Government Thought Patterns

My Singaporean counterpart had some news from back home that caught my eye:
Foreigners coming to a country and demanding legislation be changed to suit their wants and preferences. Now, where have I heard of that before? 
Oh, right. 
"I love the culture here...but want to ban it anyway." You don't "fundamentally change" something you love. 
If you don't want to take it as a religious issue, then it's a damn cultural issue. Really, banning burnt offerings altogether, a custom that's persisted for more than a millennium, because you don't like it. 
... 
Now, could this be a fabrication? Well, of course it could. But the shitstorm of a response provoked shows that even the local lumpenproletariat are beginning to be more than a little incensed (no pun intended), and the local Brahmin class appears to be either ignorant or dismissive of the concerns raised. Interesting.
The reason I found this noteworthy is because it is a reminder that governments everywhere tend to think pretty much the same way. The Singaporean government has made the same mistake that the government in the US made a long time ago, but on a vastly bigger scale.

You see, Singapore is probably the most prosperous place in all of Southeast Asia- actually, more like all of Asia-ex-Japan. But, like most prosperous and (artificially) stable societies, Singapore also has a serious demographic problem. Essentially, Singaporeans aren't making anything like enough babies; the last time I checked, the birth rate is like 1.2 kids per woman, and that is even lower than Japan's.

Singapore's government is, for all of its faults, considerably more intelligent than America's in most ways. But not all. The "gahmen" was smart enough to realise that Something Must Be Done. Naturally, the choice they made was immigration, designed to double Singapore's population from 3 to 6 million in the space of 10 years, and then onwards to at least 8 million in later years.

It was an ambitious plan. It was also a predictable disaster from the get-go.

Singapore today is rapidly becoming overcrowded and extremely expensive. Native Singaporeans don't even recognise their own city. Real estate is going through a huge bubble- and even subsidised government HDB housing now costs nearly double what it used to, even as the income gap has widened massively. Sure, you see some seriously fancy cars on the streets- Ferraris, Porsches, and Aston Martins are very common sights in the fashionable bits of Singapore (i.e. the bit of the country that I don't like). And there are foreigners everywhere, many of them from the Philippines and mainland China, who do not and never will share native Singaporean values. Add to that the fact that Singaporeans are themselves one of the most coddled and pampered groups of people anywhere on Earth, and you can see where the inevitable stress fractures will appear.

Singaporeans will tolerate a great deal from their government- they made a pact with their government that as long as the State provided economic prosperity and a basic level of comfort to everyone, they would trust the People's Action Party with basically absolute power. But now, that pact is breaking down, thanks to the inevitable way that government thinks it can get away with almost any idea, no matter how harebrained, no matter how illogical, and no matter how many times a similar venture has failed in the past. What the Singaporean government failed to anticipate, almost completely, is just how rapidly this influx of foreigners will alter the political and social structure of their country.

Or maybe that was the plan all along. As Bertold Brecht once (sarcastically) put it:
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the StalinalleeStating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
None of this will come as any surprise whatsoever to anyone who has seen what the American government has done to this country. The Singaporeans took the same set of dumb ideas and applied them on a vastly larger scale, relatively speaking, and are now wondering why the hell things didn't work out so well.

The "solutions" they are coming up with are every bit as bad as the ones that liberal politicians in the US keep coming up with, too. Here's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman's take on taxation:
First of all, we have to expect that our social spending will continue to grow. It's been growing significantly in the last few years and it'll continue to grow particularly as Singaporeans become older because healthcare needs will grow. The question is how you obtain the revenues. We do need over time, over the long term, to think of best sources of revenues and we've got to make sure that what we do is fair and equitable, but also keeps Singapore competitive, because that's what provides jobs for lower and middle income Singaporeans. It's a competitive economy and finding the right balance is important. 
Philosophically, I have nothing against raising income taxes. But we have to be practical about how far we can go, and when we can move.
 ...
I do favour, however, besides income taxes, when you look at our whole tax system, I do favour further moves towards progressivity over time and that means that, if you don't have too much scope to do it through income taxes, that we have to look at other ways, and especially at asset taxes, property taxes being the most practical way of going about it.
Remember that this is the second-in-command of one of the world's most competitive, technologically advanced, service-oriented countries. He also happens to be extremely well educated, very bright, and very talented at what he does. And he thinks that there is nothing philosophically wrong with STEALING more from people.

 Understand this, and understand it well: there is no such thing as wise and benevolent government. There are merely degrees of "bad" when it comes to the State. I will state unequivocally that for decades, Singapore's government was far superior to most others when it came to building a prosperous, well-functioning, and efficient nation. And I still love Singapore as a place to visit and live- it's still my favourite place anywhere on Earth. But, if you relax your vigilance for even an instant, understand that your government will immediately take advantage of that laxity to impose things upon you that you most assuredly will not enjoy. At that point, your only options will be to put up with it, or to retreat entirely and cut off their source of legitimate power.

Comments

  1. On the point of the population problem: to be fair, the "gahmen" has caught itself into a bind. They can't keblakan pusing themselves into rejecting the status of women, and by extent, modernity. The entire mythos of the Singaporean Government's thede is based on progress and modernity, without which the PAP's entire ideology would collpase.

    Aurini and I once did a podcast on this. Despite the "gahmen" being able to safely ignore the feminist lobby at will, feminism is only a symptom - the problem is modernity at large.

    The only workable solution to the low birth rates would be to get women straight out of their careers (not workplace) and back into the home. Only problem would be that this would not only be political suicide (they don't even dare to LOOK at the Women's Charter, let alone repeal it), but thanks to their own policies back in the 1970s, a two-income household is strictly necessary to make ends meet - who am I kidding? A two-income household is strictly necessary to pay for all of the goodies and comforts Singaporeans are used to.

    And if you learn something about the "gahmen" after living here, it's that they will *never* admit they're wrong.

    So they're in a bit of a bind. No matter how much baby bonus they give out, or even if they acquiesce to every single Singaporean's demands, the birth rate will NOT rise in a nation of zombie navel-gazers. they daren't tell women to go back to the old ways, and know that subsidising the fertility of the lower classes is dysgenic. The only recourse left to them is immigration, and it'll let them kick the can a few years down the road. They literally don't have any other choice that wouldn't result in immediate political suicide or loss of face, which is why they're doubling down so hard on immigration.

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