"We can have democracy, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Justice Louis Brandeis

Without actually coming out and saying it, In "A flawed American political model aids China," Harold Meyerson suggests that we may soon be admitting that our current dysfunctionalism may be endemic within capitalism itself. After all, it's not like its modern variant has run for a very long time.

Today, China has emerged as a global economic powerhouse and political competitor. Unlike the Soviet Union, it does not seek to remake the world in its image, but neither is it a friend of democracy. Its booming economy — in contrast to those of the wheezing West — may be viewed as validating state industrial policy, which can help build national prosperity, but China also sees it as an endorsement of authoritarian efficiency.

All but the most fervent John Galtists, and other fictionally-assisted cheerleaders of our system's presumed strengths are starting to ask, "Does this capitalism thing really work?" What is the goal of any economic system, but to provide the basic goods, services and welfare of its people?  If the system fails in that aim, what good is the maximization of personal freedom and wealth?  Freedom to do what?  Wealth to buy what? A hedonist's nirvana at the expense of virtually everyone else? This thing is working damn well for the upper 20%.  But most everyone else is hurting, about to be hurt, or living so on the edge, that "quality of life" has now become synonymous with "net worth." And if you haven't got any of that, it's "quality of credit rating." If you lack both of those, you just don't matter.

Where's the science that says boom and bust cycles can go on for more than 140 years, or so, before the system is reduced to the very monopolistic, plutocratic, crony-capitalist manifestations that Marx predicted would be among the forces that consumed it. While we struggle to legislate the most basic economic fixes for a massively troubled system, China, now owning most of our debt and enjoying a massive economic boom, is able to show-off the benefits of their planned economy. Even when that planning is far from perfect, it's still able to make corrections and tweaks that we seem unable to even discuss, let alone implement.  And looking at the current political morass, and the complicity of the media and our governing classes in maintaining the status quo, coupled with the rapacious acidity of the social conservative and Tea Party movements, it is entirely possible that we may never fix any of it. But we sure seem destined to break it more.

Could some form of family-friendly, moderately benign autocracy, governed by some intrinsic or manufactured traditions of social justice and responsibility, without any pretense of complete freedom, actually fare better in the long run?  Might theirs, or some other form of  "social capitalism" emerge that yields a more viable and sustainable long term middle class; one in which the spirit and achievements of the all mighty individual still thrive? I've already met a few a rugged individualist entrepreneurs from China. With all that human raw material to work with, you can bet there's a lot more where they came from.

China thinks a right-leaning system that aspires to be more left, is better than a left-leaning system that is now careening to the right. Given their success, a huge number of their citizens do too. I am pretty sure that we will be pondering this question more and more, as China continues going boom, while we seem to be inventing ways to go bust.

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