Bears and markets
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Who could possibly dislike Winnie the Pooh? Chinese apparatchiks, apparently. They have now instituted an online ban in China on the tubby icon of children’s literature. All because a picture of Pooh next to his tiger chum Tigger, beside one of Chinese President Xi Jinping next to then-US President Barack Obama—the similarity was remarkable—launched a wave of similar memes.
The entire affair has more than a whiff of the ridiculous about it. But it points to a serious problem. Despite the surprising paucity of work on the economics of free speech, the link between the two isn’t difficult to discern. Both depend on the free operation of a marketplace of ideas. Attack one and you hamstring the other—something to consider for those who turn up their noses at more ‘fuzzy’ reasons such as liberal ideals.
As this newspaper has noted before, China’s quest to turn itself into a champion of free trade is hampered by its citizens’ lack of freedom. Something to note, as well, for the Indian political class that has often seemed to think freedom of expression is negotiable.