Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't judge system with Western eyes

Apr 18, 2011

RECENTLY, certain opposition groups have attempted to disparage our political system as being "Third World" just because political power here is largely in the hands of a single party ("WP's goal: A First World Parliament"; April 10).

Politics and economics are closely intertwined, like the relationship between mind and body. Just as a strong and healthy body needs to be sustained over the long term by a healthy mind, so too a country's economy needs a strong and healthy political system to nurture it on a long-term basis.

Each country should adopt the political system best suited to its needs. The two-party system may be more democratic and suitable for some countries, but for a country like Singapore with its historical development, small size, multiracial mix and lack of natural resources, the kind of system we now have is probably a better, if not the best, choice.

So we should not judge whether our political system is First World or Third World through Western eyes. If our economic and other achievements have attained First World standards, then our political system must also be First World, through our own eyes at least. It would be dangerous and foolish to discard something which has worked well just because it does not conform to foreign (mainly Western) norms.

Tan Gim Kheng

[I do not disagree with the conclusion, but with the process and the argument. Or perhaps the title.
To say that we need to judge not based on Western eyes, is to impute a cultural bias or a cultural content to governance and politics.
The difference I see is not about more democracy or less democracy, but the mechanisms of democracy. 

The two party system in the US, with the built-in check-and-balance is designed to slow down govt. That must first be understood. Their historical baggage is an inherent distrust of government. The two-party system has evolved into ideological opposites that sees working together and compromise as the betrayal of party beliefs.

The system is inherently unworkable.

Not because of Western values or perspective. 

But perhaps what the writer simply means to say is be courageous enough to see with reasonable and objective eyes and understand how the current system works rather than blindly following ideological principles which may be unsound.]

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