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Original Posting: New Political System for the Information Age Draft #04

In reponse to The difference between Citizens’ initiative and referendum - [Ted Becker]

There is a need for a New Political System for the Information Age
Sunday, 23 May 2004 20:48 Singapore

Email: Thu, 20 May 2004 12:25:17 -0500

Many thanks for replying to my emails, despite your busy schedules.

Ted Becker said:

“Yes, I am not only a pioneer in the "teledemocracy" movement globally, but I coined the word. …..”
Would you like to explain what “teledemocracy” actually means and the essence of “teledemocracy?
“What has happened, though, is that the phrase "deliberative democracy" has gained the kind of credibility I hoped "teledemocracy" might get. So, the very same movement is now better called the former instead of the latter. Right now, in fact, I'm on the Steering Committee of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (www.deliberative-democracy.net)...which is funding the Journal of Public Deliberation. …..”
Superficially, "deliberative democracy" sounds more serious than "teledemocracy" for the uninitiated reader.
“…. We are global. There are many interesting projects. As I may have mentioned, go to www.citizensassembly.bc.ca for one tremendous project that is working like a charm in Canada. And then there is the Porto Alegre project in Brazil (now a trading ally of China)...just do a search as see how it works.”
Yes, you are right. The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in British Columbia is a great experiment. I have linked it to the page for NPS discussion under related matters. Any progress on any of the democracy fronts is a plus to the Global Democracy Movement and ultimately to the people on Planet Earth.

It is just that some people are luckier to live in a freer society which allows greater initiative to the common folks.

“As for linking with me, I give you permission to put up our conversation(s) , link to TAN+N and DDC.... .”
Thank you very much. I hope it will subsequently be proven beneficial.
“… Also, to answer your major question about initiative and referendum, let me first give you yet another site: www.iandrinstitute.org which is the Initiative and Referendum Institute in Washington, DC. They work on both.”
Another useful site to be linked to the NPS discussion.
“The citizens initilative is what you want to do in Singapore that you describe in your new system. It is where a small percentage of voters from the past election come up with a petition that has a proposed "law" for citizens to sign as being in agreement with that proposed law. Once that percetage is reached (usually 2%-5%), and a government official certifies that they are actual citizens and voters, then it goes on the ballot for the rest of the citizens to vote on in the next election. A referendum is where the Parliament or Congress puts up a proposed "law" on the ballot for the citizens to vote on. This is far more common throughout Europe at the national level. ….”
According to the Initiative & Referendum Institute (the website referred to by you above), there are two types of referendum - popular and legislative. Legislative referendum is what you have described above. Popular referendum is “when the people have the power to refer, by collecting signatures on a petition, specific legislation that was enacted by their legislature for the people to either accept or reject”.

In view of this definition of ‘popular referendum’, paragraph 1 under Referendum in the NPS is amended as follows:

1. All qualified voters shall be entitled to propose any legislation for a referendum provided that the proposal is shown to the satisfaction of the Election Commission that it has the support of not less than 5% of the qualified voters.
A new paragraph 18 has been added to provide for citizens’ initiative. Thanks for your advice on citizens’ initiative.
“…. Only Switzerland has a national citizens initiative process and a national referendum process. Again, I think the best for Singapore would be to follow the Swiss model. It is over 150 years old and look at how prosperous and peaceful a country it is.”
The Singapore Government has looked at the Swiss model many years ago resulting in the slogan, “Achieving the Swiss standard of living by a certain year (2000?). The political model was, however, omitted from official admiration for reasons of, I believe, incompatibility with the political system that has been established in Singapore since the dramatic birth of the nation on 9 August 1965.

The national leaders of Singapore who are from the ruling party are fully in-charge of the country’s affairs and it is futile to attempt any thing including the Swiss political model, if it is disapproved by them.

In the early days of Singapore history, national survival was the paramount concern. Conventional wisdom at that time was that Singapore was not viable as an independent nation both economically and politically for want of physical space and resources. Because the racial majority (about 75%) in Singapore was a racial minority in the new state of Malaysia formed less than 2 years earlier, she was forced to be born to die when the racial majority in Malaysia wanted to dominate the country politically, culturally and religiously. With Singapore out of way, the racial majority in Malaysia would have a commanding majority.

So for historical reasons, the entire Singapore system including the political system has been built on the ruling party as the foundation, which in turn depends on the reputation of the integrity and fear of one key man. The continued existence of the system depends of the yet-to-be-proven ability of the system to produce a replacement of the key man, when needed, in perpetuity.

Because the Singapore system has performed economically in first 30 years far above expectation even by global standards, many people, especially the national leaders, would cling to it and would reject any political model including the Swiss that would weaken the existing system for both national and personal reasons until when the collapse of the system is imminent, but by then it would be too late even to talk about a new political system.

So as the saying goes, ‘make hay while the sun shines’, it is sensible to start discussing on a New Political System for the Information Age (NPS), just in case the existing political system fails us by not producing ‘a replacement of the key man, when needed, in perpetuity’ in the hope of creating a sound and viable alternative to the existing political system ready for consideration and implementation at the moment of desperation.

Moreover, many other people on Planet Earth already need the NPS in their more advanced decaying political systems and, hopefully, some may implement a version of it before Singapore does. And any such successful implementation may change not only the course of history in Singapore, but also of Planet Earth as well.

So the search for a sound and viable NPS is not only urgent for Singapore, but for the benefits of Planet Earth as well. Yes, the journey is long and arduous, but it has to be made. It has to begin somewhere for a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A question you may ask is why ‘for the Information Age’. The answer is that the future viability of Singapore as a nation and Singaporeans as a people depends on, more than most other people on Planet Earth, the quality of Singaporeans in the future as individuals, citizens and voters. We are one of the smallest nations in terms of land space and population. Singapore could only appear as a tiny dot on a standard physical world map. And without natural resources, Singaporeans in general, whether locally born or not, must not only be globally competitive and resourceful, but also remain loyal and committed to Singapore and Singaporeans wherever they may be, at home or overseas.

Moreover, more than any other Age in the past, the Information Age has tremendous potential for people everywhere to be creative, entrepreneurial and socially responsible. It would, therefore, be extremely unfortunate, if a people were trapped in the values, thinking and practices of the past just because of their political system. For a country like Singapore, it could even be tragic.

True citizens in the Information Age are not only informed, thinking and contributing, but also exceedingly mobile and desirable everywhere. For a country like Singapore, it really cannot afford to lose its good people, especially the best and brightest, leaving behind an accumulating residue of the really dull and dumb.

So there is a need for a New Political System for the Information Age some time in the future, both in Singapore and elsewhere.

Best Regards

Replies by:

  1. Ted Becker

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