Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The moral decay of governments - or why I'm more than a little loathe to trust benevolent dictatorships.

I'm sure most people around these parts have heard of the saying "absolute power corrupts absolutely". However, that's not what sparked this post, but rather this comment I found over at Jim's blog:
But virtue is difficult to reliably achieve. Even if a regime starts off virtuous, it is apt to succumb to moral decay. In the first great hyperinflation of modern times, the French Revolutonary Assignat, they started off as models of fiscal probity, but not long thereafter they were cutting off people’s heads for refusing to accept assignats, skinning their bodies, and using the hides to bind books containing propaganda for their fiscal policy.
Now, one of the platforms of the incumbent People's Action Party is that they're supposed to be clean, transparent and incorruptible. It's why we pay our ministers and civil servants such handsome salaries, so that their heads won't be turned by the temptation of bribery. It's why all the PAP MPs wear white as part of their "uniform":

From Wikipedia, on the 1959 Singapore general election:
The opposition People's Action Party led by lawyer and assembly member Lee Kuan Yew, ran a campaign against corruption. To make his point, he had all his party members and candidates wear a distinctive outfit of white shirts and pants, to represent "cleanliness" in government.
Have they been so clean in recent years?

Just a few examples:

Speaker of the House steps down over affair

Controversy over the town council-AIM saga - potential crony capitalism?

Senior Ministry of Manpower official charged for corruption for receiving sexual favours

And of course, we have a complete airhead of an MP:
Tin Pei Ling has also made a series of gaffes with the most prominent one portraying herself to be really a empty vessel: 

‎"My greatest regret is that I didn't manage to bring my parents to Universal Studios."
I suppose if that's the greatest regret of the class of people who're supposed to represent us constituents in Parliament, we truly have first-world problems on our hands, eh? Didn't help that our dear MM Lee walked out of Parliament the moment she started making her speech.

Sure, any reactionary can tell that there are certain benefits to living under a benevolent dictatorship. Problem is, at the end of the day, a benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship, and whether it's benevolent or not depends on the people who make up the ruling classes of said dictatorship. That can change in an instant, and it's why I don't place much stock in such a government; it's like monarchy without an aristocracy. No balance.

For all my criticisms of the Singaporean government's actions during the 1970s and 1980s, they were brilliant people who did what they set out to do, even if the law of unintended consequences is coming back to bite us in the ass today. If you've read LKY's From third world to first, it's hard not to agree that he's not a political genius. Thing is, the old guard is vanishing thanks to the ravages of time, and the new guard seems appropriately spoiled, stupid and all-around less upright and squeaky clean than their predecessors are. That, obviously, is going to create a number of problems, which are compounded by the way things have been set up in Singapore.

Everything's been ironed out to make things work smoothly and without protest, all the gears have been conditioned to make sure there are no kinks in the system. The problem is, take the "benevolent" out of "benevolent dictatorship", and the gears will still turn in reverse just as well, with nothing to apply the brakes before things get out of hand.

Question is, what's going to happen when the old guard goes completely?

No comments:

Post a Comment