Country vs. Govt. vs. Administration

30 June 2006

Make the distinction between government, administration and country. Iran is not developing nuclear capability — the Iranian government is. America did not invade Iraq — the American government did. The Sri Lankan government did not foul up the peace process, the present administration did.

A country’s people have only a LIMITED level of control over it’s government. When electing administrations, they often have to choose the lesser evil. It is true that a country’s people are partly responsible for what is done by the government they elect, but one must try to avoid phrases such as “[country] did [action]”.

What tends to persist from administration to administration, I attribute to “government” (my definition). Every Sri Lankan administration has been semi-socialist, therefore we can say Sri Lanka has a semi-socialist government. But the present administration is more socialist than the previous.


28 June 2006

The responsibility for the modern Sinhalese-Tamil conflict rests largely on the shoulders of the Sinhalese leadership of the 1980’s — it effectively demonstrated that in their worst hour of need Tamils cannot turn to the government to protect them. One can hardly blame them for turning elsewhere.

The anti-Tamil riots of 1983 should have been crushed with swift and extreme force. That would have demonstrated two things:

However much we hate to admit it, every society has extreme elements that crawl out from under rocks whenever they feel it’s safe to do so. They did so in Nazi Germany, they did so in Russia and they once even did so in America (remember the KKK). (One such group is again rearing its head in this country, under the aegis of eliminating “threats to Buddhism” but that’s a different story).

It’s difficult to eradicate these elements entirely. The best we can do is to show them that they can’t act on their prejudices with impunity. The government failed to do that in 1983. It also failed to show that Tamils have equal protection under the law. In doing so, the government tried to disown them. They wanted another government — hardly surprising.

The Sinhalese and Tamils together created a monster (the LTTE). Conditions are now right for reconciliation between Sinhalese and Tamils, but the monster refuses to go away. Until Tamils are rightly made to feel that they’re indeed living in their own home country, they’ll always tend to think that the monster is a necessary evil.

As I said, 1983 should have been crushed with extreme force.

The internet for peace building

26 June 2006

The author of ict4peace asks what the Sri Lankan Internet community can do for peace building in Sri Lanka. In its present form, I’d say very little. Sri Lankans who have Internet access anyway tend to be more liberal minded than average. It’s not they who need convincing.

The best way to reach the masses is through their own language. If I could use the Sinhalese keyboard, this blog would be in Sinhalese and I’d give open reproduction rights to my writing here, in the hope that it’ll reach a readership outside the regular Internet community. Unfortunately I don’t know how to type in Sinhalese and my Sinhalese writing style is yet to be polished.

The best the Internet CAN do, in my opinion, is to strengthen that small minority with “outrageous” ideas. It’s those outrageous ideas that can save us. For example, capitalism is taboo in Sri Lankan mainstream media, but it has more acceptance among Sri Lankan Internet users.

Say NO to governmental good intentions

23 June 2006

Every once in a while there comes an administration that thinks it can treat citizens much like cattle or guinea pigs. It seems to think that it has the right to manipulate the behavior of citizens — especially, to discourage behaviors that it seems to consider “undesirable”. “If you don’t like it, ban it” is not an enlightened policy.

Governments have NO right to try to make citizens “better”. In my opinion people are fine just the way they are — WITH their vices and weaknesses. Nobody needs improvement at the hands of the government. The government has no right to protect people against themselves. Governmental good intentions have lead to some of the greatest fiascos, disasters and massacres in recorded history.

A government has the right to exercise force for one reason — to prevent citizens from infringing on the rights of other citizens. The right to exercise force is turned over to the government because each citizen trying to defend himself would lead to too much chaos — a civilized society cannot progress far with vigilante law. But a government is overstepping its authority when it tries to use this power for other purposes.

The government cannot:

a) Dictate what books I read, what TV shows I watch or how often I watch/read them
b) Dictate what I eat, drink or smoke, provided I’m not a danger to others
c) Condition school children to be “good” or “better” by some government-chosen standard
d) Above all, dictate what I can or cannot think

A random note on individualism

21 June 2006

Individualism is not to be confused with selfishness or the general usage of the word “egotism”.

a) The difference between individualism and SELFISHNESS is that individualism recognizes that other people are individuals too, just like oneself. Selfishness on the other hand is not such a consciously held conviction. In fact, selfishness is the absence of any conviction with regard to how you relate to other people. *

b) The difference between individualism and ALTRUISM is that altruism considers that OTHERS are individuals, but somehow, strangely, oneself is not. To paraphrase, “If I’m here to help others, what on Earth are others here for?”

c) The difference between individualism and COLLECTIVISM is that individualism holds that every individual is just as important as every other individual, whereas collectivism holds that the group is more important than any individual who makes up that group. Or more generally, where M > N, the wishes of M individuals are more important than the wishes of N individuals.

* i.e. individualism is a philosophical position; selfishness is just a bad habit.

Deregulate private buses

13 June 2006

Deregulate bus routes. Let the private bus operators choose their own routes and switch between routes at will (as long as they complete a full run on a route before switching to another — you wouldn’t want to get on a 135 and have it become a 120 five minutes later).

Each route has its own peak hours and peak directions. If you allow bus operators to change routes, free market dynamics will go to work and the most active routes will get the most service. And the bus operators will come up with the most optimal route, i.e. the routes that will transport the most passengers with the least expenditure of fuel. For the passenger, that translates to better travel.

Break the private bus cartel

12 June 2006

As things are, you can’t just put a passenger bus into service in Sri Lanka, even if you get permission from the government — you have to deal with the private bus cartel. If you don’t go through them and agree to their conditions, you’ll be intimidated, harassed and put out of business.

It’s the government’s job to crackdown on such cartels and protect newcomers into the industry. Break this cartel and threaten any intimidators with legal action, and Sri Lanka’s public transport system stands to improve — through free market dynamics. Who knows, we may even have innovative private bus companies that are more organized that present day private bus operators.

Today, there are more passengers than buses can carry. Anybody who has ever used public transport in Sri Lanka to get to work or school knows this. Whenever demand exceeds supply, there is some force stifling the free market. In this case, it’s the private bus cartel and government regulation.