A mere five participants hobbled out on Sunday for Hong Kong's first Walk for Capitalism. That is no surprise because in Hong Kong, defence of the free market is less associated with principle than with hypocritical self-interest. In August 1998 brokers invoked the 'free market' when they railed against the Government's stock-market intervention. Yet there is plenty of evidence that the speculators colluded in their attacks on the Hong Kong dollar - and that is not exactly in the spirit of free markets and so would justify an intervention. At the time money managers warned they could never feel safe in Hong Kong's market again. Comically, barely a month following the intervention, they stampeded for SAR equities after a surprise round of United States interest-rate cuts. Since 1997 there has been much moralising about Hong Kong's intervention in the property market - namely, the expanded government programme of building and selling houses to the public. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa originally pledged to increase public housing supply at the height of 1997's absurd property bubble, which of course helped provide the fuel for the absurd stock market bubble. Anti-speculative measures were aimed at turning the housing market into one which actually housed people instead of making them rich (or, as it may be, bankrupt). Stockbrokers have relentlessly attacked the Government for its 'intervention' in the property market, with developers nodding vigorously in shared indignation. Yet how deep does their respect for free markets really run? Was it in homage to Adam Smith that the former British handlers eked out land supply in dribs and drabs, a process which contributed to bubbles and other distortions such as soaring (and rent-squeezing) vacancy rates in the midst of property booms - because no one wanted a tenant to interfere with the potential sale of a flat. The big developers, perhaps too busy enjoying some of the fattest margins in the world for their industry, did not complain much on the subject of intervention in those days. Nor did the brokers or fund managers, riding high on a property-fuelled stock market, clamour for the Invisible Hand. The sad fact is, the free market seems most often invoked when prosperous souls are at risk of losing money. Recently these freedom fighters were at it again. This time it was the plans of legislators to lower electricity tariffs. On Wednesday they asked the utilities to consider a 10 per cent cut in tariffs. Hong Kong's power costs are among the highest in the world, and part of the bill is the cost of supporting a massive excess capacity which is encouraged by the terms of the scheme of control. Yet to lower tariffs now would threaten the rate of return guaranteed under that scheme. Templeton Emerging Markets Fund president Mark Mobius high-mindedly points out: 'It would be a very bad precedent for the future of investment in Hong Kong if terms of the commercial contracts are broken.' Templeton was probably one of many renters in Hong Kong which brought leases back to their landlords in 1998 and demanded they cut the agreed-upon rates or face the consequences. When times change and bubbles burst, sometimes contracts need to be renegotiated. At least the legislators may have started us thinking about a more realistic approach to electricity, one that takes into account the deflationary trajectory of Hong Kong and lowers the burden on the consumer. Is that so irrational? Here's what else Mr Mobius was quoted as saying: 'Of course, shareholders' interests will be hurt. But we are more concerned about the long-term impact which may hurt the Government's reputation badly.' How selfless is the minority shareholder of Hongkong Electric. Better watch out Hong Kong - he might up and take his money somewhere else. At least until the next bull run.