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The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers

Paper Assignment

1. Hernando DeSoto, The Mystery of Capital.
2. Richard McGregor, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.

In Free to Choose, Milton Friedman makes the case that capitalism, i.e. free markets combined with governments that follow The Do Nothing Policy produce prosperity and freedom. In lecture, production possibilities frontiers were used to show the mechanism by which capitalism produces wealth, i.e. specialization according to comparative advantage and exchange.

The history of the 20th century is replete with examples of countries that have followed just such a policy of free market capitalism and experienced large increases in total and per capita wealth plus created stable peaceful political societies characterized by respect for individual rights and maximizing personal freedom, e.g. Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, and, until the communist Chinese takeover, Hong Kong. In the 20th century, countries that were already prosperous and free that continued choosing capitalist systems became more prosperous, e.g. the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.

A conundrum of the “capitalism produces prosperity and freedom” policy are countries that have capitalist economies but haven’t produced much prosperity and are frequently but not exclusively characterized by bouts of politically based violence and oppressive abusive dictatorships, e.g. most middle eastern countries, most of South and Central America, Mexico, India, Russia, and until the last 20 years communist China. In The Mystery of Capital, Hernando DeSoto addresses this conundrum and points out that adopting capitalism is required but not sufficient to produce U.S. and western european levels of prosperity and freedom. DeSoto argues that adopting capitalism isn’t enough. Countries have to choose a capitalist economic system plus do something else.

A corollary of the ““capitalism produces prosperity and freedom” idea is the notion that a country can adopt capitalism and produce prosperity but an oppressive dictator can prevent prosperity from producing freedom for ordinary people. Communist China is an example. Communist China is a brutal dictatorship where individuals do not have basic rights such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the right to a fair trial before an impartial jury of their peers, etc., individuals have no say in who rules the countries, and scores of Chinese are routinely harassed, imprisoned, and executed for simply speaking up or expressing an opinion about the situation. Richard McGregor, in The Party, The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers describes life in communist China where the adoption of capitalism has produced a modicum of prosperity but the Communist Chinese Party is hell bent on preventing the outbreak of freedom and the end of their dictatorship.

Paper Assignment

Part 1. What is the something else that DeSoto argues is necessary for a capitalist economy to produce wealth? Choose and explain one example or counter example used by DeSoto to make his case.

Part 2. To what extent does Communist China that something else. Choose two examples from McGregor that illustrate the extent that the something else exists in Communist China.

Part 3. In your opinion and given your answers in Part 1 and 2, will the dictators in Communist China be successful in using a capitalist system to produce prosperity but deny Milton Friedman’s thesis that prosperity will create individual freedom and the end to dictatorship? Choose an example from McGregor that buttresses your opinion.

Last Updated on February 11, 2019

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