A place for thoughts, pictures, experiences, and more during my year in Taiwan.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Short Arm of the Law

In an effort to keep this from turning into a pure politics blog, here’s a post on Taiwan. I have made a point over the past few months of raving about the serious advancements that Taiwan has made over the West. These include a highly developed and efficient public infrastructure, a stellar health care system, low poverty, etc. Yet going hand in hand with all this sophistication I have noticed a particularly high level of legal ambiguity. While this is not on the level of Japan, where organized crime is allowed to operate literally in the open, its presence is none the less apparent.
My morning job is the perfect example of this. I spend my mornings teaching at a kindergarten, yet it is illegal for foreigners to do so under Taiwanese law. Now despite this fact, there are literally thousands of westerns employed at kindergartens around the country. To top it all off, when the government conducts raids on school to enforce the law, they often call ahead and let the administration know, as if to say “tell your foreigners not to come in today.”
This kind of legal grey area is present all over the country. Drugs are also a fine example. According to Taiwanese law drug trafficking can warrant the death penalty, yet drugs are still here, available, and I have heard multiple instances of arrested dealers having all charges dropped provided they go into rehab. In fact, in many criminal and questionable dealings, the word is that a connection or two can make navigating Taiwan’s bureaucracy a walk in the park.
It’s almost as if the country as a whole admits there are certain things that, despite legality, are either highly useful to society or not worth the trouble to enforce and so choose to look the other way. Could this willingness to tolerate such indulgences contribute to the advancements Taiwan has made as a country? Food for thought 


  1. Hopefully this "short arm" doesn't read the blogs of Western English teachers!

  2. That's just the point. The indulgences are out in the open, but everyone just choses to ignore them. The logic is that things run more efficiently by having certain regulations without enforcement, and there is certainly a lot of evidence here to support that position.