Biden: Tyranny Is Fiscally Unsustainable, Bad for the Economy

Vice President Joe Biden has a dull but mostly correct op-ed piece in today's New York Times, the main thrust of which is that Americans should not fear China's emergence as a leading economic power. (Ron Bailey made a similar point in his recent essay on "China Derangement Syndrome.") Biden also says he stood up for human rights during his visit to China a couple of weeks ago:

We owe our strength to our political and economic system and to the way we educate our children—not merely to accept established orthodoxy but to challenge and improve it. We not only tolerate but celebrate free expression and vigorous debate. The rule of law protects private property, lends predictability to investments, and ensures accountability for poor and wealthy alike....

America's strengths are, for now, China's weaknesses. In China, I argued that for it to make the transition to an innovation economy, it will have to open its system, not least to human rights. Fundamental rights are universal, and China's people aspire to them. Liberty unlocks a people's full potential, while its absence breeds unrest. Open and free societies are best at promoting long-term growth, stability, prosperity and innovation.

There is much truth to this: Freedom works. But Biden's consequentialist argument reminds me of the way he described China's "one child" policy during a stop at Sichuan University:

Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I'm not second-guessing—of one child per family. The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.

After Republicans criticized Biden for seeming to condone China's population controls, which are grossly oppressive in theory and appallingly brutal in practice, his spokeswoman said he had been misunderstood:

The Obama Administration strongly opposes all aspects of China's coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization. The Vice President believes such practices are repugnant....He also pointed out, in China, that the policy is, as a practical matter, unsustainable. He was arguing against the One Child Policy to a Chinese audience.

Yes, but he was arguing against it based on a fiscal argument rather than a moral one, while expressly disavowing "second-guessing," let alone expressions of repugnance. His message: China's rulers had perfectly understandable reasons for adopting this policy, and I'm certainly not going to say they were wrong to do so, but at this point you might want to consider the budgetary implications vis-á-vis retirement benefits. Given the reality of this policy, which intrudes into the most intimate aspects of people's lives through edicts enforced by constant surveillance, crushing fines, home-destroying vandalism, assault, kidnapping, detention, mandatory sterililization, and forcible abortion, the outrage at Biden's stance was fully justified, even if it was also politically convenient. His blithe acceptance of this life-destroying, liberty-obliterating system resembled the attitude of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and other Western apologists for China's birth limits, who say the government had to do something drastic because the country's population growth was "not sustainable." This standard can be used to justify all manner of tyranny.

More on Chinese population control here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Marxist Professor||

    "We owe our strength to our political and economic system and to the way we educate our children—not merely to accept established orthodoxy but to challenge and improve it. We not only tolerate but celebrate free expression and vigorous debate."

    The fuck?

  • Today's Children||

    We owe our strength ... to the way we educate our children—not merely to accept established orthodoxy but to challenge and improve it.

    Blow it out your ass.

  • Spartacus||

    The VP clearly hasn't set foot in a public school lately.

  • ||

    isn't it amazing how folks like Thomas Friedman can justify China's birth policy because it "is not sustainable", but they cannot draw a similar conclusion over this govt's spending.

  • ||

    Or over that government's oppression of its people.

  • ChiComs||

    and yet they keep reelecting us !

  • ||

    Got me there!

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I pity the editor who has to turn that gasbag's prose into something comprehensible.

  • fish||

    Biden said something that wasn't completely idiotic???

    Somebody new must have his hand up Joes ass working his mouth.

  • Brett||

    Nicolae Ceaușescu tried to grow Romania's economic and military strength through a five child policy which among other things prohibited abortions and birth control. Because of these polices, some on the American right saw Ceaușescu regime as moderate compared to other Communist nations.

    In practice his ban on birth control combined with a tax on women who failed to give birth to five children lead to massive child abandonment, overfilling orphanages so that they were denied proper care. The problem of child abandonment is much the same as exists in China and proves the problem of regulating population growth to achieve economic and political goals.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I thought that Ceaușescu's American supporters liked him for opposing the Soviet Union - an unusual stance in the Soviet bloc.

  • ||

    And the Cradle Will Rock

  • ||

    And such arguments and observations only become relevant if you accept that it's at all permissible to even entertain the idea of putting such policies into place. I don't accept that.

  • ||

    Dearest leader, I am very concerned that your brutal repression of basic human rights will impair the smooth functioning of the glorious welfare state. I humbly beseech thee to reconsider. Children have great value in that they may be made to serve the grand collective!

  • ||

    Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I'm not second-guessing—of one child per family. The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.

    Good thing I've got this nice, soft keypad now, or I'd have a dent in my skull from banging my head into my desk.

    For the millionth time, there are other economies available to choose from. There has never, ever been a need to rob from the future to pay into a vast Ponzi scheme that supports oldsters. This has never, at any time, been the only means of survival for retirees and the elderly.

    Am I disputing that China's "one-child policy" has been brutally enforced, in flagrant and horrifying violation of human rights? No. But the justification for repealing this policy ("you need to breed prolifically so you can siphon off the wages of future workers and give them to entitlement-poisoned geezers") is total bullshit.

    The justification for abandoning the "one-child policy" should be reproductive freedom. Period. And Ponzi schemes where governments rip off young workers to give to geezers who didn't adequately plan and save for their own futures should die. For that matter, Ponzi schemes where governments rip off young workers to support anyone's personal lifestyle choices, actions, or inactions--need to die.

  • Amakudari||

  • Michael||

    Is that what this administration has been doing this whole time? Improving the established orthodoxy?

  • ||

    Yes.

  • GSL||

    Yikes. If you can't think of a better reason to oppose the One Child Policy than a cost-benefit calculation, you're really, really lacking in the "basic human decency" department.

  • |||

    Last time I checked, China's growth is skyrocketing while America is in the dumps. All the jobs are overseas.

  • ||

    As laughable as Biden is, I'm not going to jump all over him for this one. China doesn't have any conception of individual freedom, so appealing to that would be like trying to get redneck to give up mesh trucker hats. Crafting an utilitarian argument to sway utilitarians is a pretty good rhetorical strategy.

  • ||

    Yeah, I had kind of the same reaction.

  • Alan||

    Same here. When trying to persuade someone, you appeal to the things they value.

  • |a><a|$|b><b|||

    I have to agree.

    And to those who didn't like Biden's comment about not second-guessing the one child policy: stridently condemning a foreign government's policies on its own soil is neither diplomatic nor persuasive.

  • |||

    China makes libertarians shit their undies because they're a country with zero concept of political freedom that is nonetheless very economically successful, in fact phenomenal growth for over 30 years. It completely ruins their precious little worldview. Economic growth has nothing to do with political freedom, it is not necessary to have the latter to get the former. China proves it. Scary, huh?

  • ||

    Oh, goody... The Truth is back... and is as boring as ever. Welcome to the memory hole, shitstain.

  • |||

    Notice you toolbags don't even try to dispute what I just said. You can have extraordinary, kingly, mighty, explosive and torrential economic growth while ruling with an iron hand.

  • ||

    just ask Best Korea!

  • |||

    North Korea is Stalinist. China is Authoritarian State Capitalist, like Singapore. It's where the future lies.

  • ||

    Everyone remember - it's Thursday.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Crap. Sorry.

  • ||

    just ask Cuba!

  • |||

    Cuba is Stalinist, moron. If Castro had followed China Cuba would be wealthier than Florida by now.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Economic growth has nothing to do with political freedom...
    North Korea is Stalinist. China is Authoritarian State Capitalist, like Singapore.

    DERP! No differences in political freedom there!

  • BakedPenguin||

    Singapore is at least smart enough to provide a clean, non-corrupt business environment.

    Transparency International rated Singapore 9.3, versus 3.5 for China. Singapore has a level of corruption similar to Denmark, New Zealand, or Finland. China ranks with Colombia, Lesotho, and Greece.

  • ||

    just ask Florida!

  • ||

    Yeah, hundreds of years of Earth-changing growth under a liberal government and free market are trumped completely by a few years of growth by a country with cheap labor that is growing, incidentally, because of some liberalizing of its economy and by being driven almost entirely by the engine of Western consumption.

  • |||

    The next Chinese Five Year Plan calls for the planned switch from export-driven growth towards consumption-driven growth, to finally decouple itself from the West. This will shake the whole earth, and the US will become a third rate power in comparison.

  • ||

    pop your corn now, be sure to get a good seat!

  • Metazoan||

    Well if the plan says it will, then it will!

  • sasob||

    The next Chinese Five Year Plan calls for the planned switch from export-driven growth towards consumption-driven growth, to finally decouple itself from the West.

    Lol. Yeah, good luck with that. The Chinese people produce much more than they can possibly consume themselves, primarily because their workers aren't paid a wage high enough to purchase it all. One reason they aren't paid a higher wage is because there are so many of them - their labor is worth "a dime a dozen." Any attempt to cut back on production would result in massive unemployment for them, which results in civil and social unrest - which is anathema to the Chinese government.

  • sasob||

    ...being driven almost entirely by the engine of Western consumption.

    Which itself is being driven by the expansion of the money and credit supply out of mostly thin air ( as well as hot air.)

  • Alan||

    Ruled by an iron hand?

    Did you know that about 80% of the country routinely ignores the one child policy? The authorities can only regularly enforce it in the cities.

    天高皇帝远 - usually translated: "Heaven is high, and the emperor is far away."

  • Sparky||

    Yes, a slave master can work his slaves to untold feats of production. At least right up until they start dying. I guess in that case China is shooting themselves in the collective foot by limiting their future production capacity.

  • ||

    china liberalized its economy and that is how the growth began.

  • |||

    As to supporting retirees, the Chinese elderly grew up in a time of privation and sacrifice. They're not like spoiled brat boomers who will demand the country be bankrupted for their own personal benefit. They believe in the Nation with a capital-N, and will sacrifice to help it.

  • Chinese protestor||

    Let me tell you a thing or t ... ow, ow, ow, a tank just ran over my foot!

  • tank driver||

    lick back up

  • on golden wings||

    I want the guy who did the "leave Britney alone" video to make a "leave Biden alone" video and send it to Reason.

  • green jobber||

    the government had to do something drastic because the country's population growth energy use was "not sustainable"

    FTFY

  • Citizen Nothing||

    The alt-text should definitely say: "Squirrel?"

  • The Great White Indian||

    China too will pay the price for its embrace of city-state civilization.

  • ||

    and China will pay the interest on Citi-Bank Visa.

  • ||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement