The problem with greatness is that nowhere near enough of it comes along to rely on. To assume it, therefore, is a prospective vice, even if it is (retrospectively) indispensable to historical understanding. It would be more convenient for everybody if it could be ignored completely. This is one of those moments in which it clearly cannot be.


The important things to note about Lee Kuan Yew have all been said innumerable times before, and again in the last few days. He was a Neoreactionary before anybody knew what that was, an autocratic enabler of freedom, an HBD-realist multiculturalist, a secessionist Anglospherean, and the teacher of Deng Xiaoping. Right now, it’s tempting to be glib in proclaiming him the greatest statesman of modern times — but he almost certainly was:

In the 1950s and ’60s, Lee traveled from Sri Lanka to Jamaica looking for success stories of former British colonies to emulate. Fortunately, he chose different models instead: He decided to study the Netherlands’ urban planning and land reclamation, and the oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell’s management structure and scenario-led strategy-making. Singapore, it is often joked, is the world’s best-run company. Lee is the reason why. […] … Now the yardstick is not personality but institutions. Lee Kuan Yew-ism, not Lee Kuan Yew. This is why the 21st century belongs to him more than to icons of Western democracy like Thomas Jefferson or even Jean Monnet, the founding father of the European Union.

There are some interesting obituary pieces out there that are definitely worth a look, but mostly even the sympathetic Western media thinks it knows better (1, 2, 3, 4). It really doesn’t.

ADDED: “The evolution of Lee’s racism …”

ADDED: Spandrell and Jim on LKY.

March 23, 2015admin 24 Comments »

TAGGED WITH : , , , , ,

24 Responses to this entry

  • Greatness | Neoreactive Says:

    […] Greatness […]

    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 2:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Phileas Frogg Says:

    As the Romanized German’s did with Classical culture, so too the Oriental’s are out “Westing” Western Culture (though incapable of generating it for themselves). Fascinating that it is always an outside group which first manages to adopt the final civilization phase of a culture prompting the initiators to play catch-up. I still don’t know what to make of Russia in all of this.

    Perhaps with some external pressure we’ll finally break the spell of the 19th century (Liberalism, Capitalism and Democracy) which has kept us in a static state of decay for so long? Let this body BREATHE!


    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 2:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • grey enlightenment Says:

    50-100 years ago everyone would be considered neoreactionary compared to the type of leaders we have today. egalitariasn liberalism and biological denialism is a relatively new development


    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 3:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Greatness | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 5:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • SGW Says:

    Once spoke to someone who emigrated from Singapore. She really made it sound like a paradise. It is a damn shame that the new generation, a large share of them educated abroad, will probably ruin it with their callous altruism. Provided the robots don’t kill us all, he will have the last laugh and his legacy will live on for centuries, despite the best efforts of his lesser successors to despoil it.

    I personally suspect Singapore’s unexceptional per capita GDP (PPP), when compared to other extremely highly developed cities, has a lot to do with population growth. The fact that it has a per capita GDP comparable to that of Boston, while having the population grow at levels comparable to sub-Saharan countries is amazing.

    Anyway, RIP Mister Lee Kuan Yew.


    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 6:05 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mike in Boston Says:

    Predictably, Yale is trying to ruin the place.


    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 7:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Yes but as he himself would acknowledge such a place needed a protector – and it wasn’t Royal Dutch Shell.

    This is a model for a Free City. Free at the discretion of others, China or any number of countries could have it again in a moment. Further you are talking about tiny slice of humanity over a tiny slice of time that is a mere few decades.

    And we aren’t all Malays willing to be pushed around by Chinese merchants, waiting on expat Brats.

    Not to mention it’s been under one leader all this time.

    Let’s see it weather the withdrawal of the US. There have been other free cities throughout history, there’s never been a patchwork of them, and Singapore was beholden to the United States and it’s benevolence. For that matter let it weather the new malevolence of the United States, as noted above.

    This is a City to be applauded, it’s probably not a model.


    Bob Reply:

    The Malays weren’t pushed around by Singapore. Malaysia pushed out Singapore in 1965.


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    I mean the ethnic Malays in Singapore.

    But I’m not really vested in Singapore either way. I don’t live there, I live here.

    It won’t work here, and it may not work there without us or equivalent…and we have no equivalent.

    I’m glad they’re happy. I’m glad it works. That doesn’t mean it will travel well or at all.

    People will spend no end of time in NRx trashing universalism while predictably looking for their own universal replacement. It’s more pronounced in NRx than in your typical person because most NRx have Prog roots.

    You’re really never going to stop trying to build the Kingdom of God on earth, you have less chance than Cotton Mather of coming to the tolerant heart of Traditionalism. Yes, actually tolerant. As long as order and rule weren’t challenged men could live as they liked. To get burned as a heretic you had to want it.

    Nor will you ever stop ceaselessly lusting after POWER.

    This is your very DNA, and yes more than most monkeys.

    But if you can get a Singapore style challenge to the Cathedral going in the West, go for it. But you know…DO IT.


    Bob Reply:

    I’m not really sure what you’re talking about. I don’t follow the NRx debates so this is all sort of inside baseball to me.

    The Chinese were the majority in Singapore when it was expelled from Malaysia.

    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 at 8:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:

    Singapore, the third world city that became a first world city at the same time Detroit went from being a first world city to a third world city.


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    I can’t really wish Singapore ill, but this isn’t a model. It would work for similar small cases, there’s been a few free cities throughout history, usually on trading routes [or pirate routes]. They’ll usually have Empires as ally or sponsor, and usually get gobbled up by one of them.


    Bob Reply:

    All empires decay and collapse, so they wouldn’t really be a model either.


    Posted on March 24th, 2015 at 12:14 am Reply | Quote
  • First Bayes Says:

    An interesting legacy of LKY which deserves special interest is the way he dealt with communists. He came to power using rhetoric comfortable to the British socialists and Malay and Chinese communists, but with a comfortable majority in hand, he completely destroyed communist centres of power – outlawing labor strikes, closing down educational institutes that were hotbeds of communism, jailing Malay communists, declaring freedom of speech to be subservient to the demands of the state, etc. NRx can easily use this reverse-entryism tactic to gain control of logistically independent centers of power and keep the progs at bay till the results start coming in


    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Communists are pretty serious and we should probably lay low and avoid head to head combat with the most dedicated murderers of the last century.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    Um, yah

    Complex organic entities like actual living men have soft parts to protect.

    Communists, not so much.


    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Just making sure.

    Posted on March 24th, 2015 at 3:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Anonymous Says:

    I’ve seen the usual suspects, guys like Noah Smith, dismissing LKY because managing a city-state is “easier”. It would be useful to them to compare Singapore to Zanzibar, another city-state subjected to the British Empire, that was ruined by genocide of the Arab ruling class and annexation to the socialist Tanzania after independence. I think the left would be more sympathetic to LKY if he was another John Okello, another revolutionary that kept his country in poverty.


    Posted on March 24th, 2015 at 1:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bob Says:

    Technically, Singapore was a city-state, but it may not be the best term because traditionally, city-states encompassed agricultural lands and population surrounding the city proper and thus had a greater degree of self-sufficiency. In that respect were not really different from contemporary nation-states.


    Posted on March 24th, 2015 at 6:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • This Week in Reaction (2015/03/27) | The Reactivity Place Says:

    […] Kuan Yew died this week. Athelron has a sincere RIP. Nick Land chooses the word Greatness. Spandrell says a fond and clear-eyed Goodbye. Jim says, “Harry Lee was the greatest […]

    Posted on March 28th, 2015 at 5:49 am Reply | Quote
  • Lightning Round – 2015/04/02 | Free Northerner Says:

    […] Lee Kuan Yew has died. Related. […]

    Posted on April 2nd, 2015 at 5:02 am Reply | Quote
  • Lucian of Samosata Says:

    I know I’m grotesquely late, but never before have I seen a person spend nearly nine minutes condemning someone without being able to cite a single (actual) fault that would motivate said condemnation. Poe’s Law.


    Posted on April 29th, 2015 at 10:15 am Reply | Quote
  • The Aesthetics of the Alt-Right – Post-Office Arts Journal Says:

    […] image comes from obituary post on Nick Land’s blog Outside In after Lee Kuan Yew died in 2015.31 The post is titled “Greatness”, and it praises Lee Kuan Yew for being a Neoreactionary before […]

    Posted on February 12th, 2017 at 12:14 am Reply | Quote
  • The Political Philosophy Of RadicalxChange – RadicalxChange Says:

    […] the leading contention of neoreactionary thinkers is that good governance will come from the appointment of a benevolent autocrat in the mold of Lee […]

    Posted on May 9th, 2020 at 12:16 am Reply | Quote

Leave a comment