'Black Cat-White Cat' theory in America

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 17, 2015
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Emergency personnel wait near an Amtrak train crash site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Seven people were killed and dozens injured after an Amtrak train derailed and overturned in Philadelphia late May 12, 2015. [Xinhua photo]

The crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia on May 12 that killed seven people provided an excuse to rekindle the argument over America's rail system. Republicans, arguing that Amtrak is a money-losing failure, want to kill the national rail company. Democrats argue that its flaws are due to underfunding.

Both sides are right: America's rail system is terrible. There is only one high-speed train in use in the country that can surpass 200 kilometers per hour. Most of their lines arrive on time less than 75 percent of the time and average only 80 kilometers per hour on many routes. As I write this column, I am sitting on a high-speed train running between Guangzhou and Guilin that hit top speeds over 240 kilometers per hour and will make the 446 kilometer trip in 3 hours.

It doesn't matter that the train is being run by a state-owned company. What matters is that I, along with more than 2 billion passengers a year, will make it to my destination quickly and at an affordable price.

Yet Republican Representative John Mica seems to think Amtrak is a mess because it is a government agency. In an article in National Journal, Mica said that Amtrak is a "third-world," "Soviet-style" train service. But China has a government-run train service, and it is run well. European train services that are heavily subsidized by the government are also well run.

Conservative opposition to government-run trains is based more on ideology than on facts, but the old Chinese saying "Seek truth from facts" applies here. Even if government bureaucracy can be inefficient in many cases, this is not always the case, as just a few examples show.

Besides trains, there are many other examples of worthwhile government programs, even in the United States. The U.S. government built over 70,000 kilometers of highway, for example, and many of America's public universities are highly ranked in the world. These programs "catch the mouse," as Deng said. It doesn't matter to the end user whether the government or a private company is in charge. "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white," Deng said, "If it catches mice it is a good cat."

Before Deng, China's problem was the opposite of America's. It was too focused on socialist ideology, so it forsook development policies. After years of poverty and suffering from the 1950s to the 1970s, Deng reformed the economy, allowing more competition and private enterprise while still preserving aspects of state planning. The economy grew at a world-leading pace. Private businesses pursuing profit could finally meet consumers' demands for most products.

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