Singapore is not my favourite country. Its cleanliness is antiseptic, its people smug and its politics, well, non-existent. But it is one of the most interesting countries on earth,. Why? Because it works by almost any metric you care to apply. Crime is almost non-existent, drugs don’t feature (hanging does focus the mind), there is little poverty, its education system is superb and most of its population have an enviable standard of living. But the cost is a suffocating regimentation and a lack of political or intellectual freedom. When I put this to a Singaporean acquaintance, he gave me an interesting answer. What freedom, he asked, does an old lady in the Bronx have who is too afraid to go out because of the crime in her area?

It’s a good argument. Is this the future then – certainly not dystopian, but pretty unattractive to anyone who enjoys the muddle and creativity of a liberal capitalist democracy. Then I realized the problem with his argument. Lee Quan Yew, the ‘Mentor Minister,’  the founder of Singapore and the power behind the scenes is a benign dictator - and that is a very rare thing indeed. Maybe his legacy will continue after his death but bitter experience says that the odds must be long.

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