June 16, 2004

Instilling Virtue

Steven Den Beste has an interesting article up highlighting correspondance with Daryl a correspondent from Singapore. They speak to each other about law and order but it seems wrong somehow. To my eyes, the discussion is less about revolution and more about virtue and how to instill it. Normally, I'd run this in email to the fellow in Singapore but since I can't seem to find his email...

Virtue, in the both Singapore and the US, is of concern by the state. But the liberal values of the US make instilling virtue largely something that the people do while in Singapore, the state works intensively in the field of promoting virtue. While this has good effects in some areas, it lays waste the entire field of intellectual exploration and creates a group of people who are much more vulnerable to cultural change by exposure to new ideas. Singaporeans may show higher levels of virtue in their controlled environment but they must stay small, stay inside that environment for the system to continue to work.

In contrast the virtue promotion system in the US is much more resilient. It will never achieve the high levels that a Singaporan style system can achieve but it can survive assault much better. I can't imagine how Singapore would handle the gay marriage situation that has arisen in the US where elements in the government are violating laws and issuing tendentious court decisions. I can't imagine it would be resolved without violence whereas I can hardly imagine it ending in violence in the US.

Both systems obviously are viable in the short run but I think that Singapore's the one that's really in trouble. It's handicapped intellectual class will continually need to import the results its freer colleagues are creating because they will continue to fall behind without reforms giving them more freedom. And they will be vulnerable to intellectual movements that are incompatible with the state system they have chosen because the third raters who remain in Singapore and work under the censorious government rules will not be able to forever reconcile Singapore's unique system with the progress the rest of the world is producing.

Singapore will have to change. I just hope that it's a gradual, peaceful shift.

Posted by TMLutas at June 16, 2004 08:58 AM