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Replies to James DeLong's defense of Google's position on China

Replies to James DeLong's defense of Google's position on China
Replies to James DeLong's defense of Google's position on China

Previous Politech message: 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 09:23:58 -0800
From: Jon Dugan  
To: Declan McCullagh  

I'm not sure if others have made this point, but there is a good side
inherent simply in the broad airing of this controversy.  There was
never any real debate before about the nature of the Chinese
government: those who understood, knew it was oppressive, but most
people didn't know or care.  But now, with so much press on the
subject, many more people understand how oppressive that government
really is.  This is the real power of pervasive communication --
broadening people's context.

Keep up the good work!

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 12:26:15 -0500 (EST)
From: Matthew G. Saroff  
Reply-To: Matthew G. Saroff  
Organization: The Dealy Plaza Gun Club
To: Declan McCullagh  

On Thu, 2 Feb 2006, Declan McCullagh wrote:

 > by James V. DeLong*
 > The Chinese are undertaking simultaneously several of the most difficult
 > tasks that any nation can attempt. They are loosening the grasp of an
 > authoritarian regime; fostering rapid economic development; and evolving
 > the proper form of government for a huge population of widely varying
 > sophistication and skill in the technological age, bearing in mind the
 > history and culture of China.

	I believe that he misses the point.


	And I further believe that this example shows where his theories,
while commonly held, do not correspond to reality.

 > Look at Russia, where the recommended shock treatment approach was a
 > disaster. The lesson may be that converting to a more capitalistic state
 > requires economic loosening before political loosening -- perestroika
 > before glasnost. The rule of law may have to start at the top and then
 > extend downward, and be followed by a broad voting franchise only after
 > the basics of industrial development are firmly in place. This was,
 > after all, the pattern of the Western democracies. Magna Carta was for
 > barons, not peasants.

	His basic thesis is that free market economics is democracy.

	Were that the case, Chile would have returned to Democracy within
18 months of Pinochet taking power, and putting Chicago School economists
in charge of the economy.

	Additionally, we would be talking about Gulags and slave labor
camps in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

	Political freedoms and laissez fair capitalism are largely
orthogonal, except in extreme cases on both left and right, where it tends
to diminish democracy.

	The government of the PRC, Like Pinochet, want a "Free Market
Economy" in which they have exclusive access to the levers of power.

	That is what they are attempting now, and what Pinochet attempted
in the 1970s.

Matthew G. Saroff, E.I.T.
Owings Mills, MD

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 02 Feb 2006 13:33:16 -0500
From: Chris Beck  
Organization: None At All
CC: Declan McCullagh  

Hi Mr. DeLong,

A quick response to your article that Declan posted to his Politech list.
(Declan, sorry about the multiple copies).

Rumour has it Declan McCullagh, on or about 02.Feb.2006 11:17, forwarded:
--Original Message--
From: James DeLong  

 >About the only tepidly good word came from George Mason
 >University economist Thomas Hazlett: "the terms of the agreement
 >struck will push modern communications yet further in a
 >basically authoritarian society. That triggers an underlying
 >dynamic that ultimately, will undermine restrictions, allowing
 >civil liberties -- not Chinese government censors -- to

This is a truism that assumes that the Chinese government doesn't know 
what to
do.  We really don't have many years worth of experience using high tech to
undermine authoritarian regimes - a few dozen years at most.  We all 
_hope_ that
is will happen, but I see little evidence that it will.  Certainly no 
that it is causative - remember that their economy is liberalizing at 
the same
time which others posit will bring down their authoritarian regime for very
similar reasons.

Personally, I think it is an attempt at post-facto justification on the 
part of
anyone who wants to make billions in China.  It reminds me of the 
software that
someone wrote in Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective 
Agency" that
given a conclusion produced the logic necessary to justify it.


Chris Beck - 
Why did the chicken cross the road?  I blame society.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 11:15:31 -0800
From: Brad Templeton  
To: Declan McCullagh  
References: <> 

On Thu, Feb 02, 2006 at 08:17:28AM -0800, Declan McCullagh wrote:
 > [Jim makes some good points. Though I'm not so sure about his swipe at
 > the 1960s! --Declan]
 > ..
 > The U.S. as a democratic model? An interesting case, that's also
 > full of problems. The nation has an increasing political class

He makes his points, good or bad, about democracy, not censorship.

While it's true that democracy requires free speech, you can have
free speech before you have democracy and it's a good tool for the
path to democracy.

I find it hard to credit that letting the Chinese look up information
about Tibet or Taiwan on the web will cause a disasterous rush to
democracy "too early."

Free speech is the central ingredient to government accountabilty,
and that can even be true in authoritarian regimes.  Indeed, authoritarians
usually only give up power when they realize that the people know they
are abusing it and will not stand for it.

In a democracy, you are kicked out of power if a majority of the people
will not accept your actions.   In an authoritarian regime, this still
happens, but it takes a large supermajority, perhaps 90% or more.
That's because you must never go so far as to forment revolt, and so
you must give the people some of what they want in order to stop the
numbers from reaching the level of revolt.    Typically you give them
economic reform.   The other alternative is to be so totalitarian that
you clamp down on everything.   Even for dictators, some consent of the
governed is required, and the consent of the military & police is always

If there is free speech, then there is more accountability, even in
an authoritarian regime.   And yes, it might speed the march to
democracy a bit.   Certainly otherwise it will be too slow -- on which
side would you have us err?

No, what Google is doing will not help the Chinese people in any
way.     I'm a bit perturbed to see anybody who would call themselves
a defender of liberty think that it would.    "Mustn't let the masses
learn the truth, or they will get all uppity and that leads too quickly
to mob rule" -- that's how I would pejoratively characterize the argument

What is commonly misunderstood, and what Google has misjudged, is that
the arguments about whether "Free Tibet"-free Google in China is good or
bad for the Chinese in the long run are to some degree beside the point.
If the case were overwhelming, you might consider such things.

What matters when the case of harm/good is more subtle is your message.
Google's message is to collaborate rather than oppose.  They are are not
just doing business in China, they are being the instrument of the
censorship.  The argument that they are also doing some good things for
the Chinese by offering better search pales compared to that.

When I was asked to sell information services to South Africa in 1990
(uncensored, mind you) I asked  South Africans how they felt about
the sanctions the west was placing on the country.

"They mostly hurt the ordinary people, not the rich and powerful," I
was told.  "But please do them anyway.  Because then you are doing
something, rather than doing nothing."

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 13:17:06 -0500
From: Richard W. DeVaul  
CC:, "Richard W. DeVaul Ph.D."  
References: <> 

Hash: SHA1

For Politech:

I read with interest James V. DeLong's essay on Google and China.  I
agree with his thesis, but not his subtext.

I agree that information economic development can only benefit the
Chinese people.  For this reason I believe that the addition of a
locally hosted, voluntarily censored is better than the
current state of affairs in which Chinese language is often
unavailable and heavily filtered within China.

(It is perhaps worth noting that site will not replace the
Chinese language  Google is making available in
addition to the censored Chinese language  Furthermore, will be available outside China, allowing outside observers
to more easily track Chinese government censorship.)

I strongly disagree with James' subtext, in which he argues that
democracy is failing, and perhaps undesirable or at least unnecessary.
The ills of cronyism, corruption, and the growth of entrenched
interests are serious problems -- but they are the
problems. Democracy, the rule of law, a free press, an independent
judiciary, and robust protections for individual liberties are the
solutions.  There is no reason to believe that Chinese or Asian
culture is any less compatible with the democratic process than
American culture is compatible with authoritarianism and fascism.

James makes a shallow and dangerous argument when he implicitly
equates democracy with demagoguery.  The foundation of Western
democracy has always rested on a careful balance between the will of
the people, the rule of law, and protections for minorities.  A
tyranny of the majority is just another form of tyranny.  James'
implication that a plausible remedy for one form of tyranny
(demagoguery) is another (authoritarianism) is a dangerous argument,

Economic freedom and opportunity are good, but they are no substitute
for human rights, a democratic process, and the rule of law.

	Richard W. DeVaul Ph.D.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.1 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Processed by Mailcrypt 3.5.8  


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 14:09:40 -0500
From: David M. Brown  
To: Declan McCullagh  
References: <> 

Obscene that this guy is rationalizing cooperation with vicious Chinese

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Google is right on China, by James DeLong [fs]
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 15:55:03 -0500 (EST)
From: Dean Anderson  
To: Declan McCullagh  

 > -------- Original Message --------
 > Subject: Google is Right on China
 > Date: Thu, 02 Feb 2006 15:02:10 GMT
> From: The Progress & Freedom Foundation  
> To: Declan McCullagh  
 > [..]
 > The U.S. is increasingly in thrall to a kind of plebiscitary
 > democracy, often by public opinion poll,a residue of the
 > mindless 1960s, where every decision, right down to guilt or
 > innocence in a criminal case, should be decided by vote.

What???? Umm, perhaps he should brush up on his civics. Or serve on a Jury.

Juries in fact do _vote_ on guilt or innocence, and have done so since long,
long before the 1960's.

Does he mean to attack the notion that juries should be larger than 12, 
and so
less susceptible to being "cherry picked" by the lawyers?  Well, that is 
a point
of view, and a larger jury would make better decisions by making "cherry
picking" harder. However, the contraining factor that limits the size of the
jury is mainly the expenses involved in having a larger number of people
dedicate themselves to investing the time required to decide the facts of a
case.  People hate those "jury duty" notices enough as it is now, with 
only 12
jurors per jury. If the size of a jury were increased to say, 24, there 
would be
many more notices, and it would take much more effort and expense to 
empanel a
jury.  Thereby slowing the Wheels of Justice.  A tradeoff has to be 
made.  But
whether the tradeoff is 12, or 15, or 20, or 24 is a valid debate to 
have, and
doesn't mean that one is "in thrall to a kind of plebiscitary democracy".

Back to Google:  I don't see what exactly the fuss is about regarding 
Google and
China. China is within its rights as a government to tell Google not to 
certain information to China.  And I'm within my rights to criticize 
that, and I
agree its a shame that Chinese citizens don't have those rights.

If Google conducted its searchs from China, it would be filtered, and the
filtered information would not be returned by Google's Chinese version. 
China is
just saying that Google can't import its US-based Search Results 
Database into
China without filtering it first.  This is no worse than the filtering 
China deserves criticism over its policies. But Google doesn't deserve 
any for
following them, any more than say, Cisco deserves criticism for 
providing China
with hardware that implements filters.

Dean Anderson
Av8 Internet, Inc

Av8 Internet   Prepared to pay a premium for better service? faster, more reliable, better service 
617 344 9000

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