Oil, Gas, and Gold

From an article about Singapore's Benign Dictator Emeritus Lee Kuan Yew in the NY Times:

Paradoxically, he said, if Singapore had not been so poor it might never have transformed itself and prospered as it has. His warnings about vulnerability and collapse are a constant theme to persuade his people to accept limits on their freedoms.

"Supposing we had oil and gas, do you think I could get the people to do this?" Mr. Lee said. "No. If I had oil and gas, I’d have a different people, with different motivations and expectations.

"It’s because we don’t have oil and gas and they know that we don’t have, and they know that this progress comes from their efforts," he said. "So please do it and do it well."

It reminded me of one of my favorite bits from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon in which Randy, Avi, and the Gotos are eating dinner in a fancy restaurant atop a Tokyo skyscraper.

Randy and Avi look into their cups. A weirdly glittering layer of scum is floating atop their coffee.

"It is gold," Furudenendu explains. Both of the Gotos laugh. "During the eighties, when Nippon had so much money, this was the fashion. Too ostentacious. But you go ahead and drink."

Randy and Avi do - a bit nervously. The gold dust coats their tongues, then washes down their throats.

"Tell me what you think," Goto Dengo demands.

"It's stupid," Randy says.

"Yes." Goto Dengo nods solemnly. "It is stupid. So tell me, then: why do you want to dig up more of it?"

"We're businessmen," Avi says. "We make money. Gold is worth money."

"Gold is the corpse of value," says Goto Dengo.

"I don't understand."

"If you want to understand, look out the window!" says the patriarch and sweeps his cane around in an arc that encompasses half of Tokyo. "Fifty years ago, it was flames. Now it is lights! Do you understand? The leaders of Nippon were stupid. They took all of the gold out of Tokyo and buried it in holes in the ground in the Philippines! Because they thought that The General would march into Tokyo and steal it. But The General didn't care about the gold. He understood that the real gold is here - " he points to his head " - in the intelligence of the people, and here - " he holds out his hands " - in the work that they do. Getting rid of our gold was the best thing that ever happened to Nippon. It made us rich. Receiving that gold was the worst thing that happened to the Philippines. It made them poor."

Share this

Ye gods, does this mean the

Ye gods, does this mean the Neal Stephenson...rejects the Gold Standard?


The Neal Stephenson

the Neal Stephenson

"Hi. I'm Neal Stephenson."

"Oh my God. The Neal Stephenson?"

what a completely idiotic

what a completely idiotic statement. gold ownership has nothing to do with the success of races. nippon got the gold IN THE FIRST PLACE because of hard work and saving , and the phillipines WAS AND IS a filth hole of useless corruption , and even with FREE GOLD they're still too stupid to run a currency or a country. it has NOTHING to do with gold.
it sounds like the type of thing i hear idiotic old socialists say, it sounds intelligent but is totally wrong and mal-educated...
theres way too many examples to even begin ....

the Neal Stephenson Oops,

the Neal Stephenson

Oops, meant just Neal Stephenson...
Doesn't look so snarky when you trip over your own words...