Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Singapore Argument—is it really good governance that made them prosperous?

First of all, I would like to refer you to a previous discussion in a libertarian community in LiveJournal dated April of last year regarding the same topic ( This is from my old blog and it shows that this is something I really encounter a lot even in normal everyday conversations: the sentiment that Singapore is prosperous because of their big authoritative government and that the same thing is needed here in our country.

ikea singapore
Me and my mom during our visit to Singapore in 2009

This is also where I learned about the Index of Economic Freedom where they rank countries based on how economically free it is. In the 2011 index, Singapore remains to be the second most economically free country in the world next only to Hong Kong. It only takes 3 days to start a business in Singapore compared to the world average of 34 days, they say. Here in the Philippines, there are so many procedures, requirements, fees, and other red tapes that are very burdensome to potential entrepreneurs and unattractive to foreign investors. Of course this could all be avoided or bypassed by paying under-the-table fees and having the right connections (connection-ism is a prevalent political philosophy in the Philippines).

Transparency International ranks Singapore as the third least corrupt out of 180 countries in their 2009 index. This is due to transparency in government spending and anti-corruption laws; constraints on government and not because their bureaucrats are benevolent.

I also find it interesting that people find Singapore's restrictions on freedom of assembly and of speech as acceptable or somehow attribute their discipline and peace to these suppressions of civil liberties. If anything, it is the market that's protecting them. For instance, Singapore cannot copy China's authoritative regulations on the internet because it may as well cause their economy to collapse as many businesses are thriving because of social media. A good example of how a liberalized market economy can prevent bureaucrats from abusing power.

Some even attribute Singapore's prosperity to the geography, saying that they are prosperous because they are a port city. It's interesting though that the Philippines has so many islands and ports that can potentially be as prosperous as Hong Kong or Singapore but what we must understand is that we have to implement pro-market reforms in order to achieve that.

It is very possible for our country to be as prosperous as Singapore, but what we have to copy is their liberalized market economy and not their atrocities on civil liberties. We have to be business-friendly and inviting to foreign investment and lessen or abolish trade restrictions and tariffs while maintaining inalienable liberties of individuals.

The solutions proposed by libertarians are clear and concrete whereas the statists and planners would rather gamble on the chance that bureaucrats will be benevolent or that their interventions will lead to positive outcomes.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Libya Civil War: When Governments have no Constraints

In political discussions, it is common to encounter the statist remark that we need some sort of iron hand dictator who will teach us discipline and fix up our country. They think that bureaucrats should put constraints on citizens and not the other way around. We see that there are individuals in Libya who are risking their lives with the opposite sentiment.


I find that there is value in assuming that bureaucrats will abuse power and so we have to keep governments extra-small, extra-transparent, extra-limited. The idea is that you assume that every bureaucrat is a potential Gaddafi and so we put as much constrains as we can on them.

In psychology, they call it Stockholm syndrome when hostages have positive feelings toward their captors. They give people street lights, roads, medicine, etc. and people start to feel positively towards bureaucrats without taking into consideration billions being stolen and limitless debt, and both concealed and blatant coercion.

Aside from every bureaucrat being a potential Gaddafi, every place in the Philippines is also a potential Maguindanao massacre waiting to happen. This is because we allow politicians to steal millions, giving them the resources to buy guns and goons and conspire to use force to be able to stay in power. They are able to steal billions because we allow them to have so many unnecessary projects, without any kind of real and tangible transparency.

When governments have no constraints, they will resort to killing their own people to preserve their authority, just as in Libya. In a speech of Yuri Maltsev that I watched recently he explains how there were reports where Lenin had no choice but to order the murder of his own people just to sustain his big government dystopia.

Yuri Maltsev Talks about Big Government

In China, their big government restricts or regulates the use of social media like Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Facebook. This is seemingly not as violent as the current restrictions or regulations in Libya, but to me it is just as demeaning and poisonous. They are not murdering their people but they are imprisoning them, keeping innovative means of communications away from them, in fear that this will expose the evils of their authoritarian rule. And it will: just as social media had a significant role in toppling other authoritarian governments like Mubarak's regime in Egypt.

If the same kind of restrictive internet policies happen here (Filipinos being the 6th most number of users of Facebook in the world) there might just be an uprising just like the one happening in Libya right now. Violence is just so scary, I always tend to think of my loved ones when I reflect on political issues. Seeing Libya on the news with all the violence and the rape issues, I really become so fearful and protective of my loved ones. And that is probably the number one driving force I have in writing on this blog.