In one of his instructive Facebook posts, Bill Evers, a Hoover Institution scholar, education expert, and old-time libertarian, brought to my attention a story in the Financial Times of September 21, titled “China to Weed Out Foreign Content from Schoolbooks.” It reports that the Chinese government has intensified its censorship of school textbooks, especially targeting private schools. The official goal is to remove “foreign teaching materials that have replaced national curricula.”

This of course is not going to make China great, as the Great Wall did not.

I reacted to the Financial Times story by tweeting:

Shouldn’t the US government retaliate by imposing the same constraints on American schools? This would be analogous to protectionism: “If you hurt your citizens, I will hurt mine. Take that!”

My tweet should appear banal to anybody who realizes two things:

  1. Just like most regulations, protectionism hurts first and foremost the residents of the country whose government imposes the trade barriers. (Exceptions exist, but they are rare. Of course, a minority of residents of the “protected” country can benefit, like special interests, who often request the protectionist measures in the first place.)
  2. Even if you think that your government should promote the rights of foreign residents against their own governments, there is something morally wrong (and very collectivist) in using your fellow citizens as hostages for that purpose.