Does the lack of competitive elections in the less democratic newly industrialized or industrializing countries (NICs) mean that their governments are unconstrained by their citizens' preferences for economic performance? In this article, I show how non-electoral mechanisms in the less democratic NICs of South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia constrain their governments. Governments pay attention to the effects of policies on economic performance because labour disquiet and disinvestment are likely to arise otherwise. To pre-empt labour disquiet and disinvestment, the governments offer 'credible apologies' that include punishment and monitoring of government when economic performance is less than optimal in these countries. When they fail to offer credible apologies, labour and producers respond with strikes and disinvestment. Governments' credible apologies play an important role in explaining labour quiescence and production investment. The argument and evidence contrasts with the general impression that governments in the less democratic NICs are constrained only by elites or are responsible only to themselves. The analysis shows that governments use bargaining mechanisms even where the citizens are perceived as meek and without bargaining strength.