John James Cowperthwaite (April 25, 1915–January 21, 2006)

April 25, 2015, marks a century since John James Cowperthwaite entered the world. It's a birthdate that deserves celebration everywhere.

I suggest April 25 as Cowperthwaite Day, to be observed on every continent by men and women who revere the blessings of a free economy and the courage of those who work to put it in practice.

In an important sense, free economies don't have "architects." However, the "planned chaos" of socialist economies has lots of architects. Some are well-meaning busybodies eager to knead other human beings like dough on a social kneading board. Others are presumptuous con artists who savor the power their plans require.

By contrast, Cowperthwaite freed his fellow citizens to build an organic, spontaneous economy from the ground up instead of imposing on them a contrivance from the top down. More than any other individual, he was responsible for the miracle of the Hong Kong economy. Unlike the plans of socialist central planners, Cowperthwaite's plan actually worked.

I've written previously about Cowperthwaite's background and accomplishments. When he passed away in 2006, the Lion Rock Institute of Hong Kong paid tribute to him. On this occasion in 2015 of the centennial of his birth, I'd like to highlight his legacy by sharing his own words with our readers.

Cowperthwaite knew that a collective abstraction such as "society" hides the living, breathing, decision-making individuals who compose it:

I do not think that when one is speaking of hardships or benefits one can reasonably speak in terms of classes or social groups but only in terms of individuals.

After World War II, as his own Britain veered sharply toward socialism, Cowperthwaite understood what Friedrich Hayek described so well as the planners' "pretense of knowledge." He put his faith in free people investing their own money and energies, not in bureaucrats spending that of others:

Government should not in gener...

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