But today is a special day. Today we finally get around to discussing a most unique, most special, most best, most globally, politically, socially, economically, pragmatically and amazingally defining country whose historical trajectory is a playbook reference to every aspiring global leader. Today we talk about Singapore!!!
Now, I know what you’re saying: “Dude, you can’t just pick your favorite country like that, ignoring every major influence in global history, like Estonia”
Look, I know Estonia is pretty cool, at the forefront of the future of digital governance, and that their e-estonia website looks like a startup, and it’s probably gonna work out great for them! I’m just saying Estonia has only been doing it’s own thing since the fall of the USSR in the 1990’s and hasn’t withstood the test of time, while Singapore had been around since 1965.
“Ok well and what about Switzerland huh? I heard they invented freedom and direct democracy and have 7 presidents” Ok, well, yeah, true, I’ll admit that them being a confederation with crazy levels of local autonomy and a peculiar government structure is pretty cool, and that they’ve done an amazing job holding their ground during the world wars, and are pretty badasses.
“And what about Bhutan? They only allowed TV in 1999.” I…what? Ok fine, talk about Bhutan if you want, I’m gonna talk about Singapore.
Anyway, like I was saying, here’s an abridged Singapore Story, by yours truly:
Back in the day, British Empire Inc.™ took over, because they could. Mr. Raffles developed it into a proper colony and trading post, managing the friendly rivalry with other European colonial powers in the region. Singapore became a major trading post and got a ton of immigration, accruing a large Chinese population (today 76% Chinese, 15% Malay, 7% Indian).
In 1942 the Japs occupied Singapore, raped and brutalized a bunch of people, and traumatized everybody. When it was returned to the Brits in 1945 all the confidence in the competence of the white masters was shattered. As it went about reorganizing it’s self government over the next decade, with the Brits promoting a healthy crackdown of communists, anti-colonialist feelings coalesced.
In 1959 the greatest global leader ever in the history of humankind, Lee Kuan Yew, rose to power in a landslide victory of the young People’s Action Party. In 1963, as Malaysia & Co negotiated independence from mother Britain as a
young adult federation, Singapore asked to come along. Mother Britain said no, but then Singapore said pretty please, and Britain was like “ok fine but promise me you’ll behave” and Singapore said “Thanks will do!”.
23 months later on August 9, 1965, Malaysia kicked Singapore out. Turns out the Malays were really racist, hated the communist waves emanating from Mao’s China into Singapore, and were not fond of Lee Kuan Yew’s insistence in observing Singapore’s autonomy and political rights. In a world first, Lee Kuan Yew cried on national television. Then he became prime minister and went on to take Singapore from third world to first in the span of one generation.
The rest, is history. Under Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore did many things, including:
Jailing some people without trial,
Beating a highly multiethnic and multicultural society into shape while developing a sense of national identity
Creating a public housing policy based on 99 year leaseholds, which serves over 80% of the population
A uniquely public and privatized, broad, and efficient healthcare system with tiered government subsidies, much to the envy of less developed countries
Redesigning their retirement system to “avoid placing the burden of the present generation’s welfare costs onto the next generation” , attracting much jealousy from less developed countries
Successfully pursuing a balanced foreign policy, leveraging all the good things from the west and the east
When Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore in 1978 (having stopped by in 1920), Lee Kuan Yew supposedly said “Bet you can’t do better” , to which Deng replied “K.”, then proceeded to create the special economic zones and shape modern China. (actually he said something to the effect of “If only I had only Shanghai, but alas, I have the whole of China”)
Lee Kuan Yew stepped down as prime minister in 1990 (but kept being influential until his death in 2015). His son took over in 2004 and still is prime minister, so if you call it an oligarchy I can’t complain ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Join us today 6pm at Sovereignty Club on Sovereignty Lounge BBB B101 to discuss! (even if you don’t think Singapore is necessarily the best country)