Look Out for the Chinese

Basket of Figs, April, 2004

Bud Powell




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In an article in the Denver Post on Wednesday, March 3, 2004, Associated Press writer Audra Ang reported that Communist China is changing its constitution to protect private property rights for the first time since the 1949 revolution.  If this is true, and not an illusion, we should see a dramatic upsurge in Chinese economic activity and prosperity.


An important book, Property and Freedom, [Albert F. Knoff, New York, 1999.  ISBN 0-375-40498-8] Richard Pipes shows the historic link between the guarantee of property rights and liberty and the rule of law.    Also, The Noblest Triumph by Tom Bethell [St. Martinís Press, New York, 1998. ISBN 0-312-21083-3], shows the link between prosperity and property rights.


For instance, the deprivation of parts of Africa where it is forbidden to harvest the tusks of elephants results in the people treating them like nuisances, resulting in a decline in their population.  And they are a nuisance, for they can ďtear the roof off huts and village grain-storage units, and consume an entire seasonís food supply on the spot.Ē  [p. 286].  If they belong to no one, then no one cares about them, except Ralph Nader, and he is far away in America, running for President.  In places like Zimbabwe, however, people can own the elephants, fence them in, harvest their tusks, and keep them from harm.  The result is that the elephant population in Zimbabwe has soared.   In East Africa, however, all commercial use of the elephant was forbidden.  The President of Kenya burned $3 million worth of tusks on TV.  One result was an international ban on tusks.  Another result was that the population of East African elephants declined from 866,000 in 1979 to 404,000 in 1989.  The response of liberals:  they banned ivory throughout the world.  The elephant was now useless except for tree huggers and other assorted nincompoops. 


Read Tom Bethellís book.  The chapter on property rights in the Arabian world is in itself worth the price of the book.  Robber states despoil their own people and then blame their prosperous neighbors who do not steal their peopleís property.  Itís an old, old story.


Watch out for the Chinese.  Maybe they are beginning to understand economics.


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