Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Paper Dragon...

...receives its rightful hageography. We are once again reminded of the dangers of linear extrapolation and I fully expect this work ("When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World") to be quoted with (failed) attempts at ironic humor in the undergraduate economic textbooks of the future, in the same vein as now infamous "Dow 40,000" book written near the height of tech bubble madness.

Of course this book cites a study by Goldman Sachs, which concludes that China's economy will Eclipse the United States by 2027. And once again, no error rates or deviation from prediction data is given for the reader to judge the accuracy of this prediction. Its a simple appeal to authority. The book progresses using vaguely familiar (i.e. dialectic) processes with all the trappings of an author attempting to convey an aura of inevitability, which is to be expected when the author was the editor of "Marxism Today"

If only the author explored some possibilities that contradicted his assumptions. As Bertrand Russell said in his book "The Problem of China":

I believe that, if the Chinese are left free to assimilate what they want of our civilization, and to reject what strikes them as bad, they will be able to achieve an organic growth from their own tradition, and to produce a very splendid result, combining our merits with theirs. There are, however, two opposite dangers to be avoided if this is to happen. The first danger is that they may become completely Westernized, retaining nothing of what has hitherto distinguished them, adding merely one more to the restless, intelligent, industrial, and militaristic nations which now afflict this unfortunate planet. The second danger is that they may be driven, in the course of resistance to foreign aggression, into an intense anti-foreign convervatism as regards anything except armaments.
The author also argues (in Jared Diamondesque fashion) that several accidents contributed to the present situation of Western nations bestriding the globe. This is of course a slippery slope as he is tacitly arguing that if China had more "accidents", it would have dominated the globe, and furthermore that the future of China will be met by a net positive "accident" ratio. As the great American thinker, Yogi Berra, said "Prediction is tough, especially when its about the future".

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