Sunday, June 21, 2009

I heart Singapore...

... And so apparently does Jet Li, well, enough to actually get Singaporean citizenship. Apparently many of my fellow singaporeans do not like the fact that another rich and famous guy can so easily get citizenship, and just as easily give it up when it becomes inconvenient.

This doesnt actually bother me. Actually, I want such priveleges expanded to every non-criminal in the world! Really!! What really bugs me about immigration is that it is not open enough. Immigration in all countries should be as free as possible, without having to sacrifice national security. So Lets start at home.

Of course, at the heart of this, it is about the legitimacy of the social contract and the state. One of the pitfalls of social contract theory is that, well, people did not really sign social contracts. The fact that citizens receive benefits and that the better option is to sign the social contract does not in itself make the social contract legitimate.

However, ideally, if people don't like a society, they can leave and find another one that suits them better. But people cannot just leave, and people who wish to live in a society cannot just enter. There are often high entry and exit barriers. Therefore, people are often stuck in contracts which they are not signitories to. This is a lot like the situation where you are stuck in a traffic jam, and a homeless man just comes and cleans your wind shield, then demands that you pay him. Yes, you have received the services, but since you did not ask for them in the first place, it is not clear whether you are obligated to pay for them. However, if you go to a car wash, you choose to freely go there. Hence, even if you do not sign any explicit contract, or even physicall ask for the service, your mere presence is indicative that you desire to be there and will pay for the service. In that case, of course you have a moral responsibility to pay for the wash. The analogy can be extended to societies and the benefits of citizenship too.

Lowering entry and exit barriers to 0, therefore means that you are there in a country because you have agreed as if by contract to be there. Of course in practice, this is impossible. However, it would be really good if entry and exit barriers were lowered as far as possible. To the extent that we could leave if we wanted to, we agree to be subject to the laws of the land by staying here. Therefore, the power that government holds over us becomes more legitimate. Here is a graph that explains how the relationship works:

The main article is hereHere is another article on the issue. Of course entry and exit barriers are not the whole thing. Secularism is an issue also, but not central to this post.

Dont mistake me. I love my country deeply and would stay here  in Singapore among all other places on earth. That is why I want to change Singapore. Just because I love my country doesnt mean that I think that it is perfect. I love my country and I want to share it with everyone who loves it too. However, I dont think I should have to share it with people who don't want to stay here. That is why we lower entry and exit barriers: So that the people who are here really want to be here


  1. The Devil's AdvocateAugust 11, 2009 at 8:54 AM

    Greetings from The Devil's Advocate...

    I've been playing with the idea of leaving the United States for good... but I thought I had nowhere to go. Can you make a strong case as to why Singapore may be just a place to go?

    I mean, do you love simply because you were born there, or did you travel and compared it to other countries and came back, saying "this is a place to stay for the rest of my life?"

    I hope my question doesn't bother you. There is nothing sarcasting in it, and it not intended to "catch" on something. It is my most sincere desire to know the world better, specifically, a little piece of the world called Singapoure that I know nothing about.

    Thanks in advance for your answer!

  2. Part of it is familiarity. Singapore is where I was born and in many ways I regard it as home, with all the sense of familiarity and comfort that the concept entails.

    Objective reasons to come to Singapore:

    1. Low tax rate and reasonable cost of living. (except housing and cars)(18% corporate tax at the highest bracket)

    2. Relatively free market. Running a business here is quite hassle free.

    3. Social mobility. Meritocracy really works here. Anybody (more or less) can come here, study and work hard and succeed in life.

    4. Low crime rate. really really low

    5. Efficiency. The trains run on time etc.

    6. Healthcare. I believe that I can say that we have among the best healthcare outcomes in the world with one of the lowest costs.

    7. No proselytisers/beggars/bums on the street bothering you

    8. There may be more that I cant think about at the moment


    You may not want to move here if the following bother you:

    1. No gay marriage

    2. Death penalty for drug trafficking

    3. Its illegal to protest without obtaining a license first. People can generally say what they want, but public forums are more limited.

  3. The Devil's AdvocateAugust 16, 2009 at 3:07 AM

    Thank you, Murali. I especially like #7 - it's Saturday here in Los Angeles, and I live a couple of blocks away from Jehova Witnesses wasp nest (pardon me, the "Kingdom Hall"). Weekends are when ther cavass the neighborhood trying to spread their version of un-reason. These guys are positively testing the limits of my politness!

    A clarification needed on Negatives 1 and 2: gays are not allowed to marry, but, I hope, they are not put to death, either! (unlike hapless drug dealers). I aslo hopes gays are not jailed, harassed or otherwise mistreated.

    And if they are - sorry, I'm staying home.

  4. A clarification needed on Negatives 1 and 2: gays are not allowed to marry, but, I hope, they are not put to death, either! (unlike hapless drug dealers). I aslo hopes gays are not jailed, harassed or otherwise mistreated.

    Unlike malaysia (our neighbours to the north and east), we dont prosecute gay people for being gay. Even though anti-sodomy statutes are still in the books (Section 377A), the government's official position is that it is not a prosecutable crime because the government cannot go around looking into people's bedrooms.

    There are a few openly gay and transgendered comedians like Hosanne Leong and Kumar who even perform in official functions (state dinners etc.)