“Eat all of your broccoli, there are children starving in China.” Or so went the admonishment to many of us growing up in the United States of not that long ago. The ravages of too much centralization had ensured that millions of Chinese lived not only suffering from food insecurity but from abject starvation. Our parents and teachers knew that a little empathy for the other kids might get us to choke down the unwanted vegetables.
Fast forward a few decades as we watched the Chinese ruling party loosen its death grip on innovation and entrepreneurship and the ancient country lurched into stunning economic growth. Overall health, education and military might grew along with a capitalist awakening. Some celebrate the changes, others not so much. Regardless of the point of view, China is now confronted with countless opportunities, and challenges, inure to the assumption of wealth and its incumbent leisure.
Last month, Chinese government officials issued an executive order that people under 18 can’t play video games during the week, and only one hour per day on weekends and holidays. Moreover, they must register with the authorities to receive government permission to play at all. It all comes as part of a larger effort to protect the “mental health of minors.”
“Play your video games, read Adam Smith, and surf the web without content restriction, because there are teenagers in China starving for access.” Will American families come to admonish our youngsters duly? Prosperity and freedom are not perfect, at least to many. Still, is centralized bureaucratic decision-making any better? If drones, not hand-to-hand combat, represent the future of warfare, having thousands of near-professional Call of Duty players on hand if there ever is a call to duty to defend the nation might not be so bad. Could gaming be another unintended dividend of liberty?