Remember in the ‘70s and ‘80s when grandstanding politicians attacked Soviet businesses bent on meeting the needs of American customers in order to spy on them? Neither can I. With good reason.
Communism is an ideology of force rooted in the Marxian notion of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Translated, there are no globally-beloved businesses in communist countries.
Conservatives seemed to understand this best when the Soviet Union still existed. Figure that Ronald Reagan ran for president on the correct notion that government was arrogating to itself way too much of the fruits of American production, and the latter proved a deterrent to production. Reagan’s analysis of what kept the U.S. down in a relative sense was what kept the U.S.S.R. down in a near total sense, and by extension, it’s what had Reagan confident that the U.S.S.R.’s days were numbered.
Which is why the evolution of modern conservatism is at times so disappointing. Conservatives of old knew that communism was the biggest reason the Soviets weren’t starting businesses that had even a faint hope of meeting the needs of the American people.
The communism that rendered the Soviet Union economically irrelevant is what should have the American political class confident today that China is many things, but communist isn’t one of them. The happy fact that Chinese companies like TikTok so expertly meet the needs of the global population is all the evidence we need that China is no longer communist. If it were, there would be no active House committees focused on “alerting Americans to the perils of a rising China.”
Communist countries are defined by relentless drudgery, period. Yet the people of China presently represent the biggest non-U.S. market for American plenty in the world. That they do signals an impressive level of production there born of rising economic freedom. As Americans we know this intuitively based on when communism so cruelly infected so much of the world. When it did, Americans had billions fewer customers to meet the needs of.
Worse, Americans had billions fewer individuals around the world meeting their needs. Since communism penalizes production almost in total, there’s logically very little production to export. And we Americans suffered this sad truth. Again, basic economics. The division of labor is the path to staggering leaps in terms of productivity as individual hands get to migrate to the specialized work that most elevates their unique genius.
Put another way, “the perils of a rising China” are anything but. If the Chinese were really our enemies, they would do as the Soviets did and produce nothing. The latter was the certain path to a weaker United States, as was China’s lack of production when it was actually communist. When the Chinese weren’t producing, Americans were poorer and they were simply because something on the order of a billion Chinese people were not working alongside them. When we’re unable to divide up work with others, we’re not realizing our talents.
Please keep this in mind with TikTok top of mind. Its success is a sign of China’s rapid move away from communism in concert with the rise of China as a market set to grow by leaps and bounds for American companies. And the more productive the Chinese become thanks to growing amounts of economic freedom, the more that Americans will realize their staggering economic potential.
All of which raises the question of why? Why in consideration of China’s evident move away from communism are U.S. politicians attacking the obvious fruits of this move? That TikTok is capable of competing on the world stage means that the outlook for American companies can only improve. Competion is fuel. Yet TikTok is under attack by protectionist U.S. politicians in ways that can only hurt U.S. corporations. It's simple economics. Protectionism logically weakens those protected.
Which brings us to an arguably more troubling scenario: that the U.S. political class actually believes TikTok et al a threat to our national security. In the words of Rep. Michael McCaul, "The younger generation loves TikTok, but I don't think they appreciate the dangers. I call it the spy baloon in your phone." Yes, the victim play. An app might get us, it might cause Americans to embrace China’s ways, including its alleged “communist” ways. If so, how insulting...to America.
Really, what a statement from alleged patriots about the U.S. that what we have is so weak and unworthy of regard that a bunch of Chinese intelligence flunkies can turn us. That Americans are so clueless and malleable. We’re better than this. Harassing foreign competition is beneath us on its face, after which how shameful it is that U.S. politicians would insult us with their pretense that the Chinese can bring down the U.S. with an app.