Written by Derryl Hermanutz
China has an ancient culture informed by the political philosophy of Confucianism. Confucius understood that civilizations must be governed by governments, so he advocated the cultivation of leaders who are educated in the arts of good government that serves the Mandate of Heaven. Lao Tzu said, under good government the people will say, “we did it ourselves“.
Good leaders possess enough self-confidence that their egos don’t need the worship of the people. They govern quietly, strongly, and make it possible for the people to work and develop their own skills. The needs and interests of the people and the nation as a whole — the demos, the “democracy” — are served, not oppressed, by good government.
Confucius understood that government is a profession, a skilled art that requires raw ability that is molded by moral and intellectual training. Confucian government is an oligarchy of “leaders” who are morally formed and trained to perform their public duty of governing. Plato’s philosopher-kings, who famously resisted the burden of governing, are similar to Confucian leaders. Leadership does not benefit the leaders. It is other-serving, not self-serving. Confucian leadership is morally-informed government that aims for social harmony that benefits the people and the nation. Good Confucian government is democracy-serving, but it is not democratic in the sense that the people participate in government. The people have no understanding nor training in the needs and arts of government. The people are free to work and develop themselves within the well-governed nation, and in that sense the people govern “themselves“. But the people are not “qualified” to participate in political government, to govern each other.
American culture has a much younger political philosophy of libertarianism or liberalism, which believes wealthy property owners are the only class who is fit to rule, and they must prevent political government from gaining power to rule over the (rich) people. This philosophy has evolved into neoliberalism: the idea that there should be no political government at all, but only financial and economic management by bankers and corporate capitalists.
The Mandate of Neoliberal Capitalism is “profit thyself in the short term, at the expense of everybody and everything else“. Rather than try to govern in the interests of the people and the nation, corporate managers encourage the people to indebt themselves to buy corporate-produced junk that is deliberately built to fail and become obsolete so the people have to buy again and again, in the interest of ongoing corporate profits and executive bonuses. The money system and the economy are managed to serve the short term interests of the managers, not the long term interests of monetary stability and economic sustainability.
Neoliberals claim — and some of them probably believe it — that an invisible hand will organize their self-serving profit-seeking to optimize social and economic outcomes for “everybody”. In the neoliberal worldview, the invisible hand replaces the need for political government.
In a modern economy, the money issuance and allocation system (banking) is the macro-economic command and control system that determines what will get funded and built, and what will not. Along with a monopoly on police and military force, money issuance and allocation that activates and guides the economy is the fundamental “power” of government.
China’s government retains ownership and governing control of China’s banks and money system, so China’s political government retains macroeconomic “governing” power over China’s capitalist economy. Except for Ben Franklin’s colonial scrip money and Abe Lincoln’s greenbacks, America’s governments have not exercised the power of money issuance and allocation, and have exercised little if any governing authority over US$ money issuance by America’s capitalist-owned banks. America’s political government must fund its spending by taxing the middle class workers and independent small businesses (rich people and large corporations can avoid and evade taxes), and by borrowing money that is issued by commercial banks. So America’s productive workers, middle class and government get another day older and deeper in debt, while America’s capitalist ruling class gets richer, more powerful, and more able to impose their neoliberal anti-government philosophy on America and the corporate-dominated world.
Putin shut down nascent neoliberal privatization of the commons in post-Soviet Russia; put down the oligarchs’ theft and firesale sellout of Russia’s economy to Western bankers and corporate capitalists. China’s political government retains monetary and military governing control over China’s capitalists. Russia and China are governed by political governments who try to serve the “democratic” needs and interests of their people and their nation. “Governing” is hard. It’s not perfect. But as Machiavelli’s archer knows, if you aim high, you hit closer to the target.
Neoliberals, of course, decry this “anti-market nationalism“. Neoliberals refuse to recognize that nation-size global corporations “own” the market as their private oligopoly property. Global corporations, not nation-states, are the actors in the neoliberal world order. Economic and social democracy — political governments who try to govern in the interest of their nation — is the mortal enemy of neoliberal privatization of “everything”.
America is financially and economically managed by neoliberal corporate capitalists who believe political government is not necessary (except to make laws that favor large corporations over competing independent businesses; and fund a vast military-industrial complex and wage war on any nation who is not sufficiently “open” to American financial and corporate exploitation; and of course to rescue Big Banks after their managers have robbed them into bankruptcy), and who preach individual liberty and “democracy” to the American people. So the American people “vote”, but it’s meaningless, because America’s political government is subservient to America’s capitalist owners, whose social philosophy is, “Every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost.”
It is in the people’s and the nation’s and the “free market’s” interest to curtail plundering by concentrated financial, industrial, and commercial power. But America’s political government serves the powerful plunderers, not the nation.
US-centric neoliberal corporatism has gone global and is now writing its own “trade agreements” — such as the TTP and TTIP — that will legally ensconce global corporations’ “right” to profit over the legislative power of national political governments. The Neoliberal New World Order will not be governed by a One World Government. It will be “managed” by the bankers and corporate capitalists who own the world as their private property.
It remains to be seen whether China’s political leaders will follow the way of Confucius, or the opposite way of neoliberalism. I hope China’s leaders have enough pride and morality to preserve their Confucian culture of good government, rather than succumb to the neoliberal free-for-all that destroys civilization by plundering the Earth and humanity in a mindless competition to accumulate vast private fortunes of money.