Rioting, Inequality and the State

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Comments (4)
  1. jim sleeper says:

    Bryan Cheang has written a thoughtful — indeed, stimulating — assessment, but I wonder how, in a city-state as small as Singapore, he can sustain his distinction between criticism of capitalist “exploitation” (which he considers misguided) and criticism of the state. Singapore’s exemplifies what The Economist magazine called “state capitalism,” which is not the capitalism of John Locke or Adam Smith. I don’t see how the conditions that prompted the migrant Chinese bus drivers’ strike can really be disentangled from the policies of the state in Singapore. I posted the following on the Little India riot yesterday, in the Huffington Post as well as here in Tremeritus:

    1. Bryan Cheang says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      This distinction is one that I am aware of and am sensitive to. I am aware of state capitalism, which is also called corporatism.

      “If we are to keep the term “capitalism” at all, then, we must distinguish between “free-market capitalism” on the one hand, and “state capitalism” on the other. The two are as different as day and night in their nature and consequences. Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at. State capitalism consists of one or more groups making use of the coercive apparatus of the government — the State — to accumulate capital for themselves by expropriating the production of others by force and violence.” – Rothbard (

      I am also critical of state capitalism/corporatism. Many problems attributed to free markets (which is the kind of capitalism I am talking about and wanting to see), are actually coming from corporatism instead of outright socialism. The 2008 financial crisis is an example that reveals a lot of this. I am also in agreement with you that Singapore is corporatist in many ways, and has state capitalism instead of the true free market capitalism that I favor.

      I have talked about this in some of my previous articles on this site:

      Corporate Tyranny?
      Economic Development and economic freedom
      Morality of Capitalism
      Lesson of 2008
      Another case of the anti-capitalistic mentality in Singapore

  2. Wages are often a race to the bottom as evinced by the company I am working at which pays contractors at the rate of $2.25 an hour. Labour relationship has never been more skewed than it is now. Forced by economic necessity (as a result of globalisation), people are willing to work for anything. What was originally seen as a fair and equal exchange between the employing class and the working class has now degenerated to a coercive relationship. Wage slavery becomes dominant and leads to exploitation. This unequal relationship results in loss of dignity for the worker. I sense an anarchistic outlook in your view between the State and the Individual. As an Anarchist, I applaud that. But IMHO, I feel that you should get out, work in the private sector to get a better grasp on real exploitation. While I can’t judge on the moral/immoral aspect of Capitalism. The present trend indicate that the latter has proven to be more dominant. In my view, true capitalism does not exist. The free market is a fatuous concept. Free market, state capitalism or whatever nomenclature of capitalism one can come up with is all about monopolies. Left on its own, the market system will ultimately turn to failure,in what you term as creative destruction. For capitalism to work, State intervention is necessary. And since you mentioned about the antagonism between State and its subjects, I can only deduce that the same antagonism exists between state sponsored capitalism and society. In your article on “Morality of Capitalism” You have written that socialism relies on force and that itself eviscerates whatever good intentions socialism had. Yet violence often occurs when long-subdued masses rise against their oppressors, or take their first steps towards liberty and social reconstruction. Hoping for real change through peaceful means is probably day dreaming.

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