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Singapore’s flawed ‘freedom’

The following is an excerpt of an article from Asia Times Online.

By Muhammad Cohen

Ho Ching


HONG KONG - What do you call a country that takes 35% of salaries to finance a state investment fund run by the prime minister's wife? Where the government controls companies responsible for 60% of gross domestic product and 85% of its citizens live in public housing? And a country with stringent restrictions on the media and public information, limits on freedom of expression and assembly, and courts that help perpetuate the domination of the only ruling party the country has ever known?

You call it the second-freest economy on Earth if you're the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal. The country described above is Singapore, runner-up to Hong Kong for the 17th consecutive year in the US conservative icons' joint Index of Economic Freedom for 2011, released last week. Singapore's ranking may seem like something from Fantasyland - science fiction writer William Gibson famously called Singapore "Disneyland with a death penalty" - but the Heritage Foundation insists it's grounded in cold, hard facts.

According to the Heritage website, "Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself."

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