Sir John Cowperthwaite redux

The whole thing is here, but this is the opening of a much better tribute to Sir John than my rushed effort of a few days ago.

It’s unusual for a bureaucrat to be praised by Milton Friedman. It’s even more unusual for one to be mentioned by PJ O’Rourke without being verbally pummeled and insulted. Yet one man who died last week managed both, even to the point of actually being praised by the Peej and Uncle Miltie alike.

Sir John Cowperthwaite, a colonial civil servant, not the sort of man to excite O’Rourke’s exceedingly republican (and Republican) sensibilities was the one who managed this unlikely double feat. He was sent out from London just after WWII to take over part of the administration of Hong Kong and would usually have been expected to implement the same sorts of programs that were going on back home. (Just as an aside I’ve had a number of relatives in similar work and believe me independence of mind and thought is not a highly prized attribute when viewed from London.)

However, given the distances and transport problems of the day it took him some time to actually make the trip and “Upon arrival, however,” said a Far Eastern Economic Review article about Cowperthwaite, “he found it recovering quite nicely without him.”

Our hero then decided to violate the most basic rule of all bureaucracies and governmental types. If people were doing OK on their own then he’d let them carry on doing so rather than making things worse by interfering.

Thanks to Tim Worstall at TechCentralStation.

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