"Singapore: City-State"

Little states produce greater wisdom in their policies because they are weak. Their leaders could not get away with stupidity, not even in the short run. It is not by accident that the politically and socially most advanced countries of the world today are states such as Switzerland (4 million inhabitants), Denmark (4 million), Sweden (7 million), Norway (3 million), Iceland (less than 160 thousand). Large powers, on the other hand, can get away with stupidity for prolonged periods. But who amongst us, if he feels that he can get away with stupidity, which can be had so effortlessly, will ever take the trouble and pains of being wise?

breakdown-of-nationsp. 69

The first and most important benefit derived from a small-state arrangement is thus the shortening of a dictator’s life span or, at least, of his term of office-unless he decides to be wise rather than to engage in self-destructive assertions of his power. And this is the second benefit. Since arrogance and bullying are dangerous in a small state, a dictator cherishing his life is practically driven into a rule beneficial to the public. Deprived of the opportunity of glorying in the pleasures of vice, he will do the next best thing and glory in the more subtle satisfactions of virtue. He will employ architects and painters rather than generals and hangmen, and improve the lot of the workers rather than the glamour of his soldiers’ uniforms.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 72

The True Story of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore

Yet by 1999, Lee had failed in Suzhou. Five years into the project’s 20-year development plan, Suzhou Industrial Park had only attracted $754 million dollars of investment out of target of $20 billion, 5,000 residents out of target of 600,000 and 14,000 employees out of a target of 360,000. The Far East Economic Review reported that development costs had climbed to nearly $400 million but “profitability remain[ed] a distant hope.” Singapore subsequently disengaged from the project in 2001, reducing its stake to 35%. Lee had meticulously transplanted Singapore’s methods to Suzhou. Even the ‘ready-built factories’ constructed in Suzhou Industrial Park were made by the same government-linked organization that oversaw much of Singapore’s earlier industrial development. Yet competition for foreign direct investment from nearby Suzhou New District—a smaller, older, and less-supported development that Singapore previously dismissed—proved too fierce. Singapore’s elite group of civil servants simply could not navigate China’s multi-level government and apply the Singapore model at scale.

(emphasis mine)


breakdown-of-nations Kohr, Leopold. 1978. The Breakdown of Nations. Dutton. ↩︎ 1 2