The Rise of Authoritarian Capitalism?

There is a podcast which I believe readers of this blog would thoroughly enjoy. It’s called “Common Sense with Dan Carlin.” Dan Carlin refuses to label his political views along the familiar lines, but he would be best placed as a libertarian of the angrier variety. In his latest episode, “Intoxicated Priorities,” Carlin argues that together Russia and China both qualify as “authoritarian capitalism.”

The term struck me because it instantly made sense. In China, you can go to McDonald’s and get a Big Mac, buy a big screen TV and sell your used stuff on eBay. There are plenty of entrepreneurs in Moscow. The aggressive socialism of Stalin and Mao is gone. However, there isn’t personal freedom. Bloggers are jailed in China and journalists are murdered in Russia.

Milton Friedman theorized that as a population becomes wealthier, they demand greater freedom from their government. As Carlin noted, there have been surveys that show Chinese and Russians as being happier than Americans. Even in a prosperous society like ours, we have seen regression of civil rights in the form of domestic spying as well as roadblocks placed against third party candidates. The European states continuously get thrown a constitution at them even when they have voted against it. What if Friedman’s theory turns out to be flawed, and states like China and Russia continue to reject the freedom that comes with capitalism?

The ultimate threat to human freedom is the classical liberal fear: concentrated power. In my view, this can both come in the form of authoritarianism and in corporate conglomeration (some corporations are just as bureaucratic and humanless as governments).

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