LKY and escaping governance by idiots

Reading Lee Kwan Yew’s excellent memoir, From Third World to First, I’m constantly struck by the quality of his thinking and, even more, that of his ministers, advisers and civil servants

This contrasts sharply with what I’m used to from Czechia and with what I observe in Nepal.

In both countries (and in most others around the world), the default state is being governed by idiots. In rich countries, this results in lower rate of innovation and growth. In countries like Nepal, it delays the much-needed infrastructure and other public goods.

Smart and competent people tend to avoid politics for the same reason they avoid repairing sewers. And in the West, the few reasonably smart people I observe getting into politics often gravitate to repeating party lines and nice-sounding phrases without a deep understanding of the systems they’re working with.

It’s a kind of public goods problem – by default, high quality labor avoids politics.

An idea: in rich countries, this problem is relatively hard because even dumb politicians can hire quite competent in marketing agencies. But in developing countries, political marketing seems to be at very low levels. So, one could, in principle:

  • Create a scholarship for smart people interested in raising their country’s standards (ideally with a STEM background or interest).
  • Fund study and/or work experience in a well-functioning country. Say, some internships in agriculture, industry, infrastructure management, civil service, tourism higher tech companies.
  • Help create a cluster of people from a given country.
  • Finance and assist in political campaigning.

If done well, this could potentially drastically improve prospects of a country.

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