Wednesday, 30 April 2014

China and US in the "Asian Century" - Whither China? Whither US?

I've been reading this article from the Centre for Independent Studies on "Why America will lead the 'Asian Century' by John Lee."

Lee writes that "The beginning of the end of America's strategic primacy in Asia is commonly asserted, but poorly argued."

First he dismisses the notion that the US is a hegemon.
"One misconception... is... that America is a genuine hegemon... [dependent on] a preponderance of hard power resources... it has never been a genuine regional hegemon. Instead, America relies on the approval and cooperation of other states in Asia to remain dominant."
"America is not a Hobbesian Leviathan with absolute authority and power to do whatever it wants. It is not even, and has never been a true hegemon. Instead, the hierarchy is consensual." 
In other words, the US "dominance" is based on cooperation and acceptance by the regional governments. And that is something China doesn't quite get.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Merits of Meritocracy and the Just World Belief

If Singapore (and by inference, the PAP) were to have any sacred cows (or core principles), Meritocracy would be one of them.

There is much to recommend Meritocracy. Only a weasel would say that selecting candidates based on their ability is a terrible idea - "We should select them based on their popularity. You know, DEMOCRATICALLY!" Ok, maybe not "weasel"... American? Greek?

The point of my previous post is not that Meritocracy trumps Democracy every time. If you got that impression, my apologies for being unclear.

No, the point is that there are realms where meritocracy is the way to go, and realms where democracy is the way to go.

For example, in parts of the US, the post of Sheriff is an elected post. (Or may be all Sheriffs are elected posts, I do not know.) But I always wondered if that was such a good idea. A Sheriff is a law enforcement officer. There are professional skills, as well as technical skills that one should have to do the job well. So shouldn't that the post of Sheriff be decided meritocratically? You know, so that the most qualified person gets the job?

Anyway, this post is about the Merits of Meritocracy. What's so good about it, and is it so bad that the Education Minister has to defend it?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Coalition Government II - More Scenarios, More Speculation

In the previous post, the scenario considered for a coalition govt were that a) PAP won less than 50% of the parliamentary seats, and b) no party won more than 50% of the seat to be able to form the govt by itself.

This post will consider some other scenarios where democracy is thwarted, or circumvented.

Scenario A - When the election result does not reflect the will of the people.

To simplify the math, these are the numbers: There are 100 seats in Parliament to be won. There are 20 four-seats GRCs, and 20 SMCs. Each SMC has 100 voters. Each GRC has 400 voters. Total 10,000 (100 voters per ward in 100 wards) voters.

Question: Is it possible for a party to win the "Popular vote" (i.e. more than 50% of the voters voted for them, but not win more than 50% of the seats in parliament to be able to form the government.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Things that make us Singaporean

A response (lighthearted) to What is a Singaporean by Kishore Mahbubani

From a post in Oct 2009.

A Singaporean is someone who drinks water from Malaysia, breathes (smoky) air from Indonesia, eats pork from Australia, chicken from Brazil, rice from Thailand, live in flats builit by Bangladeshi construction workers, cleaned by Sri Lankan and Indonesian maids, surf the internet on IT infrastructure maintained by Indian IT engineers, watch Korean dramas and American movies, listen to Canto-pop from Hong Kong, and whose children and elderly parents are cared for by Filipino or Myanmarese maids.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Value of Nothing

Someone, I think it might have been S. Rajaratnam, defined Singaporeans as a people who knew "the price of everything, and the value of nothing."

He might have adapted or adopted it from another quote, but as a description of Singaporeans, it is often quite apt.

[Google Save: The quote is usually attributed to Oscar Wilde who used it as a definition of cynics.]

But Singaporeans, if we are indeed cynics, are shallow cynics, unthinking cynics, unimaginative cynics, lazy cynics.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Coalition Govt

On 13 April, the press reported that PM Lee was asked if he envisaged a day when the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is not running Singapore.
He said it could well happen, but he doesn't know how it will work.

The Financial Times report then goes on to suggest that Mr Lee "hints that the PAP is beginning to consider the possibility of one day forming a coalition government".
The British newspaper quotes Mr Lee saying: "It may not be one team in, one team out, it may be more complicated - you're getting used to more complicated than that in Britain now."

Based on this portion of the FT report, an earlier version of the Channel NewsAsia report was headlined "PAP considering possibility of forming coalition government one day: PM Lee."

It has been pointed out that this is inaccurate.