Why would a fanatical libertarian live in Singapore?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Why would a fanatical libertarian live in Singapore?

First, it is a myth that democracies (read: dictatorship of the masses) by definition offer more benevolent living conditions. In my experience, democracies have seeds of self-destruction. Singapore, on the other hand, is more like a family-run corporation — a political system I prefer over democracy.

Here I don’t see any busybodies around. Bureaucratic interferences in your life are minimal. They focus on governance and they do it relatively well. They are nowhere close to an ideal government, but compared to what you get elsewhere, Singapore is a treat.

Second, while it is true that they do have tough drug and gun laws, they are effective. Singapore is one of the safest cities on the planet and a young girl here can feel comfortable walking by herself just about anywhere, even late at night. Since I have no reason to own a gun nor do I consume drugs, Singapore fits in my life design plan just fine.

Third, while this may sound quite shocking, to me, caning as a mode of punishment looks quite appropriate in many situations.

For example, I recently saw a video of three teenagers beating an old man for fun in the U.S. The teenagers likely went unpunished. I would prefer that they had to slog for several years to make monetary retribution to the old man. But lacking that, I certainly think caning is a better form of punishment than letting the culprits go.

Lastly, freedom of speech is limited only in the arena of politics. Quite honestly, if more freedom of speech were allowed in Singapore, it would likely also degenerate into a “dictatorship of the mobs”, in which Peter lobbies or protests to steal what is Paul’s. Personally, my only reason for participating in mass protests is war. But since Singapore does not participate in attacking other countries, there is no need for antiwar protests anyway. So again this is acceptable to me in my life design plan.

If it weren’t for the gun laws…

(Hat tip to Foseti.)


  1. L. C. Rees says:

    The problem with the Lee Kuan Yew system is that there’s no evidence there is a Lee Kuan Yew system. No evidence of a Lee Kuan Yew system will be forthcoming until there’s a Lee Kuan Yew system without Lee Kuan Yew. And you won’t see that until the old man is senile, comatose, or dead.

    However, there is evidence of a Lee Kuan Yew dilemma. Young Lee Kuan Yew went off to England to study law and discovered he was smarter than his white overlords (see time 31:00 in video). This fed his ambitions to run Singapore without white overlords. While Lee Hsien Loong seems like a smart chap, he has yet to survive in power without Daddy. Smart senior bureaucrats in the Singaporean government (whom Lee Kuan Yew pays at rates competitive with private sector executive salaries) may eventually discover they’re smarter than their Lee overlords. This may feed their ambitions to run Singapore without their Lee overlords. Not every ambitious member o the Singaporean elite is willing to be Goh Chok Tong and step aside for the next member of the Lee dynasty. There’s always the risk some Singaporean princeling will discover his inner Gracchus and escalate the intensity of intra-elite competition by appealing outside the elite for support (such as appealing to the “people”). This can trigger the elite fracturing that can lead to true ochlocracy (aka the “dictatorship of the mob”). The failure of other Chinese family enterprises to survive past the first or second generations is not promising for the Lee family and their assets.

    If I was prime minister of Singapore, I’d want significant numbers of Jews, Armenians, Overseas Chinese economically productive and unarmed foreigners with obscure beliefs living in my city as well. I’d even outsource certain government services to them (especially tax farming and debt collection). Then, If I ever faced an intra-elite challenge, I could could just blame the foreigners, expropriate their wealth, and use them in other politically productive ways. Following the same truth in advertising used elsewhere for other libertarian utopias like sea steads charter cities colonies, we should label this libertarian oasis correctly: sheep pen.

  2. Alrenous says:

    Which I entirely agree with, except the impression that these problems are somehow worse than democracy’s problems.

    In fact it looks like it will generally limit infighting to a small set of people and smarter people, instead of inexorably trying to drag the entire nation into the fight. The appropriations will be one-time instead of ongoing.

    Certainly there may be counter- countervailing factors, but then we’ve got one devilishly complicated equation.

  3. Aretae says:


    We do have reason to suspect that autocracies, or near-autocracies, when compared to democracies on quality of governance have both higher variance and lower means. Hence, the best autocracies, when the leaders are superb and economically literate, are best. However, it appears never to last, and democracies, with less allowable direct looting from the center tend to muddle along a bit better over time.

  4. “However, it appears never to last, and democracies, with less allowable direct looting from the center tend to muddle along a bit better over time.”

    The other way to interpret this, is that democracies are inherently more fragile and simply fall apart (or fail to form) at a functionality threshold higher than that of autocracies.

  5. Lee Hsien Schlong says:

    I am a left-leaning libertarian.

    1) So thank you for being honest at the start; I can see that you’re staunchly against democracy. I just wish we wouldn’t lie to ourselves through our anthems and mottos and what have you, by claiming to be a democratic society, because we aren’t.

    2) I’m glad we have no guns around, but wish we legalized drugs, because individuals own their body and they should be able to do what they want to themselves without harming anyone else directly. Marijuana has killed no individuals. Check how many individuals have died of alcohol here. I believe all drugs should be legalized and regulated and taxed, because, most of all, gangs would not have as much money as they have. We’d take away a large part of their income. And we kill people who take drugs. Isn’t that awesome? We kill our own people; that’s a nice thing to say. People who mind their own business. Kind of emanates a sort of gravitas about our people, huh?

    3) I think I saw the very same video. It was on Christmas. While I would love to bash those kids for what they did, I realized this: What differs me from them if I hurt them physically? I think there are more considerate ways to let them know that they’re f—ing a——s. I don’t think they should be let off scot free, but I believe there is a gray area in between caning and scot free that doesn’t make us a vengeful people, a gray area that doesn’t violate human rights (only if you believe in them, good sir).

    4) Mobs kill people. Speeches kill no one. I hate lobbyists, because I feel that they kill the whole democratic process. But you agree on protesting for war. Because you’re against war. And you’re for, presumably, everything or most of what the PAP does. And you’re against other topics as well. What makes you so special that you can speak out for what you believe and not others? Let speech be speech, and breed speech.

    I must say I love Singapore, for its flaws and successes, but that doesn’t mean that I should just sit back and say everything’s just fine, when it’s not.

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