Polarization & Swing Voters

26 November 2007

For any market place to work properly demand must be proportional to the QUALITY of that which is demanded. If we think of voting as an economic activity, then clearly we in Sri Lanka have a market failure, in that our preference for a political party (the demand) does not seem to be strongly tied to its performance in government (the quality of the supply).

Sri Lankans’ irrational loyalty to their preferred political parties, their blindness to the blunders committed by politicians of their respective parties while only finding issue with blunders of the opposing party, is hampering the proper operation of democracy.  Sri Lanka does not have a sufficiently large swing voter base compared to developed nations. Where party loyalty is inelastic, an election does not make sense. Instead, you merely have to take one census of party loyalty and base all future political appointments based on that proportion. This is the value of swing voters. It is the swing voters who punish politicians who fail to deliver.


A Capitalist Manifesto

12 October 2007

The author of this work has granted permission to reproduce it freely, provided that the content is neither distorted nor quoted out of context:

A Capitalist Manifesto

Note of credit: Some of the articles on this site, notably Capitalist Apologism, has drawn from this work.


Separation of Concern

10 September 2007

Separation of concern between the legislature (parliament) and the executive (the president and the cabinet) cannot be maintained if there are links between the two – especially if both comprise the same individuals. Members of the legislature should not hold ministerial positions. I have failed to find any provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution that forbid such intermingling. It should not be allowed. The concept of Balance of Power which is central to modern democracy can only work if the powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary are set AGAINST each other. Both the legislature and judiciary should be able to question the actions of the executive. This cannot happen if the branches are friendly to each other.


Reforming the UNP

5 December 2006

It’s better to reform an existing party than to establish a new one. The political reality is that a new right-wing democratic third party would never win a popular election in this country, perhaps not for decades to come. So which of the two main parties is the best candidate for reformation? Anybody who is a regular reader of this blog would know that my personal choice would be the most right-wing/capitalist party: the UNP.

Politician-wise, I don’t see a big difference between the UNP and the present incarnation of Sri Lanka’s political left: the UPFA. But policy-wise the UNP has demonstrated a higher level of resistance against socialism and various other extremist ideologies in recent years (with the blaring exception of the Premadasa administration).

Ten years ago I would not have endorsed this position; not only did two successive UNP administrations fail miserably to diffuse the then growing ethnic problem, the Premadasa administration strayed so far from democracy that I was at the time forced to support an opposition that embraced socialism — an ideology I oppose on moral grounds.

However the party seems to have made progress in recent years. If the party could go from political thuggery, suppression of free expression and the disregard of the Tamil minority, to what it demonstrated during the brief Ranil Wicremasinghe administration–a greater observance of property rights and other democratic norms and a willingness to compromise for the sake of reconciliation between Sinhalese and Tamils–then it seems logical to assume that it may be the best candidate for further metamorphosis.

The topic of United National Party reforms have been mentioned often in the media without much reference to WHAT the reforms are going to be and what they are aiming to achieve. In this regard, my position is set against the common assumption. It is true that the UNP is less successful in appealing to the more “local” voter segments than its competitor. It has been suggested that the UNP should become more nationalist and “cultural”. I believe the party leader even attempted this with references to ancient Sri Lankan kings during his last campaign’s speeches. But this is contrary to the essence of the UNP. The UNP should maintain and strengthen its identity as a right wing party with a Western/globalized outlook and democratic/capitalist ideals. Let the other side appeal to “our” or “local” values and resort to western-bashing. Both major parties must not represent the same end of the political/social spectrum. Lack of balanced political polarization can lead to totalitarianism.

Instead, the UNP must make reforms in the ways it reaches voters. Its platform should be primarily economic and it should make voters aware of this fact AND the reasons for it. A good early-twenty-first-century Sri Lankan political party will define the following platform priorities: the economy, peace, national defense and the maintenance of law, order and political freedoms, in that order. Preservation of culture, religion, language or anything along those lines should be left to civil organizations. Governments meddle in such affairs often with grave consequences. The following should be explained to voters (though I doubt any politician ever will): of all people, do not look to politicians for moral leadership. I have a problem when the same politicians who support brothels ban TV shows to preserve my “culture”. I have a problem when the same politicians who can’t balance their own budget preach economics and force me to practice thrift by forcibly placing a part of my earnings in a heavily inflation-eroded retirement fund (which they then dip into for financing government projects). Until the day good leaders arrive, politicians must be administrators at most.


Money-Parties vs. Value-Parties

24 November 2006

A political party whose platform consists of economics is far better than a party whose platform consists of “values”. In other words, of the two types of major parties found in most countries, the “money-party” is generally a safer bet than the “ideals” party. On the surface, the voter may feel that he should decide on the basis of who shows more concern for the things he value (be it national sovereignty, culture, religion, honesty etc.), rather than the one that promises more practical things. But the converse is true. Of all people, we should not look to politicians for values. For the Machiavellian mind, values are no more than devices. And as devices go, values can be far more potent than greed. The greatest atrocities in history have not been committed on the basis of practical necessities, but on the basis of values: on the basis of warped conceptions of what is right and wrong. The Holocaust, both World Wars, the Crusades, the Jihad, the Cold War–none of these were fought/carried out of material greed (though people like Adolph Hitler do occasionally appeal to economic reasons to catapult to power). I prefer the greedy politician over the ideological/charismatic one any day: material greed is a predictable element. Hunger for power is not. At humanity’s present stage of development, we cannot expect any more of a government other than operations and administration. Certainly not moral leadership. The only reason the Judiciary (which deals with right-and-wrong) is a part of government is that it MUST. Privatized dispute arbitration is still in the far future.


Update on Indian blog censorship

21 July 2006

BBC: India bloggers angry at net ban

Indian government lifts ban on websites

Slashdot discussion on subject


Imminent loss of Internet free speech in Sri Lanka

20 July 2006

Sri Lankan political voices on the Internet are now running on borrowed time.

I believe that the present administration will start ordering ISPs to block “undesirable” web addresses within the next year, now that India has set a precedent for the same. Free blogging services will most likely be targets. Based on the present administration’s behavior toward the press, satellite TV companies and more recently regular TV channels, the Internet seems to be the next logical target.

I believe in non-violent change. The only tool for non-violent change is freedom of speech. Once that tool is lost, all is lost — the public has been both physically and intellectually disarmed and tranquilized. This is step #2 towards totalitarianism:

Step #1: Private property ownership becomes conditional (the state can take away private property at arbitrary whim)
Step #2: Loss of freedom of speech (the state decrees that you have all the freedom of speech you want, so long as you do not publicize certain state-decided “bad things”)

Priority

Preservation of free speech should be the Sri Lankan Internet community’s number one priority in the coming months, since the loss of the tool itself is a far greater loss than ANYTHING that the tool may produce. Blogging is a medium hardly known to the Sri Lankan public — any attack on it will most likely generate NO controversy. It is up to the blogging community to defend its own medium. It needs to anticipate the coming action and act preemptively.

I’ve been told that a number of young Sri Lankan bloggers met recently to discuss “what can be done” about the present situation in the country. I would tell them that the first order of business is to not lose the tool. Write to traditional print media about blogging and it’s importance as a tool of free speech compared to other mass media. When one medium comes under attack, use the remaining media to defend it. In this case, Sinhalese print media is best (question: is blogging called “Web Lekhana Kalaawa” in Sinhalese?).

Censoring blogs is suppression of INDIVIDUAL voices — it is worse than any action against large scale media institutions. A blog is one of the most effective ways an individual citizen can make himself heard.

Internet freedom is preserved in the United States because of a powerful pro-freedom/anti-censorship lobby that galvanizes into action at the tiniest sign that the U.S. government is planning anything even remotely related to Internet censorship. The Sri Lankan Internet community now needs to be on a similar hair-trigger alert.