Tuesday, March 8, 2016

God, Statistics and Hong Kong

There is a remarkable account in the Bible of King David ordering a census, and it costing the Israeli people a terrible retribution by God.  The taking of the census was a crime of pride and presumption on David's part.  What is not known is how come if David did the crime, why did the Israeli people suffer? The bible doesn't say.

I think that is an easy one, so the bible doesn't say.  The people had already asked for a king, and got Saul, who went bad.  David was second in line, and David as soon as he was king got busy killing immediately a fellow who had claimed to kill Saul, David's existential enemy and predecessor, and then on to other potential threats. Saul was anointed by God, so any killing of him was sacrilege.  Leaders are untouchable.

What's that got to do with the people suffering?  The Israelis were given an exhausting list of horrors they would face if God granting them a king.  They wanted it anyway.  So as subsequent history shows, God gave the Isrealis kings, good and hard.  (Ancient Carthage and Mojenjo Daro may have been whole peaceful and prosperous anarchistic cities.  Obviously, by the biblical account, ancient Israel was anarchistic, peaceful and prosperous, for some 400 years as well.)

The upshot is when a king does wrong, it is the people who are guilty.  They demanded a king.  By extension, when a hegemon does wrong, it is the people who are guilty, not the perpetrators who give us bank bailouts when we do not want them, wars we do not want, domed stadiums we do not want.  Some people say taxes are the price we pay for civilization, I say taxes are how we prove our complicity in organized crime.  (I pay all my required taxes, or at least try to, at the same time I work all legal loophole, but this doesn't mean I am not also guilty as hell of USA crimes.)  The flipside is anyone who takes payments from the hegemon is also registering complicity.  (I hope to donate my social security checks to land mine clearing wherever we left them behind after our fun-time invasions.)

Now the reason I bring this up is an odd little item regarding Hong Kong, not perfect, but the closest thing we have in the world today to a free market.  How did it get that way?
Cowperthwaite talked to me about low taxes, a business-friendly regulatory environment, a lack of state subsidies, tariff-free trade relations with the rest of the world, and other policies he promoted during his tenure as colonial financial secretary. Of all the policies that we discussed, one stands out in my mind. I asked him to name the one reform that he was most proud of. "I abolished the collection of statistics," he replied. Cowperthwaite believed that statistics are dangerous, because they enable social engineers of all stripes to justify state intervention in the economy.
Well, there you are.  Such a simple defense of freedom, peace and prosperity.

Now, If I have a claim to fame, it is how to use stats to spot customers, and then work from there.  Is there a difference in stats used to promote efficiency and stats gathered for purposes of social engineering?   Who knows, I have already admitted as a thriving American I am guilty as hell, but let's go on.

One of my favorite organizations in the world is the Hong Kong Trade Development Association, putatively public/private, but effectively a private organization that has long collected stats and built a database of probity and sobriety that Ali Baba could only wish for.    Sure, collect stats, but do it as a private entity, with the info being for sale to interested parties, not for social engineering.

I am against hegemon provision of anything, but I drink the water, ride the busses, use the mails (especially subsidized rates), leverage schools to effect my seminars, the list goes on and on.  But there are alternatives, if any of us survives the coming gotterdammerung, they can keep in mind when the opportunity to rebuild comes.

The safest place to be the next 40 years is self-employed (more accurately, customer employed).

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