In my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, written last week in Hong Kong, I reflect on the testament that is modern Hong Kong to the creative power of free markets. Here are the final three paragraphs:
This free trade obliges entrepreneurs and businesses in Hong Kong to specialize in producing what they produce best and at lowest cost. This happy outcome is reinforced by the fact that businesses in Hong Kong — knowing that the state does not dispense tariffs and other barriers against foreign competition — waste no time or resources lobbying politicians for such special privileges. Businesses’ efforts and inputs are devoted exclusively to building better mousetraps as judged by the only people who matter: consumers.
Of course, as today’s protests in Hong Kong reveal, the people there do confront real challenges. The government in Beijing — in “kinda, sorta” control of Hong Kong since 1997 — fears especially the civil and press freedoms long enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong.
Let’s hope the democracy movement in Hong Kong succeeds in preventing Beijing from suppressing those freedoms. But let’s also hope the people of Hong Kong never come to mistake democracy for freedom. As Hong Kong’s own history proves, true freedom involves far more than the privilege of voting in political elections.