The Great Bernard Levin once pointed out that there was a useful, honest and moral solution to the Hong Kong problem. The lease on the New Territories was to end in mere decades, the place could not be maintained purely using the land which was permanently ceded. Something, therefore, needed to be done before 1999 or whatever the date was. The government of Maggie Thatcher wrestled with this and came to a fairly disgusting solution. To change the rights of residence in Britain associated with being a Hong Konger and thereby prevent some flood of immigrants as the place was wrapped up in a bow and handed over to China.
Levin’s solution was the opposite. Simply state that all and any may come to the UK. Provide them with freedom by providing the right of exit.
True, this being Levin he also suggested that they should be confined to Liverpool – which would be transformed into a libertarian free port – for their first 5 years but that would sort that place out too.
Stripped of that domestic part of the policy the point was that freedom is that right of exit:
Almost three million residents of Hong Kong have been given the right to move to the UK permanently after China committed a “clear and serious breach” of its agreement with Britain over the governance of the former colony.
As ever with the British we fail to do the right thing until we absolutely must.
The underlying point here being that the one true and great freedom is to be able to say “Sod you, I’m off”. This is obviously true of the individual. All polities are a compromise and if the one reached in one location doesn’t suit then there are others that can be moved to. If, for example, you are one of the rays of sunshine that thinks oats are to be fed to horses there is England. If one of those with a grievance who thinks they’re comestibles for people then Scotland exists. The free movement of people between the two countries allows that ease of distinguishing. The individual that can exit is no longer subject to the tyranny of the majority imposing that specific compromise in that place.
But more than this that others can move limits the impositions that can be made upon us that stay. That Jim Ratcliffe can suitcase himself off to Monaco limits the tax rates that can be imposed upon the rest of us. For if the rates are raised “too high” then exit means revenue falls. We are not taxed until the pips squeak, the snot dribbles, because others have exit.
The value of Hong Kong in the economic sense is the people who live there. There isn’t actually anything else there n an economic sense other than them. Their ability to leave limits what can be done to those who stay – exit produces freedom.
We can also look at this the other way around. All the great tyrannies of the modern age placed limitations on who may leave and how. The Berlin Wall machine guns faced inwards, into East Germany, that socialist paradise. Why? Because that flood of exit in 1960 and 1961 limited how much tyranny could be visited on the non-captive population.
The right of exit works, it’s one of the great freedoms. So, obviously, we should offer it to those in Hong Kong who we should never have taken it away from. But rather more importantly we must guard against those who would steal it from us. OberstKartoffel and his insistence upon passport based taxation being only one of them.