Why does the Chinese government rule the country not phenomenally, but better than one would expect from unelected authorities? I think it's supposed to work the following way: the officials try to work well so that they are not kicked out next election, like in Europe. Otherwise, we get Russia where the government messes up everything (in my view) but still keeps its grip on power.

China, on the other hand, seems to be governed not as bad after all. For example, they managed the COVID epidemic quite well (aside from their initial attempts to shoot the messenger), they managed to dramatically increase incomes and reduce poverty in the last few decades, and so on.

So my question is: what are incentives for the authorities to do a good job other than regular and fair elections? Answers should include the ones that lead the undemocratic and repressive Chinese government to occasionally make good decisions which benefit the public.

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    "Fair" and "interest of their people" are subjective. It's certainly possible to come up with historic examples of monarchs and military dictators who arguably worked in the interest of their people, just as there are examples of "fair" elections that many people think had disastrous results. E.g. the 2016 and 2020 US Presidential elections, to different sets of people.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 30, 2020 at 4:39
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    I'm not sure why you would assume a democratic government is the only effective means of governing - civilizations managed to do it for centuries before democratic elections became popular enough to take for granted.
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 30, 2020 at 14:12
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    I'll ask about the pink elephant in the room... are we to ignore how the Tibetans and Uyghurs feel about how the Chinese government is doing its job?
    – CGCampbell
    Dec 30, 2020 at 18:04
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    We don't really know that they HAVE done a good job with covid. We have no reason to trust their numbers; we know they lied about their early numbers, why not their current numbers as well?
    – Ryan_L
    Dec 30, 2020 at 19:19
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    @CGCampbell I don't think anyone except the pretty obvious trolls and shills is defending the CCP in its entirety. A lot of their actions are indefensible and no one serious is actually ignoring your elephant. That doesn't change the fact that a huge reason that they're still in power is that they have a large backing from the general (Han) public, whose lives did noticeably get better in the last decade(s).
    – DonFusili
    Dec 31, 2020 at 7:33

9 Answers 9


The CCP is in a strange position. They are nominally Communist, but they've largely jettisoned its economic prescriptions (because they don't work). They're a one-party state (more or less dictatorial depending on your viewpoint).

So they're in power but don't have Marxism to really fall back to as an ideology. They're also unable to rally people around a religion like Iran.

Their best bet to remain in power are thus:

  • appealing to nationalism

  • delivering some level of prosperity to most people.

Really badly managed, a la Venezuela, they'd have to use considerable coercion to remain in power. With their level of success in delivering material improvements, by encouraging nationalism, and by limiting access to information, they can convince most (Han) people, most of the time, to avoid making waves to get rid of the CCP.

That's also a big part of the reason Xi's reign started off with a big anti-corruption drive, again you want to remove reasons for political resentment (another is that it allowed Xi to sideline his political rivals).

So the incentive for them to manage competently is to avoid repeats of events like Tiananmen. When that fails to work, there's always the fallback to more coercive methods - ask Tibetans or Uighurs - but competence or its appearance is a big part of their appeal.

On the international stage, assuming they want China to be a world power - and remember, "selling" China's success to the Chinese people is also in their game plan - they also have every incentive to manage their economy and technology as efficiently as possible. Prevailing against the US and Western democracies requires that, as the USSR found out to its detriment.

China's leadership is reportedly extremely sensitive to the outcome of Perestroika in the USSR and wants no repeat of it but also know they can't compete by autarky or using military means alone.

If you assume that the CCP leadership are not just in it to steal from the state (unlike say Papa Doc in Haiti or Marcos in the Philippines), then other motivations come into play. They may either want to be admired as leaders, they want their political system to succeed or they have a vision for the country. In that case, running the country competently, if it is in their capacity seems better than just running it into the ground.

Plenty of dictators desire success at some level, not just lining their own pockets. Ceaușescu or Mussolini for example. Doesn't mean it's pleasant to live under them. Or that they run things well.

China is also starting out with considerable advantages, being a huge market and country, with a tradition of education and of looking up to central government (as well as a miserable period in the early 20th century without a functioning central government). The same methods, used in a different country with a smaller economic potential, less homogenous population or a different culture, may not work as well.

As far as Covid goes, they have managed it rather well. If Western countries had the power to impose mass quarantines on short notice or throw people in jail for not following medical guidance (and if we had uniformly competent political leadership wrt medical issues), I'm sure we'd be doing better too.

Thing is, when Covid's over, we will be as we usually are, but China will still be a dictatorship.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Dec 31, 2020 at 9:07
  • "Thing is, when Covid's over, we will be as we usually are, but China will still be a dictatorship." Unless the Chinese government collapses for some reason (e.g. their economy finally imploding, like people have been predicting for years).
    – nick012000
    Dec 31, 2020 at 12:05
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    On your last point, it seems that competent government was a more influential factor than authoritarian government. There are democracies that have also fared quite well wrt Covid like South Korea, New Zealand. They had competency and people trusted them on their medical strategy so they complied, and Covid worked itself out. I guess this crisis is a bonus answer to why governments should strive for competency regardless of ideology.
    – csiz
    Jan 1, 2021 at 18:19
  • @nick012000: It would be quite foolish to prognosticate about the long-term fate of any great power, regardless of its specific political system. But under the current circumstances, it seems improbable to me that the COVID pandemic will outlive the CCP.
    – Kevin
    Jan 1, 2021 at 18:52
  • SK and NZ both had special advantages going into covid tho. China did not, quite the opposite, yet managed to muzzle it. Make no mistake, the CCP is going to trumpet its achievements for years to come. But combine competent government - which Xi certainly is - and the capacity to cajole/coerce your population into following what turned out to be a good strategy and you can indeed pull off results that governments forced to put up with anti-vax and sundry disinfo in the name of free speech (sometimes even peddled by elected officials) can only envy. Jan 2, 2021 at 5:15

As another answer already states, a possible incentive for a dictator/dictatorship to govern a country might well be the fear of a coup or revolution. However I think it is also the case that a lot of dictators just are not content with eating caviar everyday and living in a big fancy palace. They have a vision of what their country should be like. Occasionally parts of those visions might actually be good ideas. Also I think a lot of dictator/dictatorships crave respect from other countries/the international community, this might also incentive them to make sound decisions (now and then).


After giving this question a night's sleep I felt the need to expand a little more about the first point. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith explain in their book The Dictator's Handbook that no dictator has a singular hold on power. There always is a certain class of people he/she needs to keep on good terms with, for example the army or certain elites. Those people might force the dictator to implement some good policies, or else he/she might be toppled.

  • I agree, I'll probably steal a bit of that (about the aspirational motivation side) later on. The part about not everyone being in it just for the caviar is spot on. Dec 30, 2020 at 0:48
  • Good for whom? For them, not for the general public Dec 30, 2020 at 23:45
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    "a lot of dictator/dictatorships crave respect from other countries/the international community" - being able to trade with other countries is also useful, and this is made more difficult by doing objectionable things.
    – NotThatGuy
    Dec 31, 2020 at 20:44

Not really. There are other potential end games besides losing an election, such as a violent overthrow or a military coup.

The last successful coup was in August this year in Mali, when the President dissolved Parliament and resigned after being captured by the military, and a military junta was installed to govern the country. I'm not going to get into how fair elections are there, as I don't claim to know much about Malian politics, but the BBC reports that there have been anti-corruption protests in the country ahead of the coup.


To the extent that "fair elections" include the possiblity of leaders being removed from power, it is a similar incentive for dictators to act in particular ways -- which just means doing what they can to avoid being taken out of power.

It is at best wildly controversial to claim that China acts in the "interest of its people." Given it is documented beyond reasonable dispute that it employs the largest system of concentration camps since Hitler, extensively uses slave labour thoughout the economy, engages in what itself describes as "wolf diplomacy" to intimidate its neighbours, enforces a censorship system that literally criminalizes the words "Winnie the Pooh" and blocks all Chinese citizens from freely accessing the global internet, and does so,so many other things that ultimately if not immediately result in harm to huge numbers of their people, it beggars the imagination that one could bracket them as an example of positive service absent democracy. They are in principle and practice the quintesssential modern fascist state, including the whole superior race theory but on behalf of Han Chinese rather than Aryans. This is not a rant, it is not hyperbole, it is well established, carefully reported by globally reputable independent news agencies.

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    modern fascist state, including the whole superior race theory but on behalf of Han Chinese rather than Aryans Hmmm, not sympathetic to China in the least bit but they are not Nazi-level in their perception, and application, of racial superiority. Lots of countries have superior perceptions of themselves. That's not to say they don't oppress minorities, they do. I'll rate this bit a rant and a hyperbole. Dec 30, 2020 at 5:45
  • Let's not get carried away, please - you are in fact ranting and trying to appeal to emotions rather than facts. China is not beyond reproach, but even if you don't like their political system or some of their actions, there is every reason to believe that the Chinese government are sincere in their efforts to improve life for their citizens. And unlike America, they have not repeatedly invaded other countries across the globe.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Dec 30, 2020 at 8:47
  • So what's so great about democracy anyway? It's long appeared to me that it's a concept broadcast by the USA, so that if it doesn't like the way a particular government behaves it can use its industrial might to bomb the Hell out of the electorate in revenge for putting them in charge. "Regime change? We can build a machine for that..." Dec 30, 2020 at 11:42
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    @MarkMorganLloyd The USA is not a great example for democracy, but it's very nice to have the right to protest against corruption, pollution, or other problems, without risking a decade or more in jail alongside violent criminals.
    – gerrit
    Dec 30, 2020 at 12:55
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    @j4nd3r53n "sincere in their efforts to improve life for their citizens" except the Uighurs and Tibetans.
    – Ryan_L
    Dec 30, 2020 at 19:27

I would say no - but your question is hard to answer objectively. I think nearly all dictators have seen themselves as the good guys, who wanted to do what is best for 'the people', so subjectively, at least, they were driven by a sincere desire to do good. In some cases I think you will find that a dictator has actually managed to objectively improve conditions in their country.

As for whether democracy is the only or best way to incentivise a government to rule in the interest of the people - that raises so many hard questions, such as:

  • what do you mean by democracy? When I've discussed the subject in China, people mostly laugh and point to the US - asking 'Why would we want that?'. And they claim to have democracy, just not Western style democracy; do you know enough about it to say with authority, that they don't?

  • assuming we know what democracy is, is that sufficient to guarantee that the government will rule in the interest of the people? Again, look at the US where the two sides are so polarised that it is nearly impossible to rule for the whole of the people.

These things apart, I don't think the fundamental problem with dictators (or absolute monarchs and similar) is that they don't have a motivation for ruling in the interest of the whole people, because often they do; the problem is one of succession: what happens when a good and wise dictator dies? History tells us that the tendency is for that style of government to deteriorate into violent opression after a few generations and eventually revolution. With democracy there is chance to avoid this.


In light of the comment by @CGCampbell, I have reviewed my answer, but I can't honestly say that I feel this is 'US-bashing'. But why did I mention the US at all? Well, firstly, the ordinary Chinese (or at least the ones I know) are just as fiercely proud of China as the Americans are of America, and they feel that most criticism of China is unfair and comes from America, whether this is objectively correct or not. Secondly, it seems to me that the OP is American or writes from an American point of view, so it seemed reasonable at the time to refer to American failings.

I think my wording was quite gentle; I have American friends and colleagues, so I know that many Americans feel vulnerable to criticism, even when they know things are not right, or maybe because they know. From where I stand, this is not meant as a put-down, it is more something like "Hey, I know you guys can do so much better".

  • "do you know enough about it to say with authority, that they don't?" Freedom House says they don't: freedomhouse.org/country/china/freedom-world/2020 Dec 30, 2020 at 9:35
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    Hmm, I don't know freedomhouse - Wikipedia says it is founded by the US govt and was founded in 1941; my guess (without prejudice) is that it at best represents American opinion, and at worst is tainted by the Communist scare attitudes that became prevalent after the war. However, what I was after was more along the lines of 'do you know what it is the Chinese call their version of democracy?' - also, keeping in mind that to many in Europe, American democracy looks not entirely clean.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Dec 30, 2020 at 11:33
  • It is well-rated in Go-To Think Tank (p. 162, 253): repository.upenn.edu/cgi/… Dec 30, 2020 at 23:47
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    My major issue with this answer, and why no upvote from me, is that while the question compares, or uses Europe (and Russia) you insist on US-bashing. Not saying we're perfect, far from it, but that is not what the OP did, so why have you?
    – CGCampbell
    Dec 31, 2020 at 14:53
  • @CGCampbell I've given your comment a nudge upwards - your concern is valid, and I apologise - I will try to amend my answer. I think the points I make are valid enough, but as a European, I tend to forget that Americans can be a bit sensitive about criticism of their country.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Jan 1, 2021 at 9:08

Democratically elected politicians do not have any direct incentive to make choices that are good for the country. They have an incentive to make popular choices, which can mean making good choices (hard) and working to make them popular (easy), but the same level of support can be achieved by making poor choices (easy) and working to make them popular (hard). Current US politics is a prime example.

On the other hand a dictator who has a solid control over a country essentially owns the country. Increasing the wealth and power of the country directly benefits the dictator.

A dictator who doesn't have solid control of the country (i.e. the vast majority of dictators) also benefits from the wealth and power of the country, but also needs to work to make themselves popular among the "right" people, and the general populace, to minimize the number of coups and armed insurrections.

The introduction of Big Brother will significantly change these incentives, but that isn't finished yet and change won't happen overnight due to inertia.


(I tried three times to write, this each time the length blew up because of the necessary examples and explanations and as you can see I failed yet a fourth time in this area. However, make no mistake, this is an answer. If you need more details or examples to justify the following arguments just let me know.)

TL:DR - There aren't any (even with "fair" elections) due to the huge differences in power held by the two groups. Under these circumstances, incentives cannot exist as I explain below.

The incentive to represent the Many and whether that incentive exists or can exist at all depends on the power structure of society NOT its method of implementation. In other words, if the balance of power in society is distributed unevenly you're going to have a harder time incentivizing those with relatively more in some proportion to the magnitude of that difference - a few have everything and the rest have nothing? - there will not exist an incentive. Now distribute things slightly more equal and incentives may start to reappear. Get rid of the imbalances all together - at least to some reasonable approximation provided appropriate organizational structures exist to maintain the more equal distribution and correct for imbalances should they grow significant. (What would something like that look like? Check out "Looking Forward."

However, the reason for this is what is important. Fundamentally, you are assuming a couple things that are not necessarily true. First, that elections and the threat of losing them is an incentive in the first place and second that "fair" elections imply some sort of less authoritarian structure to society. (Also, I would argue that the CCP is dramatically under performing what should be expected of them and that their apparent "success" is only relative to the total failures we compare them against - but i'll leave it alone).

Elections are only regular and fair if the the pool of potential candidates is large and varied enough to pose a significant oppositional threat. If, on the other hand, you had to choose from candidates that were exact copies of each other, the election wouldn't matter, as there would be actual choice to make. You may want to take a look at how many things our (American) "polarized, hyper-partisan" two parties actually agree on... then ask yourself how much of what they disagree on actually matters in comparison.

In a more equal society, you would expect a more healthy pool with a greater variance of interests. Right? Why? Because in such a society it would be much harder to a small group of people who share the same opposing interests, to "dominate" or "shut out" others. Given the greater equality, the two groups would share relatively more of the same general interests, but this is kind of another story. Look at America today, and how "easy" is it to present an actual opposition to those in power? Its virtually impossible and quite clear actually. The price of admission for the top spot (presidency) got pretty close to a half of a billion dollars this time around and while the current Georgia Senate elections have been something like 340 million dollars.

The final issue here is that when politicians lose an election they lose power (or you know life gets worse by an amount they would like to not experience). This does not happen in most of the countries in the world (especially the more powerful ones) and certainly not the US. In fact if you look around at what actually happens, it works exactly backward. The politician, subject to some impending election will actually stand to profit more the greater he opposes the interests of the people he is representing. So his power grows the greater he works against the Peoples interests.

Now I can hear it already because it actually is true. What about a politician that simply enjoys the job, and loves the gratification he gets from being his communities representative. The mistake here is that you have failed to see that the politician is indeed motivated to tend to the interests of those he represents. However if the power balances are to unequal this group may not overlap with the general voting public very much. But, when you get to levels we are at in America right now. Not only is there zero overlap, there is utter disdain held by the few against the interests of the "Many".

All I'm saying is that it might not be so bad losing an election if you could look forward to your constituents welcoming you with open loving arms and sharing their vast wealth and resources with you. (Yes, I'm way too slowly explaining Washington's "revolving door").

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    2 more for ya -- benevolence and the guillotine. but only in more classicly "authoritarian" structure because the Many have a target. contrast that to the US where elected officials are in an out or at least "tried" every 2 to 4 years. where the do we rise up and who do we rise up against? is it even our elected officials that are responsible? where the hell can we find all those bankers when you need em? will just any do? see, sheldon wolin's book "democracy incorporated: managed democracy and the specter of inverted totalitarianism" its wonderful
    – philrea
    Dec 30, 2020 at 23:13


WHY: China's governing body has significant incentive as they have 1.2 billion people (the US has 0.33 Billion). China's governing principles is perhaps best summarized in the Mandate of Heaven.

The Mandate of Heaven does not require a legitimate ruler to be of noble birth but how well that person can rule, depending on the just and able performance of the rulers and their heirs.

  • I fail to follow this line of reasoning. I read over the link you have provided and it does not indicate that the current government of China meets, or has stated they meet the "Mandate of Heaven".
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 5, 2021 at 15:17
  • To understand modern China, one must understand its past. A single link can provide only the first step to understanding.
    – gatorback
    Jan 5, 2021 at 18:21

There are various incentives for governments to work in the interest of the people. Actually they are the same kinds of incentives like doing anything while cooperating with others.

But before we start, why are they valid incentives? An election works because it is enforced. If we could enforce something random, that also happens to be good for the people, it is an incentive. One of the most obvious thing is, someone else let you work for the people and specifically design a way to evaluate. This sounds like dictatorship. But actually, if we don't perceive the government as a single person, I suppose most people working in almost any government are hired to do some professional work. They may be evaluated in various ways, including things like firstly getting a degree at a university, which doesn't trace to a single person even if you call them a dictator or something. Only when someone become one of the top leaders of a country (or sometimes a smaller region if normally elected), this could become controversial. But that doesn't mean it is not useful to evaluate by a few person according to some rules in the big picture.

Here I call the above a political incentive. There is also the economical incentive — economical development in a free market, and the partial economical incentive — to win an election. These are usually the center of such discussions.

Recently in China, while most people don't feel exactly what happened and may credit to anything they like for the good things they know, actually a new and probably final kind of incentive has became in effect. That is, if someone is incompetent, someone in their command will likely try to interpret the situation and fix things in their own way. If the incompetent person is incompetent enough, they will fail to act in uniform, and would be very likely to cause more trouble at some point. Someone else may intervene, or at least they lose control about the situation and another mechanism may finally replace them. This always existed. But recently it became more difficult to even act like ignoring a problem and not doing anything in some cases, making this situation enforced, although a bit weakly. That is, in the ideal situation, if news reports there is a problem somewhere, and it's obvious to everyone it is actually a problem, the problem most likely advances and finally solves, or if in some rare situations that someone tries not, it quickly becomes ridiculous because of self contradiction and much more obviously a problem detectable by every means.

I may have not explained it well. But the problem is not about this kind of incentive itself, but some problems inherently should be dealt with this incentive, and now it is possible. Everyone knows the market and election are not perfect. Some calls them the least bad scheme. But at all time someone attempts to use them to solve problems that they are not the best fit. With the new way available, everything could go back to its place: if it's a political problem, solve politically; if it's an economical problem, solve economically. Educated people would think at less times it would be a good idea to divert resources for pressure on some unrelated topic, making controversy less likely to persist in the long term.

The traditional example of diverting resource for something else is the alleged story of CIA trafficking illegal drugs... I don't know how much truth it has. But if someone having strong political opinions about some other general topics thinks it's somewhat understandable for whatever reasons, it means they just give up about the complex situation, and only want to debate about some simpler minor topic. I'd say they are not in a healthy mindset, and what they say they want shouldn't be considered what they really want. The exact situation is open to interpretation. But the new incentive is linked to the great deduction of competing opinions about such situations (though nothing I know is as extreme as the example). And this improvement wouldn't show up in any survey or statistics or something like that, for the nature of its internal logic.

The list of incentives that are of the same kind of the above, and complementing each other:

  • Reliability of a process, may discourage revealing of information.
  • Stability of one part relative to other changes, may increase responsibility for anyone to join later and want a change.
  • Scalability, may force changers to be volunteers.
  • Coverage of cases, may cause participants to love the old days and keep backward things.
  • Control or strive for ownership, including military threats, susceptible to the prisoner dilemma.
  • Everyone understands each other and knows about how to do it, susceptible to the chicken game.
  • Political incentive, or general evaluation and standards. Difficult to distinguish between foresight and corruption.
  • Economical incentive, or try-error in a market. Degenerates on a monopoly, sometimes the monopoly of (partially wrong) knowledge in education.
  • Cultural incentive, or let the bad things burn themselves. Confuses if knowledge is generally not applied or lost, but preserved somewhere to allow trying longer.

A higher incentive could solve the problem of lower incentives. It shouldn't be seen as a replacement, but wrapping a new level of competition outside, keeping everything else inside. By this standard, an election is independent of receiving suggestions, which should be considered for anyone wanting stability of existing parts in the long term.

Election is not one of them. Problem is, every incentive sometimes runs out of control. The lower ones up to political may cause great damage as human history shows, and the higher ones happens too often. An election on a stable base like the population, instead of the rapidly changing wealth when it is at the point of running out of control, could let people have chance to recognize it and avoid it when it is going to happen. It is an important factor to slow down other incentives. But the real knowledge about how to run a country is developed according to other incentives, say professionalism and money. (Think about it, if you lose an election, and that proves your opponent is doing the right thing, should you feel really sorry about it?) Without the other incentives, election alone tends to erase the knowledge about the losing side, which is not modern. The exact rules are usually designed for stability, not fairness. They might be relatively fair when it is first set up, if people think fairness is good at the time, but would be reluctant to match any new thoughts.

Compare election: people are unhappy about something, so they vote someone out in the next election; and the new way involving incentive 9: someone develop a technology or a way of management in a commercial company, which works for money and their customers (part of the people), and a young person saw no reason to not also do like this and finally cause the department to adopt for some reasons. (This is just an example, not covering every case and too early to assume universally available.) Election is slow and have less details. But it's possible someone will want to also slow down incentive 9 at some point, where some of the attempts, such as attributing to quotes in history, might be misinterpreted as something like nationalism but it's not the whole picture.

But while the existence of incentive 9 may have greatly improved the China government's image, it only happened shortly and doesn't match the timeframe of China's rapid development which should be the reason of anyone's question. The perceived problem of the west should be for another reason. Though incentive 9 may have let me see the problem more clearly.

The core meaning of election should be an indirect implementation of mostly incentive 8 (by productivity) and sometimes other incentives (may be more important, but not by productivity). A free market should be a full implementation of incentive 8. But they are not usually understood as such. They are usually considered a refection of the incentive 5 (ownership) in the propaganda in the west.

The idea is, a free market or election theoretically could finally provide a way to solve some problems, so we don't have to discuss how exactly to solve these problems. And this is used to actually discourage discussions of the direct solutions of such problems if they are not directly relevant.

There are many variants of this logic. Take freedom as an example. Someone wants to do something for a good reason. Someone else is unable to understand, but doesn't have the right to oppose. So the actor gives up and just say it's their "freedom" and not anything else. But if many of such people want this, or it does really hurt other people causing other people having the right to oppose, the best thing is to restart the discussion about the details, as everyone is more deeply involved and likely would try harder to understand. They group together, on incentive 6. Later go to incentive 7 and 8 in similar logic, which is crucial to setting up advantages in a market. This is the general way moving upper in incentives. Education, research, hiring by someone else, are the exceptions, used by most people but don't bring the biggest changes to the world.

But instead, they may group together on the concept of "freedom" without incentive 6, and continue to claim freedom without further details. Most people seems just satisfied by publicly requesting a kind of freedom, using "freedom" as a slogan, without finally solving the problem. We know they don't, but it seems like everyone in the west making comments should act like they do. If that's not enough, everyone tries to support them in popularity, or finally everyone directly donates money. Everyone make them satisfy in other means if they don't naturally. But the original exact problem could be kept unresolved.

In a better market, for whatever thought process and interaction with other people they would have, they should finally actually compete, with great effort for the difficulty, instead of stop at the feeling of enrichment of their spirits by adding freedom in their concern. Even for the government instead of market, every low job counts.

By people sometimes not really wanting to compete, everyone falsely assume an advanced company should and will take over all the new technology developments, for all time instead of one specific point of history when everything was new. And by not having a lot of public knowledge at incentive 6 and 7, everyone still dissatisfied by the development must always start at incentive 5, which is difficult, keeping this trend going.

This is not only an ideological problem. I've read somewhere that some US officials condemning China for having too high saving rate, which is bad, but only bad in their own economic theories, and "friendly" suggest "solutions" about it, getting ignored. (This kind of things may invite debates, because I suppose the bad parts could be isolated and dealt with separately, and the other side thinks it changes the nature of some concepts and become de facto not that problem, or even call it a disguise.) To the normal people, it's like saying, nope, you already have the freedom to buy that expensive thing if you have money. You don't have to attempt having money and actually buying it. True that most people are not going to be relatively rich anyway. But we note that the highly praised part of the mechanism of a free market is based on competition, not everyone winning it.

The exact interaction between incentives, is that a higher incentive could be used to efficiently devise and select the better knowledge about achieving lower incentives. Something on naked incentive 5 or 6 naturally should be afraid of incentive 7 not in their control, or alleged dictatorship or authoritarian system, if they ever become enemy, because it indeed has overwhelming power. But even incentive 7 is overwhelmed by incentive 8, the full capacity of a market. But on the other hand, if it is in their control, like in the same country, a lower incentive could be used to enforce the actions on higher incentives. Commercial companies could never reject the commands from politics. In the worst case they could only also fail in mass as the symptom of a political failure about disrespecting the rules of economics. That's why politics could do more damage. By disguising incentive 8 as incentive 5, I suppose it might be the US government (with incentive 7 enforceability) actually exercising the control of companies on incentive 8, perceived as incentive 5, which in turn control to some degree in the public image the entities on incentive 6 and 7, including part of the behaviors of some other government bodies. Or at least they make sure the intermediate knowledge before commercialization i.e. incentives 6 and 7 not belonging to the general public, but someone's private possession. I don't know how intentional it is and who holds the knowledge if it is, and don't make a guess. But it has left weak spots in those countries. And if there is a big country that doesn't follow this pattern, the outcome would be quite unpredictable for them.

Say copycat (on incentive 6). While intellectual property infringement is not to be defended, it turns out the more general form of copying just mean joining the competition. And the best thing for a really big company to do before creating something new is to enumerate all the possibilities already known, to get ready in case everything has links to each other, and increase the chance for new ideas. Everyone said Chinese companies were not creative, but when the Chinese companies starts copying each other and this mechanism is starting actually speeding up creativity at least in some domains it's just staggering, and everyone has to revise what they thought creativity was in mind.

But actually, a propaganda could never restrict people's real thought at least at peaceful time, in the way it appears. So the above should match the news more than an educated person's prospect, whichever you think is closer to the reality. Instead, prematurely overly awarding and disrupting incentive 5 makes the more educated people on incentive 6 feel superior than the ordinary people, and less likely pursue incentive 7. That's still far from the full capacity of market on incentive 8. And on the internet age there would be less people trying something just because they don't know how difficult or useless it is. It also makes media more likely to stay on incentive 4, to satisfy the market and make people on incentive 5 feel superior, such as arguing about the exact time order of events and attribute responsibility of coverage to the initiator, sometimes to the extent that we predicted they must have firstly decided so our first physical action isn't initiating, sometimes with manipulation. That might be why sometimes people want a strict yes or no answer about the authoritarian or even dictatorship thing even with the cost of obvious oversimplification, and even retreating from the superiority of a free market to only "other benefits" of democracy.

Many people just don't think seriously about the question itself. Let's just say, what's Fauci's incentive of doing his job, when Trump disagrees with him by that much? Is it the election, free market, or anything a normal person would think of? This just never come up to the mind for some people who want a quick and short answer about the discrepancy in their mind. One must realize that an election or something replacing an election is a kind of methodology of revising the methodology of revising the methodology of ... of doing something. It works for what it is, but quite slowly. In the end someone still has to discuss how to really do that thing. An invisible hand won't work at all if everyone maintains a status above it.

Finally, my understanding is, while China doesn't call itself exactly capitalism, the capitalism part alone has caused the economical development most known by the world. The west probably just did it wrong. The other parts only caused other improvements or changes that is not so well known, and mostly irrelevant in most discussions. Actually, China is still inept in some area crucial to the market, such as making standards and enforcing quality control. And the per capita numbers aren't good. In the west, the market and the blocking of someone's own way and vision may have alarmed themselves, and some kind of labels helped them relieved it a bit. I don't comment much on the non-economical aspects of China in this part. But I must say most things are also new to China despite some similarity with historical references that are sometimes tagged nationalism.

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