Fallacies plague debate on democracy and welfare state

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am

Our political theorists have invented a new formula designed to help citizens understand complex political realities: that democracy equals a welfare state. Well done, chaps. This formula is devilishly ingenious and will frighten the middle class into clinging to our outmoded and inefficient form of government.

The authorities are very aware that the middle class fears tax revenue may be needed to provide dignity and support to less-fortunate members of our society, so they identify democracy with welfare. But, in reality, Hong Kong has always been a welfare state - not for the poor but for the rich. Our elaborate infrastructure helps build their businesses, and our tax laws were written to increase their wealth.

Why does Hong Kong have such a wide wealth gap? Isn't it because our welfare-for-taipans tax laws have been so generous? Our corporations pay one of the lowest tax rates among comparable economies.

We expect wealthy corporate heads to defend their privileges and low tax rates, but we do not expect political leaders, who are responsible for social justice and equality, to glibly support their anti-democratic slogans.

Hong Kong's people do not want a 'democratic welfare state'. They just want a fair share of the wealth they have created, rather than seeing it donated to wealthy corporations in the form of soft tax laws.

JOHN GARNER, Shamshuipo

Government officials have once again been uttering the fallacy that links taxation duty to democratic rights. This kind of rhetoric has been used since democracy was first contemplated for Hong Kong. One can only believe that the government lacks the sincere commitment to develop full democracy.

Is the government really suggesting that the more tax you pay, the more say you should have in public policy? If so, then those who pay more tax would probably use their votes to force the government to lower the tax rate as much as possible, so as to minimise their obligations.

Wouldn't this be just as problematic as suggestions by the government that democracy now for Hong Kong would encourage a 'free lunch', or unrealistic welfare demands, because a large proportion of the population falls outside the tax net.

Could the government please stop feeding us these pathetic theories?


I take strong exception to Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat's statement that any attempt by the government to link democracy with an increase in welfare spending would be 'totally unfounded' ('Democracy talks stall on capitalism', March 25). On which planet does he live, or is his party intentionally trying to mislead the public?

In any political system that elects its leaders 'democratically', candidates promise the electorate whatever they want to hear, and are often under pressure to deliver, most commonly before or during a re-election campaign. So, of course, spending on welfare, health, social services and anything else that will keep the public happy will increase - and so will taxes to finance this expenditure. One has only to compare the tax levels of the 'great democracies' of Europe or the United States with those of Hong Kong.