Deng Xiaoping was the second most powerful man in China.

Virtually untouchable.

But Deng said something wrong.

He said “It doesn’t matter what colour a cat is as long as it catches mice”.

That statement got the second most powerful man in China removed from office, publicly vilified, and sent to work in a tractor factory.

Sent there by the first most powerful man in China: Mao Zedong.

Because this was an argument about economic policy.

Deng Xiaoping believed communism was a means to an end.

To achieve a better, fairer life for everyone.

But Mao Zedong was a hard-line Marxist.

For Mao communism was the end, in itself.

So for Mao it did matter what colour all the cats were.

For Mao all the cats had to be red, whether they caught mice or not.

For Mao, all communist policies had to be strictly adhered to.

Which meant all personal property was confiscated by the state.

However hard you worked you got no more than anyone else.

And people were starving.

Deng Xiaoping said this was because it wasn’t the Chinese way.

Deng said the Chinese thrive on competition.

Deng felt some forms of personal property and personal gain should be reintroduced.

To encourage people to work harder, to produce more.

In order to feed all the people you might have to bend the rules a little.

But Mao believed in hard-line communist dogma whatever the results.

If people starved, they starved. That was just too bad.

Deng disagreed.

He was a pragmatist, he believed Form Follows Function.

The most important thing is that something does the job you want it to do.

That job was to feed the population.

But for Mao form did not follow function, for Mao function followed form.

Deng was a pragmatist, Mao was a purist.

Under Mao, around 20 million Chinese died as a result of starvation.

Then Mao died.

And Deng was reinstated and eventually became the most powerful man in China.

And Deng said “socialism and market economics are not incompatible”.

China remained communist, but the people were allowed to own individual property.

Those who worked harder could earn more.

Under Deng, the Chinese people became richer and better fed than they’d ever been.

Under Deng, China became the second greatest economic power in thewhole world.

The lesson is, the rules are there to serve us not to oppress us.

Pragmatism beats dogmatism.

But the smartest and most intelligent have always known that:

“Form Follows Function.” – Bauhaus

“The end justifies the means.” – Machiavelli

“God helps those who help themselves.” – Aesop

“It doesn’t matter what colour a cat is so long as it catches mice.” – Deng Xiaoping