IT WAS on his first visit here in 2008 that American economist Bryan
Caplan discovered a peculiarly Singaporean flavour to the word
In the United States, he said,
pragmatism was synonymous with populism. The pragmatist does not commit
political suicide by force-feeding policies, no matter how sound, to a
In Singapore, however, pragmatism
takes on the exact opposite meaning. No matter what the polls say, a
programme will be implemented based on a sober assessment of its merits.
The piece continues:
Mr Teo reminded his audience that, for the Government, policy came
first; persuasion, second. This was its brand of pragmatism. Returning
to Dr Caplan's example, he noted that in the US, not implementing
congestion pricing is 'pragmatic', because it is politically difficult
In Singapore however, congestion pricing
is done - and it is 'pragmatic' because it is the correct thing to do,
as it solves a problem. 'Then (the Government tries) to persuade the
people about it.'
As I've said before, I'm no apologist for the House of Lee. There's plenty rotten in Singapore. They've even got conscription - which is not just unpragmatic, but barbaric. Still, as you can see, Teo accurately explains my position. In fact, it looks like he pulled it straight off of EconLog!