In a Q&A at University of Michigan in 2010, Charlie Munger who is Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation and oft-cited partner of Warren Buffett, praised Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore model in response to a question posed by a student: “If you could design a system, how would you take into consideration so that it enables rationality?”
Besides praising Singapore’s system of eradicating the drug problem, smoothing out racial tension and making the island “user-friendly”, Munger also praised Lee Kuan Yew for thwarting the Asian trend of marrying a good-looking wife with big breasts by going for someone smarter than he was.
Here’s most of the transcript of his comments on Lee Kuan Yew from the video.
From 1min 02sec:
My favourite political system in terms of being adapted to its particular circumstances successfully is Singapore.
I think Singapore is the single most successful governmental system to exist in the world.
They’ve taken a small swamp from nowhere to a very credible place and doing the Lord’s work in a number of very important ways, aside from their bringing in derivatives trading, even Heaven makes mistakes. [Audience laughter]
But that doesn’t mean I want Singapore tomorrow as the United States.
But I think Singapore’s habit of stepping hard on things that will grow like cancer is the correct way to govern.
In America, we tend to wait until they are unfixable and we want to fix them.
If you want to take a problem when it’s solvable, and wait till it’s unfixable, you can argue you’re so damn foolish that you deserve the problem.
And we have a system that is pretty irresponsible in many ways.
From 4mins 16sec:
If you want to study, you take Singapore.
Terrible malaria problem, it’s a swamp. Drains are swamps. Who’s gonna care if some little fish dies?
He’s got a drug problem. He searches the world over for the right solution to the drug problem. He finds it in the United States.
Isn’t that a very interesting thing. Somebody in Singapore reading books and deciding United States was the answer to Singapore problems. He copied the military’s drug problem policy.
Anybody in Singapore would pee in a bottle instantly on demand and if they flunked would immediately go on a tough compulsory rehab.
Away went the drug problem.
Just time after time after time he made these winning decisions. He wanted the place to be prosperous.
He figured out who he wanted to come in and he made the civilisation very user-friendly to what he wanted to attract.
And it worked.
Then, Singapore was 70 percent Chinese and 30 percent Malay. Every Chinese thinks that the Chinese is superior to the Malays.
He thinks that’s terribly counterproductive, if anybody should say so, so he passes a law.
You can’t say that if you’re a Chinese in Singapore, you can say there is any superiority in the Chinese.
I think that is a very sensible law for Singapore to have.
Time after time after time he’s done his thing. His approach to marriage was interesting.
The average very successful man in the Asian culture. There’s a exceptionally good-looking woman though somewhat dumber than he is. This is the system.
Well, this guy was so smart, that he was the second-ranked school student in his high school. The student who was one-tenth of a percentage point higher was female.
So, he didn’t follow the Asian rule of marrying the beautiful woman with the big boobs — the little darling that you are.
He married this woman who was a tenth of a point higher. Who is now the prime minister of Singapore? Their son!
This is a very unusually successful man and a very unusually successful history
So I can’t answer your question, if you will make a study of the life and work of Lee Kuan Yew, you’ll find one of the most interesting and instructive political stories written in the history of mankind.
This is better than Athens, this is an unbelievable history. And you’ll learn a lot that will be useful in your own life.
So, my answer to you is: Don’t ask Charlie Munger. Study the life and work of Lee Kuan Yew, you’re going to be flabbergasted.