Hong Kong shows what post-Brexit Britain could be: The success story that will always confound the left

Hong Kong shows what post-Brexit Britain could be: The success story that will always confound the left, by James Delingpole. Some friends moved to Hong Kong from London:

In London, they were just scrabbling to no real purpose. Neither was earning enough to save even for holidays, let alone accumulate sufficient capital to get a place on the property ladder. Now, they can afford to go on long-weekend jaunts to Thailand and the Philippines, eat out whenever they wish and still put money aside for a home for all the beautiful grandchildren they’re going to make us now that they’ve just got married.

Really, it all comes down to tax. In Hong Kong, your property rental is at least as hideously as expensive as in London. The big difference is, you’re not handing over up to 45 per cent of your earnings to the taxman. Even the top income tax rate in Hong Kong is just 17 per cent — but, of course, the Rat [his friend] pays much less than that. Some companies pay you for a 13-month year so that effectively you’re paying almost zero tax. Throw in an incredibly cheap and efficient public transport system, fantastic food and lots of gorgeous tropical locations to fly to whenever there’s time, and you can see why people find the living in Hong Kong so very attractive.

There are downsides. When the Rat first moved there he was shocked to see in the small hours of the morning very elderly people doing menial tasks such as lugging around cardboard boxes. He offered to help one once and was angrily waved away. ‘This is the culture here. It seems harsh but they don’t like you interfering because that’s the way they do things. If you don’t work you don’t eat.

Hong Kong Skyline Restitch - Dec 2007

Hong Kong’s current system was set up by a classic liberal, not a socialist:

Cowperthwaite was the colony’s financial secretary from 1961 to 1971. He was also, as luck would have it, an ardent classic liberal who believed economies do best with minimal government intervention. To this end, he refused to collect economic statistics, which he believed only served to encourage meddling. On his watch — and in the teeth of opposition from his superiors, many of a big-government persuasion — taxes stayed low, government spending and red tape were kept to a minimum, employment laws remained lax and the economy grew like Topsy.

Taxis illustrate the difference:

Since he moved to Hong Kong three years ago, the Rat’s Cantonese has been coming on apace. ‘If you want to get a cab somewhere urgent in the morning and you can’t speak good enough Cantonese then basically you’re stuffed. The drivers just swear at you and drive off. They haven’t got time to be wasting listening to dumb Gweilo trying to make themselves understood. In Hong Kong time is money.’ …

You can just imagine a more ‘enlightened’ European-style administration trying to solve that taxi ‘problem’ I mentioned at the beginning with a raft of new initiatives: compulsory basic English lessons for drivers; a ban on taxis turning down passengers no matter how poor their Cantonese; a leaflet and ad campaign, in several languages, informing taxi users of their rights; a team of inspectors to enforce the new rules…

The left cannot understand:

To the left, successes like Hong Kong will always be anathema. … One of the many problems with socialists is that they never stop to consider what unintended consequences might result from their virtuous interventions. And because they’re so busy trying to generate equality by bringing everyone down to the level of the lowest common denominator, it never occurs to them how much damage they’re doing to the potential of young people like the Rat.

In London, I’ve no doubt the Rat would be doing well enough. But moving to the red-in-tooth-and-claw free-market environment of Hong Kong has transformed him. He works harder; he thinks more tactically and strategically; he has a better future because he knows that when his payback comes, he won’t have to hand back his well-deserved gains to some ungrateful scrounger. This could be Britain’s post-Brexit future, too: I just hope we have the courage and enlightened ruthlessness to seize the opportunity.

Hong Kong is the top country of the world on the Heritage Foundation’s list of Economic Freedom.

hat-tip Stephen Neil