Lee Hsien Loong had an interview with BBC’s Stephen Sackur which was praised by his supporters. Some concerns with his statement has been separately pointed out by a fellow member of the Libertarian Society of Singapore. Along the same lines, this article points out the lack of consistency in the PM’s statements.

At a certain point during the interview, in response to Stephen Sackur’s query on the state of press freedom in Singapore, PM Lee replied, “I would not presume to tell you how your press council should operate, why would you presume to tell me my country should run?”

PM Lee is right and so are Singaporeans who share this sentiment. Who are foreigners to tell us how a sovereign country should run its own affairs? The simply logic of national sovereignty implies that Singaporeans have the ultimately say in our own affairs should be governed. Unfortunately, if one believes this, he should also extend this down to the individual level. Consistency demands that. 

Sovereignty for the Individual
In our day to day life, we mind our own business. We do not get into people’s faces and tell them how they should run their own lives. We do not tell our neighbours what is the appropriate shower time. We do not tell how people they should eat their chicken rice. Yet, the irony is that many Singaporeans are too keen to let the government regulate how individuals run their personal lives, giving the government a free hand in doing so. Examples of this include Section 377A, CPF, the banning of online gambling (with exceptions) and the restriction of private property owners from renting out their apartments through Airbnb. If one believes in sovereignty, shouldn’t the individual be sovereign over his own body too? If so, why should 377A remain? If sovereignty is important, shouldn’t CPF monies be ultimately controlled by people, and not the government? If foreigners shouldn’t have a say in a country’s affairs, why should other parties foreign to the individual decide how one disposes his property, whether in online gambling or renting out an apartment via Airbnb?

Any attempts to regulate one’s property and personal life is unjust. It is because we own our bodies and we own our own property therefore we can decide to do what we want to, even if it harms ourselves. This principle of individual sovereignty lies at the heart of the libertarian spirit. Libertarians take this seriously on all levels, not just when it’s a matter of national sovereignty.

Those who believe that government ought to regulate personal behavior and how one disposes of his property share the same paternalism as Westerners when they impose their own values on Asian countries. There is essentially no difference. Both claim a moral superiority and wisdom to decide on behalf of others, revealing the irony of PM Lee’s statement that “nobody has a monopoly of virtue or wisdom” in the same interview.

If Singaporeans are so gung-ho about protesting against foreigners who tell us how to run our country, why are they so gung-ho about having the government run people’s lives, for some vague notion of the common good? For consistency sake, Singaporeans should condemn the government’s efforts to regulate our personal life and property, in the same way we oppose foreign imposition of values on our soil. 

Libertarian Society Singapore

We believe that freedom and liberty is a moral right. The role of the Singapore government is not to run the economy and run our lives, but simply to protect the rights of Singaporeans. Find out more on various social media avenues!

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