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Google and China

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

Moral relativism isn't easy, is it?

I'm sure you have read about Google agreeing to censor search results for Chinese users. There are two basic opinions on this: one side holds that censoring is disgusting and the other says it's better to allow them something than nothing at all.

I'm conflicted on this. I lean toward the side of "just say no", but I wonder how many people who say Google should take the moral high ground are willing to take that to its logical end? After all, Walmart and a lot of other stores are full of products made by Chinese workers who often are laboring under conditions that would be illegal here. Should we ban the importation of goods from countries with bad labor laws? Should we also stop buying oil from countries with horrible attitudes toward women or where states force religious conformity?

Well, maybe we should, but I don't think we'd like the consequences. I don't like Google censoring, but there are a lot of things I don't like. As most of us do, I have to make relative moral decisions, and those aren't always easy or comfortable. I don't know what's "right" here. The real "wrong" is China itself, and I could argue that Google holding firm could encourage them to change more quickly. But you could also argue that opening the information door a crack will make it easier to open it more later. Neither choice satisfies me.

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Wed Feb 8 18:24:45 2006: 1612   BigDumbDinosaur

It could be opined that by continuing to support China by way of importing their goods or by encouraging Google providing censored access to what you and I see in unexpurgated form, we are tacitly condoning what is wrong with the Chi-Com system, especially the dismal handling of basic human rights. But, of course, when it comes to money, morals often get rudely shoved aside in the name of pecuniary gain. Right, Bill?

I'm inclined to agree that some access to Google is better than nothing at all. Sooner or later, information that the Chinese authorities have ruled unacceptable for mass consumption will accidentally find its way through the thicket of censorship and we may witness something akin to what ultimately brought down the "Evil Empire' (and I'm not referring to the one located in Redmond, Washington). Although much was said about the policies of Ronald Reagan and the rhetoric of Pope John Paul II being instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was the inrush of unfettered information to the Soviet masses that hasten pestroika and the destruction of the Iron Curtain. There's nothing more powerful than an informed public.


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