The Case against Asian Authoritarianism: A Libertarian Reading of Liu E's The Travels of Laocan

The present paper offers a libertarian reading of one of the most important Chinese novels of the twentieth century, The Travels of Laocan, written by Chinese entrepreneur Liu E between 1903 and 1906. I start with an exposition of the ideas associated with the concept of “Asian values,” the evident cultural unviability of this notion, and how “Asian authoritarianism” has been rationalized and justified on the basis of a Hobbesian conception of human nature. Next, I examine Liu E’s life and career as an entrepreneur in a highly interventionist society. Finally, I focus on his magnum opus, The Travels of Laocan, a fictionalized autobiography that explains Liu E’s philosophical and libertarian ideas.
Keywords Asian authoritarianism  Asian libertarianism  Liu E  The Travels of Laocan  state intervention
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Reprint years 2016
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