Don't throw baby out with bathwater

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am


Anger against bankers and the financial sector is understandable in the present climate. But calling for the death of capitalism, as many Occupy Central protesters were chanting yesterday, seems premature and silly. Financial reforms are absolutely necessary, but revolution is something else.

Reforms mean clipping the wings of the banking and financial industries so they would never again be allowed to bring the world economy to the brink of collapse. Shouting 'Down with capitalism' is just so much meaningless sloganeering.

Occupy Central was billed as Hong Kong's response to its counterpart on Wall Street, but it is really another routine protest about social grievances in the city, one we have seen countless times. There are profound differences in the sources of discontent in the developed and emerging economies. That is why the 'Occupy' movement has not gained as much traction in Asia as in the United States and Europe. Unlike the developed economies of the West, most emerging economies have fared much better in the present crisis.

Unbridled financial capitalism as practised in the deregulated environment of the US and Britain has undoubtedly been a cause of the financial crisis. But capitalist-inspired reforms in China and India - and the vast expansion of globalised trade - have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. This vast betterment of humankind is unparalleled in history. The indiscriminate call for an end to capitalism is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The young protesters in Central have their hearts in the right place, but they need to better understand the unique social problems that confront Hong Kong, instead of blindly aping their Occupy Wall Street friends.