Monday, 23 March 2015

Singapore and separating equilibria

Lee Kuan Yew deserves the plaudits he today is receiving. Singapore is one of the world's truly great places, and it very likely would not have been without him.

But it isn't a place I could comfortably have lived.

When I was on the academic job market in 2003, I interviewed with an economics department in Singapore before heading down to Canterbury for an interview there. The city was wonderful, and I suppose I could have learned to live with the humidity and heat. But big moves should not be made in error, so I aim for the separating equilibrium.

I asked a few questions about whether somebody who works in public choice could really ever fit well in Singapore given the political climate, and whether it would ever be a problem if I decided to turn to domestic issues rather than stick with American and Canadian data. There were awkward pauses and looks back and forth; I had my answer. I didn't get a job offer in Singapore, but neither could I have accepted one - it wouldn't have worked well out for either of us. I rankle when there are areas I'm forbidden from looking at - it makes them all the more tempting.

The department's Chair was very happy for me when I told him I'd taken an offer at Canterbury, telling me my work would be a much better fit in New Zealand. He wasn't wrong.


  1. He was probably about as good as a dictator could be in the 20th century, which is to say that while useful, I'd much rather have a democratic government with real freedoms of the press and without the government using defamation lawsuits to suppress criticism.

    I tend to think it's one of the three "democratization" paths that China could go down (along with Korea's and Taiwan's), with the "Singapore" route being the worst of the three.

  2. Eric, we visited Singapore a few years ago at Christmas.

    The Singapore Straits Times had about as much politics in it as one of those local suburban free newspapers to get in Wellington. Even the world news is exceptionally boring, not controversial.

    On independence, Jamaica was rated a better development prospect than Singapore.

    A while ago I wrote a blog arguing that Singapore was the only place where the road to serfdom came true.

    he state controls and owns firms that comprise at least 60% of the GDP through government entities. The vast majority (more than 80%) of Singaporeans live in public housing;

    Although initially styling itself an anti-Communist and Social Democratic, the People Action Party (PAP) was expelled from the Socialist International in 1976 because it suppressed dissent and jailed opposition leaders. Hayek would be vindicated?!

    The Index of Economic Freedom says that Singapore is a nominally democratic state ruled by the PAP since the country became independent in 1965, and that certain rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, remain restricted

    The Freedom House 2010 country report notes that Singapore is not an electoral democracy despite elections free of irregularities and mentions that all domestic newspapers, radio stations, and television channels are owned by government-linked companies, which limits free speech. The PAP has used the Government’s extensive powers to place formidable obstacles in the path of political opponents.

  3. The other thing I should add about Singapore is the radio news started off with a report of some poor drug addict getting six strokes of the cane for selling his aids medication.

    Overstaying your Visa for more than 90 days in Singapore is also subject to a couple of strokes of the cane is well now