Adam Smith once said, “There is much destruction in a nation.” People lucky enough to live in a very successful country often have little idea of how bad things can get. Perhaps you’ve met Americans who think Mexico is a “poor country.” It must be news for the residents of Haiti!
This issue came to mind recently when I saw a news feed from the South China Morning Post (SCMP):
The third article is exactly the kind of propaganda you’d expect from a mainland Chinese news source The first two are the kind of news you’d expect from an independent-minded Hong Kong newspaper.
In recent years, the Chinese government has cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong and the city has lost many of its freedoms. Hong Kong is a much more repressive place than it was 5 years ago.
At the same time, when I read SCMP I am reminded of Adam Smith’s famous maxim. Despite the Chinese government’s crackdown, Hong Kong appears to be much freer than the mainland. Recent trends in SCMP are depressing, but the mainland papers are even worse—just pure propaganda. It will be interesting to see whether SCMP continues to deteriorate over the next few years, or settles down to a level somewhere between China Daily and US or European media outlets. (Even if you hate the mainstream media for bias, they are willing to criticize their own government.)
All of the following statements are true:
1. Today, mainland China is much more independent than when Mao ruled China.
2. Today, Hong Kong is much more independent than mainland China.
3. The Hong Kong of 2018 was much more independent than the Hong Kong of today.
4. Hong Kong in 2018 wasn’t even a democracy.
Don’t think things can’t get worse. In 1918, I imagine many people thought the “Great War” was as bad as war.
A common mistake is to fixate on one fact about a country, which a person can read in the media, and draw obvious conclusions from that fact.
“Have you heard about Australia’s covid policy? It has become a police state.”
The covid policy you read was probably bad, but I doubt it. himself, it can turn an otherwise independent country into a police state. There is a great apocalypse in a nation.
The second mistake is to focus more on abuse elsewhere than at home. I will never deny that the Russian government’s imprisonment of Britney Griner on drug charges is an egregious violation of her human rights. I will not deny that his punishment is more severe than in the US. Still, it’s a little strange to see so much attention paid to this one case, when nearly 400,000 Americans are in prison on drug charges, often for doing so. Fully legal in at least a dozen American states. This strikes me as odd, but our news media doesn’t seem to agree, as they focus all their attention on Griner.
This is why we should never give up. A libertarian utopia may be out of reach, but preventing things from getting worse would also be an achievement worth celebrating, with huge consequences for human well-being.