March 26, 2012

What Are They Afraid Of?

Capitalism and a free-market economy have, for the most part, worked wonders for Hong Kong. In the most recent year, Hong Kong's gross domestic product was a whopping U.S. $220+ billion dollars and it was ranked as the world's freest economy for the 17th consecutive year in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The conservative organizations predictably highlight that "Hong Kong boasts one of the world's most prosperous economies, thanks to small government, low taxes, and light regulation."

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Following are excerpts from A History of Hong Kong by Frank Welsh, first published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers, 1993:

Right-wing politicians, impressed by the arguments of monetarist economists, maintain that problems cannot be solved by 'throwing money' at them; such an emotive term can hardly be allowed to obscure the fact that many serious problems of society can only be solved by the application - preferably judicious - of a great deal of money indeed. This the Hong Kong government under Sir Murray's leadership proceeded to do. Social expenditure (hitherto restricted partly for ideological reasons, but also out of the impossibility of establishing satisfactory standards for the continued influx of refugees - the population had grown from 3,133,131 to 4,064,400 in the decade before 1971) could now reasonably be increased, and the budgetary stringencies of the preceding period had left resources enabling this to be done. The 1971 Hong Kong Annual Review, the first to be issued under the influence of Maclehose, was a bold document, amounting to nothing less than a manifesto for change, and foreshadowing the policies of the 1970s, which made that decade a 'golden age' for Hong Kong. A usually bland and formal official publication was charged with new energy. After appropriate acknowledgements to the previous incumbent the areas for expansion were identified - water and power supply, education, health care and, above all, housing: 'Housing is the one major social service that remains to be reviewed. It is a key to so much - health, standards of behaviour, family solidarity, community spirit, distribution of labour, communications needs, to name a few factors only.' ...

... 'Throwing money about' in other areas has produced dramatic effects in Hong Kong. Millions of Americans might wish to live under a government whose policy is that 'no one should be denied adequate medical treatment through a lack of means'. Medical charges are almost nominal, reflecting a substantial subsidy from public funds. Patients in public hospitals - some 85 per cent - are charged $7.50 a day (the figures have been converted to US dollars, and should be interpreted in the context of the average annual wage - excluding management and professional salaries - in Hong Kong being about US $13,500; adjusted for the Economist's Big Mac cost-of-living index this would increase to some US $20,000). This modest charge covers everything from meals, medicine and investigative tests to surgery or any other treatment required, and even it may be reduced or waived in cases of hardship. Maternity and child health centres, tuberculosis and chest clinics, social hygiene clinics and accident and emergency departments are free; family planning centre and methadone clinic clients are charged the ludicrous sum of 14 cents per visit.

Like any health care system, that of Hong Kong is not immune from criticism; there is no general family practitioner service as in Britain, and specialist high-technology medicine is not as widely available as in the United States. Nevertheless the generally satisfactory standards are reflected in the statistics for mortality and most illnesses, which are usually better than in either of those countries. And no statistics can adequately reflect the mental security given by freely and quickly - available medical care.

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Finally, as mentioned earlier in a 2009 blog post titled Democracy on these pages:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who passed away on August 25, 2009, has written of healthcare reform: "A century-long struggle will reach its climax," ... "We're almost there .... I believe the bill will pass, and we will end the disgrace of America as the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't guarantee health care for all of its people."

March 16, 2012

Red hats and blue coats

Where Does The Time Go by the innocence mission
from the 1999 album birds of my neighborhood
YouTube video posted by Drageslukeren

Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?

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