Gary Becker on freedom in China

 •  Filed under China

Six years ago, Gary Becker wrote:

The jump from middle-income to rich status is much harder to achieve than the ascent from poverty. But there are plenty of reasons to believe China's growth prospects remain strong.

... [despite exceptions like Singapore and Chile] personal freedom has grown along with rapid economic progress in autocratic governments. Chile, Taiwan and South Korea, for example, all became vibrant democracies after they'd grown rapidly for a number of years.

Something related has happened in China. The degree of personal freedom in China today is enormously greater than in 1981, when the vast majority of the population had essentially no personal freedoms. The Internet, in particular, has given hundreds of millions of Chinese access to all kinds of information, including what happens in democracies, and various criticisms of their government's policies. The government actively tries to censor the Internet, but these censors are easily bypassed. Students and others say they readily "climb the wall" by using cheap software (appropriately, made in America) that gives them direct access to the Internet in Hong Kong and hence avoids the censors.

... as the economy continues to develop it will be impossible to prevent personal freedoms from expanding, including the freedom to criticize economic and social policies.