That is the topic of my new Bloomberg column, of course I am considering only one small piece of a larger puzzle. Here is one bit:
I view the development of Singaporean civil service culture as one of the world’s great managerial and political success stories of the last 50 years, though it remains understudied and underdiscussed in the West.
Singapore also mixes many of the virtues of both small and big government. The high quality of the civil service means the country gets “good government,” which pleases many liberals and progressives. The high quality of the decision-making means Singapore often looks to market incentives – congestion pricing for the roads is one example of many – which pleases conservatives and libertarians…
Is Singapore a small government or a big government country? The correct answer is both. Government spending is about 17 percent of GDP, which makes it look small and helps hold down taxes, which is good for business and productivity. (And there are no additional state and local governments.) But if you look at stocks rather than flows, the government owns shares in many critical Singapore businesses, plus it de facto controls lucrative sovereign wealth funds. The government claims ownership of the land, although it allows for active markets for transferring rights of use. All of these resources give the government the ability and credibility to get things done.
I even take on the chewing gum caricature…do read the whole thing.