully that most of the [Chinese] students say they have little use for the Marxist worldview that she regards as essential to understanding history and politics.
If so, she may be one of the few people left in the world that believes this. Maybe she should read some works by people who lived through, or wrote about, what life was really like in the workers’ paradises of the Communist world. I’d start here, here, here, and here.
Mao killed tens of millions of Chinese people, some intentionally, others through the famine of the 1960s that accompanied the Great Leap Forward, where economic engineering combined with the cult of a leader combined to create an unmitigated disaster for the Chinese people. Among the many 20th century regimes notable for slaughtering their own citizens--Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, etc., etc. -- the Chinese ran up the largest body count of all. One wonders if Ms. David-Friedman considers that fact "essential to understanding history and politics."
Ms. David-Friedman is vice chair of the Vermont Progressive Party. I am not sure what the Progressive party stands for, but if its co-chair is an unreconstructed Marxist and that represents the true philosophy of the Progs, I have a much different view, and a much more negative view, of the Party's underlying philosophy than I had before.
Ms. David-Friedman’s day job is as a labor organizer for the Vermont NEA, the teachers’ union. One shouldn’t judge an organization by the political beliefs of its individual members or employees, but I would certainly hope that Vermont teachers, and their professional organization, have a much more historically informed, realistic, and grown-up view of Marxism, and of the economic, social, and political benefits of a market economy, than does Ms. David-Friedman.