Wellesley College, Visiting Research Associate of History Department, HKU Milton Friedman's Colony: How Neoliberals Made Hong Kong the Measure of the World
2 Mar 2017
In 2016, the Fraser Institute ranked Hong Kong first in the world for economic freedom for the twenty-second consecutive year. This talk reveals the political origins of the honor in the late 1970s, when Milton Friedman and other neoliberals championed Hong Kong as the solution to a crisis of global governance. The charm of Hong Kong was not the power of the market but the power of the state to resist popular demands. In a decade beset by strike waves, inflation, and strong claims from the Global South, the success of colonial Hong Kong offered proof positive that the "political freedom" of multi-party elections may actually work against the "economic freedom" of stable currency and secure capital rights. Hong Kong became the inspiration and testing ground for three techniques of neoliberal governance designed to constrain democracy and lock in fiscal discipline over the following decades: the enterprise zone, the fiscal constitution, and the Economic Freedom of the World Index. Focusing on the last, this talks shows that the architects of the index intended explicitly to offer an alternative "end of history" for the late twentieth century: not democratic capitalism but capitalism without democracy.
Quinn Slobodian is Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College, and Visiting Research Associate in the History Department at the University of Hong Kong. His just-completed manuscript, titled Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, is under contract with Harvard University Press. He is a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow for 2017 and will spend 2017-18 as an ACLS fellow at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University.
All are welcome. No registration is required.