Donald Boudreaux eulogizes Hong Kong:
Hong Kong’s success disproves many tenets that most intellectuals — including many of my fellow economists — believe to be true about economic development.
Hong Kong received almost no foreign aid, so such assistance doesn’t explain Hong Kong’s success. Nor does lack of population pressure. With 6,650 persons per square kilometer, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
And, of course, being a thoroughly free economy, Hong Kong’s development is not the result of its government protecting “strategic” industries from foreign competition. No such protection occurred. Instead, Hong Kong’s people have long been, as they remain to this day, free to spend their money as they choose.
This free trade obliges entrepreneurs and businesses in Hong Kong to specialize in producing what they produce best and at lowest cost. This happy outcome is reinforced by the fact that businesses in Hong Kong — knowing that the state does not dispense tariffs and other barriers against foreign competition — waste no time or resources lobbying politicians for such special privileges. Businesses’ efforts and inputs are devoted exclusively to building better mousetraps as judged by the only people who matter: consumers.
Of course, as today’s protests in Hong Kong reveal, the people there do confront real challenges. The government in Beijing — in “kinda, sorta” control of Hong Kong since 1997 — fears especially the civil and press freedoms long enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong.
Let’s hope the democracy movement in Hong Kong succeeds in preventing Beijing from suppressing those freedoms. But let’s also hope the people of Hong Kong never come to mistake democracy for freedom. As Hong Kong’s own history proves, true freedom involves far more than the privilege of voting in political elections.