Twofish's Blog

February 21, 2008

Response to Why China should not fear open debate

Filed under: china, economics, human rights, politics — twofish @ 5:25 am

 http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3bcee1c2-dfc5-11dc-8073-0000779fd2ac.html

This is a very ironic piece.  The message of the piece seems to be let’s have a free and open debate in China so that I can prove to Chinese nationalists that I’m right and they are wrong.  Different viewpoints are good, and when you express different viewpoints, you’ll naturally find that mine are absolutely objectively correct and their’s are totally completely wrong.

I think the post wildly underestimates the degree to which people view the world in different ways, and how hard it is to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs once you find out what they really are.  The assumption seems to be that when different people are exposed to the “correct view of the world” that naturally they will see the world in the way that he does, and my experience suggests that this is not going to happen.  People’s beliefs about how the world works and how it should work are formed at a very early age, and they don’t change without enormous personal trauma.  Usually people take new facts and try to fit them into the picture of the world that they already have, and if you don’t share those beliefs, it can be quite shocking what those beliefs actually are.

Being exposed to wildly different beliefs usually doesn’t result in tolerance, it results in even more screaming.  What does cause tolerance is the knowledge that you have to deal with someone despite how much you disagree with them, and this is why e-mail produces so much flameage.  You scream at someone over e-mail and never see them again.  If it turns out that you actually have to live with someone, the dynamics changes.

Just letting opinions out in the open doesn’t necessarily produce better policy, it could easily lead to paralysis, people screaming at each other, or worse shooting at each other.  Good governance is at the thin line between anarchy and tyranny, and having things move into anarchy can produce as much suffering as having things move to tyranny.

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