Watching the events unfolding in Tibet has made me think about the strange combination of socialism and capitalism in China, where free trade has emphatically not created the conditions for freedom. I’ve been wondering – as Hilaire Belloc predicted nearly a century ago – whether there isn’t a new kind of capitalism, East and West, which is so devoted to big systems that individual freedom counts for nothing
The current trends are such that it might be time to revisit Belloc’s The Servile State – and preferably before the Beijing Olympics. Because, as he predicted, we now face a tyrannical combination of capitalism and socialism that uses the rhetoric of free trade, but is turning its back on competition – and all in the name of ‘efficiency’. This contains the seeds of a new kind of oppression: the subjugation of everything to corporate efficiency and government-sponsored profitability.
You can see it in the new phenomenon of Chinese socialist capitalism, with its brutal suppression of communities, tradition, dissent and much else besides.
You can see it in the phenomenon of Bush-Cheney American capitalism, with its $10 billion monopoly contract to Halliburton in Iraq.
You can even see it in Gordon Brown-style UK capitalism, with its consolidations, its dwindling of potential bidders for local waste contracts, where you can have anything you like – as long as it’s Tesco, with a security guard watching you from a chair by the door.
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