December 4, 2022

"The reining in of expectations is perhaps best encapsulated by a phrase ubiquitous in China’s Covid restrictions: 'Unless necessary.'"

"Officials have instructed citizens: Do not gather 'unless necessary,' do not leave home 'unless necessary.' Many Chinese who had learned to dream of progress — even luxury — suddenly have been told, again, to expect only the essentials. Still, some hold onto hope that the retreat is a blip. For all the present difficulties, the years of extraordinary growth are still fresh in many minds...."

From "The Chinese Dream, Denied/The world’s harshest Covid restrictions exemplify how Xi Jinping’s authoritarian excesses have rewritten Beijing’s longstanding social contract with its people" (NYT).

Xi Jinping... has tied the success of “zero Covid” to his own legitimacy as ruler, and enforcing it has taken precedence over nurturing the freewheeling spirit that made... China, so vibrant.

The shift strikes at the party’s longstanding social contract with its people. After violently crushing pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Beijing struck an implicit bargain: In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort....

ADDED: What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?

I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain. It wouldn't even need to be forced. They proactively want it.

They don't even worry about the potential for the "shift" the article describes: After the loss of freedom, the stable comfort you bargained for may be reduced to what is "necessary" — whatever that turns out to be.

49 comments:

Wince said...

Are such restrictions meant to lower expectations because it's the easiest way for the regime to explain the inevitable economic decline caused by its policies?

For that matter, that might be what's going on in China as well.

Here in the US, the "ubiquitous phrase" was "essential," wasn't it?

Mikey NTH said...

A Communist system is always a Communist system - brutal, totalitarian, lying, soul-crushing. Xi has a cult of personality going (books on the thoughts of Xi Jinping) and it appears a desire to be Mao part 2: Sino Boogaloo.

Won't end well for the Chinese people but then again "and then it got worse" isn't just a Slavic thing.

Achilles said...

ADDED: What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain?

Anyone who accepted Joe Biden as their ruler and the obviously illegitimate 2020 election.

So a good 40% of people.

People like Ann.

Larry J said...

The problem with accepting limitations on political freedoms is that the politicians, like Xi, then have no reason to live up to their end of the bargain. Insert famous quote from “Animal House” about misplaced trust here.

mesquito said...

Roe was part of the shift, no? Now it’s back in the legislatures and it’s all chaos and doubt. We’ll miss our blackrobed overlords.

RideSpaceMountain said...

"I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain."

Those people are TWANLOC, and a primary reason why we are essentially two different countries. Those people need to form their own country, where they can get guarantees of safety and security in exchange for liberties, but most importantly, paid for with their money.

The money part is key. I'd give their nation a month tops if it didn't end up being stillborn.

Douglas B. Levene said...

I agree that plenty of Americans would take that bargain. "Live free or die" is not a popular belief. This is true on the left, with its authoritarian tendencies, in the middle, with its safetyism and cancel culture, and on the right, with its demands for bent-knee fealty to Mr. Trump's demands to overturn the 2020 election.

Joe Smith said...

'What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?'

Democrats have already accepted this proposition.

R C Belaire said...

"What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?"

I would hope it's a very small percentage, but afraid it may even be a majority.

Mountain Maven said...

The tradeoff between security and freedom is a false one. Look at the freedoms other western countries gave up, speech, religion, self defense, the right to bear arms, due process, privacy. And they are no more secure than we are.

n.n said...

Rewritten? Hardly. The dream is viable. Progress is a [unqualified] monotonic process: one step forward, two steps backward. A green deal, some may say. A great leap, forward in diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry), inequity, and exclusion, with labor and environmental arbitrage to wet Western appetites, and redistributive change for all.

pacwest said...

I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain. It wouldn't even need to be forced. They proactively want it.

I think you vastly underestimate the number of humans, not just Americans, who would be willing to trade security for freedom. All we are dickering about is the price. Of course a lot of people want to have their cake and eat it too. Those are the troublemakers.

Sebastian said...

"What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?"

49%. A majority of women. A large majority of single women. All Karens. It being understood that, under prog rule, "limitations on political freedom" target the right, i.e., the wrong people.

Clyde said...

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

-- Benjamin Franklin

n.n said...

State's Choice, State's sanction, diversity, equity, and inclusion. A little redistributive change to make the medicine go down. 50-50 or 1-2.

Mason G said...

"I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain. It wouldn't even need to be forced. They proactively want it."

College educated suburban wine moms? Of course they want it. And when they get the limitations on freedom but stability and comfort don't follow (who could possibly have seen *that* coming), they'll blame anybody but themselves for what they did.

Readering said...

AA your added take seems to be what comes of never traveling overseas. I've made many trips to China, including HK. No comparison between attitudes of Chinese and Americans.

I remain agnostic on the "invented in a lab" theory. (PRC lying and covering up from day 1.) But it sure seems like the leader most afraid of covid is Xi, and the nation most impacted the pandemic has been PRC.

stutefish said...

What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?

That is exactly the premise on which the Union was founded. That is exactly the value proposition being offered by regional and local governments all over the country. It is up to their constituents to decide how well they're holding up their end of the bargain, and whether it's time to adjust some of the trade-offs.

Rusty said...

ADDED: What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?
What percentage voted for Biden. And how many never Trumpers are there.

MadTownGuy said...

I referenced an article on NPR where they took the position that Benjamin Franklin's quote about " those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" was about taxation and not about civil liberties in general. The occasion they chose related to the Penn family's efforts to buy off the PA Legislature so as not to be taxed to pay for defense during the French and Indian War.

But that's not the only time Franklin made that statement. Later, in January 1775, "Benjamin Franklin (1796-1790) was part of an American delegation sent to Britain in an attempt to resolve the outstanding disagreements between the Crown and the colonies. Seventeen points were up for discussion of which several were rejected outright by the Crown while others were rejected by the colonies. Franklin’s comments regarding the last two points produced one of his most famous sayings from the period:

As to the other two acts, (i.e. 16. The American admiralty courts reduced to the same powers they have in England, and the acts establishing them to be reënacted in America; and 17. All powers of internal legislation in the colonies to be disclaimed by Parliament) the Massachusetts (sic) must suffer all the hazards and mischiefs of war rather than admit the alteration of their charters and laws by Parliament. ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’

It is interesting to see where the main lines of disagreement lay between the colonists' delegation to London and the Crown in early 1775 which one would think would have been the last opportunity at some kind of reconciliation before independence was declared and war broke out. The sticking points for the Crown were the 8th, 11th, and 17th Articles which were declared to be “inadmissible” or were “refused absolutely”: “8. No troops to enter and quarter in any colony, but with the consent of its legislature. 11. The late Massachusetts and Quebec Acts to be repealed, and a free government granted to Canada. 17. All powers of internal legislation in the colonies to be disclaimed by Parliament.” The payment of back taxes might be negotiable but when it came to the stationing of troops or placing limits on the power of Parliament over colonial legislatures no compromise was possible without giving up political power. Franklin’s remarks about the trade offs between “essential liberty” and “a little temporary safety” seem to have been directed at those in the colonies who could see that further compromise was no longer possible by the Crown and that it was up to the colonies to cave in in order to maintain the peace. Franklin was urging them that to do this would be to give up the entire game and thereby scuttle any chance for real liberty and independence in the colonies.
"

Quoted text is from Benjamin Franklin on the trade off between essential liberty and temporary safety (1775).

Curious George said...

"They don't even worry about the potential for the "shift" the article describes: After the loss of freedom, the stable comfort you bargained for may be reduced to what is "necessary" — whatever that turns out to be."

That "whatever" is tyranny. The left will put us all in chains. And they'll never understand how they got there.

Luke Lea said...

The problem here in the US is that the upper-middle class would be willing to strike that bargain -- i.e.,less freedom for for a continuation of its affluence --the bottom 4/5ths of society sees little prospect for much real freedom OR a comfortable lifestyle if the present policies to which our political class is committed—free movement of goods, capital, and labor across international boundaries—continues. So-called free trade and mass immigration (along with automation) are what is roiling our society today. Without tariffs and an end to mass low-skilled immigration, along with new statutory restrictions on wages and hours (how about a family-friendly six hour day, with triple pay for overtime to show we mean business?), there will be no political peace nor should there be.

Luke Lea said...

The problem here in the US is that the upper-middle class would be willing to strike that bargain -- i.e.,less freedom for for a continuation of its affluence --the bottom 4/5ths of society sees little prospect for much real freedom OR a comfortable lifestyle if the present policies to which our political class is committed—free movement of goods, capital, and labor across international boundaries—continues. So-called free trade and mass immigration (along with automation) are what is roiling our society today. Without tariffs and an end to mass low-skilled immigration, along with new statutory restrictions on wages and hours (how about a family-friendly six hour day, with triple pay for overtime to show we mean business?), there will be no political peace nor should there be.

tommyesq said...

the freewheeling spirit that made... China, so vibrant.

Not sure I have ever heard modern China referred to a "freewheeling" or "vibrant." Who writes this crap?

Another old lawyer said...

Ms. Althouse, you often speak of your desire for calm in politics, and how it's a significant factor in how you decide to vote. At least that's my recollection and characterization of what you've written before the last couple of presidential elections. I apologize if my phrasing or understanding isn't exact and, of course, I welcome correction and nuance.

But in any event, an honest question - where to you fall on this question - What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

Another word for “necessary” is ration.

Ration has always meant less for some people and more for some other people.

Added- I hope this is just Althouse donning her professor hat here.

Quaestor said...

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Stability and comfort, I can't think of a more succinct definition of safety.

Of course, the root of the problem is the infantilization of America that has been ongoing since the boomers boomed to parents whose comfort and stability was disrupted, first by the Great Depression, then by Messers. Hitler and Tojo. They rained all the comfort and stability they could buy on their brood, inventing along the way Homo teenageri, commonly called the greedy ape -- never satisfied, always resentful, no banana is good enough, experts on everything because.

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

If some people say they don’t have stability and comfort… nowadays. That’s the barometer we’re going to choose to do what… exactly?

We’ve never been fatter and had to work less for it.

Gusty Winds said...

What's the difference between "unless necessary" and "essential" when it comes to China and US Democrat COVID policies?

Two words vs. one. That's all.

Both are oppressive and offer fake safety in return for obedience. American liberals love this shit. Especially when they can shove it up their neighbors' asses too. Or their patients...students...employees...

Take the mRNA shots for example... Liberals want to push that poison on America's children. They are willing to use and entire generation of children for their delusional comfort and control.

Not much different than Communist China.

Achilles said...

They don't even worry about the potential for the "shift" the article describes: After the loss of freedom, the stable comfort you bargained for may be reduced to what is "necessary" — whatever that turns out to be.

What is this "they" you are talking about by the way?

I remember Ann and Meade and several other people on this board calling me all sorts of names and accusing the several of us on this board who knew this all along of being murderers.

Really are you this lacking in self awareness?

I find it so pedantic and predictable all of the people who are now pretending like they agreed with us all long.

Gusty Winds said...

If Democrat covid policies were not resisted by a large percentage of the American population, the US would not be far off from where China is today.

Saw a great meme the other day. A pyramid hierarchy of education and intelligence.

Grade School - Jr. High - High School - College Degree - Masters Degree - Phd - and on top are the people who resisted taking the poison mRNA shots despite all the pressure.

Because of these smart people, the US probably can't mandate your booster, and people, including the military might get their jobs back.

You're welcome.

Gusty Winds said...

"What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain"

A shitload. The more liberal the community, the bigger the shitload.

But with these liberals sacrificing their freedoms for safety isn't enough. Your freedoms must be sacrificed as well. So must your children's.

Unless of course you mow their lawns, dig their ditches, fix their roads, process or serve their food, keep their lights on etc...

Their selfish "needs" define what is "necessary" and that is as fluid and their hypocrisy.

iowan2 said...

I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain. It wouldn't even need to be forced. They proactively want it.

I may be misremmembering, but didn't you Ann, make this deal. Stability rather than peace prosparity, and competence? Anything but mean tweets?

AMDG said...

“ those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin

Eva Marie said...

What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?
Let’s take the word ‘political’ out and just leave the phrase “In exchange for limitations on freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort.” Isn’t that the promise of every marriage - particularly for women. What animated women’s libbers is that precisely this arrangement even when entered into by 2 individuals who love each other, are intimate with each other and have children together never benefits the one who gives up freedom. It’s exasperating that women activists intuitively understand this on an individual scale and yet fail to see that socialism on a grander scale is also doomed.

Curious George said...

"Joe Smith said...
'What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?'

Democrats have already accepted this proposition."

The thing is the left believes that they can have stability and comfort and their lives otherwise won't change.

boatbuilder said...

I have always been on the "freedom" over "security" side of this argument. Which is perhaps a function of the very high level of "safety and security" which we as Americans have taken for granted for a very long time.

But the fact that those in power have never conceded or allowed that most of the restrictions on freedom imposed in the name of "safety" and "security" in response to "covid" were unnecessary, excessive or unfounded, despite what was known within a few months of the crisis and despite the currently overwhelming evidence, should cause anyone favoring the "safety" side of things to reconsider.*

Just how trustworthy are the people you are turning your freedom over to?

*Yeah, the MSM propaganda organs are dribbling it out in very carefully calibrated doses, but none of the basic science on Covid has been a secret since roughly May 2020.

boatbuilder said...

I have always been on the "freedom" over "security" side of this argument. Which is perhaps a function of the very high level of "safety and security" which we as Americans have taken for granted for a very long time.

But the fact that those in power have never conceded or allowed that most of the restrictions on freedom imposed in the name of "safety" and "security" in response to "covid" were unnecessary, excessive or unfounded, despite what was known within a few months of the crisis and despite the currently overwhelming evidence, should cause anyone favoring the "safety" side of things to reconsider.*

Just how trustworthy are the people you are turning your freedom over to?

*Yeah, the MSM propaganda organs are dribbling it out in very carefully calibrated doses, but none of the basic science on Covid has been a secret since roughly May 2020.

Big Mike said...

What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?

About 30%. And another 30% could be persuaded if you set the level of comfort high enough. But the 40% that won’t buy it, seriously Will. Not. Buy. It. And. Will. Fight.

Tommy Duncan said...

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." -Gerald R. Ford

n.n said...

Of pigs and sheep. They think that they can abort the baby, cannibalize her profitable parts, sequester her carbon pollutants, and have her, too. They will surely be scalped in the nightmare of their dreams. Oink, oink.

robother said...

So, today's theme is "panopticon paranoia"? Which is not to say I disagree with this post's pessimistic view of the majority* of voters.

*Not to indulge in Election Denial.

Howard said...

This paper tiger is the Boogeyman that you people are afraid of.

Iman said...

“Qué pasa sheeple, qué pasa, hit me!”

—- James Brown

Butkus51 said...

To those who want it, first spend some time in jail. You will quickly learn what freedom is.


Kirk Parker said...

This attitude is not a purely American invention; plenty of our predecessors and contemporaries of our founders thought the same way.


Let's hear from Pitt the Younger, writing in 1783:

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Quaestor said...

Howard writes, "This paper tiger is the Boogeyman that you people are afraid of."

Only dyed-in-the-wool fascists are unafraid of this clear and present danger.

Levi Starks said...

In order to get Americans to accept it you’ll only need to add one thing.
Free weed.

loudogblog said...

"I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain." Those people are emotional children. They are afraid to leave the nest and fly.

How many great inventions would never have been made if everyone was that risk averse?
How many great industries would never have been made if everyone was that risk averse?
How much great art would never have been made if everyone was that risk averse?
How many people would have died if everyone was that risk averse?

Just like we need a precise balance of water, air, nutrients, ect....to survive we need a balance of safety/security vs risk. Too much safety/security is just as fatal long term as too little.