Singapore Orders Its Citizens to Be Spontaneous

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The International Herald Tribune reports on the city-state's attempts to cut loose:

"The future is ours to make," stated bright banners in this tightly bound city-state, which has in recent years urged its citizens to be freer, more creative and more spontaneous as part of a business model for the 21st century.

Two years ago, as a symbol of this managed abandon, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced the legalization of reverse bungee jumping, in which jumpers are catapulted into the sky, instead of leaping from a ledge with an elastic cord attached to them in normal bungee jumping.

"If we are to encourage a derring-do society, we must allow some risk-taking and a little excitement," he said, adding, "In fact, so changed is our mind-set that we will even allow reverse bungee."

Singapore, exhibit A for anyone arguing that economic liberalization and personal liberty are separable for the long-term, has actually been trying to push its people to loosen up for years. So is there a Spring Break Singapore in our future? It certainly sounds as if the situation is spiraling out of control:

With some grumbling from older residents, the government also announced that most nightspots could stay open 24 hours and that patrons could dance on tabletops. Even a ban on chewing gum was relaxed for people with medical prescriptions.

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  1. patrons could dance on tabletops

    Imagine NYC being so free…

  2. Bubble-gum’s still out of the question?

  3. I think joe’s Simpsons comment in the Gore TV thread bears repeating for Singapore (which, having visited in 1998, is the only place I’ve been that I can say seems like a nice place to live, but there isn’t much to visit there):

    “Celebrate good times, come on!”

    I shall.

  4. …the only place I’ve been that I can say seems like a nice place to live, but there isn’t much to visit there

    You have just described the lure of the suburbs.

  5. “Singapore, exhibit A for anyone arguing that economic liberalization and personal liberty are separable for the long-term…”

    Actually, I would call Singapore exhibit B. Hong Kong, the product of long British colonial rule, is exhibit A. The two usually make the top of the economic freedom list with Singapore a distant second to Hong Kong. Singapore usually beats out Hong Kong on government corruption scores though.

    http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/countries.cfm

    I lived in Singapore for almost 6 years. In terms of economic freedom its great. Its a mixed bag on personal freedom. In many ways, its better the most of the U.S. and they are loosening up.

    Basically, people have fun bitching about the nanny aspects of the law. Unfortunately, when you listen to the proposed agenda of the political opposition to the People’s Action Party (the ruling party) you hear demands for protectionism and increases in government social programs.

  6. “You have just described the lure of the suburbs.”

    HA! I used to describe Singapore as Asia’s upscale suburb. Of course, it’s not a perfect description. How many American suburbs have legal (but licensed) prostitution?

  7. I used to know someone who lived in Singapore, and they told me that every year, a certain number of joggers are killed by snakes (constrictors) that drop on them from the trees. I am skeptical, though highly intrigued, by this claim. Can you confirm, Patrick D.?

  8. For some reason the title “Singapore Orders Its Citizens to Be Spontaneous” makes me think of the new “America Supports You Freedom Walk” sponsored by the DoD that requires registration by everyone who wants to march for freedom

    From the registration form : “The Freedom Walk is free and open to anyone who registers….. You MUST have your registration number to check-in!”

    Now that’s freedom!!

  9. “Bubble-gum’s still out of the question?”

    This is an illustrative topic. Technically, it is not illegal to possess and chew gum. You just can’t sell it. You can carry in quantities for your private consumption. You can be a user but not dealer. 🙂

    I heard several stories of the origin of this law. The only one that sounded credible was that the government calculated the expense it was incurring to remove gum from public benches, sidewalks, mass transit vehicles, etc and decided it was more efficient to ban gum sales. This would have been entirely in character.

    As a update, I heard months ago that sale-by-prescription position was adopted as a compromise for the Singapore-U.S. free trade agreement after Wrigley lobbied the U.S. government.

    Several things perplex me on this. First, why is it worthwhile for the U.S. government to incur ANY expense to negotiate a free trade agreement with a country that is essentially a free port? Second, why did Wrigley feel it necessary to have the U.S. government intervene on its behalf to “open” a market of 3.5 million people?

  10. Doc, I’m suffering from a servere lack of fruit-tastic flavor. Is there anything you can prescribe?

  11. Don,

    I did a lot of jogging in the bits of Singapore that still have rain forest. I never heard of anyone getting whacked by constrictors dropping on them. I did need to keep my eyes open for stuff like cobras, monitor lizards and crocodiles (occasionally one will swim in from Malaysia).

    I have heard that the elaborate drainage system Singapore has is a highway for pythons but they are not in position to drop on you there.

  12. With some grumbling from older residents, the government also announced that most nightspots could stay open 24 hours and that patrons could dance on tabletops.

    It sort of takes the fun out of it when the Singapore gov’t starts making specific suggestions about behavior people might exhibit when drunk.

    “Falling asleep on the toilet is permitted, but for no more than ten minutes at a time, out of courtesy to the needs of the bar’s other patrons. Spending the rest of the evening oblivious to the fact that toilet paper is hanging out of one’s waistband is riotous and therefore encouraged, so long as the paper is sheepishly discovered and removed the following morning.

    “If great care is taken, a patron might also make out in the parking lot with a drunken co-worker, so long as neither is married, they do not have a supervisor-subordinate relationship and do not work in the same department.

    “With a doctor’s written permission, a patron may switch from hard drinks to beer or vice versa. However, Long Island teas, sambucca, and Tarantula tequila may not be consumed by the same person during the same evening.”

  13. Break out the lampshades, everybody! Woohoo!

  14. I keep thinking of that import beer commercial with the German guy sitting in a “relaxation room”, stretching out on a couch. On the loudspeaker, a commanding man’s voice says, “Commence relaxation…NOW.”

  15. These kinds of antics are nothing new for Singapore. A few years ago, the government launched a campaign encouraging Singaporeans to be more “romantic” in order to lift the country’s low fertility rate.

  16. That rules…I’d like to go check it out. I’ve never been to Asia, and I think I’d have a good time.

    Hell, I have a good time everywhere! 🙂

  17. I regularly schedule exactly two hours a week to be spontaneous.

  18. Hong Kong was really a different place from Singapore… Until quite late in the day, citizens had little in the way of political power, but personal liberties were never restricted. As PJ O’Rourke wrote in “Eat the Rich” – “Hong Kong has never had democracy, but its wallet-sized liberties, its Rights-of-Man-in-a-purse, have been so important to individualism and self-government that in 1995 an international group of libertarian think tanks was moved to perhaps overstate the case and claim ‘HK is the freest nation in the world.'” (Consider the fact that from the ’60s the colonial government refused to collect economic data – because it didn’t want to be tempted to interfere. Or the old safe harbour law – if an illegal immigrant from the mainland could stay uncaught for 24 hours, they were legal. Can you imagine that kind of freedom in the US?)

  19. Or the old safe harbour law – if an illegal immigrant from the mainland could stay uncaught for 24 hours, they were legal.

    Isn’t that a bit like our policy towards would-be Cuban defectors?

  20. Peachy,

    Regarding the policies of the British colonial government in Hong Kong;

    “Can you imagine that kind of freedom in the US?”

    Can you imagine that kind of freedom in Britain?

  21. No indeed; the curious thing is that the colonial government (especially in economic matters) had a completely different outlook than the “pinko planning geniuses” back home.

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