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The Abject Failure of Global Elites

Why take responsibility when you can blame it all on populism?

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows faith in the ruling elites has collapsed in every country surveyed. Rather than take this eroding confidence as evidence that they are doing something wrong and need to correct their course, the elites conclude that there is something wrong with the people and blame populism and conspiracy theories. In so doing, they fundamentally misinterpret the meaning of the rise of populism.

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew Speaks

Lee Kuan Yew (Photo by Alex Bowie/Getty Images)

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, became the most respected leader and intellectual in Asia in the 20th century for his near-miraculous transformation of the tiny, dirt-poor multiracial island from civil war to one of the most prosperous and developed nations in the world in only 50 years. He had to battle Chinese and Malay nationalists, communist revolutionaries, the Chinese mafia, endemic racism, massive corruption, and two hostile neighboring countries.

He accomplished this feat with his philosophy of leadership. At the top of his list was unity. Therefore, on the day of independence in 1965, Lee declared Singapore is “not a Malay nation, not a Chinese nation, not an Indian nation. Everybody will have a place in Singapore.”

Lee cracked down hard on everyone who tried to split the nation. He described the communists’ version of democracy as “one bullet, one vote.” They had infiltrated all the cultural institutions – the media, the universities, and the unions – and used Chinese nationalism to create strife and instigate a civil war. He rooted them out, jailed their leaders, and made communism illegal, thereby saving Singapore from destitution and genocide.

Credibility, Participation, Responsibility

To achieve unity, Lee upheld three vital principles: credibility, participation, and responsibility. For people to believe in a national project, Lee’s government needed to be credible. People had to feel they could believe the government was telling the truth and was trustworthy. Therefore, Lee instigated the harshest campaign against government corruption in Asian history. He succeeded because he used extreme tactics to oust the mafia that had politicians and public servants in their pockets. Thus, Singapore became one of the least corrupt countries on earth.

People were afraid of the police and the military, so he created programs to educate and render ordinary citizens into police officers and soldiers. Through this citizen participation, people came to trust the institutions they previously feared and shunned.

GettyImages-508360712 Barrick Gold Chair John Thornto

Barrick Gold Chair John Thornto (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Finally, Lee made it clear that he took responsibility whenever something went systemically wrong in Singapore. To him, responsibility meant responsiveness. He was intensely interested in listening to people’s problems, objections, and needs and continuously tried to correct and amend the system to make them happier.

He saw the rise of populism as a sign of a failure of the ruling elite. Lee did not regard ordinary people as highly demanding. If severe problems and discontent spread in society, it was either due to bad-faith actors like the communists or government failure. Due to Lee’s philosophy, his People’s Action Party has ruled Singapore uninterrupted for more than five decades with majority support.

Global Elites

Compare and contrast the success of Lee to the attitude of the world leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum. The Edelman Trust Barometer is practically screaming at them that they are failing so abysmally that 57% of people surveyed agree that “our government leaders are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

Instead, the globalist leaders blame populism. All those misinforming miscreants on social media spreading fake news are to blame. There’s not a hint of self-criticism or willingness to take responsibility for the morass they have created. History has taught us that such hubris never ends well. If world leaders want a different fate than the tower of Babel, they would be wise to learn from the success of Lee Kuan Yew: unity through credibility, responsibility, and participation.

~ Read more from Caroline Adana.

Read More From Caroline Adana

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