Sunday, July 25, 2021

“Lee Kuan Yew and the lessons of Singapore”

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A very good analysis at americanthinker.com of why Singapore model worked for Singapore, and why it will not work for a large country.

 

“Because I remain committed to democracy, I feel the need to explain away why Lee’s version of autocracy, a Platonic republic ruled by a philosopher-king, worked so spectacularly well, and why it is not a good idea for America, or almost any other country.

There are two relevant considerations:

  1. Singapore was so small (roughly three million population at the time it gained independence) that in any field of endeavor, all the major participants know each other personally, and observe each other’s activities closely.  Because Lee insisted on a culture of honesty and public service, personal corruption was not possible, for the most part.  Instead of messy checks and balances, mutual surveillance and shared values kept people honest.
  2. Singapore was surrounded by much poorer, much bigger countries, and was disciplined by its fear of being taken over by hostile larger neighbors – Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which were angry at and bigoted toward their Chinese minorities, who excelled at business and built wealth that generated envy and animosity.  Singapore, like Switzerland, invested heavily in defense, so that taking it over by military force would not be worth the trouble.

Benign autocracy or benevolent dictatorships can be effective, but they are subject to corruption through self-dealing and rationalizations.  Lee’s governance could never have worked in a larger country where a lack of serious and immediate external threats and anonymity would have allowed self-dealing.  And I wonder how long and how well it will work for Singapore.  But in the meantime, Singapore is a superbly functioning, rational, and enviably prosperous republic.  A bit boring, as almost all visitors note, but compared to its neighbors, a paradise.” (from the article)
Read the whole article here.

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