8 Feb 2005

Lee-wise democracy


[ SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 05, 2005 11:11:39 PM ]

Voting has almost nothing to do with being a democracy. It's only one of the necessary conditions. Singapore votes regularly, but catch any serious political analyst listing the rich Asian city-state as a free democracy.

Elections are held regularly in Malaysia too. But Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew and Malyasia's Mahathir Mohammad have railed regularly against Western notions of democracy. The Lee school of thought offers authoritarian rulers legitimacy to keep opponents in jail, curb political dissent and share the spoils with the pliable. Both Lee and Mahathir, who have relinquished office but wield power, have argued that Asian values don't translate to unfettered political freedoms.

There has to be respect for the state, elders and hierarchy. Besides, too much democracy can hinder economic growth.

Functioning cacophony

India, in sharp contrast, now proves there isn't any contradiction between a healthy economy and a flourishing democracy. Read more...


True Flight said...

The article said:

"India, in sharp contrast, now proves there isn't any contradiction between a healthy economy and a flourishing democracy."

Actually, India proves nothing of that sort, and will prove nothing of that sort, anytime in the foreseeable future.

That's simply because of China.

Both operate extremely different political systems, and at the same time, both are the quickest-growing economies in the world.

At the same time, as a BT article on 4 Feb 2005 tells us, 60% of the world's poor people are found in just two countries alone.

Yep, none other than China and India.

So the phrase "healthy economy" tells you nothing about how many people in a country are struggling each day just to get a bowl of rice to eat.

soci said...

And in Singapore, they have full employment and absolutely no poverty at all.
Every country has its ills. In some countries, via protest, and trade unions, you can tell the government about those ills. And make them listen.
I thought the writer was simply saying that Lee's argument of econommic progress and tight control, is questionable.

Agagooga said...

What is needed for prosperity is good governance rather than authoritarianism, and democracy tends to be more likely to deliver that.

The Legal Janitor said...

Unions are the curse of any society. They engage in protectionist rhetoric and economic rent-seeking.

Protests are often led by psuedo-intellectuals bereft of logic, rationality and original thinking. They often forget the reason for their protests.

soci said...

Have you every been a member of a trade union?

Have you ever been fired in Singapore or worked like a horse into the ground by your boss? Have you ever worked excessive anti-social hours yet never been compensated in monetary terms?

Some view trade unions, when autonomous from the state, as good means of communication between management and the employees. It enables the employees to voice their opinion and negotiate with management in order to improve working conditions, and the overall culture of the business.

But in Singapore, everyone just votes with their feet. And job-hopping is very common. So how can conditions improve if the employees can not voice their opinion and the business, and working conditions never improve.

True Flight said...

Jobhopping is indeed a great way to improve your personal circumstances. I have always gotten significant pay raises when I change jobs.

However, I've also noted that employees' jobhopping helps the company to improve.

A spate of resignations is the most common thing to prompt management to start thinking, "Hey, why is employee morale so low? Are we paying enough? Should we be more family-friendly?? Do we treat our employees well enough?" Etc.

soci said...


I worked in Singapore for 5 years and moved job, twice. The staff turnover was high compared to what I had experienced in the UK. And the management in Singapore didn't seem to notice or care. All they seemed to be concerned with, was that someone, anyone was filling the gap.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen shareholder value destroyed by strikes? Have you seen companies on the verge of bankruptcy get dragged further into economic destruction by unions which are too aggressive?

India has a sluggish economy compared to communist China. While I think democracy is generally good, India is one of the worst examples I can think of.

True Flight said...

Well, Steve, I can tell you that my personal experience was different.

Anyway, this is the New Economy. People are supposed to be changing entire careers several times in their working lifetime, not just jobs.

Seen in this light, trade unions do look rather stupid to me. Why waste time standing in the streets waving a placard? Just move to another job - earn more money, learn something new.

True Flight said...

Btw, Steve, you said:

"Have you ever been fired in Singapore or worked like a horse into the ground by your boss? Have you ever worked excessive anti-social hours yet never been compensated in monetary terms?"

I've worked extremely anti-social hours in a top local law firm and I do not regret it. Sure, there was some misery.

But I gained a tremendous amount of experience in a relatively short span of a few years, which I could not have done if it were a regular 9am-to-6pm job.

And when I was ready to leave, the experience turned out to be valuable that my next workplace paid me 20% higher than my last-drawn salary, and then raised my pay by another 13% within the first year.

Unsatisfied, I quit again and moved again and got another significant pay raise. Not in terms of the basic salary, but in terms of the bonus structure. However, the real motivation was that this place would give me opportunities to work in, and learn about, a cutting-edge area.

In a few more years, my newfound experience should enable me to make my next profitable leap to an even better role in an even better place.

Unions are a waste of time. People should focus more on their employability, not their employment. Companies have no loyalty these days, why should employees? Trade unions belong to a past era.

OldMcDonald said...

Unions are stupid if you're a lawyer or in some profession which gives a competitive pay structure. However other less educated people may be stuck in jobs with poor working conditions and that's where unions becomes important. Steven does not have your luxury of having a high flying legal career like yourself. People should be focused on employability rather than your employment. But people get different levels of training in college or in the work place. That's why they may be to some extent less employable even in the long term.