Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book: Next Generation Democracy

Firstly thank you whoever you are for leaving me a comment recommending this book. I got my copy from Queenstown library earlier today.

I have just managed to read the first couple of pages in the Forward. I think I got a little of the drift already. Singapore's democracy is different. The government decide and we obey. Elsewhere the government must discern the will of the people with a lot of to and fro between them and the government all the time.

If the folks here think transformation of the PAP equals listening and acting at least partly to our wishes, I don't think that is going to happen any time soon. Our model is they come back for us to judge their report card at every GE, and go away to do what they think is best. I hope they understand that this is increasingly untenable. With rising incomes and education people want to have a say, sometimes a very big say. Also the smarts between people and government narrow markedly. There will be too many occasions to show the government had thought through issues as well as those outside. We may already be at that point already.


May 15, 2011
I just scanned through the book, concentrated on Chapter 5, " A systems approach to change"; paid some attention to Chapter 6, " Realizing Democracy's Promise". The earlier chapters are not so good. I have read many other books which had discussed them better. I am checking out, "The wisdom of the crowds" again. Read it many years ago.

Much of the intellectual substance behind the ideas in this book are familiar to me. I had been working on systems since the mid 90s and scenario planning before that. Peter Senge, "The Fifth Discipline" is a very accessible introduction to this sort of thinking. The manager of the MPH store at Stamford Road (now gone of course) told me then it was their top business best seller. I have friends who are trained in Systems Thinking. The civil service was into it long ago. Singapore is probably more ready than most places to adapt such ideas to our governance. It would not be an easy task. It would be pioneering work. Perhaps it is best to do so without being really conscious of it. I shall not promote these ideas except as practical acts.


  1. 1. Some would like us to believe that they are among the smartest in order to justified their generous compensation package. Very often they only appear smart because many things are hidden. When the light shines into that darkness what is revealed may be something else.

    2. With technology the real smart is one who can use technology to openly tap into the smart of the crowd. Events over the past year and especially during this election show that the "old smart" behind their high wall are behind the curve. No easy transformation after having oversold themselves.

  2. With the press and broadcast spewing pro PAP propaganda, gerrymandering, pork barrel politiking, anti-assembly laws and other repressive measures to disadvantage other political parties, are we even a real democracy at a nascent stage yet?

    The Soviets touted their systems as peoples' democracies but we know how democratic they were, even though they have elections. Maybe ours should be called a corporatist's democracy, to more accurately reflect the reality? After all we are paying top dollar to people pretending to be humble servants who listen but don't hear and behave as top execs of S'pore Inc.