'Let Us Imagine a Democracy'

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A file photo shows Liu Di at her home in Beijing.
A file photo shows Liu Di at her home in Beijing.

Beijing-based writer Liu Di, known by her former online nickname "Stainless Steel Mouse," rose to fame in 2002 after being sentenced to a year in jail for blogging about China's Internet restrictions as a university student. Since then, she has continued to write online about Chinese society. Here, she considers whether equality is a principle native to a totalitarian regime:

The aim of treating people with equality isn't to make them equal. The more equality there is in a society, the more inequalities will be determined by innate factors in individuals ... because social factors leading to inequality will have been eliminated.

Surely one could say that what is factual isn't always what is just, and that we could take a variety of corrective measures to enable people to become equal.

However, this is bound to undermine social self-organization.

Let us imagine a democracy:  Every adult citizen has an equal vote, also have the right to participate in elections, but the fact that each person has the political power (such as leadership, voice and influence, etc.) doesn't make them the equals of those who hold public office.

Now imagine ... if we were to let each person exert political influence with complete equality, so that all citizens get to speak in parliament ... If we needed to allow time for tens of millions of citizens to have their say, parliament wouldn't be able to discuss anything, let alone make laws.

Such a congress would be merely a decoration; the real decisions would have to be taken by a small number of people, or an individual, behind the scenes.

Thus, total equality would mean a breakdown in society's capacity to self-organize, turning the population over to chaos, helpless in the face of a totalitarian state.

Only totalitarian states ever allow people to achieve full equality (apart from a handful of rulers on the outside) ... But we probably do not want to pay such a price.

So ... now we come to talk about equality of opportunity ... Equality of opportunity is impossible, because chances are various combinations of causal factors. No one can assign opportunity, and therefore no one can ensure that everyone has equal opportunities.

In a government ... based on equality as a principle, progressive taxes would be abolished in favor of a flat-rate tax. It would also abolish subsidies and welfare benefits for a variety of special interest groups. Any benefit system would mean that everyone is paid the same basic living allowance.

Only such a society would be truly free and equal.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.





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