The Origin of Singaporean Crime Policy

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Bryan Caplan shares The Origin of Singaporean Crime Policy — which is famously harsh:

When I was filling out my customs form for Singapore, I was chilled to see the all-capital letters, “DEATH FOR DRUGS IN SINGAPORE.”  Philosophically, I have nothing against the death penalty, but of course I have everything against drug prohibition.  Still, I was intrigued to discover the origin of Singapore’s draconian approach.  From Mauzy and Milne, Singapore Politics Under the People’s Action Party:
The death penalty is mandatory for murder, drug trafficking, treason, and certain firearms offenses.  Lee Kuan Yew was impressed that there was no crime in Singapore during the Japanese occupation because punishment was severe.  “As a result, I have never believed those who advocate a soft approach to crime and punishment, claiming that punishment does not reduce crime.”

Not only does Singapore execute a lot of people; by being strident in the face of international criticism (and using all-capital letters!), it also takes advantage of availability bias to amplify the death penalty’s deterrent effect.

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