Sunday, September 18, 2005

Yahoo's quest for profits and freedom

The quest for profits, capitalist or otherwise, doesn't lead to freedom, it leads to collusion with the government. Corporations spend large sums of money for lobbyists in Washington, DC for precisely this reason.

In today's NYT, Tina Rosenberg has some observations about Yahoo:

1. Yahoo recently bought a billion-dollar stake in, China's largest e-commerce company, which presumably required the approval of the Chinese government/Communist Party.

2. In 2002, Yahoo signed a pledge of "self-discipline" promising to obey Chinese censorship laws.

3. In April 2004, though the Communist Party warned against coverage of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a journalist, Shi Tao, emailed his notes to a Chinese dissident in America who posted them on the Web. Shi Tao was arrested, and in April 2005, was given a "lenient" (as per the sentencing judge) ten years in prison.

4. The conviction was based on evidence provided by Yahoo, that linked the email to Shi Tao's telephone. It was Yahoo's subsidiary in Hong Kong that turned in Shi Tao, and as per Rosenberg, that subsidiary "has no more obligation to obey China's security laws than does Yahoo in Sunnyvale, California".

It becomes clear that the quest for profits does not lead to human freedom. Rather, human freedom is a pre-requisite for the quest for profits to be morally justifiable. Capitalism does not engender liberty. Capitalism is acceptable as an economic system only when there is liberty.