Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Follow Singapore's Example, First Repeal the Constitution

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Follow Singapore's Example, First Repeal the Constitution

Article excerpt

Congress has turned its attention to the punishment of criminals, and action is on the way. The crime bill passed by the Senate late last year includes mandatory minimum sentences, a provision dictating life imprisonment without parole for three-time losers, and dozens of new death-penalty offenses.

But don't expect this permissive mood to last. Thanks to the recent publicity on how the government of Singapore deals with misbehavior, it's only a matter of time before some member of Congress with a finger on the public pulse rises to demand that flogging be introduced into our penal system.

When President Bill Clinton protested the six-lash sentence given by a Singapore court to an American teen-ager for vandalism, he couldn't be accused of pandering to his constituents. Polls show that most Americans side with the authorities in Singapore, though as yet there is no groundswell of support for the Iranian practice of beheading adulterers.

The usual assumption is that Singapore is safe and America is dangerous because the former employs corporal punishment and the latter doesn't. Singapore's custom of hanging drug dealers is also given credit for the scarcity of illicit substances there.

The willingness to learn from other countries with less crime than we have, however, doesn't extend to Western Europe, which is a model of peace and order despite being comparatively soft on crime. Why, those countries have even abolished capital punishment.

Singapore's rejection of American ways goes beyond stern treatment of rowdy vandals. It has greatly simplified the job of law enforcement by making just about everything illegal. There are stiff penalties for littering, spitting and failing to flush public toilets. Anyone caught chewing gum can expect to pay a fine equivalent to $316. Journalists can go to prison for publishing leaked information about economic indicators.

Singapore has achieved its tranquility by operating a police state. Caning is the least of the government's techniques for controlling its people. One party has monopolized power since the country gained its independence in 1965, relying on such methods as rigging elections, jailing opponents, censoring the press, owning the broadcast media and banning all public meetings of more than six people without a police permit. …

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