China, Google's Principles, and Republican Teaching Moments

Always keep moving in the right direction.

A few years ago, Google cut a deal with the Red Chinese allowing their search engine to operate in China to the horror of those who thought their slogan of "Don't be evil" actually meant something.

Previously, "the Great Firewall of China" mostly blocked the Google search engine used by the rest of the world; after the agreement, Google was permitted to allow a special China-only Google site that censored certain subjects on the command of the Politburo, but at least was allowed to say so.  For example, searching for information about the Tiananmen Square protests on the Google China site would get you no results save a message that the results had been censored.  The people of China might not gain access to the truth, but at least they'd know where and when they were being lied to.

It's possible that greed wasn't the only reason that Google compromised their oft-maintained allegiance to freedom of speech.  Google's executives made the argument that for them to offer some search, transparently labeled where it had been censored, was far better than no search or a search that wasn't clearly labeled where something was missing.  In other words, though their China product was not all it should be in a perfect world, it was still a step in the right direction for the Chinese people.

Fast-forward to today.  After one too many incidences of Chinese security-service hackers trying to break into Google computers and use company records to track down and persecute dissidents, Google has stated that they won't do censorship anymore, and if that means they're thrown out of China, so be it.

Since Google has not been earning the megabucks it expected to find in the Middle Kingdom, Communist mouthpieces naturally said this was a financial decision and the free-speech argument was a red herring.

Who knows - they may be right.  But let's assume that they're wrong, and that Google actually does care about free speech in making its decisions.

How is it possible for the same company, in the same country, whose system of government has not changed much, to come to two totally contradictory positions separated only by time?

Therein lies a lesson for Republicans as we go forward.

Eyes on the Prize

For the last four years, the Republican party has been riven by an growing argument as to what, if anything, it truly believes in.  The rank-and-file desire a smaller government and less taxes; most D.C. Republican leaders, in contrast, seem fairly comfortable with an all-powerful government so long as it helps them live comfortable lives.

John McCain's campaign was the epitome of me-too Dem-light Republicanism, and we see how far that got him.  More recent Republican victories have come instead from candidates who are not afraid to directly oppose creeping socialism, as with Scott Brown's unprecedented win in Massachusetts fueled by a direct assault on Obamacare.

But, say the moderates, even Ronald Reagan wasn't a purist conservative!  He did things that weren't conservative at all now and then!  Politics is the art of the possible; you have to compromise.  You can't just be a fundamentalist bomb-thrower!

True.  You don't get a touchdown with every pass.  But you should always be moving the ball in the right direction.

Consider the issue of abortion.  Pro-lifers believe that abortion is murder and should be outlawed.

If a politician votes for a bill banning partial-birth abortion, is he betraying the Cause because the bill doesn't ban abortion entirely?  Of course not - that bill, by itself, won't reach the end goal, but it will bring about fewer abortions and thus improve the situation in some small way.

When cutting taxes, you can argue whether they should be cut by more, or by less.  But any cut at all is good, just as any tax increase at all is bad.

The question we need to ask our Republican leaders is, have your actions taken us in the right direction?  Or have we been going the wrong way?

It's pretty obvious that the last two years of the George W. Bush administration was very much the wrong direction: bailouts of union-destroyed auto companies and greedy bankers, attempts to legalize illegal aliens, and a devastated Republican brand.  It's equally obvious that Republican actions over the last year have been helpful: America is awakened to the evils of an over-intrusive government to an extent that has not been seen since 1776.

What does conservatism believe in?  Briefly put: government limited by the strict language of the Constitution, which leaves us alone to the maximum possible extent, and which takes the least possible amount of our hard-earned money.

Does a bill reduce government interference, or increase it?  Does it reduce government spending, or increase it?  Does it create a new bureaucracy with new entrenched civil "servants" who will agitate for spending more money?  Or does it remove a responsibility from government and instead return it to the domain of private choice and individual liberty?

As we go into the 2010 elections, we don't so much need specific commitments from politicians on specific legislation, though that never hurts.  We need to ensure that anyone who claims to be a conservative understands where the goalposts are, and most importantly, in which direction they lie.  One Congress, or even one presidential term, will not return America to the proper level of limited government, but we ought to at least rack up some yardage.

Google thought they could increase freedom of speech for the Chinese people.  It has turned out, instead, that they are merely providing cover for a police state and not actually helping freedom at all.  So they stopped.

Would that the D.C. Republican elites, who say they love comity and bipartisanship, would learn this lesson!  If you're moving in the direction of statism, your intentions don't matter; we all know where good intentions lead.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments
Well put. Hopefully the party elites are paying attention to the events in Massachusetts and the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I doubt this is the case.
January 27, 2010 12:40 PM
Motorola, like many other bug businesses that operate in China, is hedging its bets with respect to Google:

Motorola Throws Google Under The Bus

January 30, 2010 2:50 PM
The problem with many Conservatives is that they seek to control people's interactions with other people. Such as Texas maintaining a law banning sodomy and maintaining drug laws, you may not like it but how can Conservatives claim to be for small government and freedom when they just seek to control different aspects of people's lives.

As ever, I believe that open immigration is both better for the union and a step towards a limited government. Open boards are a lot cheaper to maintain.
January 30, 2010 7:25 PM
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