Re: China, the Free-Market & Freedom?

Anders Sandberg (
23 Jan 1998 19:18:36 +0100

Steve Pruitt <> writes:

> One thing that has some people worried is China becoming a huge
> consumerist nation. If the Chinese decide to adopt
> a predominately meat diet and a large percentage of them decide to start
> driving cars, then the impact on the environment may be a little messy.
> A story I read in Business Week said an automobile-centered Chinese
> society would suck up most of the world's oil, or something close to
> it. I haven't put any math to it, so this is just anecdote.

This is very widespread idea, but there is something wrong with it. If
all chinese used cars, then they would not afford gasoline - or they
would have to find a cheaper substitute. Overall I think this fear is
based on linear extrapolation: if we have a certain standard of living
producing a certain level of pollution, then if X times us chinese
have the same standard they will produce X times as much
pollution. The fallacy is the assumption that they develop *identical*
systems, without learning anything from mistakes and without trying to
improve them.

"But Grog, if there really will be *millions* of people in the future
as you say, then there won't be enough caves, and their cooking-fires
will produce so much smoke that it will cause a new ice age."

This seems unlikely, the chinese seem to be quite good at modifying
foreign ideas for their own use. Advanced technology as a rule is less
polluting than less advanced, so it would be a good thing
environmentally speaking to encourage the chinese to use the most
efficient methods available, giving/selling them our know-how.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y