Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the Singapore "experiment"

I'm currently in Malaysia, but will be returning to Alberta at the end of the month for at least a few days.

I spent close to 2 weeks in Singapore last month, and continued to be impressed by the quality of life there. Meanwhile, I note that stories of crime in Vancouver and Toronto have been getting more press. As a general rule, when it comes to drawing inferences about society, one should stick to statistics because the media generally sensationalizes crime. But a comment on Vancouver's gang wars struck me as nonetheless compelling: "The Vancouver "experiment" in tolerance has proven the coexistence of degradation and lawlessness."
It is compelling because, according to the Economist, "the idea that graffti-spraying and other forms of low-level delinquency promote further bad behaviour has now been tested experimentally". In other words, the social illiberalism of a place like Singapore has an empirical rationale for its policies. Order has its own positive feedback, leading to a upward spiral in terms of security and qualify of life.

This is another element which libertarianism is weak on: the idea of "low-level delinquency". For libertarianism, the world is much more cut and dried, with autonomous, rational individuals. For better or worse, in the real world is quite irrational and individual decision making far from autonomous.

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