In the comments section, a defender of capitalism (who I think doesn’t understand it very well) takes issue with my defense of Maoist China:
True, Maoism has a spotty record, but compared to India, Communist China looks like paradise.
Compared to India, many parts of Oakland look like paradise!
Under Mao, China experienced great famines, political repression, persecution of intellectuals during the cultural revolution, and other problems during the so-called “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution” (More like “Great Leap Backwards” and the “Cultural Devolution”).
Only when Deng Xiaoping took over did China begin to prosper, which they did by adopting Capitalism. As he said, “I don’t care if a cat is black, white, red, or yellow, so long as it catches mice” (paraphrase). While China is more Socialist than India due to its relative absence of baseline poverty, China’s economic growth came more from Capitalism than Communism.
Of course, let’s also not forget that China has a ton of people. Therefore, even if the vast majority of people are poor, there are at least 400-500 million well educated and middle class people, which is more than the entire population of the United States. I know that India also has a ton of people and they’re not doing as well, but you get my point. Besides, India’s on the rise.
Robert, I think you too often conflate Capitalism with neoliberal economics and corporate America. Adam Smith hated corporations and believed in a truly free market.
If he were alive today, he wouldn’t approve of corporations outsourcing jobs, corporate tax breaks at the expense of working people, or the fact that many politicians are on the payroll of corporations and special interests. He wouldn’t approve of monopolies that harm local industries and drive people out of business.
I’m just as angry about corporate greed and theft as you are, but to attribute various ills to Capitalism is just wrong.
Also, let’s be honest, Can you name a nation that became wealthy through an economic system that wasn’t Capitalism? Sure, you have European nations that are Socialist in many ways, but they got rich in the first place through Capitalism. The wealthy non-western nations (ie. Japan, South Korea, Singapore) became wealthy by adopting western ways, which practiced Capitalism.
Well, I hate capitalism. Recall that I am a socialist. However, I support any kind of socialism, from piecemeal programs in places like the US to social democracy in Europe to China’s neo-Communism. The best system is a mixed economy with capitalist, socialist, collective, family and other forms of ownership. I call that socialism. You may call it what you will.
First of all, China and India were in the same place in 1949. Even all through the Mao era, China kicked India’s ass, and they are still doing so under neo-Communism. Maoism and neo-Communism simply kick ass on the Indian system, period.
Also understand that China’s economy grew by about 10% per year during the Mao era. Even during the Cultural Revolution, industrial growth grew by 10% a year. An incredible number of elementary, middle and secondary schools was built in rural China. School enrollment at all levels exploded. Health care was brought to all of rural China via the barefoot doctors program. How can you possibly call this Cultural Devolution?
The Great Leap Forward did have a problematic famine, and in one year, there were 4.3 million excess deaths as compared to 1949. But in the years immediately before and after that year, the death rate was vastly higher in 1949.
The real killer was capitalist China! Every year, Maoism was saving a good 10 million plus lives.
We need to take this into consideration when thinking of why people put up with Maoism.
A new system comes in, Maoism. It’s repressive, but so was the old system. More importantly, the state cares about you, the lowly worker or peasant. And with each year after 1949, increasingly fewer and fewer people are getting sick and dying. People are living longer and longer every year. Looking back at the previous system, many more people were sick, many more were dying, and people were not living as long. Sure, there was a small setback and a famine for one year, but there was more like a short return to the bad old days.
Seen in this context, you can see why the people regarded Maoism as a Godsend and not some killer system. Sure, the system killed a few people, but many more were being killed before. You do the math!
It is important to note that China’s recent growth has not occurred due to “capitalism.” Most of that growth is coming from public firms, generally controlled by small municipalities and labor collectives. Under Mao, all firms were officially owned by the workers. Such is the case in China of today – all Chinese firms are officially owned by the workers. Sound like capitalism to you? The 3rd largest manufacturer of TV’s in the world is a public firm – it’s owned by the workers – a socialist enterprise.
Under the Chinese system, municipalities and labor collectives run firms. They compete with each other. For instance, if a municipality has a very successful enterprise, they will make lots of money. They will pay their workers more and give them better benefits. So workers flock to those cities from all over China to try to work for that firm. In this way, cities compete with each other. Sound like capitalism to you?
The cities that do best turn into “company towns.” They provide public housing for the workers, public transportation, public day care, etc. Sound like capitalism to you?
It is illegal to own land in China. Does that sound like capitalism to you? This is another Mao era decree that the radicals have been trying to get rid of. Chinese land ownership is so fair precisely because of the forbidding of the private ownership of land. Were that not in place, a few rich people would own all of rural China, like they do in India.
The state owns all the land. You go out into the wild areas, and it’s all state-owned. And much of it is protected too. If the state didn’t own that land, private speculators would have bought up a lot of that land and destroyed it.
They do let you lease the land your home is on. And if you have been paying rent on your home for a long time, increasingly, the state is just giving you the house. You own your house. You can even sell your house to someone else. You can sell the land-use rights on the land that you own the rights to. The state gives you a house to live in for free. Sound like capitalism to you?
There is a system of free public education available to most Chinese, through the graduate level. Sound like capitalism?
China offers health insurance, but it’s rather expensive, and most cannot afford it. But it covers 85% of your medical costs. You call that capitalism?
The Chinese state is now planning to spend a tremendous amount of money upgrading the rural areas, because there is starting to be some serious poverty there. People are leaving the rural areas to work in the cities. The state will spend vast sums of money on roads, infrastructure, irrigation, schools, housing, health care, etc in the rural areas. Only a socialist state would do that. Capitalist states never do these things.
All farmland in China is owned by the state. It is often managed by rural collectives though, and they can keep a lot of what they sell. A capitalist country where all farmland is owned by the state? Come on.
The banks in China are very heavily regulated. This is why China largely avoided the latest Neoliberal World Recession. Sound like capitalism to you?
China has not “moved to capitalism.” It is a mixed system with capitalism, socialism and other forms of ownership, a huge public sector and a vast state with tremendous spending power that spends wild amounts of money. The state has very heavy involvement in the economy, including planning it in some ways.
Deng’s reforms have resulted in millions of Chinese dying for lack of health care who would have not have died otherwise. That is because under these wonderful capitalist reforms, all state medical clinics began charging for visits and medicine. Many people can’t afford it, so they just get sick and die. Was it worth it? I say no.
Deng’s reforms have resulted in the closing of schools all over rural China. In some areas, 80% of the elementary schools and 50% of the middle schools have been shuttered. Those schools were built during the “horrible” Cultural Revolution. Was it worth it to shut down all these schools in China for the sake of economic reforms? I say no.
The great growth in Western Europe occurred after World War 2 in the context of a mixed socialist-capitalist system called social democracy. It’s not true at all that Western Europe developed due to capitalism.
Japan has had a social democracy since World War 2, but the benefits are provided by corporations, not by the state so much.
South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all had extensive land reforms that helped their economies take off. Your economy will never go anywhere with semi-feudal relations in the countryside.
Taiwan has an extensive social democracy in place.
Singapore has a very well-developed social democracy. Furthermore, Singapore is not reproducible. Sure, it’s rich, but the area around it in Malaysia is poor. Malays commute to work in Singapore every day. Singapore’s riches have come via paying low wages and buying cheap materials from surrounding poor countries.
None of those East Asian states developed via neoliberalism. They all had land reforms, extensive social democratic programs run by either corporations or the state, and especially massive state involvement in the economy, even including economic planning.
India is up and coming? 50% of the population of India is malnourished. India can’t even feed its own people. From 1995 to today, the malnutrition rate in India has been flat at 50%. This amid sky high economic growth. If all that economic growth can’t even feed the people, good God, what good is it?
The “pure free market” of Adam Smith was nothing of the sort. Actually, Smith was an advocate of state intervention to protect society from the ravages of unfettered capitalism. He described pure free market capitalism as one of the most evil systems ever designed by man.
You ever hear neoliberals quote Smith on that? Of course not. All neoliberals are liars. They pick and choose what they want out of Smith and elide the rest. They describe China as “capitalist”, but if we tried to transplant a tiny bit of the Chinese system to the US, they would scream “Communism!”
The pure free market you laud is nothing but neoliberalism. Guess what? It doesn’t work. It only works for about the top 20% of society, and everyone else gets screwed.
It creates incredible inequality and tons of poverty at the same time it produces vast riches at the top, and is everywhere associated with a tremendous amount of corruption of the political class. Everywhere you have a pure free market, you generally have a massively corrupted political class, since the capitalists purchase the state via money-based elections and their control of the media. Corruption under pure free market conditions is not a bug, it’s a feature. It goes right along with it, always.