Fotios Tsarouhis
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Fotios Tsarouhis in "Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception." - Sophocles,

From the tithes of Westminster to the shores of Hong Kong

Rules, Britannia!  The UK tax code compared to Hong Kong's.

The Centre for Public Policy, a neoliberal Thatcherite think tank in the United Kingdom, posted a photo to their Facebook page today showing the towering stack of British tax rules next to a thin pamphlet detailing the tax laws of Hong Kong.

Founded by Margaret Thatcher and two of her advisors several years before Mrs. Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, the Centre for Public Policy acquired the photo from the TaxPayers' Alliance, a decade-old campaign for lower taxes in the United Kingdom.

Hong Kong is currently ranked #1 on the Economic Freedom of the World Index, a scholarly ranking compiled by the Fraser Institute and utilized by institutions in fifty-nine nations, including elite American universities like Harvard and Georgetown.  The United Kingdom ties with the United States at #12, however many would argue that Britain's ranking would be significantly lower if it wasn't for the dramatic tilt toward free-market-oriented policies in Britain that was the legacy of the Thatcher years.

Thatcher waves to her fellow Tories before taking the podium at a Conservative Party conference in the 1980s to defend her free-market policies. She would remain prime minister until 1990, a few months shy of a dozen years in power.

The Hong Kong Conservative Alliance (右翼連線) was quick to comment on the post.  "It's really no magic at all," quipped the group. "We Hong Kongers learned it from Adam Smith. Kind Regards."

This reminder comes at a time when the debate over inheritance taxes is reheating on the island nation.  Last month, the Wall Street Journal slammed the estate tax as "Britain's Grim Tax Reaper".  In response of the tax's creeping effect on the British middle class, the Journal lamented, "No matter who pays the tax in the beginning, the middle class always pays in the end".

However, many modern free-marketers would likely deviate from at least some of what Adams Smith and Margaret Thatcher had to say.  Smith urged equitable taxation according to the "abilities" of each social group and Thatcher, even at her most conservative, stressed the importance of using tax cuts to "create the wealth for better social services".  Which reminds us that, at the end of the day, a glaring problem remains.


Slashing a tax code can garner great consensus - as it does in the U.S. where Democrats and Republicans agree that major reform is needed - but when you get to the clash of specific ideologies and specific programs (government expenditures, the appropriate role of the state in various aspect of public life, the price tag of the defenses of a nation, which tax credits are necessary and proper) it is very difficult to achieve Thatcher's most hated c-word: consensus.  This is most difficult in a kingdom of four semi-autonomous countries with sharp divisions between regions and classes than it is in a city with an area of 426 square miles.


But, Elizabethan subjects, it doesn't mean it isn't worth trying.