Two Paradoxes of Singaporean Political Economy

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Bryan Caplan presents Two Paradoxes of Singaporean Political Economy:

Puzzle #1: Singapore frequently adopts the kind of policies that economists would call “economically efficient, but politically unpopular.” For example, Singapore has (nearly) unilateral free trade, admits unusually large numbers of immigrants, supplies most medical care on a fee-for-service basis, means-tests most government assistance, imposes peak load pricing on roads, and fights recessions by cutting employers’ taxes. In most democracies, advocating any of these policies could easily cost a politician his job. In Singapore, policies like this have stood the test of time.

Puzzle #2: Even though it follows the forms of British parliamentary democracy, Singapore is effectively a one-party state. The People’s Action Party (PAP) has held uninterrupted power since the country gained Home Rule in 1959, and has never received less than 60% of the popular vote. Even more strikingly, the PAP has a near-monopoly in Singapore’s Parliament. In many electoral cycles, this party literally won 100% of the seats; it currently holds 82 out of 84.

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