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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » From Third World to First : The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 » User review

Brilliant man, brilliant book

  • Mar 12, 2006
This book really shows you what's behind the man and how he thinks. A real insight into an important leader.

It is helpful that he breaks the chapters down by subject. The sections on foreign leaders are quite interesting. Lee has a knack for understanding and observing people, although he does display a bias for more free-market, socially conservative leaders (think Reagan over Carter). Also, look for quirky character profiles on Burma's Ne Win and Indonesia's Suharto.

I also think some of his explanations for his controversial actions are plausible and should be accepted. For example, his policy of suing foreign publications that do not agree to print an official response from the government verbatim makes sense. There is far too much sensationalist journalism attacking governments, and any good newspaper needs to be prepared for the other side's point of view. Furthermore, while some radicals think banning chewing gum and spitting infringe on our rights, quite frankly I see gum, cigarettes, and spit on the sidewalks in the US and it's disgusting. Good for Lee for taking pride in his city!

At the end of the day, Lee is full of himself, but more than almost anyone else, he has the right to be!

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About the reviewer
Dominic J Nardi ()
Ranked #78
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
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About this book


In this memoir, the man most responsible for Singapore's astonishing transformation from colonial backwater to economic powerhouse describes how he did it over the last four decades. It's a dramatic story, and Lee Kuan Yew has much to brag about. To take a single example: Singapore had a per-capita GDP of just $400 when he became prime minister in 1959. When he left office in 1990, it was $12,200 and rising. (At the time of this book's writing, it was $22,000.) Much of this was accomplished through a unique mix of economic freedom and social control. Lee encouraged entrepreneurship, but also cracked down on liberties that most people in the West take for granted--chewing gum, for instance. It's banned in Singapore because of "the problems caused by spent chewing gum inserted into keyholes and mailboxes and on elevator buttons." If American politicians were to propose such a thing, they'd undoubtedly be run out of office. Lee, however, defends this and similar moves, such as strong antismoking laws and antispitting campaigns: "We would have been a grosser, ruder, cruder society had we not made these efforts to persuade people to change their ways.... It has made Singapore a more pleasant place to live in. If this is a 'nanny state,' I am proud to have fostered one."

Lee also describes one of his most controversial proposals: tax breaks and schooling incentives to encourage educated men and women to marry each other and have ...

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ISBN-10: 0060197765
ISBN-13: 978-0060197766
Author: Lee Kuan Yew
Genre: Business & Investing, History
Publisher: Harper
Date Published: October 3, 2000
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