Friday, October 25, 2013

Hong Kong as a model of supply-side economics

Hong Kong has long been regarded as an example of the successes of the economics policies of Milton Friedman. As a review, Milton Friedman's laissez-faire school usually has the following points:

  1. Very low taxes, usually as a flat tax.
  2. Little to no regulation on businesses and very low taxation.
  3. In the most pure forms as are being advocated for by the modern Republican Party in America, Conservative Party in the UK, and CDU in Germany (in their European policies) most things should be privatized.
  4. No minimum wage

When I read about Hong Kong however, I find the following:
  1. A Progressive Salaries Tax, along with other Keynesian style taxes, with the one notable exception of no capital gains tax.
  2. Regulations on their stock market
  3. Public health care and public schools
  4. A minimum wage
This is looking very Keynesian too me. They have no corporate income tax but most economists would agree this is a good thing (which is unusual for economists). The reason they are ranked as the most liberal economy is not because of the normal things Friedman proposes but the ability to form a business is the second easiest in the world, and wages in Hong Kong are really high compared to the rest of China (except Macau and Shanghai) which means people have expendable income and there is demand for new businesses. They have a lot of trade going through their port which is a major boost to their economy, and having a large free market is admirable (which both Keynesians and neo-liberals can agree on). But to go so far as to claim that Hong Kong is neo-liberal based on their tax code (which is regressive in the way that it lacks a Capital Gains tax) ignores all the other things the government does.

In one way, Hong Kong is actually the most socialist state in the free world because all land is publicly held. This isn't capitalist to any stretch of the imagination. This is why I think labeling Hong Kong as a neo-liberal example demonstrates a lakc of understanding of how Hong Kong actually works.

If anything, Hong Kong is a great example of how Keynesian economics work very well, as well as Australia, the only developed nation to avoid the 2008 recession.

Sources: Dissent and Wikipedia

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