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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Joke of the Day: Lee Kuan Yew thought of himself as a Liberal

"Few people, if asked to categorise Lee and his political beliefs, would choose the word “liberal”. But this was how he described himself in an exchange with the authors:

Han: How would you describe your political beliefs, if you were a
democratic socialist in the ’50s?

Lee: Today, I would describe myself as a [long pause] in perhaps European terms, between socialists and conservatives, I would put myself as a liberal. As someone who believes in equal opportunities so that everybody gets an equal chance to do his best, and with a certain compassion to ensure that the failures do not fall through the floor.

I would put myself really as a [pause] a liberal democrat. Not in the Japanese sense of the word, the Liberal Democratic Party. A liberal, in that I want to run the system as efficiently as possible, but make allowances for those who will not be doing well because nature did not give them enough, or they cannot make that extra effort.

Han: That might surprise some people, that you would describe yourself as a liberal.

Lee: A liberal in the economic sense of the word, you know. Not a liberal in the sense of the American word “liberal”. The American word “liberal” means somebody who thinks that you should allow everybody to develop in his own way and do his own thing. So, that has a special meaning.

But a liberal in the classical sense of that word, in that I’m not fixated to a particular theory of the world, or of society. I’m pragmatic. I'm prepared to look at the problem and say, all right, what is the best way to solve it that will produce the maximum happiness and well—being for the maximum number of people. You call it whatever you like."

--- Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas / Han Fook Kwang, Warren Fernandez, Sumiko Tan

Someone: You can be a social liberal (Liberal Democrat) or an economic liberal (neo-liberal); or both (libertarian).

LKY was non of these things.

If he was a market liberal, then he would have free market enterprise without all these government-linked companies and interventions.
If he was a social liberal, NS would not exist, protest would be both legal and legitimate, no literature or art or theater or cinematography would be banned or censured because it is up to adults to consume the arts and media that they wish to without government deciding for them... and a whole bunch of other policies designed to shape the actions and thinking of the populous would not exist.

One area where both the economic and the social meet is the media, and creative arts. These are areas where LKY was especially illiberal with both direct and indirect control of the media, arts, theater, etc. through a regulatory environment, government supervision of editors' and directors' work, with the threat of being closed down, being sued, having funding streams cut off, and other forms of coercion.

LKY was lots of things. But "liberal" isn't one of them.
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