Government involvement is
necessary as the state can fashion policies to boost or regulate the economy
for the benefit of the country. However, too much regulation or
intervention as populist measures can backfire.
E.g. Yingluck administration buying rice from local farmers at
During the elections, the Yingluck administration campaign
promised to boost the income of rice farmers, leading them to a landslide
victory in 2011. This careless and short-sighted plan later backfired
due to ballooning debt and immense stockpiles of rice unsold in warehouses as
markets simply turned to other countries for rice at market rates. The
policy was hardly sustainable, and runs counter to common sense and law of
economics, yet was implemented to gain political popularity.
E.g. Robert Mugabe Indigenisation policy
With the implementation of the policy, Mugabe forcibly took back
agricultural farmlands from whites and transferred to black Zimbabweans.
This rash action only led to the utter collapse of the agricultural industry
due to lack of expertise to manage commercial farms.
Education is a powerful tool used by the state to influence people
for better or worse. The government should be in charge of designing a common
curriculum necessary to inculcate common values for stronger social cohesion
and set a common benchmark. The State should be involved to provide
infrastructure, manpower and means by which people can gain equal access. This
is why public education should be provided by the state and depending on the
governmental body and priorities that is involved, quality varies widely from
country to country. The State should be the chief architect of education system
to steer its direction to better meet the economic needs of the country.
E.g. Singapore’s curriculum growing in a direction towards
bio-engineering and technology
The activity of the economy and the survival of the state’s future
requires the support of an educational system that prepares students for the
new industry. Thus, in view of Singapore’s growing bio-engineering
industry, new life sciences courses and universities (SUTD) are created to
nurture students of calibre to fulfil these jobs.
On the other
hand, countries that are under more repressive regime would see that intervention
is often used as a form of state propaganda.
E.g. Beijing government’s attempt to instil a greater sense of
love and nationalistic enthusiasm in Hong Kong for mainland China
The national education curriculum in Hong Kong was met with
widespread outcry, criticized for being biased against Western
democracy, pushing it as harmful to inculcate greater appreciation for China’s
one-party rule. Many saw this as the government’s attempt to brainwash
Most people see the state as having the responsibility to provide
public healthcare, by building hospitals and providing the necessary expertise
and infrastructure to cater to the public’s health care needs. As much
as the government tries to please the people, the costs, quality and duration
of healthcare are extremely complex, leading to varying extent of provision from
country to country.
E.g. Obamacare / Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Shockingly, most Americans are not even aware that Obamacare and
the Affordable Care Act are in fact the same policy. Prior to ACA, most Americans
lacked access to healthcare due to high costs and lack medical insurance.
Most healthcare policies also charged high premiums for good coverage
and do not cover pre-existing health conditions. ACA mandates everyone
get health insurance or pay a tax, providing subsidies for middle-income
families funded by tax imposed on some healthcare providers. This
led to millions having access to healthcare for the first time and negotiated
better terms for the people as it forced insurance companies to cover
pre-existing health conditions. As much as the plan seems brilliant as
it ensures those who previously could not have insurance now have full access
to medical care, many saw this as a form of government overreach for
they feel it should be a personal choice whether they wish to have insurance.
This is an example of the function of the state which redistributes resources
for greater equity amongst people.
E.g. Trump Administration Health Bill Collapse / Alternative
Trump made this a central campaign promise to bring a more
“beautiful” plan that will be “cheaper and better” than the existing
ACA. However, bill was widely criticised as it meant less responsibility from
the state to provide healthcare to people. Implementation of the bill
meant that 24 million Americans would lose their healthcare plan and be
uninsured and lower income groups would be unable to afford insurance
without generous subsidies. It also allowed insurance companies to
charge older people more, causing younger people to gain as they do not have to
pay more for the elderly. Moreover, the rich would be entitled to tax
cuts as subsidies for the lower income families are cancelled. Ironically, a large
majority of Trump’s voters, who are the working poor, would lose most under
People are not always rational and tend to give into their baser
appetites and desire that may bring more harm to themselves and others. In
liberal countries, excessive government intervention can be seen as overreach
into the private lives of citizens, trying to run their lives.
take on drugs
The use of drugs are banned in Singapore, whether soft or hard.
This is understandable as drugs taken without any form of restraint can exact a
heavy toll on society, such as the lives ruined, families destroyed and the
violence brought by rival drug cartels. Traffickers who are caught face
death penalty and abuse is criminalised with offenders facing imprisonment and
Consumption of sugary or unhealthy foods
Many countries have implemented a sugar tax to in a bid to prevent
rise in obesity. Mexico is one of such country that has enforced a tax on soda.
E.g. Former New
York Mayor Bloomberg’s call to ban sugary drinks was seen as an overreach
as people feel that it is a matter of private individual choice. Later
on, the law was repealed in court as it was deemed unconstitutional.
While the state may have good intentions, people may not view the
state’s intervention in personal choices as necessary and is seen as leading
them to become a “nanny state”.
E.g. UK ban on hardcore pornography
Some see this as a form of state surveillance and overreach into
personal lives when the government imposed a legislation to censor and
ban pornography that depict excessive violence against women. The law demanded
that all homes opt for firewall for protection of minors being exposed to porn.
Child pornography has also been banned as it is morally reprehensible and
should not be left to individual’s free choice as it harms children and
violates their rights.
In religious states, freedom to practice religion that differs
from the state’s religion is prohibited. This infringes on the
individual’s right to choose for himself his personal beliefs and faith.
However, freedom to practice one’s religion and not be persecuted for it is a
human right that should be protected by the state.
E.g. ISIS controlled states
In these states, only practice of Islam is allowed. Believers
who turn from the faith are labelled as “apostates” and are subjected to harsh
France has placed a ban on Muslim women wearing the veil in
secular states, citing security concerns and that this religious
practice went against French secular values.
Muslim women then challenged the law saying that it violates their
freedom of expression and right to freedom. The ban is cited to be
ridiculous and Islamophobia
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is a right and value fiercely guarded by the
state and constitution in liberal states such as France and US. In
authoritarian states, it is viewed with more caution as some are wary of the
social disharmony it can create with offensive remarks.
E.g. In Singapore, civil liberties (liberty to practice religion
and having a place of worship) are guaranteed but there are curbs to
freedom of speech and freedom to peaceful assembly. Amos Yee’s
online rant and his subsequent prosecution show the limits of free speech.
While many supported his right to disagree, they disapproved of his methods in
expressing dissent due to the timing and insensitivity of the comment as it was
a period of national mourning