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Could Britain Become the New Singapore?

Brexit is creating the opportunity for a lot of progress in the United Kingdom.

On June 23, 2016, the British people voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. The shock on both sides of the English Channel was palpable and two schools of thought on the impending divorce between the U.K. and the EU have emerged.

The proponents of Brexit emphasize the benefits of free trade and continued (albeit inter-governmental and no longer supra-national) cooperation between the U.K. and the EU. They argue that an acrimonious divorce between the two would help neither party. Britain, they say, imports much more from the EU than the EU does from Britain, and a tariff war between the U.K. and the EU would not be in Europe's interest. They also argue that Britain, being a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is needed to counterbalance Russia. Britain's European partners within NATO, therefore, have an incentive to keep the U.K. more-or-less happy.

The opponents of Brexit have warned that a vote in favor of the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU would result in economic meltdown on the British Isles. Mercifully that has (so far) not come to pass, but that does not mean that Brexit negotiations will be plain sailing. The Eurocrats in Brussels, who will negotiate the terms of the British withdrawal from the EU, face their own set of incentives. Make the divorce between the EU and the U.K. too pleasant, they contend, and other EU countries may decide to follow the British example and leave the EU as well.

In the months that have followed the Brexit referendum, the two sides have been maneuvering to occupy the high ground once the actual negotiations on Brexit commence. (That should happen by the end of March 2017, when the British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which deals with a member country's withdrawal from the EU.)

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, for example, let it be known that "Britain could transform its economic model into that of a corporate tax haven if the EU fails to provide it with an agreement on market access after Brexit."

"I personally hope we will be able to remain in the mainstream of European economic and social thinking," Hammond said, "but if we are forced to be something different, then we will have to become something different… We could be forced to change our economic model, and we will have to change our model to regain competitiveness. And you [Europeans] can be sure we will do whatever we have to do."

The U.K. ministers, hope to "force EU leaders to give them a good Brexit deal by drafting legislation proving their threat to slash taxes is real. Ready-to-go Budgets will be drawn up cutting corporation tax and scrapping regulations if the negotiations are stalling... The move is designed to show those on the other side of the negotiating table that Britain is serious about becoming 'the new Singapore' unless trade barriers are kept low." Why Singapore? Let's look at a couple of statistics.

In 1950, GDP per capita adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity was $5,689.91 in Singapore. It was $11,920.58 in the U.K. Average income in Singapore, in other words, amounted to 48 percent of that in the U.K. In 2016, income in Singapore was $82,168.33 and $42,287.17 in the U.K. Put differently, Singaporeans earned 94 percent more than the British. During the intervening years, Singaporean incomes rose by 1,344 percent, while British incomes rose by 256 percent. (A similar story could be told about life expectancy.)

Based on these two telling statistics alone, the "threat" of Singaporean tax rates and regulatory framework ought not to be a mere negotiating strategy for the British government vis-a-vis the EU. It ought to be a goal of the British decision makers—regardless of what the EU decides!

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, for example, let it be known that "Britain could transform its economic model into that of a corporate tax haven if the EU fails to provide it with an agreement on market access after Brexit."

    Now that's a negotiator!

  • DJF||

    So Britain will ban bubble gum?

  • Thrackmoor||

    Everything will be fine(s). Canings all around!

  • wef||

    This caning fetish is one of those unspoken reasons Brexit succeeded.

  • NebulousFocus||

    Singapore has succeeded via single-party mildly authoritarian rule. Most Singaporeans will tell you that they couldn't have succeeded with a more conventional democracy. Basically, Singapore has benefited from something close to a benevolent dictatorship.
    Copying some of Singapore's best policies would be great, but special interests and (especially) the welfare state will prevent this from happening.

  • amagi1776||

    Proof that Democracy doesn't always produce the best outcomes.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    I'm not sure why that's a controversial claim. As a libertarian, I don't care the mechanism for more liberty. An authoritarian democracy is worse than a very free dictatorship, in my opinion. Granted, this is an unlikely scenario, but it's still theoretically possible.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    An authoritarian democracy is worse than a very free dictatorship

    Agreed, but I don't think Singapore is what most Libertarians (or anyone else) would call a "very free dictatorship." Any country where you can be executed for selling drugs isn't exactly "free."

  • prolefeed||

    Any country where you can be executed for selling drugs isn't exactly "free."

    -1 Sandra Bland and other victims of the WoD

  • Fk Censorship||

    I second that, Ship of Theseus. Some of the most libertarian places, economically (i.e. complete freedom of business association, no intrusive checking of books because there is no tax on income or profit, deregulated markets etc) are in the Arabian Peninsula, where benevolent dictators protect the system from the free-for-all wrangling in a representative democracy. Democracies in the West are flawed and lead to self-destruction because the incentives are skewed - people with different levels of contribution to the common pot have the exact same voting power. For a democracy to stay alive, it needs a revolution every generation (see Romania's example, where hundreds of thousands of people are out in the streets, many saying things like taxation is theft, etc).

  • Dan S.||

    The only way a "free dictatorship" can exist is for the "dictator" not to actually have a lot of power. If he can only act as an impartial referee, all well and good. But that's not what most people would think of as a "dictator". The same thing applies to democracies, though. They are only really free when the things that people can vote to do to their fellow citizens are quite limited. In the end, it's not how a leader/ruler/government is chosen, it's how much power he/she/it has.

  • Fk Censorship||

    A dictator may choose to use or not use the power. If he is smart, he will use his absolute power only to maintain the rule of law and a basic infrastructure. That is what the sheikhs in the Emirates are doing, and the most part, it is a libertarian economic (but not social!) system.

    People in a democracy will have every incentive to plunder their neighbor, and to do so with minimal cost to themselves - it does not take fighting, pillaging, burglary, the risk of injury, but rather a simple vote.

    Few dictators are enlightened. Even fewer people in a democracy are.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Most Singaporeans will tell you that they couldn't have succeeded with a more conventional democracy

    Looks like bullshit. Did you take a poll?

  • NebulousFocus||

    Fair. It's just my anecdotal experience from living there for three years. ymmv

  • NebulousFocus||

    Also, they do have elections which are won by ridiculous margins. In 2011 the PAP (main legacy party) had it's worst performance ever: they only won 81 of 87 seats. It's an amazingly (not in a good way) uniform and controlled place.

  • NebulousFocus||

    These things are possible when the government can control the media.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    These things are possible when the government can control the media.

    Don't give the Progressives any ideas...

  • amagi1776||

    They don't I already?

  • Jerryskids||

    England created Hong Kong, didn't they? (Well, mostly one English guy, but Queen Victoria II would approve.)

  • UnCivilServant||

    One English guy whose employment was not determined by the people over which he did not want to bother making rules. So no handouts or meddling.

    Ambivalent Government Worker for the win?

  • Jerryskids||

    Except for the lack of roadz!, Hong Kong seemed pretty libertarian there as a freeport.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    After they stole it in a naked war of aggression.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I thought it was a "Trade War".

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Chinese banned British and American opium kingpins from Canton in 1837. Britain promptly began liquidating its investments in These States and America went into Depression as the opium wars geared up. When HM warships pounded Chinese coastal cities with solid shot, Indians were persuaded to revolt against the white devils and mutinies thinned the ranks of British overlords of opium farms even as the good ship Orwell plied the routes from HK and Shanghai to Adelaide. Those were interesting times for those heavily mixed mercantilist economies and their victims.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    I didn't know dajjal and AddictionMyth were the same person.

  • Hihndication||

    He outed himself months ago. He has another sock as well. (Cant remember name)

  • American Memer||

    Think it's Palin's

  • kessler||

    Yes, "the New Singapore" is my own worried expectation for ex-BREXIT Britain too -- also that of Julian Barnes, a bit -- William Gibson famously described Singapore as, "Disneyland with the death penalty"... they cane you if you chew gum or exit the wrong side of taxis, in Singapore...

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    The is the most Ironically humerous headline I've read in a long time.

  • Hank Phillips||

    All Britain needs to compete with the nationalsocialist heroin capitals of the Asian communist periphery is a death sentence for marijuana--like George Holy War Bush and A.G. Sessions both demanded.

  • AZ Gunowner||

    No, oh, and they will be a Muslim dominated country within 25 years.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "The Eurocrats in Brussels, who will negotiate the terms of the British withdrawal from the EU, face their own set of incentives. Make the divorce between the EU and the U.K. too pleasant, they contend, and other EU countries may decide to follow the British example and leave the EU as well."

    On the other hand, being a bunch of clenching rectums about it, and lots of member populations may say "Fuck you, we didn't elect you, and you haven't got an army. We're out of here."

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