Lee Kuan Yew Speaketh

Looks like it’s defend-a-dictator week here at Sepia Mutiny… So it’s pretty convenient that the IHT just published a great interview with the grand-daddy of modern benevolent dictators, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. Lee tackles several topics that should be of interest to mutineers, starting with his long term prognosis for India –

India’s economy can grow to about 60-70 percent that of China. I see that as the long-term trend. They’re not going to be bigger than China – on present projections.

But 60-70 percent of China with a population which will be bigger than China by 2050, is something considerable, and they’ve some very able people at the top. I draw this historical lesson which I believe will be repeated, though not in exactly the same way, but will manifest itself in a similar pattern.

Given India’s current real, per-capita GDP of $1000 vs. China’s $2800, and an overall GDP of $1T vs. China’s $2.8T, Lee is projecting some pretty rapid gap closing by India. Still, it’s interesting that he doesn’t think it will close the gap completely and he certainly doesn’t see India overtaking China anytime soon.

Other parts of Lee’s interview dive rather directly into the Liberalism vs. Capitalism vs. Democracy question that’s got some mutineers riled up…

Lee asserts that a big part of Singapore’s success came from explicitly eschewing the identity politics that dominates political discourse in so many other, similarly heterogenous countries –

To begin with we don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors, a homogenous population, common language, common culture and common destiny.

We are migrants from southern China, southern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, before it was divided, Ceylon and the archipelago. So, the problem was, can we keep these peoples together?

The basis of a nation just was not there. But the advantage we had was that we became independent late. In 1965, we had 20 years of examples of failed states. So, we knew what to avoid – racial conflict, linguistic strife, religious conflict. We saw Ceylon.

Thereafter, we knew that if we embarked on any of these romantic ideas, to revive a mythical past of greatness and culture, we’d be damned. So, there’s no return to nativism.

Similarly, many folks are aware of how explicitly social / cultural engineering created the backbone of Singaporean society. Lee goes into a little detail on it here –

Lee Kuan Yew: …Take this matter of getting MNCs [multinational corporations] to come here when the developing world expert economists said, “No, MNCs are exploiters.” [back in the 1960s]

I went to America. This was a happenstance . . . What were the Americans doing? They were exporting their manufacturing capabilities . . . That’s what I wanted. That’s how it started.

I said O.K., let’s make this a first world oasis in a third world region. So not only will they come here to set up plants and manufacture, they will also come here and from here explore the region.

What do we need to attract them? First class infrastructure. Where do we get it from? We had the savings from our Central Provident Fund. We had some loans from the World Bank.

We built up the infrastructure. The difficult part was getting the people to change their habits so that they behaved more like first world citizens, not like third world citizens spitting and littering all over the place.

That was the difficult part. So, we had campaigns to do this, campaigns to do that. We said, “Look, if you don’t do this, you won’t get the jobs. You must make this place like the countries they came from. Then, they are comfortable. Then they’ll do business here. Then, you’ll have a job. Then, you’ll have homes, schools, hospitals, etc.” That’s a long process.

A Particularly Tough Neighborhood

I’d contend that the “spitting and literring” is a convenient talking point & merely the tip of a larger, cultural iceberg. The real issue – and what really made Singapore such an oasis in the 3rd world – was the entire basket of “1st world” attitudes & behaviors, particularly towards commerce and corruption. Singapore free-traded before it was cool. And Singapore’s corruption index is positively Nordic – a triumph given its neighborhood.

Given corruption’s significant cultural basis, stamping it out can require particularly aggressive policing – something Singapore is pretty well known for .

Eventually, there’s the Democracy Question. A heretofore well-behaved Lee can’t help but interrupt the interviewer –

IHT: But won’t that require a greater opening up of society here? A loosening of the press, of free speech, of political competition?

Lee Kuan Yew: You’re giving me the classical . . .

IHT: I am, I want to . . .

Lee Kuan Yew: No, the classical, Western, liberal approach.

IHT: It’s not my practice . . .

Lee Kuan Yew: No, no. It’s the Western, classical, liberal approach.

IHT: Right.

Lee Kuan Yew: I’m giving you the answer of a pragmatist.

IHT: That’s what I want to hear.

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p>Put simply, from Lee’s perspective, many aspects of our polity are first predicated on Western, Classical Liberal culture. Still, he’s quick to recognize a certain long term inevitability of these ideals and notes the life led by the country’s newly minted upper crust -

Lee Kuan Yew: For the top 20 percent of the population, there are no constraints there. I would say . . . top 20 percent, the educated population. They’re educated abroad, at university.

So, they know the wide world and they are on the Internet and they’ve got friends, they e-mail them. They travel. Every year, about 50 percent of Singaporeans travel by air.

So, this is not a closed society. But at the same time, we try to maintain a certain balance with the people who are not finding it so comfortable to suddenly find the world changed, their world, their sense of place, their sense of position in society.

And he’s got a similar prognosis for Gay Issues in the country; “don’t ask, don’t tell” for now (recognizing sizable Muslim minorities in the country, for ex.), but more in the future. So, regardless of where you sit on the classic “Western” political spectrum there’s much to admire as well as be uneasy about when it comes to Singapore’s unique situation. Lee tosses these categories away and simply characterizes his politics as “pragmatic.”

47 thoughts on “Lee Kuan Yew Speaketh

  1. A few Logic 101 reminders before the comments start to fly -

    1) “dictatorship worked for Singapore” != “dictators should always be used everywhere” / “are always justified”

    2) “dictatorship created some good things” != “dictators are always good”

    3) “dictatorship worked then” != “dictators should always be used in the future”

    4) “Hitler was a dictator” != “Vinod supports Hitler” (BTW – Hitler was democratically elected, at first)

    The key takeaway – there’s a lot more to efficient / effective government & society than elections… We often implicitly asssume that elections result in Liberalism and Capitalism. But, the examples cited here (as well as Mushie’s record) are intended to make us consider that

    1) these are 3 far more independent things than most folks consider

    2) getting 2 out of 3 is better than 1 out of 3

    3) for most normal folks, a good chunk of what determines their day to day quality of life is economic + low level govt services NOT the national election… hence, for many, [Liberalism + Capitalism] weighs more highly than [Democracy]

  2. particularly aggressive policing

    Too cute by far. I have relatives there and they’re certainly not having a bad time of it, but this is less than adequate when it comes to even winking at how heavy-handed the administration can be.

    Singapore is not free of corruption, lets be clear. Personally I could not tolerate this level of social engineering.

  3. Spending some time in Singapore, you get the sense that it offers a glimpse of the future–what much of the world will look like in 25 years. It’s not a democracy but a corporatist entity filling the role of the state (Dubai is like this, too). Singaporeans are not so much citizens as shareholders and stakeholders in the project. The internationalized military industrial complex is a huge chunk of the economy. Singapore is a big supplier of weaponry. and National Service (army) is compulsory for all men.

    Culturally, Singapore is a strange hodge-podge. The majority of the residents are Chinese, with Indians a very strong minority. Hindi and Tamil music plays on all the radio stations, along with Beijing pop, and Bryan Adams. There’s a big Euro and Aussie presence and very little that seems American except for brands.

    People are free to express their culture and their religion, but they can’t live in ethnic enclaves. Racial quotas stipulate how housing blocks are to be apportioned. Private condos are ultra-nice, and government-provided apartments are fine enough.

    Dissent is not tolerated. Everything is clean and controlled. Immigration is heavily regulated. Guest workers do the dirty work. Residents are expected to thank the government for its beneficence and for providing the conditions necessary to maintain their lifestyle.

    Colombo was supposed to be a new Singapore. Mumbai is supposed to be a new Singapore. Dubai and Macao ARE the new Singapores. This is what we are supposed to aspire to. What political leader, given the chance, would NOT choose the Singapore model over another system? Economic opportunity and political freedom have been decoupled.

  4. Colombo was supposed to be a new Singapore

    who said this? and what fine substances were they taking at the time? AFAIK The only port similar in depth to Singapore’s, in SL, is Trinco…

  5. Lee Kuan Yew never was a dictator. He was the elected leader of Singapore — many times. The elections may have been a bit gerrymandered, but the (mostly Indian-led) opposition was usually hopeless, as Lee notes in the interview.

    I see the interviewer did not ask about the (ahem) remarkable successes of Leee’ relatives after Lee was elected. Merit-based, of course…

  6. Vinod Given corruption’s significant cultural basis…

    How thoughtful of you to remind us of Robert Clive, and Enron!

  7. 1 · vinod said

    for most normal folks, a good chunk of what determines their day to day quality of life is economic + low level govt services NOT the national election… hence, for many, [Liberalism + Capitalism] weighs more highly than [Democracy]

    Actually that is dead on in another sense too. There exists the likes of Enron, Abramoff, Spitzers, Watergate, Iran-Contra etc. even in the developed countries but all this is at a very high level of the govt. At the lower levels, the administration and bureaucracy is efficient and there exists very less corruption. So the normal life is peaceful and comfortable here in the west. Whereas in the developing countries what makes life difficult is the inefficiencies and corruptions at the lower levels of the govt. which the average person interacts/encounters greatly in his/her normal day-to-day life.

  8. It’s not a democracy but a corporatist entity filling the role of the state …. you get the sense that it offers a glimpse of the future

    If all that is wanted by people is economic prosperity then the Singapore model will be the future. But some how I doubt, especially in slightly larger countries than Singapore.

    I don’ think the Singapore model can be applied to a single city in a big & diverse country.

  9. If all that is wanted by people is economic prosperity then the Singapore model will be the future.

    Totally agree and I’d go one step further… even the Singaporeans, now that they’ve achieved a certain level of wealth & stability are demanding end-to-end democracy and a far more “fluid” society for themselves.

  10. From the original post,

    I’d contend that the “spitting and literring” is a convenient talking point & merely the tip of a larger, cultural iceberg.

    –> To me, it sounded more like the “broken window” theory of policing mentioned in freakanomics book.

  11. I am sure there are millions in India who would trade their right to vote for the basics of governance. Because if if by voting they cannot bring their representatives to heel, of what use is electoral democracy? But then again the Indian voter can be maddeningly obdurate. Gimmicks do seem to work. See how the voters of TN – in a well educated state with claims to timeless culture – have kept a corrupt family in power falling for mere baubles like colour TVs.

  12. If nothing else, Yew’s comments could serve as a lesson to those nations experiencing the kind of strife his policies helped avoid.

    In the same way that Singapore learned from post-independence Sri Lanka’s mistakes, you would hope that modern Sri Lankan leaders could learn from Singapore’s successes. I’m sure they would take a vaguely autocratic soulless state over the absolute mess that reigns now and for the foreseeable future, if approaches to governance don’t change dramatically.

  13. Singapore reminds me of the fictional world Robert Heinlein created in Starship Troopers, not in the military sense that dominates the plot of the book, but rather in the socio-political landscape depicted.

  14. I found the following excerpt from the interview fascinating. India will experience much the same:

    One of the things we did which we knew would call for a big price was to switch from our own languages into English.

    We had Chinese, Malay, Indian schools – separate language medium schools. The British ran a small English school sector to produce clerks, storekeepers, teachers for the British. Had we chosen Chinese, which was our majority language, we would have perished, economically and politically.

    Riots – we’ve seen Sri Lanka, when they switched from English to Sinhalese and disenfranchised the Tamils and so strife ever after.

    We chose – we didn’t say it was our national language – we said it was our working language, that everybody learns English whatever language medium school you go to. Which means nobody needs interpretation to read English.

    So, our sources of culture, literature, ideas are now more from the English text than from the Chinese or the Malay or the Tamil.

    So, there’s a clear difference between the grandfathers and the grandchildren. Look, my grandchildren, never mind the grandfather, their Chinese is not equal to their parents’ Chinese.

    My children were educated in what were then Chinese schools and they learned English as a subject. But they made up when they went to English-language universities. So they didn’t lose out. They had a basic set of traditional Confucian values. Not my grandchildren.

    I’ve got one grandson gone to MIT. Another grandson had been in the American school here. Because he was dyslexic and we then didn’t have the teachers to teach him how to overcome or cope with his dyslexia, so he was given exemption to go to the American school. He speaks like an American. He’s going to Wharton.

    Between him and his father, there’s a clear breach in cultural continuity – never mind between him and me.

    You asked me to predict what it will be in 50 years or even 20 years. I cannot, because we have left our moorings.

  15. the (mostly Indian-led) opposition was usually hopeless, as Lee notes in the interview.

    Hopeless at what? Avoiding being bankrupted all the time by the Government (via a pile of defamation suits and ‘fines’) or being jailed for contempt of court when they question the independence of the judiciary?

    Oh so many things to say … Singapore is an weird little country (I agree with Preston, Singapore is a corporation not a country) and you’re right, Vinod, there is much to admire and be uneasy about at the same time (don’t start me on media freedom or social engineering).

    With recession around the corner (and really affecting the US MNCs located in Singapore) it will be interesting to see how Singapore fares economically over the next five years, especially with competition from Hong Kong and Shanghai as cheaper bases of operations for MNCs. This in turn will probably affect how Singaporeans feel about their Government and what, if anything, they are prepared to do about it (most likely: Singapore’s highly skilled and educated work force, that top 20%, will leave for better prospects).

    Also it will be very interesting to see what happens to Singapore when Minister Mentor Lee is no longer in the picture …

  16. LKY chose the pragmatic approach, having a 400 square mile island without any natural resources, dependant on Malaysia for drinking water. But given the choice of settling down in Singapore or US/Australia etc, I have seen almost everyone leaving Singapore. That is why Singapore is dependant on the constant flow over 1 million of immigrant/foreign workers both skilled and unskilled to keep its economy buzzing. Talking of being pragmatic they realised long ago the need to legalise prostitution and allowing foreign workers even that sector.

    William Gibson’s article in Wired 1993 Disneyland with the Death Penalty is a good summary of the State of Singapore even now.

  17. The great achievement of Lee KuanYew lies in his first realising the need for singapore not only to survive but also to prevail by excelling in every area.What has been done there cannot be replicated easily everywhere becuase it’s a very small island nation.

    LKY is living proof that pragmatic approach can lead to better results…..pragmatism and realism emerge as the secret of the success of Singapore’s transformation from a third world country to the first world.Herein lies the problem we have in India,one that has been highlighted by our finance minister .when addressing the convocation of IIM,Ahmedabad he has described the indian brand of deliberated democracy forcing the country to accept suboptimal solutions at enormous costs ,both of time and money.This indian brand of deliberate democracy must change. Chidambaram ,in the same address to IIMA,referred to China.He pointed out that its progress was due to the “one country two system “theory as opposed to India’s “one country,one system”with as many interpretations as there are political parties.Our problem is multiplicity of approach and practically every party having a veto.

  18. We chose – we didn’t say it was our national language – we said it was our working language, that everybody learns English whatever language medium school you go to. Which means nobody needs interpretation to read English.

    This is pretty much India’s understood policy. No language in specific is advocated or suppressed, and all people know that English and the languages of major cities (tamil, telugu, gujarati, hindi, bengla, kannada? etc) will give them employment. Only difference is that in India nobody seems to care, and people just kind of accept whatever. Nobody tries to impose anything on anyone else. Elsewhere (China), one language is authoritatively forced upon all minorities.

  19. singapore-as-model: it is a city-state with a relatively recent origin made up of immigrant groups (even the malays are immigrants). in many ways it was optimized for a technocratic solution to politics.

  20. “No language in specific is advocated or suppressed”

    “Only difference is that in India nobody seems to care, and people just kind of accept whatever. Nobody tries to impose anything on anyone else.”

    Erm, heard of Hindi imposition? Why is Hindi given precedence over all other languages?

  21. 22 · Das said

    Erm, heard of Hindi imposition? Why is Hindi given precedence over all other languages?

    Because Hindi is easily learnt, borrows words freely, lends itself to being written in the Roman script, belongs to no one in particular, etc. India lost a great chance to switch over to rally around Hindi, thanks to a thuggish DMK in TN in the 1960s. If we had chosen any one language of our own, OK not Hindi, but say Tamizh, and poured all our energies into developing it, an Indian language today would have enjoyed the same status as Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic. Sadly we frittered our energies away in an orgy of multiculturalism. The only groups in India that oppose Hindi are in their order of vehemence, the DMK, the Shiv Sena, and a handful of retro Bengalis in Calcutta. The DMK is worried that its fascist project of a glorious eternal “Tamizh civilization” will be undermined if Hindi becomes more openly accepted. And that is quite funny because local business communities – notably the Chettiars and Nadars have for long studied the language and are fluent in it. The Shiv Sainiks (viloently) and the Bengalis (with hot air) resent Hindi because of who brings it in – the Marwari businessfolk – it is a puerile obsession. But in the case of the ULFA and Manipur terrorists the wide acceptance of Hindi threatens to undermine their hold on the population. It is the vilest form of violent parochialism, but of course don’t expect any “progressive” to condemn it. In the South, outside TN, the arrogant attitude of Tamizh fanatics is resented greatly, while Hindi has no such problem.

  22. Wouldn’t adopting hindi place the north in a vastly advantageous position in terms of access to higher education and government jobs, and probably the private sector as well? Again, do you not see what’s happened in Sri Lanka? What a ridiculous thing to say, we should all shut up and learn hindi, despite english (a common ‘third’ language) already having a strong foothold. The point is that stability comes with pragmatism, adopting hindi would not be pragmatic for a sizable portion of India, it would breed resentment and division. English works fine, thanks.

  23. Looks like it’s defend-a-dictator week here at Sepia Mutiny

    vinodh make a funny :-)

    but good post.

    good material for those postprandial ruminations on diwali/christmas/thanksgiving where the soused uncles hold forth with “line them up and shoot them all” and “india needs a hitler” – while soused uncle’s progeny try to recede into the sofa.

  24. an Indian language today would have enjoyed the same status as Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic.

    This is something I too feel very sad about. People make efforts to accomodate Korean, Japanese, Greek and all these other minor nationalities. One billion Indians are represented by English. Indeed, one billion Indians justify the use of English as a world language.

    I don’t advocate Hindi in the south though. I don’t know if any model other than the one we have now would have worked. South Indians can and do learn Hindi and north Indians (well the Marwaris I’ve seen) can and do learn Kannada/Tamil etc…

  25. Next up, in the series, why monarchy is so great (or at least some kings/queens). Of course that’s after we have exhausted all the “benevolent dictators” like Putin who was mentioned in the earlier post, of course in this case rule of law means poisoning your political opponents using radioactive materials and getting rid of journalists.

  26. India should have English (AS A SECOND LANGUAGE) and then each state’s language preserved within that state (AS A FIRST LANGUAGE). Hindi should be optional for those who want to learn it in non-Hindi states(they’d mainly want it to understand Bollywood and Hindi entertainment, I would assume, as well as because it already is the de facto lingua franca in much of the country). I think a lot of people would opt to learn Hindi even if it wasn’t rammed down their throats. But to make it the national language is bullshit and clearly favors those hailing from Hindi-speaking states.

    Hindi has been made irrelevant not only by English, but also by the Hindi literati and intelligentsia themselves, by overly sanskritising it and taking it far away from colloquial Hindustani, which in my view was a language par excellence and well-suited as a lingua franca. Oh well. Thankfully the media nowadays is popularising a more ‘Hindustani’ form of Hindi rather than the artificially sanskritised variety. Bollywood movies veer too far in Hinglish territory or hard-core Urdu on the other hand, which is no solution either (and probably a result of large numbers of Muslims script-writers, historically).

    Punjabi should be given more importance in Haryana, H.P. and Delhi, and be more widespread in the schools.

  27. India should have English (AS A SECOND LANGUAGE) and then each state’s language preserved within that state (AS A FIRST LANGUAGE). Hindi should be optional for those who want to learn it in non-Hindi states(they’d mainly want it to understand Bollywood and Hindi entertainment,I would assume, as well as because it already is the de facto lingua franca in much of the country). I think a lot of people would opt to learn Hindi even if it wasn’t rammed down their throats. But to make it the national language is bullshit and clearly favors those hailing from Hindi-speaking states.

    My school had a pretty similar structure for languages such as the one you suggest except that medium of instruction was English, the second language was Marathi which was taught from the second grade and the third language was Hindi. I am fluent in all three languages, so I dispute your claims that having English as a language of instruction destroys the local languages. I was by no means the exception most other kids I grew up with were comfortable in more languages than one. Also the younger you are the more easy it is to pick up a language. In addition to Marathi and English I could speak and understand Bengali and Gujarati as well.

    You are probably aware that the language of most higher education in India is still in English, so if you go to local language (say Hindi or Marathi for example) school you are at a significant disadvantage compared to your peers whose medium of instruction was English since they were four.

  28. Amitabh,

    I agree with Yogi, I went to school in Delhi and the instruction was in English and we were taught Hindi and at home my grandparents spoke Punjabi and I am fluent in all three and there are many others like me as I mentioned on the other post. I think all this is largely dependent on your limited sample. I have grown up in India and lived there 27 years of my life and although there are people who are not fluent in their mother tongues the situation is no where as grim as it is made out.

  29. I went to school in Delhi and the instruction was in English and we were taught Hindi and at home my grandparents spoke Punjabi and I am fluent in all three

    I know people who fit the EXACT profile you described above…down to a ‘T’…and they mostly if not almost entirely speak English socially.

    although there are people who are not fluent in their mother tongues the situation is no where as grim as it is made out.

    It’s getting there. Give it another generation.

  30. You are right about people with backgrounds similar to mine but I think they are exceptions than the norm. With people who understand Hindi or Punjabi, I primarily speak one of the two. I really hope that it doesn’t turn out so bad in another generation.

  31. I always thought Amartya Sen refuted the so-called principles behind Lee’s “Asian Values” thesis pretty effectively: http://www.brainsnchips.org/hr/sen.htm. Singapore’s more heterogenous obviously, but given that Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are rather developed and democratic (and in the case of Taiwan, quite boisterous politically) would seem to provide a nice counter-example to any argument that East Asians wouldn’t “take” to democracy.

    As for India, I’ll just recite the old Sen argument here: democracy, and responsible government, at least averted spectacularly idiotic famines like those associated with the Great Leap Forward. Responsible government does give you some lower bound on how bad it’ll get, and that lower bound is way higher than with dictatorships. (ie: no democracies have had famines during this century — though there’s probably still a lot of regional starvation events in India still).

  32. 23 · jyotsana said

    22 · Das said
    Erm, heard of Hindi imposition? Why is Hindi given precedence over all other languages?
    Because Hindi is easily learnt, borrows words freely, lends itself to being written in the Roman script, belongs to no one in particular, etc. India lost a great chance to switch over to rally around Hindi, thanks to a thuggish DMK in TN in the 1960s. If we had chosen any one language of our own, OK not Hindi, but say Tamizh, and poured all our energies into developing it, an Indian language today would have enjoyed the same status as Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic. Sadly we frittered our energies away in an orgy of multiculturalism. The only groups in India that oppose Hindi are in their order of vehemence, the DMK, the Shiv Sena, and a handful of retro Bengalis in Calcutta. The DMK is worried that its fascist project of a glorious eternal “Tamizh civilization” will be undermined if Hindi becomes more openly accepted. And that is quite funny because local business communities – notably the Chettiars and Nadars have for long studied the language and are fluent in it. The Shiv Sainiks (viloently) and the Bengalis (with hot air) resent Hindi because of who brings it in – the Marwari businessfolk – it is a puerile obsession. But in the case of the ULFA and Manipur terrorists the wide acceptance of Hindi threatens to undermine their hold on the population. It is the vilest form of violent parochialism, but of course don’t expect any “progressive” to condemn it. In the South, outside TN, the arrogant attitude of Tamizh fanatics is resented greatly, while Hindi has no such problem.

    In Karnataka, Hindi Fanatics are resented as much as Tamil fanatics. Many South Indians admire Tamils for resisting the effort of Hindi fanatics to impose Hindi on South India.

  33. I agree with Yogi, I went to school in Delhi and the instruction was in English and we were taught Hindi and at home

    This is a common sentiment amongst DBDs. The key being the instruction medium and its social significance. We (DBDs) are not comfortable to admit if we went to a school where the intruction were NOT in English. Then we have all kinds of “term” for those “other” people such as ‘Hindi medium type’ which is one of the most harmless of the names.

    One of my freinds mentioned once that he doesnt like Madhuri Dixit so much, because she looks appears ‘Hindi medium type’ as opposed to Kajol. So the “instruction medium” (or assumption of it) clouds one’s judgement of beauty too :-)

  34. As for India, I’ll just recite the old Sen argument here: democracy, and responsible government, at least averted spectacularly idiotic famines like those associated with the Great Leap Forward. Responsible government does give you some lower bound on how bad it’ll get, and that lower bound is way higher than with dictatorships. (ie: no democracies have had famines during this century — though there’s probably still a lot of regional starvation events in India still)

    Sen’s argument does not go unchallenged. For example:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E5DD103CF932A35750C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2

    “Since then, though, Mr. Sen has frequently referred to India’s failures in combating everyday hunger. In his book ”Hunger and Public Action” (1989), Mr. Sen (along with the co-author, Jean Drèze) noted that nearly four million people die prematurely in India every year from malnutrition and related problems. That’s more than the number who perished during the entire Bengal famine.

    It is Mr. Sen’s writings on democracy, not famine, that have troubled some scholars. Throughout his prolific career, the 69-year-old economist has been very bullish on democracy. In ”Development as Freedom,” for instance, he wrote that ”developing and strengthening a democratic system is an essential component of the process of development.” The book had little to say about the high rates of malnutrition, illiteracy and infant mortality that persist in India and many other democracies, and how they can be overcome.

    This has led some to conclude that Mr. Sen is naïve about how democracies work in the real world. ”Democracies are often run by ethnically based groups prepared to do terrible things to other ethnic groups,” said Frances Stewart, a professor of development economics at Oxford University. ”Or they can be very corrupt, dominated by elites.” She added: ”Capitalist, democratic states put the emphasis on the private sector, which doesn’t always deliver on social goods. The free press is good on major disasters like classic famines, but it tolerates chronic hunger as much as anyone else.” To be fully represented, she said, the poor need institutions like trade unions and political parties that speak for them.”

    With the price of rice skyrocketing around the world today, India is facing yet another food crisis.

  35. Neat article. (Also, the guy has two neat books.)

    I think LKY is right about his projections. Some data:

    Literacy: China 92%, India 57%. Ethnic diversity: China (90% “mainland”), India (several ethnic AND religious schisms, North-South and Hindu-Muslim, etc) Political: China, one party; India, many parties.

    One thing is apparent. China is more “united”, and with other things being equal, a Chinese team is more likely to win. If I was a foreign investor, I’m more likely to find a “uniform” China and a “fragmented” India. This is enough to make the decision for any investor (foreign or domestic).

    Can India use Singapore’s model? Probably not. Recall that the PAP won by a landslide majority in 1959, even before Independence. The major threat was communism, which got wiped out by 1967-68. After that it was pretty much ONE Singapore under one leader who went with an open mind and tried to succeed. India became independent around the worst of circumstances, and was pretty much bogged down by famines, economic bondage and wars in the 60s and 70s. Even after the 1991 reforms, the key religious and ethnic schisms remain, and continue to hinder progress.

    Singapore is a small ship. India is a supertanker with 10 captains. China is a supertanker with 2 captains. The Indian captains make decisions once in a while; they try to whack the others the rest of the time. The Chinese captains make decisions together, but it takes them longer to do it. (Also, the Chinese boat controls are in Braille.)

    The small ship makes more money because it can make more trips and thus more money off each trip. The Indian supertanker moves more weight, but periodically stops working when the captains squabble. The Chinese supertanker is slowly pulling more weight, but it is slow as they revamp their cargo holds and replace Braille with something that makes sense outside China.

    The point isn’t whether the small ship’s principles can be applied to the supertanker. The point is that when the supertankers overcome the problems of internal harmony and/or infrastructural improvements, they WILL rule the seas.

    And BTW, the whole point about free speech is kind of irrelevant. Who gives a crap which of those vessels’ fog horn blows the loudest? The Western cargo ship has the biggest fog horn, yet, as much as it blows, the world isn’t really listening anymore.

    -$T

  36. Between him and his father, there’s a clear breach in cultural continuity – never mind between him and me. You asked me to predict what it will be in 50 years or even 20 years. I cannot, because we have left our moorings.

    In the last decade, there has been a spike in the # of foriegn students at US universities that represent the elite in their own countries. The US is now the hottest place to go to college. I wonder what the effect will be of all these US educated leaders all over the world, since their “cultural moorings” are increasingly US-centered.

  37. RC #35

    I am not making any such statements and was just replying to Amitabh’s comment so please don’t attribute something to my comment which is not there, also I don’t speak for all DBDs so it will be great if you don’t either. I am speaking of my experience.

  38. Quote: “Given India’s current real, per-capita GDP of $1000 vs. China’s $2800, and an overall GDP of $1T vs. China’s $2.8T, Lee is projecting some pretty rapid gap closing by India.”

    What are you talking about dude??? $1000 vs $2800 ,$IT vs $ 2.8T .. are the populations of India/China both exactly equal i.e. 1 Billion today ?

    Secondly if one is larger than other and the smaller grows at 60-70% of larger.. the gap grows smaller??

    Either we need to speak to your maths teacher or you better let us know what you been smoking.

  39. one thing that i don’t understand, is this: China’s GDP/Person (or PPP/person) surpassed India’s in ’89. However, in ~20 years, they’ve tripled their GDP/person.

    But wait a minute, their growth rate has been about 11% and India’s has been about 8%. I’ve done the math, and the numbers don’t add up.

    Is China and/or India manipulating their numbers?

  40. 41 · boston_mahesh said

    Is China and/or India manipulating their numbers?

    Perhaps. Where are you getting your numbers from? I believe China’s FDI (foreign direct investment) is way higher, and could be attributed to the high growth rate of China. If only India did that…man, bharat would be at the top.

  41. 42 · Rahul S said

    41 · boston_mahesh said
    Is China and/or India manipulating their numbers?
    Perhaps. Where are you getting your numbers from? I believe China’s FDI (foreign direct investment) is way higher, and could be attributed to the high growth rate of China. If only India did that…man, bharat would be at the top.

    Actually the FDI numbers are calculated differently and hence reported differently. here is the link

  42. A Slight Correction, China’s GDP (nominal) is $2.7T and their pop is 1.3 billion,that works out to a per-capita income of $2,000 not $2,800. India’s per capita GDP is $980 (nitpicking hehe). Anyway pretty interesting article.

  43. 46 · BrownGuyVA said

    A Slight Correction, China’s GDP (nominal) is $2.7T and their pop is 1.3 billion,that works out to a per-capita income of $2,000 not $2,800. India’s per capita GDP is $980 (nitpicking hehe). Anyway pretty interesting article.

    According to CIA factbook, China’s GDP/capita as of last year was $5,300. India’s GDP/capita was $2,700. Shouldn’t we adjust it for purchasing power parity. Isn’t that a better measure?

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html