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22 Dec 06
If there is one offence that makes Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong a worthy Worst Democrat of 2006, it is the lone, corrosive idea he has peddled throughout his two decades in politics to justify his family’s iron grip on the southeast Asian city-state.
The idea – which has, in one way or another, been borrowed to lend some moral bunting to some of the year’s most scurrilous political acts – is pretty simple.
In a globalised world, the Lee doctrine goes, where dogs in Chicago or Brussels eat dogs Shanghai or Mumbai, there is one commodity that is simply too expensive: freedom.
Singapore therefore cannot afford democracy. Were they not so roundly marshalled, its populace would doubtless immediately down tools, slope off to the woods and indulge in all manner of unproductive behaviour. Grant them a free election and before you know it everyone’s splurging the national savings on designer pets and dancing girls.
“Western-style democracy has not always delivered stable, legitimate and effective government”, Lee Hsien Loong told newspaper editors – quite correctly, of course – in October 2006. With more than a whiff of sophistry, he went on to explain why this necessitates Singapore’s “predictable environment”, namely the dynastic rule that began when his father, Lee Kuan Yew, became Singapore’s first premier in 1959. Such liberties as a “rambunctious press” or the “clever propaganda” enabled by the internet must be stamped out to ensure order and keep the cash flowing in.
It’s a catchy line and has been deployed by almost all the ne’er-do-wells who have graced openDemocracy’s monthly list of the men, women and institutions who have done injury to the good name of democracy.