The world – including the U.S. – can learn a lot from Singapore. (See here and here). But would I want the U.S. to become Singapore – that is, to replace our current package of policies with theirs?

No. The government’s dominant role in Singapore’s housing market is pretty bad, though due to their typical policy cleverness they avoid most of the evils of HUD-style public housing. (They make sure the occupant is also the residual claimant).

The death penalty for drug-dealing is awful, though I don’t know that it’s too much worse than handing out twenty- or thirty-year sentences for it.

But for me, the deal-breaker is far more mundane: Singapore has conscription. Two years of mandatory military service. Or as I see it, hell on earth. It’s not just state slavery. It’s state slavery in an especially unpleasant line of work. Even in peacetime, my best-case scenario for military service is that it’s like full-time Physical Education.

I’m happy to waste 11% of GDP on unnecessary health care expenditures, and live with another percentage point or so of unemployment, to keep myself and my sons from involuntary military service. And frankly, the purported “social benefits” of the draft – greater social cohesion, egalitarian mingling, and the fostering of patriotism – horrify me as well. Hey, I never claimed to be normal.

Maybe one day a key member of the exceptionally economically literate elite of Singapore will re-read a standard textbook critique of conscription. Or maybe he’ll come across David Henderson’s great article on “The Role of Economists in Ending the Draft.” And then he’ll suddenly say: “What were we thinking? Conscription is really inefficient.” It would be nice if he’d add, “Oh, and monstrous too,” but I don’t ask for miracles. Until that day comes, the policies of the U.S. remain the lesser evil.