Asian Values

Someone found my blog by Googling asian values lky (LKY is the accepted acronym for Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s de facto monarch); I Googled it myself to see where my blog places on that search, and found a few very good articles about why Lee’s shrill appeal to Asian values as a reason not to infringe on his inalienable right to exercise sovereignty over 4 million people is wrong.

First, in 1997, Amartya Sen wrote a superb article documenting that historically, Asia’s cultures are as democratic and pluralistic as the West, and explaining that there’s no evidence that fascism is good for the economy. Mind you, that was before the 1997 financial crash, which demonstrated that the basic rules of macroeconomics apply to East Asia, too.

Second, Macam Macam wrote a beautiful piece of snark about the Asian values tirade back in 2004:

Then to think that a Western-style, liberal democracy couldn’t work in Asia just because it hadn’t been part of Asian history. That would have been akin to saying that neither Malaysians nor Singaporeans could rule themselves….because they hadn’t done so previously. And I suppose democracy just popped up in the West, fully-formed like an adult, rather than as concept that evolved in theory and practice over time.

Third, Walden Bello of Focus on the Global South wrote a threepart series about authoritarianism and democracy in Southeast Asia; one of its best gems is,

However, as an Asian observer noted: ”When I first came across Lee’s list of supposed Asian values, I saw values that were not so much specific to Asian culture but good British upper class Tory values dear to threatened elites everywhere.” It was not without good reason that one British cabinet minister once referred to Lee, when he still was known as Harry Lee, as the ”best bloody Englishman east of Suez”.

Remember “We are global, and they are global.”

3 Responses to Asian Values

  1. belledame222 says:


    My grandfather was an old-school socialist-Communist, or so he identified. left, yes: authoritarian, yes, i think that’d be fair. In his retirement, he and my grandmother got to travel a bit; he was extremely impressed with Singapore, thought it’d be a fine model for society.


  2. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome site!

  3. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

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