March 16, 2005
There's only one explanation that makes any sense. The SCMP don't pay Simon Patkin for his silly little rants, he pays them for the free publicity.
Monday's paper had one of his more banal efforts, starting off with Donald Tsang's strange suggestion that Hong Kong people should have more children in order to solve the problem of an ageing population. He uses this to claim that "many middle-class couples already support at least three children through their taxes". However, he offers no statistics to back this up, and moves swiftly on to his real concern:
Indeed, despite a forecast budget surplus, it is unrestrained government spending that is causing a cyclical deficit, which pundits claim will drain our reserves and put us into the poorhouse.
Er, pundits? You mean people who write opinion pieces in the SCMP. Oh dear, it must be serious. I don't fancy living in a poorhouse - do they have aircon?
Simon does have statistics to support his complaint that spending on education, health and social welfare are substantially up since 1989, though I'd wager that these have not been adjusted for inflation, making them virtually useless.
Mysteriously, he complains (warning - cliche alert) that "there has been a deafening silence from the accounting profession about curbing this increase" as if bean counters were supposed to tell the government what policies to adopt (if they do, I suggest that they adjust their figures for inflation).
He proposes a clampdown on immigration, because (as we know) many immigrants are welfare scroungers. We know this because it has "been reported as a serious problem", though Simon hedges his bets by saying that "most immigrants work hard" (perhaps they run their own free-market think-tanks from their spare bedrooms). In fact, of course, the most obvious solution to the problem of ageing populations all round the world is to allow more immigration, though ironically many of the right-wing commentators who want lower taxes are also paranoid about immigration.
This whole article can really be summarised very simply. Simon is against government spending:
there should be a cap on government spending on education, social welfare and health each year. This should be reduced to zero over the medium term.
Does he mean the cap should be zero or expenditure should be zero? As with much of this article it's hard to tell, but based on his past opinions I assume he means the latter. Never fear, because the middle-class are very benevolent. So, although Simon is nervous that we will all end up in the poorhouse if government spending is not curbed, he is really quite keen on a return to the Victorian era when the poor had to rely on charity and really did live in poorhouses. Ah, happy days.
I am not going to spend too much time on this except to make three points. Firstly if you want to be taken seriously you really need to drop the sarcasim and personal attacks - it just cheapens what you have to say into a rant. Also there is only so much room in a 600-700 word piece to put figures so I don't want to just be a statician. If you figure that one family gets 8,000 a month in CSSA benefits and another pays an extra 8,000 a month in taxes - one family is essentially financing another. This just favours parasitism over personal responsibility. It sacrifices the rights of one family to another.
Finally on immigration, the more immigrants the better, up to an obvious saturation point - Hong Kong is a city of immigrants and look how well it has done. However there are serious abuses now, one recent statistic showed that 25% of births in Hong Kong are by Mainland women on two way permits. Do you really want to pay for that?
PS Everytime someone advocates a sales tax, they are silent on cutting expenditure. Just have a listen to back chat when they discuss it, the topic of cutting expenditure rarely comes up.
Posted by: simon patkin | March 17, 2005 at 02:47 PM
Always a pleasure to hear from you Simon. Let me try to respond.
As for being taken seriously, well let's put this way - I publish a little blog mainly for my own amusement, and it happens that a few people read it. I don't really care whether anyone takes me seriously or not, but you may notice that I published this in the category of 'Rants' and it is something I knocked off in a few minutes after I read your piece (yes, I only read it on Wednesday morning after I saw there was a letter in the paper disagreeing with you). You wrote an apparently serious comment piece in a newspaper that some people pay for, and I thought your argument was full of holes so I pointed that out.
If you recall, I tried to engage you in a serious debate before, but you ran away without responding to my argument. So I prefer to take pot shots, and I'll leave it to others to determine whether I hit the target.
Your second point leaves me a bit confused. You are again picking figures out of thin air, and I think they are misleading - very few people in Hong Kong pay as much as HK$8k a month in tax! If you don't know the facts, it's best not to use them to back up your argument.
In answer to your third question, I certainly don't have any objection to public hospitals providing health care to non-residents, and anyway I believe that many of the Mainland women who come here are married to Hong Kong citizens.
Posted by: Chris | March 17, 2005 at 03:48 PM
Chris. To answer. You might not take your ideas seriously, but I do. People DO read blogs and they are playing a more important role in our culture, which I think can be a good thing. BTW I only found about about your blog because when someone puts my name into google, up comes ordinary gweilo with all its ranting ad hominems etc.
In spite of this, I notice about two onion layers down, that you do at least try to slap together some sort of rational argument and I think this kind of attempt is better and it keeps me on my toes too.
The reason I didn't reply to your last post is that I don't want to get into an endless email war here and I really like to think carefully about everything I write first. It does take time. I prefer to make my point and leave the last word to you (especially as this is your blog ,not mine AND you can always change what you write here later, whereas I probably can't)
Anyway Chris give yourself more credit, blogs can play an important part in our culture, try to look beyond the personal attacks and be more constructive in what you say. After all, ideas really do have consequences.
Posted by: simon patkin | March 20, 2005 at 12:31 PM
Of course I take what I write seriously, but my point was that it's up to other people whether they take it seriously or not. If my sarcasm (or whatever you call it) undermines my arguments then so be it, but the opposite may be true.
I didn't respond to your earlier accusation that I am making ad hominem attacks on you, but since you are repeating it I have to say that you are mistaken. I am attacking your views and the way you express them, and nothing else. I don't know anything about you that I could use to mount an ad hominem attack, and (contrary to what you seem to believe), I have no interest in doing so. Making fun of what you say does not constitute an ad hominem attack.
If you wish to respond to the points that I have made, you are welcome to do so. If you wish to be patronising, I suggest you don't bother.
Posted by: Chris | March 20, 2005 at 10:18 PM
Chris I don't really want to join you in the gutter here. It's not in my self interest. It's just such a pity to see you want to undermine your own arguments and I stand by my previous posts.
Posted by: simon patkin | March 22, 2005 at 10:51 AM
I don't see any personal attacks on Mr Patkin here. I see an article and its arguments being dissected, even made fun of. It seems that this is being taken personally, but that is another matter altogether.
Posted by: fumier | March 23, 2005 at 11:04 AM
Ah, yes, but it's must easier to cry "foul" than to deal with the issues. What's amusing to me is that Simon can't decide how to respond - on the one hand there's all this patronising stuff about the importance of blogs and how I am not expressing my ideas very well, and then he accuses me of being "in the gutter".
As I've said before, it's really up to other people to make their own judgements about whether my arguments are valid or not, and draw their own conclusions about Simon's counter-attack.
Posted by: Chris | March 23, 2005 at 11:23 AM
Revert to the original question of what the hell the SCMP is doing publishing Simon Patkin. Would newspapers in other developed western countries pay to print his rants? His occasional off the wall letter was amusing but articles in the ditorial pages are an insult to hardworking people. What is this Capitalist Solutions anyways? David Webb is an excellent example of a foreigner working the HK capitalist campaign and it appears he is doing well from it. Apart from a $0.02 website and a few articles in the local rag, what qualifies Simon Patkin to comment so professionally on capaitalism?
Posted by: Danny | April 05, 2005 at 10:17 PM
Simon used to work with me back in the early 90's teaching English. He was a nuisance back then and I recall how we used to hide under tables to avoid him in bars.
Posted by: Jack | May 11, 2009 at 09:37 PM