Friday, February 18, 2005

Conscription in Singapore 

Redrown has an interesting series of posts which essentially questions the value of conscription in Singapore. It comes in five parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Huichieh and Olorin of From a Singapore Angle have excellent responses to the posts, especially on the military aspects.

The posts and responses are long and involved, and I think excerpts won’t do them justice. So those interested should just read the original posts.

As for me, I think that conscription does add value to Singapore’s defence capability. The question is whether it is worth the social and economic costs. Unfortunately, I have not seen anything that answers this question to my satisfaction, either in blogs or anywhere else — not even in the aforementioned posts. And realistically, I probably never will.

Nevertheless, the value of analyses like those in the above posts is that they lay out the issues involved so that policy makers can try to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives, while individuals can be made aware of the issues, arrive at their own conclusions and preferences, and act — write, analyse, advocate, vote etc. — accordingly.

Good arguments should not be wasted.


Thanks for linking. The final part of my response is up--it's long and involved and comes with some charts as well...(my apologies to readers).

Concerning your post: you're right, the issue of whether NS is worth the social and economic cost has hardly been addressed in a sastisfactor manner--weighing the costs and benefits of the NS system would not be an easy task, least of all for mere bloggers. I cannot cannot pretend to have done the issue complete justice on my own blog.

The issue is not just about the social and economic costs of the NS, but the relative costs vis-a-vis relevant alternatives. To add to the complexity, any relevant analysis cannot be just about costs and benefits in the abstract--as if we are founding Singapore from scratch--but predicated on the fact that the present system has been running for 30+ years. We can compare the costs and benefits of doing A or B before actually doing either; but having begun doing A, the comparison becomes that between continuing with A and switching mid-stream to B, a different kettle of fish altogether.

My intention, however, is merely to present the issues from hopefully a more informed point of view; and my plea is that critics of the present system do so likewise.

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