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A delightful example of the purblind idiocy of British lefties

Baroness Ruth Lister went to Hong Kong. And was outraged at the inequality she found there.

One of the tenants I met was an unemployed man, aged 54, who looked considerably older. He had lived there for three years. Because he was single and below pension age he had no priority on the extremely long waiting list for public housing yet employers considered him too old to employ. Not surprisingly he had been in and out of hospital with health problems. Physical and mental health problems are common among residents of such dwellings. In total about 10,000 people are living in such accommodation. The community organisers who took me round told me that they had not shown me the worst examples of sub-divided accommodation, where units are piled on top of each other, as they were afraid I\’d find them too shocking.

While Hong Kong might be many miles from the UK, the housing conditions I saw exemplify the pernicious impact of inequality. Private landlords will be making huge profits on the backs of living conditions that blight the lives of thousands of human beings. The state is failing in its responsibility to protect their human rights. The residents I met hang on to their human dignity in the most appalling circumstances but it is a crime that, for years at a time, they are forced to endure conditions not fit for human beings.

I\’ll admit that I\’d not enjoy living in such conditions. Despite my having come close at times.

However, let us now actually examine the claim. We\’ve Hong Kong, that symbol and symptom of capitalist excess, of laissez faire run riot, of, in fact, everything that is wrong with just letting the market do its work.

Hmm. Gini of 43.4 according to the World Bank. Yup, that is quite high.

And, err, China? By the same measurement, 42.5. Given the accuracy of these things I\’d not pay too much attention to the difference there. Around and about the same as a rough rule of thumb.

Hmm, but, erm, what\’s the income level that they\’re being unequal around?

Hong Kong, GDP per capita, $50k give or take $10.

China? $8,500.

So, roughly the same level of inequality, but around a much higher (or lower) anchor point. Which would you rather live in? Myself, I have to admit, I\’d rather be in the one where the poor, even the destitute, do get a bed and three squares. Might be a cramped bed and nutritious but not very interesting squares but that\’s better than starving in a paddy field somewhere.

Oh. One other thing. China was run, claimed to be run at least, for decades on the grounds of fairness, equality, everyone being cared for by the State. Indeed, when China was still being run that way GDP per capita (around 1978) was still at $1,000. The level of England in AD 1,600.

Hong Kong on a very vicious version of dog eat dog capitalism. And in 1945 had a GDP per capita equal to that of China.

And which has done better by its population? Yea, even unto the poor and destitute?

You, Baroness Lister, can kiss my hairy freckled arse. Fuck off you sad old trout and trouble us no more. For if you want to make the poor rich then you\’ve got to follow the only plan we\’ve ever had that makes the poor rich. That let the market rip thing.

Rather than, you know, allow sociology professors to tell us how to do it.

Just as an aside, don\’t you think this Wikipedia entry breaches all the rules on being self-authored?

And, finally, apparently one of her publications is:

Gendering Citizenship in Western Europe, 2007

What? I\’ve no idea whether she\’s a widow or not but suttee is becoming more attractive by the moment.

17 thoughts on “A delightful example of the purblind idiocy of British lefties”

  1. You know what Tim, that’s a fine bit of analysis and an unarguable conclusion, critical observation and well said sir.

    Very well said: better to be poor in HK [or Macao] rather than in greater Guangdong province.

  2. I thought housing was pretty much the one industry that the generally free-market people governing Hong Kong did intervene in. A quick google search turns up various links also suggesting this:

    “[Sir John Cowperthwaite] was however not a complete non interventionist as he presided over a massive expansion of public housing, making the Hong Kong Government one of the largest landlords in the world.”

    “The Housing Department administers the world’s biggest public housing system…”

    So perhaps the moral of the story would be that Hong Kong isn’t really free-market enough.

  3. Given Hong Kong property prices his slum landlord (public or private) is probably getting a yield of about 2% before costs.

    So boot the waster out, sell it to someone useful.

    As for the Community Organisers not showing the worst for fear of shocking a Baroness? Nonsense, they just love to be shocked so that they can write a column about it.

    In other words, they did show her the worst, and the worst they could come up with is some sad sack druggie / mental case / retard who NEVERTHELESS has a roof over his head.

  4. “Private landlords will be making huge profits”

    Holy shit she doesn’t even know that Honkers is run on the basis of LVT and the State is the biggest landlord

  5. Vast numbers of people live in subsidised housing in Hong Kong. The government is by some distance the biggest landlord. All those soulless estates in the New Territories.

    The wait list is nevertheless long because private rents are so extremely high. Partly because most of the private lets are in funner places to be, on the island or downtown Kowloon.

    There’s little in the way of public welfare, social security is largely in the hand of charities and friendly societies. So the people that fall through the cracks (especially mentally ill and illiterates who can’t apply for what money there is) fall through big-style. GINI is not much consolation if you have zero income. Arguably it’s better to have zero income in Guangdong than in Hong Kong, because the cost of living for that basic stuff just doesn’t compare.

    To blast the baroness (as is well deserved), housing expectations there are pretty low. 40 square meters for a family is about average (a bit more in a soulless tower block), so a box in a room is pretty much going rate for the dole.

    Hong Kong needs to buy a bit of China to deal with its land shortage. Or rather, should have done before Shenzhen happened. In fact the best thing for the world would be for Hong Kong to just take over running China, rather than the other way around.

  6. Incidentally Hong Kong recently introduced a minimum wage (HK$30 a month), so it’s perhaps less rapaciously free market than imagined.

  7. So basically equivilant to council property here, though with by the sound of it housing for someone who needs it albeit not great housing. Rather more than single unemployed with problems sometimes get in the UK.

    And single unemployed men being bottom of the priority list? Thats the same as here – and indeed how it should be. Who would tell a family they must sleep in a skip tonight as some single bloke is a higher priority for housing?

  8. I live and work in Hong Kong.

    The Housing Authority (through the URA) here is excellent and has been systematically improving public housing provision with a long term view. For example, they will compulsory purchase (owing to the multiple) large run downtenament blocks in poor areas and replace them with better quality public housing.

    The excellent work they do is this though – they a compulsory order amount well above the market rate for the apartments and benchmark it against living in a good area (not fantastic but just normally pleasant). This means that those kicked out can move somewhere nice rather than trying to find accomodation at a similar price to what they had.

    Throughout my time here, I have always felt that the state respects that the money I earn is mine, and that whatever they ask for of it should be with due reverence and respect.

  9. BA in Sociology and an MA in multi-racial studies.

    We churned out people like this in their tens of thousands, and boy are we paying for it now.

  10. @JamesV

    It’s $28 and will rise to $30 in May 2013.

    The best thing for China would be to break up into a Chinese Union modelled upon the EU (at least the idealised EU)

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