Guest post from our roving Asian correspondent Suzuki Samurai
Wasn't it easy a few years back to see who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? Our team were the free(r) societies. Their team, the dictatorships. Or another way of saying: capitalists vs communists. The Hong Kong/PRC & West/East German borders were the front lines in an ideological battle (which at close range must have seemed like an imminent fighting battle).
We in the West proclaimed that what set us apart were free speech, free movement, free(ish) markets,rule of law and democratic elections; and while not the whole truth it’s still mostly true.
I say mostly in this context because rich, prosperous, flourishing Hong Hong had all those attributes except the last: democratic elections.
Yep, it turns out no elections were necessary in a society based on the sound principles of low taxes, low regulation, free movement, and rule of law – it made them rich extraordinarily quickly. Who'd want to vote that away? Well quite a few folk if elections around the world are any indication.
So what are we to make of the Hong Kong 'democracy' protests? On one hand I find myself saying, 'go get ‘em tiger,' in support of the protesters. On the other, I'm wondering if they should be careful what they wish for.
Now, to qualify this last statement: I'm positively opposed to the cold blooded mandarins in Beijing mandating who can and can't stand in the 2017 Hong Kong elections. But then I've seen nothing from Beijing that would suggest that they've anything in mind for Hong Kong outside of the existing state of affairs. A state of affairs that is a damned fine example of a free society. To put a dystopian slant on it (no pun intended), if you were a Hong Konger then ask yourself which would you prefer if these not impossible choices confronted you:
- A Beijing mandated official is 'elected' and keeps the freest economy in the world as it is,
- A freely, democratically elected socialist comes to power and starts to turn Hong Kong into a regulated, highly taxed, welfare state?
Impossible? Yeah, nah.
This is the problem with confusing freedom with democracy. The western media, and various PMs and Presidents fall over themselves telling us and the rest of the world that is all we want and need - a nice democratic election and it's Ginger Nuts for everyone.
But these same people don't like to talk about how this was such a shit idea when applied to the Palestinians electing Hamas, or the Iraqis electing a Shia-backed incompetent Nouri al-Maliki; or very country in the western world (and many more elsewhere) voting themselves enthusiastically into socialism. Not to mention our favourite Greek who was made to drink hemlock by the democratic Athenians he’d annoyed; and our favourite elected nut-job, the Austrian the Germans fell for in 1933.*
For further media propounding of this 'democracy is everything' nonsense, think back to the dark days of Tiananmen Square. The western media had most of the rest of the world thinking that the demonstrations were a call for democracy. Bollocks!
As much as can be made out from the pick-and-mix demonstration sanctified by the wholesale slaughter that ended it, the main demands eventuating from a spontaneous get-together to commemorate a dead moderate communist were: an end to corruption (like we don’t that in democracies!); and/or a call to return to nationalised industry by the many millions being laid off in Deng Xiaoping's semi-denationalising and introduction of competition & foreign investment. The “democracy” calls didn't start coming until western media, on the ground, started to suggest the idea themselves. The chants started of something along the lines of, “What Do We Want?” “Something!”. “When Do We Want It?” “Um, I dunno, um, how about soon.” In comes Dan Rather, ''Tell them you want democracy; everyone likes that...do you like Ginger Nuts?”
So what's the solution now for Hong Kong?
In my fantasy world the students would ask themselves what it is they really, really want.
Is democracy enough?
What about cementing in the low taxes, low regulation, free movement, and rule of law they already enjoy?
What if the freedom they still enjoy is democratically voted away?
Well there is no short or sure solution. But again, I hope they know what they are doing, and what they may be in for. All the same I wish them the best of British luck.
>>Suzuki Samurai is NOT PC’s roving correspondent from all places north and west. He is currently on secondment to the trustees of the Sir John Cowperthwaite Memorial Museum and Estate.
* Before someone says, 'but he fooled them...hijacked the Reichstag…told Porkies to the voters, etc.,' consider that he was more popular in 1941 than he was in 1933 (at least until the Russian winter messed it up) .He didn't need an election, just victory).