British Colonialism and Rule of Law

One of the things we kept on hearing as the government commemorated the bicentennial of the colonisation of Singapore by Raffles is that it was thanks to the British that we have “Rule of Law” in Singapore. Well, yes, Singapore ranks highly in global surveys of perceptions of Rule of Law, and it was a British colony, but Fiji, Kenya and even India were all British colonies and none of them are known for having strong Rule of Law. So, was it really British who made the Rule of Law stick in Singapore ?

I decided to test this proposition by looking at the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index and comparing the scores of former British colonies with that of other countries which had never been colonised by the British. Out of 126 countries in the index, 42 were former British colonies. And the average overall score of the former British colonies was exactly the same as that for all other countries (details below) ! In other words, having been colonised by the British makes no difference as to whether a country has strong rule of law today.

The Overall Score of a country in the WJP 2019 Rule of Law Index was used to represent the strength of the Rule of Law in that country. The list of former British colonies is based on the Wikipedia entry for countries which had gained independence from the UK.

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