After the Tokyo Olympics ended around two weeks ago, most people’s attention is attracted by the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. While the Tokyo Olympics has gone, there are some interesting facts reflected in the event.
Many see the Olympics mainly as an entertainment, and some would instead relate it to national pride. In China, the latter phenomenon is especially obvious. Not only did a lot of people pay excessive attention to the medal ranking board, but the state also spent an immense amount of resources on the training of athletes as national representatives, only for the single purpose of winning gold medals. In history, the same enthusiasm was frequently repeated in Soviet and its Eastern Bloc as well.
It might seem strange in most western countries, in which allocating state resources on an entertaining event would be unreasonable. However, it is indeed a small tip of the iceberg of people’s fanaticism about such state-led systems.
The idea is not something unique in China though; many Westerners also tend to support a state run system in a lot of areas, including economics and health care. Before discussing this concept, we need to have a clear definition of so-called state-led systems.
Literally, such a system should be led by a state. In a broader sense, we would like to include both those states whose resources are highly centralized in a single entity and more decentralized ones with a limited government. That is, we denote the word state in the context by the political authority that exercises control over domestic affairs to some degree.
There are plenty of systems across many aspects of society that exemplify the system. Besides the ones we briefly mentioned, political and military systems, scientific research institutions and education systems are ones that we can often find the existence of state-led schemes. We will elaborate on some of them in greater details later.
Some systems are restricted by the power a government could exert through democratic processes, while others are not. The latter ones have virtually unlimited resources only subject to the amount owned by a state and can arbitrarily spend them on anything deemed “necessary” regardless of the actual cost. In either case, there is usually centralization of powers to an authority, and this single entity plays a key role in the operation of specific domestic affairs. There might be some other self-governing organizations participating in these affairs, but they play only minor roles and exert a less prominent influence in the decision process.
Although it’s a common institution in many countries, some demonstrate much more significant characteristics and give good examples with regard to state-led systems. We will explore more typical examples in a longer time span later. Here we show several recent examples to illustrate such systems, which partly motivates me to write this article as well.
COVID-19: While there are always arguments about whether governments should take more radical measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 viruses, it’s unequivocal in China that the central government is justified to and should take any approach “for the sake of public health”. After Delta variants broke out in some major cities (e.g., Nanjing) in China, a new wave of lockdown is in progress to reduce COVID cases to zero, aside from confining people to their homes and enforced virus testing and tracking.
Chip Wars: As part of escalating US-China conflicts, chips (a colloquial term for general semiconductors for computational purposes) are forbidden to export to more and more Chinese firms which are identified as cooperators with Chinese government and military forces. In retaliation, the government has put a plethora of resources like subsidizing semiconductor businesses or research projects in national universities, targeting completely home-made chips ridded of western technologies.
Family Planning: China’s family planning policies, sometimes criticized for violations against human rights, were first initiated in Mao’s era, which was greatly overshadowed by events like the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. It was later continued and strengthened by Deng Xiaoping, the second generation leader of China. The state then conducted a thorough and strict enforcement of these policies, resulting in an extremely biased population structure today. At last the government became aware of risking an aging society, and began to push a “two-child policy” from 2015. This year it further announced a shift to “three-child policy”.
We reiterate that such systems are never unique to a specific country or race. But when such institutions do come into existence, it’s natural to ask their roots.
In the following section, we will have a brief investigation of the sources of state-led systems in China, as well as shorter ones for Russia and contrasting European countries. Certainly there are more typical examples of countries like the notorious Nazi Germany which would serve well as an example as well. But we chose to focus on the ones which shared some aspects worthy of note in common while being less similar to other examples like Nazi Germany.
China: Traditions of Centralization
China, as one of the current major rivals to the United States, has resources comparable to the US and Russia while demonstrating fundamentally different characteristics from western world in various aspects.
The civilization of ancient China originated in the central plain along the Yellow River, as most other civilizations did. It enjoys fertile soil, sufficient water for irrigation and rainfall, which are critical conditions for agriculture. As a result, dynasties from Shang on developed from this plain region, eventually expanding into southeastern coasts.
The southeastern part of China is mainly made up from hills of moderate elevation. For this reason, southeastern China was not conquered by the Yellow River powers until Qin and Han dynasty. Yangtze River flows through the boundary of central plain and southeastern hills, particularly heavily populated in the middle and lower reaches. Along the southeastern coast lies minor deltas and plains.
Note that, however, the two major parts of China proper are connected from land, which enabled relatively easy conquests before the first century AD. The main ways of transportation were either by land or by river. Although China is exposed to a long coast line to the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea (unlike Mesopotamian civilization), it was never used as primary ports for sea transportation until the British sought for trading with Qing dynasty in the 17th and 18th century.
The geography of China had a great influence on its political, economical and social development. We will examine some factors that contribute to the scheme.
Dated back to the first imperial dynasty, Qin was short-lived but had a profound impact on all following governments. Before the unification by Qin, there were several major states in the central plain, conflicting with each other while nominally loyal to Zhou dynasty. It was somewhat like the European feudalism in the Middle Ages, but they’re different in some fundamental aspects.
The European feudalism was characterized by a set of mutual obligations between the king, the nobility and the peasantry, serving as lords and vassals in the hierarchy. On the contrary, the ruler of Zhou was considered a powerless figurehead by the states with regard to their affairs, and they neither had similar systems domestically. Partly resulting from the vast open plain, it was not surprising that the states didn’t follow the development track of European countries and were eventually unified. In contrast, the feudal system in Europe was a loose one and actual practices differed from place to place. Kings at that age had never been able to collect powers from the local nobility, let alone foreign conquests.
Anyway, Qin laid the major foundations for succeeding dynasties after unification. For example, Qin governed its territory by a “Jun-Xian” division system, featured by a strong central government and the local governors appointed by it for divisions and subdivisions of territory. Qin also introduced other reforms to unify currencies and measures, strengthen land control, and suppress dissension from official political thought. In summary, Qin created a top-down pyramidic centralized governance regime on a large scale, with heavy bureaucracy and exclusively held powers, which was largely adopted subsequently by the rulers of following dynasties.
As we mentioned above, the domestic economy was dominated by agriculture. Agriculture was almost always the primary concern of both commoners and rulers. Major revolts trying to overthrow dynasties resulted from famine or large populations. Even today, China is the world’s largest importer of agricultural products.
Commerce was operated on a limited scale even in the Tang dynasty, arguably the most internationalized one with flourishing foreign communications. Still, Tang viewed itself as superior to other states, like collecting tributes from neighboring states on a regular basis, which is called Sinocentrism.
Consequently, much of travel and transportation are characterized by land and river, with limited overseas commercial activities.
Intellectual and cultural suppression
Following the policies adopted by Qin, Han dynasty pushed Confucianism as its single philosophical, political and ethical standard officially. Other thoughts and opinions were consequently suppressed from then on. Developed as an effective tool for thought control, Confucianism was dominant till the end of Qing Dynasty, contributing much to solidification of the rule of a large population and justification of a top-down scheme.
China was a regional dominant power in East Asia for more than a thousand years. It was surrounded by minor states on the east and south, with high plateaus, steep mountains and low temperatures on the west and north. Korea had long been a tributary to major dynasties in China, and received significant influence over political and social systems, which well exemplified one source of Sinocentrism.
There were no rivaling powers around China during a long period, and most political turmoil was caused by internal factors. The seemingly peaceful external conditions (except from northern nomads) and the absence of competing powers imposed little pressure on its stable regime.
Soviet and Communism
The influence from Soviet to China could by no means be ignored, as Soviet heavily intervened in the growth of CCP and Chinese civil wars, with the Soviet ideology serving as one of its fundamental theoretic basis. By comparing both the common and different points, we can build a more comprehensive understanding toward state-led systems.
Russia: A marginal European power
Russia was developed from Slavic nations within the sphere of influence of the Byzantine Empire. Since it was located far from the Atlantic Ocean and the struggling centers of Europe, Russia was relatively isolated from its western and central European peers and thus in some way shared common external environments with China.
A stable and conservative monarchy was established after the Mongol invasions, characterized by the Tsardom of Russia. Not until the reformation pushed by Peter the Great revamped the entire state did Russia enter the main stage of European affairs. However, powers were highly centralized in the central authority in his reign, accompanying the westernization and modernization of Russia.
Although Russia captured the critical port at Baltic Sea and built its capital, Saint Petersburg on the same site, the determined westernization didn’t change the fact that Russia was falling behind its western European counterparts. Russia didn’t participate much in voyages in the age of exploration mainly launched by countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, neither was it largely affected by the thoughts from the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Technologies and weapons could be relatively easily imported to Russia and made it a strong military power, but ideas could not.
The long-term stable internal control by the coalition of central government and large landowners over weak nobility concealed the severe intrinsic problems in its regime. The peasantry was never freed as their western and central European peers, and landowners overwhelmed merchants both politically and economically. Agriculture remained the major part of the Russian economy, uncomparable with the prosperous commerce and later modern industry in western Europe. World War I exposed the fall of Russia as a major European power compared to the western states, but everything had been late then. Dissents were hidden in the high-pressure rule, but it failed to solve internal political, economical and social problems in a gradual and non-violent manner, only cultimating in the outbreak of revolutions in 1917.
Development of Soviet and Marxism
It’s definitely not accidental that Marxism found its base in Russia. After the Bolsheviks took control of Russia, Marxism–Leninism became the official ideology of the newborn Soviet. It was spread by methods such as explicit military conquests, state-published propaganda or simply its exponents who believed in the claimed utopia. The theory not only caused a large part of communist revolutions in the 20th century, but stretched its influence to the western world as well.
Soviet used Marxism-Leninism to justify its totalitarian regime, and was one of the most typical examples of communist state controlled systems. We’re not to give a full critique of the theory, but picked the aspects that best illustrated such systems.
Marxism claimed a continuing struggle between proletariat (the working class) and bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) until the eventual elimination of the latter class, accompanied by the collapse of capitalism. Because of the exploitation by capitalists, workers would take absolute control of both means of production, centralized economy and dictatorial political powers.
On the other hand, Soviet indeed nationalized its industries and pushed collective farming and seized total powers over virtually every respect of life. But rather than the claimed “public ownership by the Soviet people”, they were under the effective control of the central government consisting of a privileged class, who never really cared about the Soviet people. For example, Soviet was left unaffected by the Great Depression, dedicating itself to hasty industrialization by pouring resources into it under the five-year plans led by Communist Party. At the same time, Ukraine and other major agricultural areas were overwhelmed by the Holodomor, a great famine caused by the deliberate confiscation of food and restriction of population movement, killing an astronomical number of people by starvation. The number was comparable to, if not more than, the notorious Holocaust.
Political dissidents in Soviet were put into labor camps called Gulags. As the official ideology and basis for justification of Soviet itself, Marxism was surely not allowed to be challenged. One of its byproducts is Lysenkoism, a pseudoscience against modern biology and genetics, extending the political dictatorship to academia. Scientists were imprisoned or executed for their support for “bourgeois science” and criticism against Lysenkoism, and the relevant biological researches were totally destroyed. Ironically, the Soviet government supported and praised the “new science”, and Lysenko himself served as the director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Although there are several tens of states in Europe today with quite different political and social systems, they do have some common characteristics in the process of development. In contrast to China, Russia or many other indigenous civilizations, European countries (mainly western and central ones) proceeded along a unique historical path, resulting in lots of ideas and traditions which still play an important role worldwide nowadays.
Classical Antiquity: the fountainhead of Western civilization
By the 6th century BC, city states had emerged as a major polity on the Greek peninsula. Located among mountains on land and surrounded by seas from three sides, it was not at all suitable for transportation or communication between city states. That was the main reason why ancient Greece didn’t develop into a unified political entity. Instead, city states were distributed over coastlines and small islands.
The Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea were worthy of special note. Since the city states were separated by precipitous mountains on land, Greek people naturally developed a tradition of sea transportation. Those two seas effectively connected city states, as well as providing a perfect approach to trading and colonization. Hence maritime forces were of primary concern to the city states, which was also reflected in later wars such as Peloponnesian War and Punic Wars.
Athens is probably the most commonly referred example of Greek city states. Greek city states were generally small compared to major cities in agricultural plain-based civilizations. Limited population enabled the potential participation of public affairs by a large part of adult males. Cleisthenes’s reforms established the Athenian model of direct democracy in the 6th century BC, for which Athens is often praised as the cradle of western democracy.
In effect, all male citizens took part in the major decisions on domestic and foreign affairs in the assembly of citizens. It was contrasted with Sparta, its rival over the control of the Greek world, which took a form of oligarchy. While Sparta was a strong land power, Athens challenged Sparta by its naval empire by creating alliances with other city states, building a powerful navy and playing an active role in wars against Persian. The Peloponnesian War finally broke out, and Athens, along with Greek city states, was no longer at its zenith of power.
The short-lived Macedonian Empire created by Alexander the Great soon disintegrated after vast eastern conquests. At that time, Rome was not yet perceived as a player in the Hellenistic world. With the Roman Republic established in 509 BC, Romans were busy with conquering the Italian peninsula. They were not only good soldiers at war, but skilled politicians on internal affairs. Romans devised a prototype of separation of powers, featuring consuls to exert executive powers, assemblies and councils as the legislative branch, and the Senate as a prestigious advisor. The rise of new classes along with the conquests of Rome was eventually recognized and they were absorbed into the privileged class. Rome’s political system demonstrated its elasticity toward new changes.
Romans reacted quickly and successfully to external threats, like Carthage in the Punic Wars. They placed the Greek world under Rome’s control soon, conquering the full Mediterranean Sea eventually. Domestic tensions transformed Rome to an enormous empire. After leaving influential impacts on future European countries, it fell to barbarians and marked the end of the Classical era.
The emergence of modern Europe
The ensuing Middle Ages were often considered as the Dark Ages in European history. From a modern perspective, the development of European civilization was insignificant compared to its predecessors, Greeks and Romans. However, it was not a total blank of history. The feudal system established during the Middle Ages laid the foundations for a decentralized power structure, making it significantly more difficult for secular kings to gain absolute power over local nobility. Commercial activities were flourishing during the High and Late Middle Ages. Some major commercial cities, like Florence and Venice, ushered in a new era of the Renaissance. Those cities were particularly similar to Greek city states with independent autonomous powers.
The competition between kings, nobility and church powers introduced the beginning of early modern Europe. Not only were the states then lacking an absolute ruler, but the states themselves were at war frequently, exemplified by the Hundred Years’ War between the British and French. The emperor of the Holy Roman Empire never had enough power over its hundreds of member states. The Catholic Church intervened in state affairs, opposed by kings who wanted to take control of domestic churches.
After the Renaissance revived the classical artistic and intellectual culture of Greco-Roman civilization, the resulting ideas of individualism and humanism proved to have great impacts on the following major events. The Reformation in the 16th century led to a break with the Catholic Church, branching into numerous Protestants and undermining the authority and power held by the pope. Such diversity in Christianity was crucial to the formation of secular governments and the generation of more ideas enabling humans to know better about their world.
England was a good example to illustrate how a state without one single authority holding supreme power could succeed in continuous self-evolution. As we mentioned before, England was placed in a situation where multiple powers vied for control for a long period, including the king, local aristocrats and the Catholic Church. After the Reformation, Christianity branches such as the Anglican Communion and the Puritans emerged, further reducing the influence of Catholic Church. On the other hand, the local powers in England had succeeded in forcing the king of England to agree to the famous Magna Carta, limiting the monarchical power. Recall that with France as a major rival to England, the king had to accede to their demands because of the military forces and political influences of local nobility.
As a result, the balance of power led to a parliamentary regime in England with limited monarchy. The Bill of Rights in 1689 was frequently referred to as a landmark of establishment of constitutional monarchy, but it was the lasting traditions of parliamentary politics, weakening of church powers and limitation placed on the monarch that eventually culminated in the act, a result of solving their conflicts by compromise. It would be short-sighted to ignore the preceding peaceful and gradual transfers of powers changes to the political regime, and different factions played their unique roles in such a transition. A good lesson can be learned that a distributive power structure was more likely to evolve and adapt to changes, instead of vesting total power in one single authority and creating highly homogeneous systems controlled by it.
In the voyages set out by European countries partly for the purpose of seeking more trading opportunities, the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch emerged successively as strong powers, but all declined soon. Portugal and the Dutch Republic were simply too small to exercise control on a worldwide scale, while Spain was troubled by the strong local nobility and Catholic Church. France, a major continental and maritime rival for England, chose a practice of absolutism later, which was typical during the reign of Louis XIV. But it also failed due to the incompetence of his successors, eventually resulting in the French Revolution. Therefore, to avoid a single point of failure in governing a state, the British proved that a balanced and distributive political system could serve as an effective and efficient mechanism to resolve disagreements lastingly. The relatively stable domestic politics with quick and effective response toward internal and external changes was one of the key reasons for the rise of the most powerful global empire until the 20th century.
As a final note, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution either introduced fundamentally new ideas or brought great and impressive changes to human technology, which we will not delve deeper here. Notice that in England, initially the landless groups were not represented in the parliament, but along with the development of industrial revolutions and emergence of new industrialists, their demands for political rights forced the established aristocrats lower the voting bar to allow for them, which was later generalized to general adult males and finally females. Again, it was a spontaneous bottom-up process resulting from elements apart from the governing authority. It is another example illustrating the importance of various coexistent factions with their own interests and functionality, and the fact that they acted and responded to changes autonomously improved the diversity and effectiveness of the whole system.
Some people claimed the superiority of state-led systems for its efficiency. But is it true from a systematic examination? Is there anything that was ignored by such claims? By the analyses of origins in the previous section, you should be able to derive some answers by now. But let us list some of the most prominent points as a summary.
Threatened Individual Liberty
A most pernicious consequence is the compromise of individual freedom in such systems. State-led systems usually lead to a single limited pattern (enforced or not) in both public and private lives rather than a diverse one. As a general principle, government that governs least governs best.
Under the threat of COVID-19, there is an increasing number of countries and states, including democratic ones, pushing enforced measures such as health QR codes, vaccine passports and lockdowns. It might seem effective singly from the perspective of responding to the pandemic, but be aware that those measures justify the expansion and centralization of government power and create such traditions, which is rarely reversible. Recall that Hitler exploited the Enabling Act to declare a state of emergency to grab exclusive control over Germany. Nothing is more dangerous than overestimating the reliability and trustworthiness of governments and politicians even in mature democracies.
Highly Homogenized Society
Another concern of state-led systems is the likely loss of diversity, of which the most significant and dangerous aspect is the homogeneity of thoughts. Either repressed by force in an authoritarian regime or by “soft” interventions toward one’s social life, the freedom of thoughts only exists in a more and more limited form, eventually resulting in a highly homogeneous society.
As is known to all, great ideas that contribute exceptionally to the progress of our civilization all appeared strange and minor in their times. The diversity of thoughts is key to the birth of potentially disruptive ideas. The other way round, we should keep alert to both the government and the tyranny of the majority and take great care to defend free thought—“not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Lack of Separation of Powers
Montesquieu was famous as a strong advocate for separation of powers in governments. Certainly, by limiting the power of each branch, it’s much more difficult for a single entity to take control of all branches, and thus would be more fault tolerant in case the entity failed. But it doesn’t tell the whole story—it’s far from enough to separate governmental powers internally. Governments themselves should sometimes be identified as threats to individuals, which necessitates mechanisms out of the regular framework of government-led decision processes.
As we stated in the historical analyses, the effectiveness of democratic systems rely on the independent reactions from various factions to represent their interests. The same rationale applies to the government itself. If the single democratic system fails (and it really does), we’ll have to rely on extra powers to supervise the government and take its own responsibility from the government. In fact, neither the local aristocrats nor the church power was part of the executive system from the beginning. To facilitate the betterment of a governing system, the best approach is not to make it a single omnipotent governing entity and let the other parts of society go by themselves. Governments shouldn’t be the only dominant element in state affairs.
Single Point of Failure
Governments always risk failures. Governments are by all means essential organizations, but we cannot ignore the possibility that they fail in an either accidental or systematic way, for the price is too high to pay.
By referring to “failure” of government, we denote situations where the government failed to take appropriate action. However, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to define what kind of action is appropriate, let alone the execution. Therefore, it would bring more robustness to the whole system when the decision and execution processes aren’t exclusive to a centralized authority. When private sectors take over the responsibility, they usually enjoy a larger diversity and take action more flexibly and responsively. Furthermore, partial failure will have a minimized impact on the whole system as a result of some failed strategies, which would be definitely better than government failure.
There are many approaches to mitigating the formidable consequences of government failures, with some of them explained in the above sections. Another one can be learned from British history as well.
Central vs. Local
Notice that the local nobility enjoyed significant autonomy due to the traditions of feudalism, and they played a key role in both the ratification of Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution. The moral is that a strong local autonomy with only minimal powers delegated to a centralized body could in turn help with robustness of the entire system, compared with a state-led one. It is exactly the model followed in the US, where states hold considerable autonomous powers and the federal government is limited. The US is worth particular and detailed elaboration on our topic today, but for brevity further introduction might be done in another article in the future.
Yet another problem of state-led systems is rent-seeking. In such cases, the central authority makes final decisions on a wide range of issues without external alternatives or supervision. Corruption is a general problem even in democratic governments, which proves again that governments should never be overtrusted. A more serious and systematic abuse of power arising from such systems is crony capitalism. Entrepreneurs run their businesses not in response to market demands, but instead in collusion with state power to maintain their advantages over competitors. It undermines the fundamental driving force of markets and suppresses the private sector, from which government officials exploit their privilege to benefit. China and Russia are just two of the contemporary illustrations.
As an aside, the leadership assumed by political figures instead of professional managers or other talents is an additional source of inefficiency. Similar to economic motives, these leaders pursue specific political gains in leading a public system without taking any actual responsibility, and hence perform badly in management activities. The aforementioned Lysenkoism in Soviet was an obvious example.
State-led systems are generally burdened with a heavy bureaucracy for execution. The public pays for their faults, while they act with significant power (at least within the system). The intrinsic inefficiency of bureaucracy simply results from going against fundamental economic principles no matter whether it is justified by democracy or not. The lack of market feedback obstructs its adaptability and flexibility toward changes. Since governments are less sensitive to the consequences of making an incorrect business decision, resources could be greatly wasted in the state-run businesses throughout a long period.
State intervention in market affairs are not good choices in most cases for the above reasons. Governments can rarely be as competent as private firms faced with competition from peers. In a word, they are not motivated to do it right. However, there are indeed exceptions where governments are essential to resolve market failures, so a completely laissez-faire strategy is infeasible too. A good rule of thumb is that governments should only step into markets to the minimum necessary.
Limited Innovation in Science and Technology
It deserves reiteration that decentralized systems are more adaptive than centralized ones. Innovations in science and technology arise largely from private sectors rather than state-run ones. The first industrial revolution originated in the cotton industry among the factories. It was driven by the motivation of self-interested industrialists to improve the manufacturing efficiency, lacking any aid or intervention from the British government. The result, as we stated before, was significant leaps for both the United Kingdom and humankind. It is one of the best annotations for the idea that private sectors are a major source of innovations.
As another example, there are a considerable number of research universities funded privately in the US. Those private universities contribute a lot to the advances in science and technology. In contrast, China and Soviet are dominated by state-run public universities or research groups like Thousand Talents Plan. Of course, there are also top scientists and practitioners in different fields from those research and education institutions. But the quantity, quality and duration of talents are nowhere near comparable to US.
Exceptions: Warfare and Aerospace
We specifically stated and explained the inherent deficiencies of state-led systems, for many people show a blind belief in the appearing efficiency of them, and this article aims to introduce broader perspectives exposing the drawbacks of such systems. However, we need to note that even states with firm traditions of liberalism (the classical one, of course) ran such systems in some situations.
For instance, US mobilized an enormous number of resources during World War II. We can see the fact from the following table:
|Aircraft Carriers2,3||105||Japan: 25|
Also be informed that US mobilized most of its military forces from the Pearl Harbor attack to the end of WWII, in less than 4 years, demonstrating its war potential as a whole. No doubt the war efforts of US under a state-led framework were impressive. Similar efforts were paid to the development of nuclear weapons, aka the Manhattan Project. Needless to talk about the results, it was at least clear that US was able to coordinate a state-led system when needed, and the system played a major role in the final victory of the Allied.
The next example was from the background of the following Cold War. US, competing with Soviet in a wide range of fields, accomplished in the Apollo Missions, landing the first humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth. It was yet another state-wide endeavor that enabled such achievements.
So is it reasonable to create state-led systems when necessary? Considerations similar to previous sections focused on political and economic issues also apply here: to make minimal use of them. In fact, benefiting from liberal traditions, US hasn’t easily appealed to state-led systems generally and let private sectors play a more important role most of the time. For example, SpaceX is a typical and competent one of the commercial companies in the aerospace industry.
Freedom is scarce. It was not until recent hundreds of years that people began to consider the concept of liberty in a systematic manner, let alone establishment of a real working system. In mature and immature democracies, liberty is implemented in different dimensions and to different degrees. For other countries, they have yet to take a first step. However, state-led systems often pose a potential threat to political and economic liberty in many pernicious ways in both of them. Fortunately, our predecessors have conducted many useful systematic analyses of them, leaving invaluable legacies for us. The ideas have proved to be extremely instructive and inspiring, and I hope they will be clear through this article now.
Let me quote the words from Benjamin Franklin as a final remark:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.