An Atlanta economist, who left Singapore last month after being harassed by police for an article in which he criticized “intolerant regimes” in Asia, is skeptical about the future growth rates of countries which coopt entrepreneurial initiative and restrict free market practices.
Christopher Lingle, 46, a University of Georgia Ph.D., is living in Atlanta after having cut short his contract as a senior fellow of European studies at the National University of Singapore.
Dr. Lingle said that he is applying to universities in the U.S. and elsewhere, and that he has no plans to return to Singapore. He also is accepting speaking engagements and is scheduled to lecture at Gainesville College in Georgia this week on the topic, “The Rise and Premature Demise of the Pacific Century.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is protesting the treatment of Dr. Lingle, saying in a prepared statement that it “was disappointed at this apparent attempt by Singaporean authorities to intimidate Professor Lingle.”
Calling Singapore’s economy “parasitic on Western technological developments and Western markets” during a telephone interview from his home, he traced the current regime’s silencing first political opposition and then the global media. “Now in my case, there has been an attack on an academic, and freedom of speech will be further restricted,” he said. “It is foolish for businessmen to think that this would not affect them eventually or their children.”
He said that Western capital has “struck a Faustian deal” with the regime by exchanging “moral support for a rather authoritarian regime in exchange for low wage labor and generally capital friendly economic policies.” But, he added, that Western businesses should not feel secure under this arrangement.
Dr. Lingle’s controversial article appeared in the opinion page of the International Herald Tribune on Oct. 7 in which he wrote of a clash of Western and Asian values and referred to a tendency of Asian leaders to rely “on a compliant judiciary to bankrupt opposition politicians.”
He predicted that Singapore’s economy would suffer in the long term from a scarcity of entrepreneurs whom he considers essential for its development. “By their very nature entrepreneurs are independent and contrarian individuals,” he said. “They will challenge the status quo in the marketplace and government policies if they interfere with market opportunities.”
Under current policies, he added, Singapore “chokes off true entrepreneurs, and those who are successful are coopted into the political arrangement and given exclusive monopoly rights.”
Dr. Lingle is critical of authoritarian Asian economies “east of Burma,” but he considers India favorably for foreign investment, much more so than China. “Institutional arrangements in China will impose severe restrictions on profitability into the very distant future,” he said. “I would consider India more seriously.”
Dr. Lingle may be reached by fax at (404) 772-0397.