Historical examples of benevolent despots, in other words, are mighty hard to come by. Human nature makes them rare birds indeed.
Here, arguably, is one.
Lee Kuan Yew, who turned a malarial island into a modern financial center with a first-world skyline, is peering ahead again into this city-state’s future, this time with an idea to seal it off with dikes against the rising tides of global warming.Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils (New York Times, 1 September 2007)
“Let’s start thinking about it now,” he said during an interview in late August, in what could be the motto for a lifetime of nation building. Ever since Singapore’s difficult birth in 1965, when it was expelled from Malaysia, he said, the country has struggled to stay alive in a sea of economic and political forces beyond its control.
“If the water goes up by three, four, five meters, what will happen to us?” he said, laughing. “Half of Singapore will disappear.”
Related: Excerpts from an interview with Lee Kuan Yew (International Herald Tribune, 29 August 2007)