January 30, 2006
If It Can Happen Over There, Why Not Here?
By James Wilson
Last week I learned of the death of Sir John Cowperthwaite, 90. You may ask, “Who?” I certainly did. But I soon found out that this British colonial administrator was one of the unsung heroes of the 20th century. According to the Telegraph, Cowperthwaite was Financial Secretary of Hong Kong throughout the 1960’s, creating “conditions for very rapid growth” and “laying the foundations of the colony's prosperity as an international business centre:”
Cowperthwaite himself called his approach "positive non-intervention". Personal taxes were kept at a maximum of 15 per cent; government borrowing was wholly unacceptable; there were no tariffs or subsidies. Red tape was so reduced that a new company could be registered with a one-page form. Cowperthwaite believed that government should concern itself with only minimal intervention on behalf of the most needy, and should not interfere in business. In his first budget speech he said: "In the long run, the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster."
(Let’s remind ourselves that the people of Hong Kong didn’t pay federal, state, and local taxes; the maximum 15% tax rate mentioned above were not just for one layer of government, it was all that they had to pay.) What happened during Cowperthwaite’s ten years as Financial Secretary of Hong Kong? Despite minimal government spending on health and education,“statistics for mortality and disease showed steady improvement,” with
a 50 per cent rise in real wages, and a two-thirds fall in the number of households in acute poverty. Exports rose by 14 per cent a year, as Hong Kong evolved from a trading post to a major regional hub and manufacturing base.
By 1971, when Cowperthwaite retired, the government reported that Hong Kong had become a "stable and increasingly affluent society comparable with the developed world in nearly every respect.” Cowperthwaite was both modest and correct when he said, "I did very little. All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it." If Cowperthwaite’s policies of small government, balanced budgets, low taxes, and minimal regulation could lead to the rapid turnaround of a previously impoverished urban colony, think of what they could accomplish in an already-wealthy and large country such as ours! Once DC is downsized, the potential for human progress and prosperity is almost beyond comprehension.
Blog commenting is currently under construction. In the meantime, you can send an email if there's something you'd like to tell us.

What Can We Do For You?

We can help you downsize the federal government, if you want that. All you have to do is join. It's free! In return...

We'll give you an army.

We're recruiting a huge army of supporters to work for what you want.

We'll give you influence.

The Downsize DC Army will exert relentless, resistance-numbing pressure on Congress.

We'll make your voice heard.

We'll use our growing army to make your beliefs heard by everyone, everywhere, every day.

We'll give you winning strategies.

Ideas like our "Read the Bills Act" and the "One Subject at a Time Act" will give you the leverage to win the public debate, control Congress, and Downsize DC!

We'll give you powerful tools.

  • Your free membership includes a subscription to our free email newsletter, the Consent Chronicle, which national talk show host Jerry Hughes calls by far the best newsletter he receives.
  • You'll be able to use our Educate the Powerful SystemSM to pressure Congress. It's easy. All it takes is a few mouse clicks and keyboard strokes. You can do it in your bathrobe while you're drinking your morning coffee, or during a break at work.
  • You'll also gain access to our 16-page strategy document, "The Downsize DC Vision." You'll learn about important insights like "ignoring an axiom," and powerful strategies like "picking off the herd." One reader called this document "the unified field theory" of political change.

To gain these benefits, just enter your email address in the box below and hit Subscribe!

Subscribe to the Consent Chronicle
Enter your email address twice: