Leaving it to the market plus the rule of law

A quite interesting article that adds to our understanding of why China is in such a hurry to shut down Hong Kong: Why People in Hong Kong Have Incomes 5x Higher Than People in China’s Richest Province. It’s not long, but will give you quite an understanding of what has made the difference. But I particularly wanted to point out the principles that lie behind its success.

  1. Business Efficiency – The Hong Kong government established simple procedures for individuals to start their own enterprises. Entrepreneurs fill out a single page form and pay $25. That’s it. Businesses can open that very day.
  2. Small Government, Big Market– Per-capita spending on government in Hong Kong is less than half of what the average New Yorker spends to support the various levels of government.
  3. Open Trading Systems– Hong Kong has the world’s 10th largest trading economy, with no trade barriers or tariffs imposed on other countries.
  4. Low Taxes – A typical New Yorker loses about half his income to taxes. In Hong Kong, the government claims just 15 percent.
  5. Sound Money– As the U.S. undermines the dollar with dollar printing and years of quantitative easing, raising government debt to never before seen levels, Hong Kong maintains low debt and sound money. It carries a debt to GDP ratio of 38.67 percent compared to 104.17 percent in the U.S.
  6. Few Government Regs – While the U.S. has reactionary regulation with many business crushing consequences, Hong Kong has an environment of permissionless innovation that embraces the benefit of “innovation allowed,” which switches the burden of proof to those who favor preemptive regulation and requires them to explain why ongoing trial and error experimentation with new technologies or business models should be disallowed.
  7. Rule of Law–  The British, during their long rule over Hong Kong enforced, the “Rule of Law.” People who stole or killed were jailed, which left the people to flourish in a free law-abiding marketplace.

Most of it is about governments keeping out of the way, which was how we used to run our economies until modern macro rotted the minds of economic policy makers everywhere. Leaving it to the market plus the rule of law works wonders.

Invaders from planet stupid

A very interesting post by Steve Hayward at Powerline with the title, First they came for the Sociologists. But in spite of its title, the post is mostly about economics.

The one field in the social sciences where there is the least presence of post-modern oppression-“privilege” types is Economics, which prompts me to propose the theorem that the presence of politically correct nonsense in an academic department is inversely proportional to the emphasis placed on rigorous regression modeling in the discipline (or knowledge of ancient languages).

I personally think modern economics is well to the left as an academic subject. The veneer of bourgeois respectability is important to economists if their economics message is to influence the political class. Mainstream economics is no longer about the need for free markets, but the importance of controlling free markets. It may be disciplined by various sets of data, but economic theory is no longer Adam Smith. It is, instead, the nearest thing to Marxism that still retains that overlay of markets, best represented by Keynesian theory. Keynes disarmed the Marxists of his time by siding with them over Say’s Law, which had perennially been the province of the economics far left and central to their critique of capitalism.

I have half a chapter on this in my Free Market Economics, beginning with the notion of “perfect competition”. “Perfect” implies that this is the ideal, and is contrasted with “imperfect” competition. Perfect markets cannot exist, given its definition (e.g. perfect knowledge). All other markets are imperfect, which leaves much room for intervention at every turn.

But even with my continuous criticism of mainstream theory, I believe there is only one economics. The “political economy” department at Sydney is merely a cop out. Whatever sociological version of economics that might be taught, unless they also do supply and demand and marginal analysis along with the full panoply of mainstream theory, it is useless, other than as a leftist critique of markets. This is a quote from Greg Mankiw who was on the other end of these barbarian invaders:

Those who attended either of the sessions I was involved with at the ASSA meeting know that the audience included some hecklers. During the first session, I was the target. During the second, Larry Summers was. (At one point, the moderator Bob Hall threatened to call security.) Here is a Washington Post article about the hecklers.

After the first session was over, one of the hecklers came up to me and asked, “How much money have the Koch brothers paid you?” My answer, of course, was “not a penny.”

I don’t find it odd that people disagree with me. I am always open to the possibility that I am wrong about lots of things, and I much enjoy talking with students and colleagues who have views different from mine. But I do find it odd that people who disagree with me are sometimes quick to question my sincerity. If I am wrong, it is sincere wrong-headedness, not the result of being on some plutocrat’s payroll, as some on the left want to believe.

The hecklers probably limit their own effectiveness by questioning the motives of those who disagree with them. I have found that to convince other people, it is usually best not to assume your own moral superiority but rather to talk with them as equals who just happen to have a different point of view.

Personally I think Greg was too mild in his criticism of these know-nothings. I disagree about a lot, but I am never in doubt that the economists I deal with know a lot more about economies than their non-economist critics, a lot lot more and within a proper contextual setting. The true worry is how sympathetic the Washington Post article is to these invaders from the planet stupid.