James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Governing a Multi-Ethnic Society

Via Steve Sailer's blog, a very interesting view of China and the far east situation through a Der Spiegel interview with Singapore's founder Lew Kuan Yew. First rate realpolitick analysis of China's intentions. Best to read the whole thing.

I will, however, comment only on this excerpt, putting in bold a most excellent point:

SPIEGEL: During your career, you have kept your distance from Western style democracy. Are you still convinced that an authoritarian system is the future for Asia?

Mr. Lee: Why should I be against democracy? The British came here, never gave me democracy, except when they were about to leave. But I cannot run my system based on their rules. I have to amend it to fit my people's position. In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I'd run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved because the Chinese majority would always overrule them. So I found a formula that changes that...

Even in a supposedly evolved democracy like the USA, you rarely see a black, Jewish, or gay Republican, or a white evangelical Democrat, in elective office. The people tend to vote in terms of ethnic and religious identity instead of self-interest even in the USA.

In war, you don't fight against your faith and your kin, and politics is just war carried out by other means. It isn't unfortunate or irrational that people vote this way, it is unavoidable and inevitable. That's why imposing democracy in Iraq, where the religious and ethnic divisions are deep, is a bad idea. It's not a question of whether the people are "ready" for democracy (as if they're too backward culturally, or too stupid), but rather because - like Singapore - the very make-up of the country makes it a particularly dangerous form of government. And if we turned it around, and the people did vote for their own self-interest instead of their ethnic and religious identity, would that be any better?

I'm not advocating a Singapore-style dictatorship. Rather, we should abolish most of the powers and institutions of the State, so that the people could not oppress each other for either ethno-religious or economic reasons. Far better to let each person be his own dictator - his own king.


  1. It's true that people tend to vote based on their ethnic and religious identity. But why doesn't this translate into voting for their economic self interest? If you have political parties/factions/coalitions based on ethnic communities, why don't they also represent the economic self interest of that community. I suppose for the most part a community will contain lower class, middle class, and upper class individuals without a common economic self interest. Only if you have an ethnic class concentrated at a certain economic status will you see the expression of economic self interest in politics.

  2. Governing a Multi-Ethnic Society was a good article. I agree with some of your ideas. However, if your main theme were absolute, we would not have many laws in America that protect minority rights. Because, the majority would throw out politicians that harm the majority.

    For example, Affirmative Action harms European people and limits their job opportunities and income. European people are a majority in America and were a huge majority when set-asides were really promoted during the Nixon years. If your theme held true that everyone votes and acts based on race and ethnic background, Affirmative Action type programs would not exist today.

    I suggest the following: Americans of European background do not vote based on race and ethnic background as you stated. Instead, they choose to advance society by insuring the future of a multi-cultural America by giving of themselves by supporting programs that are not in their own best interest.

    Now, one can argue that America has a history of not treating everyone fairly and this is true. But, immigrants, legal and illegal, are flocking to our country my the millions each year to share the dream of a better life and be part of a society that values hard work and productive contributions more than the color of their skin. God Bless America.