The Corner

Hong Kong’s Other Side

All conservatives should read John Goodman’s piece on Hong Kong yesterday. It illustrates very well the deep and near-universal appeal of the welfare state.

My own Hong Kong days are now 40 years in the past. Back then the place was pretty raw, unregulated capitalism. Such public services as existed were addled with corruption. Nobody called the police for anything. If they showed up, the first thing they did was ask for money. So far as possible, people just avoided what little government the British colonial authorities provided.

Yet even then there were vast public-housing projects, and monopoly services like water and power were well-managed. And amid all the fizz and bustle of wild-west capitalism, you couldn’t help but notice that people grumbled a lot about the lack of entitlement programs. This was especially so with old-age pensions. There weren’t any, and middle-aged people fretted constantly about this, even though most people with kids could depend on Confucian filial piety kicking in to help them through retirement. Some of the grumbling had a Derbish spin — i.e. resentment of government workers, who did have some sort of pension system. Government jobs were much prized.

There was, in short, a strong socialist undertow to the world’s most capitalist territory. It’s not at all surprising that the things Goodman writes about have come to pass. It’s even less surprising when you look at Hong Kong’s total fertility rate: At 1.0, it is the second-lowest of any consequential territory, the lowest belonging to neighboring ex-colony Macau, with 0.9. Over to Mark Steyn . . .

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