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Racket Protection in China and the U.S.

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A Beijing court has just convicted two more activists of the crime of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” One of them, Yuan Dong, was sentenced to one and a half years in prison. The other Hou Xin was spared any incarceration.

What did these two convicts do to merit their convictions? They displayed a banner in public calling on public officials to disclose their assets. They did so as part of a grassroots movement founded by Xu Zhiyong to promote good government in China. Xu was recently convicted of the same charge and sentenced to four years in prison.

What is it with Chinese officials? Why are they so concerned about a few pro-democracy activists in a nation of more than 1.3 billion people?

The Chinese governmental system is a gigantic racket, one that enables the Communist Party to thrive off of billions of dollars in government largess that is sucked out of the Chinese private sector.

A genuine democratic system would obviously mean competition in the political arena for the Communist Party. That could mean defeat at the polls for Communist officials. It could even bring about the dismantling of much of the public sector, enabling people in the private sector to keep a larger portion of their money for investment, spending, saving, sharing, etc.

Thus, in order to maintain its racket, the Communist Party maintains a monopoly on political control.

But the question still remains: Why go after a few political activists?

The Communist officials understand the power of ideas. They know that if they permit ideas on liberty to be freely transmitted in Chinese society, they could spread like wildfire among the Chinese people. All of a sudden, the Communist Party could be facing a large portion of those 1.3 billion people whose hearts are inflamed with liberty. That’s why they shut down the few — to protect their racket from the potential demand for change coming from the many.

The matter brings to mind our own First Amendment, which expressly prohibits Congress and, implicitly the rest of the federal government, from infringing on the exercise of rights that those Chinese activists are going to jail for. We’re talking about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition government for redress of grievances.

Why did our American ancestors deem it important to expressly prohibit Congress from doing the types of things the Chinese authorities are doing? Because they knew that Congress and the rest of the federal government would end up attracting American politicians and bureaucrats who had the same mindset that guides Communist Party officials in China. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for the First Amendment.

Of course, it’s easy to look down our noses at China, but when you think about, in principle the underlying situation in China is no different here in the United States. Here we have an enormous welfare-warfare racket that enables the federal bureaucracy to get its hands on almost $4 trillion from the private sector. Just like the Chinese Communist Party, U.S. officials and everyone else on the federal dole fight tooth and nail to ensure that nothing interrupts the flow of this enormous largess.

Of course, Republicans and Democrats like to pretend that they’re different from the Communist Party because, they say, people have a choice when they go to the polls. In actuality, however, the choice is illusory. In most political races, there are no fundamental differences between the candidates. They both believe in the welfare-state, warfare-state way of life and oppose any dismantling or repeal of welfare-warfare functions of the federal government. Their arguments are always over how the welfare-warfare state should be reformed, not whether it should be dismantled.

For all practical purposes, the U.S. government is also run by one party, which is divided into two wings, the Democrats and Republicans. They take turns in various elected offices but for all practical purposes, they have monopoly control over the system. Meanwhile, the vast army of federal bureaucrats and people who receive federal largess remains permanent.

Have you ever wondered why, for example, Libertarian Party candidates are out gathering signatures to run for public office? The purpose is to impose enormous signature requirements that make it difficult and expensive for Libertarians to compete against the monopoly party while, at the same time, maintain the façade of a competitive system.

The risk that U.S. officials face that Chinese officials don’t face is that there is still free dissemination of ideas on liberty here in the United States, which have the potential for inspiring the vast majority of the American people to demand a dismantling, not a reform, of the welfare-warfare racket. Thanks to the wisdom and courage of our American ancestors, the First Amendment prohibits U.S. officials from punishing Americans who exercise freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and petitioning for redress of grievances.

To counteract that risk, U.S. officials convince people that their welfare-warfare racket constitutes “freedom” and is in their best interests.  They begin the process in the first grade, inculcating children with the notion that the society in which they have been born and raised—a society based on a welfare state and warfare state—constitutes freedom. By the time they graduate high school, the indoctrination has been successfully completed for most people. The victims honestly believe they are free and even express thanks to the warfare-state side of the government for protecting their “freedom.”

Moreover, they scare people into believing that the welfare-warfare state is necessary to their survival and well-being. Without the welfare state, people are told, there would be countless people dying in the streets. Without the drug war, everyone would quit working and just smoke dope, snort cocaine, and inject heroin all day long. Without the warfare state, America would quickly be taken over by the communists, terrorists, drug dealers, illegal aliens, exploiters, and perhaps even zombies.

So there you have it: two rackets in China and the United States that aren’t really much different in principle. It will be interesting to see whether ideas on liberty can prevail in China despite the crackdown on activists. It will be just as interesting to see if libertarian ideas will prevail over the false indoctrination and bogus fears here in the United States.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.