Where do libertarians stand on the minimum wage law?

Libertarians believe that the minimum wage law is a harmful economic policy. This is because it would result in the unemployment of individuals with low productivity and little skills. Employers, having to pay at least the minimum wage, may not choose to hire such unproductive labor since their marginal product of labor is less than their unit cost.

Additionally, the principle of voluntarism and free trade means that employers and prospective employees should have the right to agree to any wage rate they so choose. The minimum wage law comes between two consenting parties wishing to engage in a capitalist trade.

What is the libertarian position on immigration?

Libertarians believe in freedom of movement, and thus would advocate free immigration. Individuals should be allowed to freely enter and exit the borders of a nation to find work if they so choose. However, libertarians acknowledge that some degree of security checks should be put be in place for the state to ensure national security. Apart from such targeted screenings (in line with proper legal processes) for the purpose of security however, libertarians believe in open borders. To deny opportunities to less privileged citizens from developing nations would be severely hypocritical as libertarians.

It is also mistaken to believe that foreigners “steal our jobs”, that is because, they usually complement, not substitute, the local workforce. Immigrants usually fill up positions at the highest skilled and lowest skilled levels, and complements the local workforce, which is usually “vase-shaped”.

Wouldn’t a free market economy mean that the poor will suffer and be neglected?

This is a common, but ultimately unfounded, criticism. The historical record is crystal clear on the wealth generating effects of free market capitalism, wherever it has been tried. Societies that protect property rights and contracts, limit government spending and interference, and embrace free trade are richer and more prosperous than those who don’t. Poverty reduction has also been rapid in countries that embarked on a road of capitalist development.

According to the economist Ludwig von Mises, capitalism is “mass production for the masses”. The engine of economic production may at first introduce goods and services for the enjoyment of the few, but ultimately makes this widely available at cheap prices to the masses. This has been true for almost all major consumer goods people enjoy today, be it smartphones, or air travel.

Isn’t interventionist government necessary to curb the power of big corporations?

It is important to distinguish laissez-faire capitalism and crony capitalism. In the former, all firms must serve customer interest in order to gain further profits. In the latter however, the entrepreneurs gain special privileges from the state, which comes at the expense of economic competition. Libertarians oppose the latter system, and wish to maintain a separation of business and state.

As such, libertarians believe that it is the state that is source of cronyism in the economy, because it represents an attractive target of opportunity for special interests to gain special favours. Interventionist government isn’t necessary to curb the power of big corporations, because big corporations will only be able to maintain artificial barriers to entry due to the very existence of such interventionism.

In a truly free market system, the only power that corporations gain is that which is voluntarily accorded to them by consumers at large. It is the competitive profit-loss process in the free economy that regulates corporations.

How may Singapore ensure sustained economic development for the future?

In the National Day Rally Speech of 2016, PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that “disruption” is the defining challenge to the economy. This is a significant insight indeed. The economic landscape of the future is marked by unpredictability, and this requires a tremendous amount of innovation and creativity from Singaporeans and Singaporean firms.

However, to prepare for a “disruptive” future, Singaporeans must adopt a “disruptive” mindset. In essence, Singaporeans must dare to question, be critical, and think out of the box. After all, how will disruptive technology emerge from a citizenry that is risk-averse and conformist?

Libertarians believe that to foster such a culture of disruptive innovation, a fundamental reform in our social, economic and political institutions is necessary. We need to liberalise our economy, move away from centrally planning outcomes and embrace spontaneous, bottom-up initiatives. The political process should be opened up to allow for a diversity of voices. Such libertarian reform is a pragmatic economic imperative.

How can Singapore achieve even further economic freedom?

The Singapore economy, while relatively free, may be even freer. Anyone who wishes for Singapore to sustain its economic growth in the coming decades should pay attention to the libertarian case for liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation of the economy.

One area worth reforming would be the practice of giving out special subsidies and incentives to local SMEs. Every single day, local entrepreneurs receive such monetary benefits for specific purposes, be it the upgrading of internal business capabilities or for the completion of some productivity/innovation project. While this is well-intentioned, it ultimately fosters a crutch mentality amongst our local SMEs, who then depend on the state for its sustenance. This erodes the very competitiveness that Singapore seeks to inculcate in its businesses, essential for navigating the complex economic landscape of the future. Singapore’s businesses need more competition, not more subsidies.

Libertarians want to eliminate government waste arising from excess bureaucracy. While we acknowledge that the situation in Singapore is relatively better than elsewhere, there’s still room for improvements. There are numerous regulations that one would need to comply with, and hoops to jump over, imposed by the alphabet soup of local government agencies: BCA, URA, NEA, HDB, LTA, and of course, the IRAS.

How may the standard of living of low income earners in Singapore be raised? 

Libertarians, like everyone else, want to see that everyone in society prospers, including those who are earning low income. We believe that this worthy goal is best achieved via an environment of strong economic growth, where good jobs will be created for Singaporeans. It is in this dynamic economic environment will investment and capital accumulation take place, increasing the productivity, and hence, wage potential of all Singaporeans. Such an environment is maintained by ensuring low taxes, light regulation, and an ease of doing business in Singapore.

Libertarians do believe that a minimal social safety net is justified for those who fall through the cracks. However, we resist the notion of universal entitlements for all, minimum wage laws and heavy social spending. Such actions will only be counter-productive, and potentially hurt the economic environment necessary for poverty alleviation in the first place.

What is the libertarian response to government-led educational campaigns e.g. Kindness movement, Courtesy Campaign, Racial Harmony Promotion etc? 

Libertarians do wish that citizens in Singapore are virtuous, kind and socially gracious. Such a society would be an attractive one to live in.

However, libertarians do not believe that the vehicle of government is the best means to achieve these worthy goals. Government does not always know best, and top-down initiatives suffer from numerous problems of knowledge, interest and power (see above). Libertarians believe that when the state is kept out of the way, it will free up the creative energies of civil society, who will take the lead on such matters.

How do libertarians view the electoral voting problem in Singapore?

Libertarians favour greater competition in the political realm, since it is unhealthy for any one single party to maintain unquestioned and unchallenged dominance in society. On this basis, libertarians would like to simplify electoral rules, so as to lower the barriers to entry for aspiring political parties, as well as opposition ones. Thus, libertarians would oppose practices like the redrawing of electoral boundaries, and the use of political carrots as election gimmicks.

One potential electoral reform to consider would be to embrace a party-list proportional representation system, in which all Singaporeans in all constituencies will be able to choose between all parties (be it PAP, WP, SDP, etc). Based on the percentage of votes received, the party will gain a corresponding number of votes in parliament. This way, all Singaporeans will be able to choose from the entire range of political options, and will ensure greater competition between all parties in all constituencies.

How can the transportation system be improved in Singapore?

The transportation system suffers from a severe lack of competition in Singapore, and that is the biggest problem to be addressed. Here, the Land Transport Authority has final say on matters of transport policy, and to a large extent, stifles the free entrance of competitors.

We should embrace a greater degree of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation in the local transport market. One potential example would be to get the government out of the taxicab business entirely, and allow a myriad of firms to compete freely, including ride-sharing experiments like Uber. A competitive system ensures constant innovation and cost-efficiency. Not only would this benefit consumers, it will also benefit taxi-drivers in Singapore, who have to pay an approximately S$131/day for rental, as compared to $60/day rental for Uber.

When it comes to trains and buses, a similar approach may be used. While only a single train system may be possible, a competitive contracting model can be used, where firms compete to obtain a contract authorising it to operate for a set time. Tax money would be withdrawn from all transport companies, allowing private initiatives to flourish with little artificial barriers to entry.