Jun 27, 2023Liked by Pradyumna Prasad

Great and IMO uncontroversial post. There has been much more effort in omproving welfare indicators like HDI, broaddr economic freedom should be better (but more subjectively) measured as well

Expand full comment

I accept that standards in Academia may have fallen but are there really any 'academics studying Singapore' who don't know the facts you mention? As for foreign investors 'trying to enter Singapore', are you telling me that they will allocate time and money on the basis of this Index? What scares them is the way rents keep rising and the higher and higher expectations of the workforce. I suppose Singapore will turn into a Puritanical sort of Monaco. Hong Kong, for obvious reasons, isn't a place where it is reasonable to have an expectation of freedom of any type. Still, keeping Hong Kong and Singapore in the index is a tradition. It is simply a fact that for older people, they both illustrate a lesson which is still relevant- at least for South Asia.

It is quite true that one's conception of economic freedom may place higher value on the right to strike or the right to disrupt commercial activities to protest Neo-Liberalism as opposed to lower compliance costs, lower taxes, greater ease of doing business, better contract enforcement and thus stronger Hohfeldian immunities. Still, it is obvious that the publishers of this particular Index are pushing a particular, easy to spot, agenda. On the other hand, what freedom is really about- and I think this is what you are getting at- is appropriable control rights on the one hand and factor elasticity or mobility on the other. The Government could be shrinking but Tort law may be going in the opposite direction. Competition policy is a different kettle of fish because how Market Power is used can change very quickly. It can go from maximizing capital gains to opaque methods of rent extraction in the blink of an eye- or shift in the yield curve.

Is there any point to Indices of Press Freedom, or Economic Freedom, or Sexual Freedom? No. Conceptions of Freedom are ideographic not nomothetic. Furthermore the underlying object is intensional or epistemic and thus doesn't obey Liebniz's law, isn't well ordered or metrizable, can't have a Noetherian etc, etc.

Still, the thing can survive as clickbait.

Expand full comment

I'm a co-author of Economic Freedom of the World. Government ownership of land and capital already appears in the index as 1E. Singapore has one of the lowest scores in the world.

There is no source of data with a reasonable number of countries pertaining to land use regulation.

The index is an index of negative freedoms, so it is inappropriate to include the existence or effectiveness of antitrust law. There is data, but the index is currently constructed to be neutral on the topic.

The inclusion of government ownership of the economy is somewhat recent (about five years ago). This was previously a criticism of the index. It didn't do much to change the rankings because there are so many other dimensions of economic freedom.

Expand full comment

Hi Ryan, I may have missed it but when I checked the methodology (https://www.heritage.org/index/pdf/2023/book/02_2023_IndexOfEconomicFreedom_METHODOLOGY.pdf) I didn't find anything about government ownership. Could you point me to the page?

Expand full comment

"Economic Freedom of the World" and "Index of Economic Freedom" are two different projects. Here is the most recent Economic Freedom of the World: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/economic-freedom-of-the-world-2022.pdf

The appendix in that PDF documents everything and we can take this to email if you want rhmurphy@smu.edu

Expand full comment

Thanks for the correction, I was reading about both and mixed up the names. I'll make the required changes

Expand full comment

Update: changed the names, and once again sorry for mixing it up.

Given the Singaporean government a) has the ability to exert large influence on the economy via its semi-ownership of large companies and b) controls extremely important household decisions (via HDB construction and land use decisions), I personally would put little faith in the V-Dem number in this context

Expand full comment

At the end of the day, people only care about concrete results.

There are theories about how to get results, but only real world empirical tests of those theories matter.

According to libertarian theory, Singapore should not be possible.

Its government owned real estate should be slums.

It's universal healthcare and government run hospitals should be a mess, rather then a global standard.

It's drug policy should lead to drug gang wars and out of control crime.

It's airline should be a should be a wreck rather then something everyone wants to fly on.

It's censorship should lead to less free discourse rather then more free (I feel like the range of things you can talk about in Singapore is higher then in the west).

It's one party state should be corrupt and authoritarian rather then the most effective in the world.

The dominance of its Chinese and leadership by a racial supremacist should mean persecution of other ethnicities, rather then its successful multi-cultural society.

It's universal conscription should make it more militarist but it hasn't fought any wars.

But no...it all just works really well. The theory doesn't fit the empirical reality.

This isn't to say that we should copy paste what Singapore has done to the rest of the world. What Singapore has done works *in the context of Singapore*. What works for East Asians might not work for other races. And what works for city states might not work for real countries with real population sizes.

However, its existence does show the limits of dogma.

And it shows that what people really want is results, and they will take "freedom" when it comes with results and reject "freedom" when it doesn't.

Expand full comment
Expand full comment

I see from your other posts that you're Communist apologist. A Maoist, even, trying to deny the Great Chinese Famine. How utterly unsurprising.

Expand full comment

1. That's not "interesting".

2. The post didn't do that. In fact, it explicitly said otherwise.

3. No they wouldn't.

Expand full comment