The great man is dead. I had my issues with the man, and I believe that history will not be kind to him. His great work in Singapore will soon be undone. His successors will not have his genius or drive; and soon a targeted Progressive onslaught will bring leftist agitation, an untethered press, and electoral change.
I think it’s wrong to see him as a reactionary politician. He completely lacked any appreciation for traditional culture; in fact much of his work was about breaking the spine of the local Chinese associations, forbidden their dialects, their economic bases, and subsuming all ethnic and racial communities into his vision of a modern, English speaking nation.
He is more rightly viewed as the ultimate Legalist scholar, in the Chinese tradition of government. Unlike Shang Yang, who was ignominiously killed after finishing his work, or Han Fei, who was murdered before he could realize his vision; Lee Kuan Yew had absolute power in his person, and held power until his death. And he achieved the great legalist vision of achieving a wealthy and ordered society through skillful government, unapologetic about his ultimate authority and recourse to violence.
What really marked his name among this circles is not his success at government. Singapore is far away, has a very peculiar set of circumstances, so LKY’s model most likely isn’t applicable to other locations or scales. It is also likely to unravel in the next decades, unable to resist leftist entropy.
What was most admirable about Harry Lee (the name he preferred, his first language was English), was his intelligence, his powers of perception, and his will to speak his mind. His views on good government, or race and human equality are so fresh, bright and insightful, that one often yearns for a dictator if only to have a public figure willing to speak his mind.
How do I wish we had leaders who spoke like this:
A good speech like this would do more than all our blogs combined. Alas we will never have it.