What the fall of Roman empire can teach the PAP

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 01/06/2012 at 6:13 am

(Or “Why group feeling is so impt” or “How times have changed since the late 70s (Worth of being a S’porean)”) 

Reading the u/m, I was reminded that Ngiam Tong Dow (Sparta, Athens and the Chinese imperial exam system) and the PAP (George Yeo and his mis-readings of history, one being why Venice did better than Genoa*) have used history to preach to S’poreans

First was the widening gulf between the social classes, rich and poor. When rich and poor start to live completely different lives this leads (then as now) to the poor opting out of the state. All studies today show that society is happier when the gap between rich and poor is reduced …

Widen it and you affect the group ethos of society, and also the ability to get things done through tax.

In the Roman West real wealth lay more in land and property than in finance (though there were banks) – but in the 300s the big land-owning aristocrats who often had fantastic wealth, contributed much less money than they had in the past to defence and government.

That in turn led as it has today to a “credibility gap” between ordinary people and the bureaucrats and rich people at the top.

Other strands in the collapse of the Roman West are more difficult to quantify, but they centre on “group feeling”, the glue that keeps society working together towards common goals. Lose that and you get a kind of nervous breakdown in the social order, which leads to what archaeologists call “systems collapse”.

The growing inequality in S’pore society we know and bitch about, but the loss of “group feeling” is shumething “we see through a glass, darkly”.  We sense it but we have problems articulating this loss of group feeling. Symptoms of it are often ascribed as the problem. Examples: The

— unhappinness that male FTs (like PAP MP Puthu) have a free ride here because they don’t have to do NS;

—  resentment against the PAP government because it appears to elevate FTs to a higher status than locals; 

— resentment against one LKY who called S’poreans “daft”, who needed to be “spurred”,

are symptoms of this loss of group feeling, not the problems themselves.

The government is largely to blame for this loss of group feeling thru its strategy of keeping the economy growing by using FTs to keep wage costs down because otherwise the strong S$ would make S’pore an uncompetitive economy.  Its asset enhancement policy and forcing S’poreans to leverage to their foreheads to buy property, has it made it impossible for S’pore to have low economic growth without triggering serious problems for the PAP and S’poreans. Imagine all HDB owners having -ve equity on their flats?

The sad, funny thing is that the PAP government fostered the sense of collective identity through schemes like NS to strenthen its grip on power after S’pore was ejected from M’sia. Older S’poreans like me can remember the days when the government told us that we S’poreans were special, compared to the Indons and M’sians. Look at the M’sian and Indon Chinese trying to get in. Today, according to the then PM, S’poreans are “daft”, and need “spurring” (or is it to be “spurred”?).

Oh and as the extract showed, “group feeling” is linked to wealth inequality. The bigger the gap, the less “group feeling”.


*Actually, I’m surprised that he didn’t put in down to the Venetians having a more authoritarian form of republic with power centralised in the doge). A rebuttal.

  1. […] Disclosure – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: What the fall of Roman empire can teach the PAP – Political Writings: Hawker School– Yet Another Stupid Idea From Vivian B – Musings From the […]

  2. Well,PAP decided to move into high finance (Wall Street) and casinos,both may not be the right decisions.

    • It is definitely no good for the common people. But for them (PAPYS & Associates) it is very shiok money. (Easy money -just by money travelling around, they got more money.)

  3. Republic of Lanfang lasted 107 years. Kingdom of Lanfang may not last more than that. Better to make as much money before the place is overrun.

    “Lan Fang Kongsi fought for 4 years but eventually was defeated, and its people fled to Sumatra…Those that fled to Sumatra regrouped in Medan. From there, some moved to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. One of the descendent from these people is Lee Kuan Yew. While Hakkas are the minority in Singapore, it is the Hakkas that played an important part to establish the second Lan Fang company – Singapore.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: