David Warsh of Economics Principals

David Warsh considers John Cowperthwaite and Architect of Prosperity in his online column of Economic Principals.

He notes that Cowperthwaite’s economic policies are relevant today:

But Hong Kong is just an island, right?  No real country could succeed the way it had, could it? In fact the People’s Republic of China pursued a highly similar strategy as it entered global markets after 1978, encouraging foreign investment; entering light and medium industries first, rather than capital-intensive ones; turning agriculture back to its farmers; and, piling up enormous reserves as a precautionary measure.

He is concerned at how the United States may have lost its way in terms of economic policy. And he argues that Adam Smith is as relevant today as he was 250 years ago:

In fact, it hasn’t changed much since Adam Smith wrote an admirably terse prescription for it 250 years ago: “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.”

More at:


Len Shackleton questions the value of the government’s industrial strategy

In Prospect Magazine, Len Shackleton comments on the government’s recent announcement about industrial strategy:

“while the White Paper paints a rosy picture of a future in which Britain will aim to be “the most innovative country in the world,” there is the little matter of getting there.”

He concludes:

“I’m just reading Neil Monnery’s fascinating book on John Cowperthwaite’s role in promoting Hong Kong’s meteoric economic development—which involved little regulation and minimal government. It has been called “positive non-interventionism.” After ploughing through this White Paper, it seems a bit of Cowperthwaite’s scepticism is very much in order.”


What we need is a Freedom of Uninformation Act

In this week’s Spectator, Rory Sutherland, argues that we need an information act because too often data is mis-reported and misused. He notes:

The great Sir John Cowperthwaite, architect of Hong Kong’s prosperity and subject of a recent biography by Neil Monnery, banned the collection of macro-economic statistics on the grounds that their meaningless fluctuations would only encourage people to meddle. I propose something similar for Britain: we could call it the Freedom of Uninformation Act.

The Spectator, 19th November 2017