Can Singapore Understand Biology and Economics at the Same Time?
By Bryan Caplan
Lee Kuan Yew believes in eugenics. Among others, he has been influenced by Professor H.J. Eysenck, an expert on measuring intelligence who visited Singapore in 1987. Lee states that his views are a result of observation, empirical enquiry, and study. “I started off believing all men are equal. Now I know that’s the most unlikely thing to have ever been…” Commenting on the controversial Murray and Bernstein [sic] book, he opined “the Bell Curve is a fact of life.” He states that the relevance of the Bell Curve became obvious to him by the late 1960s when he could see that equal opportunity did not bring about equal results. In a 1983 National Day rally address he said that 80 percent of talent and intelligence were inherited, and he lamented that the poorer and less well educated around the world have more children… When asked if other PAP ministers shared his views on eugenics, he replied, “They know it isn’t poppycock.”
Note that despite this refreshing honesty about human genetics, Singapore still has an unusually open immigration policy. Is it possible that Singapore’s leaders realize that the standard eugenic policy recommendations are biologically informed but economically illiterate? As I’ve explained before, if you understand comparative advantage, human biodiversity is an argument for trade – not the insensitive, cruel, and occasionally monstrous policies to which eugenicists traditionally gravitate.
Alas, Singapore’s efforts to discourage fertility among the poor suggest that even in Singapore, people have trouble understanding biology and economics at the same time…