Singapore 3.0

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I haven’t written anything for this blog in a long while, largely because I’ve been in the US, partly out of laziness.  I am writing from Singapore now, where I am teaching yet another EPGY course in creative writing.  I was also in Singapore this past May, teaching yet another class.  There isn’t much to report.  Singapore is much the same as it was before:  a city-state sized shopping mall.  Which is not to say I don’t find it charming in its own right.  The one major development I have to report is that I’ve found an absolutely excellent cafe (Book Cafe) about a fifteen minute walk from my hotel.

It has comfy couches, pretty good espresso drinks, free WiFi, ubiquitous plugs for computers, and a nice environment for working.  There are free magazines that you can peruse and a strange assortment of alternative covers for Nabokov’s Lolita.  As usual, I’ve brought more books that I can read with me, and as always I’ve bought even more from the gigantic Kinokuniya on Orchard Road.

I found myself a paperback copy of Ha-Joon Chang’s truly excellent book, Bad Samaritans.  The argument of the book is that pretty much all the orthodoxies of the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” are bunk.  Free trade is not a good way to develop an economy.  Tariffs can be an excellent way to build comparative advantage.  Protecting infant industries–like infant children–is an excellent idea for countries trying to become world-class economies.

Why am I so drawn to books on economic development?  It’s a bit odd, I suppose.  Perhaps I was an economist in a previous life.