Got back yesterday from a quick trip to Singapore (though anything that involves 18 hours in a plane – one way – is not exactly quick). I don’t really have any profound personal observations about the country since I spent every spare moment working on a healthcare paper and never left my hotel, but this was my third or fourth trip so I can make two big-picture observations.
1. Small government works – Singapore is not a truly laissez-faire nation since government consumes more than 20 percent of GDP and there is a back-door form of industrial policy thanks to government control of the allocation of the money generated by private saving for retirement and health care. But it still is one of the world’s most free-market jurisdictions according to Economic Freedom of the World and the Index of Economic Freedom. It started as a poor jurisdiction and is now a rich one. The tax code is progressive, but the top tax rate is just 20 percent, so people are not punished for creating wealth.
2. Diversity works when government does not create hostility and resentment – Singapore is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world. The population is comprised of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Whites. To my knowledge, there are no significant racial or ethnic problems. Everyone is too busy making money and government doesn’t create resentments by favoring one group over the other. Seems like other nations could learn something.
Last but not least, a general gripe about government. Why is there a requirement, at least in some airports, to go through security when arriving on one flight before going on another? After flying 7 hours from Singapore to Tokyo (which, of course, required going through security), I then had to shuffle for 30 minutes in a line to get my laptop X-rayed again. Did the bureaucrats think I somehow acquired a bomb on the flight? This happens, for reasons that are not clear, at a few other airports. Does anyone know why, other than to provide jobs for more bureaucrats?