China adopts Capitalism

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In 1978 something very interesting happened in China. In Seougong a group of 18 farmers met secretly.

They met in secret because they feared being caught and imprisoned by the Communist authorities. They took the risk of being caught and punished because… they were tired of not having enough food to feed their families! No one was willing to work hard to bring in a good crop because everyone got an equal share of the harvest, regardless of how hard each worked. Everything was owned by the state. No private ownership was allowed. Private ownership was against the Communist ideal of all work equally and all share equally. Nowhere in the world has it ever worked, but none the less, it was their ideal.

The Communists simply had it wrong. People in this world do have self-interest and will not work hard if they will not be rewarded for their hard work. There was no incentive to work hard and apply innovations in order to bring in a good crop.

At the secret meeting they, with fear hanging in the air, each signed an agreement outlining the division of the communal lands secretly into individual farmer plots. What you grew on your plot, you got to keep! Grow a lot, keep a lot. Grow little, have only little to keep. Knowing they might be punished by the government for doing this, they agreed to raise each other’s children to age 18 if any of them were imprisoned or executed. The farmer being interviewed, the one who brought this story out of secret, had hidden the paper the farmers had signed in a piece of bamboo in his ceiling.

They started working hard! They secretly competed against one another to see who could do the best. They produced more food that year than in the previous five years combined! It was soon very obvious that something had greatly increased production! Word as to why there was such a great crop eventually leaked out!

But fortunately it was just at a time when some Chinese leaders wanted to change the economic system, and so were pleased with the increased production. Rather than imprison the rebel farmers, they held them up as a model for other farmers. Soon farmers all over China were competing and
being allowed to keep what they individually produced. And that is how Capitalism made it’s way back into the Chinese economy. In the face of low production, the leaders saw that the communist/socialist model was not producing enough food!

In 2011 they had an economic growth rate of 9 %. They have had that kind of growth rate every year now for thirty years. It started with those farmers in Seougong risking execution to do what works: compete and keep what you earn.

*This information taken from a radio report heard by Jerry Dean Epps, PhD, on “All Things Considered,” PBS radio Jan. 20, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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