Brin on "Cooperation" with China

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

There is an interesting interview with Google co-founder Sergey Brin at Spiegel Online where he discusses both Google's initial willingness to go along with government censorship of search results and its current shift of operations to hong Kong, which lies outrside the "Great Firewall of China."

One of his comments I found particularly insightful:

SPIEGEL: Do you now fear that you will lose China, a huge potential future market?

Brin: If you adopt that point of view then you would agree to completely arbitrary limitations and distortion. If you take the point of view that you have to be friendly with the Chinese government and they can make arbitrary demands of you, then you can't really run a business. I really don't think that is a practicable way to proceed.
That's the value of experience, but the value of principles is that they enable one to see that this inability to proceed actually applies more broadly, both to anyone who thinks he can do business as a "partner" of a government and to all aspects of running a business.

Case in point: Henry Waxman is gearing up to persecute any company with the temerity to perpare for the enormous costs he just handed them with passage of the immoral and impractical "Health Care" bill.
Last week, AT&T announced it will take an immediate $1 billion write-down thanks to a new tax in the health bill that will cause Caterpillar ($100 million) and Deere & Co. ($150 million), among other large employers, to do the same. The benefits consultancy Towers Watson estimates that the change may reduce corporate profits by as much as $14 billion over time.


Not to fear. Waxman, ... who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is on the case. No, he doesn't want to change the tax provision -- he wants to browbeat the affected corporations. He has called the CEOs of AT&T, Caterpillar and Deere to testify before his committee, accompanying his summons with a far-reaching document request lest the corporations miss the point: This is naked political harassment.
What's going on here? In China, and increasingly in our country, people do not generally understand the nature of the government as the only social institution that can legally wield force or its proper purpose, which is to wield such force only for the purpose of protecting individual rights. There is also not a solid understanding of the danger of accepting arbitrary premises, such as, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

And so, you see scoundrels like Henry Waxman or members of the Chinese government armed with moral blank checks and guns doing everything they can to prevent private citizens from doing what they know to be proper. In a society, trade requires (and often, effectively is) open communication. But what if it makes government orders harder to carry out?

Well, when there is no reality check on the whims of officials armed with guns attempting to boss people around, what protection do we have should they arbitrarily see quashing dissent as part of their jobs? And if they're acting on premises that have nothing to do with reality, is it at all surprising that communicating facts will raise doubts about the wisdom of such officials? Since these officials are making people act against their own judgement, anything they order will have unintended consequences -- just like any lie will eventually lead to a contradiction when investigated, and any arbitrary assertion will lead to nothing.

Not only is it impossible to plan ahead with a nakedly arbitrary government "partner," it sooner or later becomes impossible to cooperate with any such partner. The only good government is one that leaves non-criminals alone, protects us from foreign aggression, and enables us to solve disputes in the courts.

-- CAV


Mike said...

This also got brought up over at Noodlefood, along with the added tidbit that SEC regulations and generally accepted accounting principles actually REQUIRE the write-down that those companies have issued, and require it now. Those companies have to write down that projected tax liability in the same fiscal quarter as the enactment of the law that caused it. So the companies have a choice: Appease the Congressional Democrats and end up being the next Arthur Andersen under fire for cooking the books, or keep the books correctly and risk unilateral harassment and abuse at the hands of Congressional Democrats. There is no winning play (though I think they did choose the better play of the two).

Nothing can be A and not A at the same time, Waxman's wishes notwithstanding.

A funny aside... I thought at first your post title was a typo. "Bring on cooperation with China!" Yeahhhh!!! Rah Rah Rah. No, wait a second...

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for mentioning the Noodle Food post. I whizzed by it my feed reader, but didn't take a look.

Heh! The possible misreading could lead to a few readers dropping by and being in for a big surprise. All the better, then.