Jonah Goldberg

Indeed, rapid economic growth always makes government planners look like geniuses when the reality is that the planners are more like self-proclaimed rainmakers who started dancing only after it started raining. When the rain stops, which it will, they'll have much to answer for.

Oh, and what about labor? There's one labor union in China, and it's run by the government. (The Nazis had pretty much the same system.) Stern doesn't seem to care.

More intriguingly, SEIU is a huge supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which, taken at its word, is most concerned with income inequality and the back-room corruption that comes from "crony capitalism." And Stern touts China as the model for how to fix things? China has 115 billionaires and at least 115 million people living on a dollar a day or less. Nearly all of those billionaires got rich gaming a corrupt political system.

Obviously, the core problem with China envy is not economic but moral. To the extent that China's economic planning "works," it does so because China is an authoritarian country. (Japan has been planning its economy within democratic restraints and has been dying on the economic vine for nearly 20 years.) You can hit your building quota a lot more easily when you can shoot inconvenient people and trample property rights at will. The Three Gorges Dam displaced more than a million people who were given three choices: move, jail, death.

Stern joins a long list of liberals who've seen China embrace authoritarian capitalism and conclude that the secret to that success had to be the authoritarianism. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, my usual whipping boy in this department, has written thousands of words rhapsodizing about his "envy" of China. President Obama himself has said he's envious of China's president and has touted China's infrastructure spending as something to emulate.

If you want to copy China because its authoritarian capitalism is better than our democratic capitalism, it seems pretty obvious that what you envy is the authoritarianism. H.G. Wells had a phrase for that.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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