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GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
(i) concept/lssue: Systems of Governance
Question 1: ls democracy the best form of government?
Answer: Democracy is best deflned a5 government of the people, by the people. ln the West,
especia ly after ideological conflicts such as the Cold War, dernocracy ls assunled to be the ideal
form of government- ls this
justifiable?
The classlcal example of a democracy is that of Ancient
Aihens where the whoJe popu ace would meet in the marketplace to vote on declsions. Do citi?ens
today really have a say in decision making? lt can be argued that many modern 'democracies' are
actually not in fact democratic, hence casting doubts on the effectiveness of democracy.
Argumnts
Democracy allows the people to have a direct say
in who governs thern via the votes cast by every
adult member of the populace. lt ensures that a
government ls mdde up ofthose truly
representative of the people, and nsures that no
minority, military power or eliie is able to oppress
Democracy was chosen as the model by societies
we take as the founders of modern libertles such
as France and America, lt has been proven by
history a5 the best form ofgovernment.
Modern democracis are constantly striving to
make themselves more representative by
increasing consultdtlve sessions. n Singapore for
instance, citizens have opportunities to meet and
interact with MPs and
gras5root leaders of their
respective constituency.
Real, effective eadership must come from above
and not from below. lhe people as a mass are
capable of being manipulated and expecting thern
to elect the best policies or leaders is unrealistic.
Governments,
provided
theV ar competent and
fair, can see what ls better for the people than the
For example, the abolitlon ofthe death penallV
was at first deeply unpopular with the British
public
when it was
pushed throueh by lhe
government, but is now broadly supported as
correct dnd humane.
Modern democracy s a facade. 'True'democracy
can only be practised on a very small scale. ln
Slngapore for examp e, whlle people may get to
vote and express oplnions via different plattorms,
they have no real power to nfluence many
5uch sesslons do not really brlng a goverraienr
closr to the people, but merely give undemocratlc
government a veneer of democratic respectabl ity
Real power is stlllwith the elites
Wl
ot*,t oo
'oos
thre flipside
Decisjons must be made bV the willofthe people-
Otherwise, we have no protection again abuse of
power. The people are kept informed by the
various roms of media and are thus ftrlly capable of
making an informed decision.
Verv little
public opinion is arrived ai
independently by applicatjon of iogic and facts.
Public opinion is often contro!led, directed and
inflamed bythe press whose content is controlled
ultimately by the very elite that controls the
country and directs the public in the ways best for
the m.
The CoLd War pitted capitallsm aga nst
authoritarian communism, not soclalisnl. The end
ofthe cold War freed socia ists to promote and
develop their ideo ogy without it or themselves
being tarred by the atroc;ties of communist
Question
2 : Does socialism still have a ro e to play in a highly capltaList urorld?
Answen Capitallsm is the world's dominant economic system. The means of production and distribution
are owned by individuals. Private ownership and free enterprise are believed to lead to greater
efficlency, lower prlces, better products and r sing prosperity Sociallsm advocates the ownelship and
control of the means of produciion and industry bY the cornmunity as a whole Key socialist aims and
policies would include the publlc ownership of key resources and industries, wiih a leading role played
by the government in economic rnanagemeft and social engineering, the redistrlbution of wealth
through progresslve taxation and a welfare state supporting its citizens from crad e io grave through
provlslon ofeducatlon, hea th, ernployment and pensions systems. Whi e nranY argue that socialism has
had its day as a major political ldea, socialist parties in Soulh America are overtly ga inlng strength lt has
been argued that only the language of socialism has chan8ed. The ideas still remain as central to political
With the end of the Coid War, the supremacy of
the markt over the state was frn:lly established.
The great ideological battle between capita isl
individualltv and socialist.entral
planning is over.
Modern day Russia enrbraces Western style
capita ism and China reta;ns a cornmunlst political
system but embraces a free market economy.
over the last few decades, so.ia lst parties have
bpp , r"'g r"l
"d,.r
ro r d"vF'ooed
(oJnl
ra(.
T'lo." pd lre
"ithd'o'r"l
l."r
'.Ce\^l^'h\"\P
survived have done so by embraclne free market
thinking Ex.mples incLude the IJK and Australian
Socialist parties or policles still enjoy significant
support globaily and in some areas such as South
America, rapidly growing support. Liberal
p.onor ( po ,
)
r.l no(l d"/p'oping I dlio-r. i.
generally lrnposed upon soclety rather lhan
accepted voluntarily. Consjder the poiitical and
economic success of socialist
policies in both
Venezueia and Arqentina- Consider also educatlon
po icies and taxation pollcles ln Singapore. Social
democratic parties are still nrajor political forces
GP 2009
t|'re flipside
6lobal economic forces have rendered sociallsm What investors want more tha n anvthing is a
stable economy and skilled workforce. ronically, it
is where socialist thought remains strongest
economies are the most competitive, Careful st:te
management ofthe economy, provision of
infrastructure and investment in health and
education svstems through hlgh taiation have
creaied a dvnamic and highly quallfied workforce
and attracted hLrge investment fronr
technologically advanced industrie5.
powerless. Financial speculation, and investment
flows can make or break economies, and the
agents responsible for this want to see countries
liberalise, privatise rnd de regulate more. Flexible
markets generate higher levels of growth and
prosperity, and provide higher returns on
investment- Countries which try to resjsi
systems broken down through rislng prosperity,
progresslve
taxation, welfare systems and access
to secondary and higher education. These
elements ofthe original socialist movement have
argusbly been so successful ln changing society
that they no longer have political power lo
motivate citizens to subscribe to socjalist thought.
globaiisation and liberal economic markets suffer
stagnant growth and higher unemployment as a
Class systems and the tensions between them are
both rapidly becoming relics of the past. Socities
are also rnore merltocratic with entrenched class
ldentifiable classes living in chron c poverty are
stilldenied equallty of oppoftunity in life. The
8ap
between the richest and poorest is rising ln
societies nearly verywhere. Placs in good
universities in the USA and the IJK are now rnore
likely to go to the children of we L_off famllies tha n
was the case thirty years ago. More children born
into poor housholds .re dying ln them. Thus, the
concerns ofsocia ism are as real as ever.
altPrnarive views
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(ii) Con.pt/lssue: Government vs Citizns
Question 3: How far should a government lnierfere in people's lves?
Answer: The boundary beiween public and priv.te life is often unc ear' i is vital in examinlng the above
question to draw a distinctlon between legislaiion (coercive and enforceable) and advice (encouragjng
or persuasive), that is, between denia l of the right to do something (taking drugs, speed driving etc) 3nd
warnings about its potentia eftects (smoklng etc). lt must also be noted that the law changes (the
wearing of seatbelts on coaches has changed from advice to a legaL requirement locally) and will vary
internationally. For example, Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany but not so in other countries lo
determine degree of interference, we need to consider how the aciions of one party may have an
impact on a third party, the person himself and society as a whole.
Evervone should h.ve the rieht to
thev choose, without hzving thir
restricted by the state. lhis is the
live their
princip e
life as
&Woinrcnoroot
tl're f!rpsi
liberalism, famously outlined by John Stuaft Mill
'n
the nineteenth century. lt can .lso be seen in
rnodern charters of Human Rights, which
Eive
every human equal value and declare that we
.1o,
ro
".
hd\p llBhls
ro
spedk rnd dLr d\ w-
choose. Mill ihought it was vital for we l-being that
ad,
h ppr\oa w"5 dbl" Io e pre,, the:r ow'l ur'que
personallty in their way of life. He also thought
that society as a whole can only make progress if
men and women are free to make choices that go
against what most people thjnk is normal-
Otherwise, better ways of livinB will never be
found and nothinF will ever rhange.
Consider crime,
{aml y issLres as
self destructive .ctivities and
Liberals believ that we should be able to do as we The liberal prlnciple sound5 logical but it doesn't
work ln the realu,orld. For many issues, there are
clearlv othe15 who rnay be ndirectly hLrt bV an
activlty. Examples lnclude women ln prostitution
and pornography and old people in assisted
suicide Huft .an also be caused to families when
someorie behaves in a way that harms only himself
for erample, the childrell of a drug user.
wish in our private lives, as ong as what we do
doesn't harm anyone else. Doing something that
only hurts onese fshould not be banned, and that
a so goes for act vities between consenting adults.
lfthe government thinks an activlty is bad, it can
try to educate people about it so that they choose
not to do it. BLt
jn
the erd, people who know the
risks should be a lowed to ruin their own lives.
Also, in a modern soclety, we all pay the cost of
self-harrn through taxes to pay for healthcare for
In dddrr'or , I
"l.o
o'len aoubrfLl wretl_er
people undertaking risky activities are in a good
positjon to choose freely. They may be too young,
or too stupld to understand the risks. And people
who are addicied have lost control over their will
Conslder dlfferenl self destructive activlties d! Conslder different self destructive activitles as
There is rot enough evidence to show that
terrorism has evolved into something more
There is a large threat to our securjty. The current
internatlonal tensions ls likely to increase
The state has the moral authority to ensure this
does not happen. 50, if the governrnent really feels
that what some people want to do is wrong, it is
right for them to ban lt- Banned activities are often
very dangerous, leading to addiction, poor health,
not being able to work usefully, and a shofter life.
People do have hurnan rights, but rights don't
mean they can do anything they want. Sometimes
to protect most people's rjghts, the state has to
stop a few people doing what thev want. Given
that rights often clash, the government has to
declde whlch one is most impoftant.
Similarly, the stale has the moral authority to
intervene in famlly matters, especially in a country
like Singapore where people are lts only resource.
Consider crime, self destructive activities and
fa rnily issues as examples.
ff&W
oi*.,.uo roon
fhe flipsid
threatening since the 1960s and 70s. Governments
are likely to take advantage of the antiterrorist
mania to strengthen their regimes. lt is therefore
not acceptable to curb citizen rights because of
Consider the varlous securitv measures
implemented and how civil libertles have been
.ffe.ied as sutrstantiation.
which in turn may result in more terrorist attacks-
The nature of contemporary terrorism has become
far more frightening wjth fundamentalists ready to
commit suicide, and fears that terror groups are
seeking access to biological, chemical and nuclear
materials. Old-fashioned terrorism has
transformed lnto high intelligence networks of
hard-to-track terrorist ce ls lt is not possible to
curb terrorism wlthout curbing some ofthe rlghts
considerthevarious
qecurity
measures
implemented and how civil liberties have been
affected as substantiation.
Question
4: To what extent should a government restrict freedom of speech?
Answer: Freedom of speech is often consldered to be one of the most basic tenets of democracy. As
a fundamental right it is enshrined in documnts such as the Bill of Rlehts in the United States, the
Uniled Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the European Convention on Human Righis.
Everyone has th rlght to freedom of expressjon. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to
rece ve and rnpart informatjon on ldea s without interference by p ublic authority and regardless of
frontrers. However, the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with t dLrtles and respons bltlties,
may be subjcted to conditions, restrlctions or penalties as are prscribed by law and are necessary
in a democratic society, n the interests of national securlty, territorial integrlty or public safety, for
the prevention of disorder or crime, for lhe protection of health or morals, for the protection of the
reputation or the rights ofothers, for preventing the disc osLrre of infornration received n
confidence, or for maintainlng the authority and irnpartialitv of the
iudiciary.
Freedom of speech and
censorship are often phrased as opposite sides of a continuLrm thai balance personal freedom with
societal duty. lssues of free speech are often championed by human riShts organlsations around the
world seeking to suppo( those fighilng against repressive regimes (Aung 5an 5uu Kyi etc). They are
of rnuch contemporary interest in the developed world where new lechnologies have opened up
unprecedented access to materials which
aovernments
co!ld previous y kecp censored in a
relatively efficient way. Pornography, bomb manufacturing instructions and other objectionable
material have becorne available on the world wide web.
att"r*tir.
";"*t
Discrlminatory or
physicalviolence.
offens ve rommente nray lead ro Sor ety Ls self-reBulatrng Exposing
pornograPhY,
Thus pornography, hate speech
W[o*iutroot
hate speech and polit cal polenr ic (ettreme
the flipside
and political polemic are causally linked to rape, nationalism etc.) to society increase the likelihood
that it will be discredlted and defeated
New technologies have openiA uI unpreceaentea
hate crlmes, and insurrection.
We need to protect minors (those underthe age
o m"jo rl\,
"on
e\po.ure to ob(cene offF'rsi'"
or
potentially
damaging materials.
access to objectionable materials such as
pornography and bomb manufacturing
instructions. They are easily available on the
world'wide web and impossible to remove. The
government should channel resources to
educatlng the young rather than censoring.
The government may wellwish to suppress
publication of information that would be
detrimental to its success in the next elections or
il\ wdr, rmpr'g'l. However,:t s i4ll'a
puolr
interest io know about their didy dealings or
illegalactlvities.
The Pentagon Papers (1971) in the United States
werethe co ected criticlsms ofthe United States
strategy during the Vietnam War. Distrlbuted
widely to newspapers, they were p! blished
desplte attempts by the government
to suTpress
their publicatlon.
Alihough some views that may be erprssed m ght
be contrary to religious teaching, we must defend
the rights ofthe non-religious within any society
Also, religious or non-relig'ous, the public should
not be deprived of knowledge of informntlon
suppo(ed bv facts.
Government must protect lts citizens from foreign
enemies and intrnal enemies thus freedom of
speech can be acceptablv cu rta iled durlng times of
^"r
r ro d"r lo prF!"nl propd8dndd dnd py'19
which might undermine the national interest.
Some lnte lectualviews are antitheticalto bliefs
he d by major religions. ln order to protect the
reliE ous from these vie\,!s, we should
prevent
people from saying these offensive things.
{iii)
Concept/lssue: Government vs Government
/
Supranational lnstitutions
Question 5: ls foreign aid ffective?
,{nsryer: Foreign aid had grown signiflcantly in absolute terms. Paradoxica ly, as aid to Africa has
grown, the continent has actually become poorer rather ihan better off. This is often contrasted with
Asja. lJnmediate y after the Second World War, Africa and Asia were both Third World areas. Yet Asia,
arge y without the sort of foreign aid directed at Africa, has developed a strong economic infrastructure
and become a developed area. This raises the question of what foreign aid achieves and whether it is a
positive or negative influence. This debate ls funher crystallised by the focus of the Millennium
Development Goals on increasing aid from the developed world to the poorest countries, and by the
ffi
@sRlcGt2oo,
thc fllpside
failure of the Doha round of World Trade Organisation talks to agree
might have benefited many developing economies. Antagonism and
marathon negotiations in Geneva last year.
to a new global trading system that
stubbornness prevailed in the
Arg!ments
While aid fa lures can possibly be hidden behind There ls no REAL accountability where foreien aid
establishment cliches, we must a lso embrace and
learn from the successes such as lndonesia's
governmnt planned school expansion
programme, Muhamrnad Yunus's bottom-up
microflnance proeram,
and Egvpt'swell-planned
orai rehydration programme, all supported by aid
While we need to condemn where aid has failed,
^e
dl.o cFFd lo bL d o'l r"lher lhd'l jusl
dr)ni,s
where it has succeeded, and where new initiatives
show prornise. Take the countries that have
introduced PRSps (Poveny Reduction Strategy
P"per
'
ro4y
(ounr,,oc
hdve adoprpd Pq\o<
(rn.p
they flrst appeared in 2000. 8ut far from fai ure,
the average post PRSP growth rate forthose
countries through 2004 was 5.9 percent per year,
and for nlneteen African countries with PRSPs it
was 5 7 percent. These countries received average
aid flows of 12 prcent
of GDP
per
Vear.
M'llions of people were lifted out of povertv rn
ldrge aid recipients su.h as South Korea, Taiwan,
gotswana,
ndonesia, and more recently,
Mozambique and Tanzania through aid
investrnents in the "Green Revolution" that
massively increased agricutural produciivity.
Mi lions row live because of roLrtine child
immunlzailons, the spread of oral rehydration
lherapy, and other interventions documented n
the book "Millions saved". Record shows that
modest amounts of ald have brought about
modest improvements on average, with some
important sLrccesses aiongside some sad failures.
lnstead oi $rithdrawlng ald, we therefore need to
a locate nlore aid to countrles that are
The world is a complex place. People cannot hope
to transform societies via an injectlon of money
into the complex political system they don't
understand we I in the first place. Someone who
thinks outside aid can permanently raise a
country's entire growth rate, against allevidence,
clearly does not get complexity.
ls concemed. All the aid bureaucracies together
are collectively responsib e for "everythlfg,"and in
this bureaucratic maze, nobodv is ifdividually
responsible for anything. They collectjvely set big
goals wlth no conseq!ences when the goals are
not met. Few, lf any, are responsib e for seelng
that oral rehvdration salts reach dylng babies, that
medicine reach dying malaria victims, that wells
get dril d and rnaintained to give clean water so
babies don't get sick in the first place.
countries, through the gradual homegrown rjse of
political and economic freedom and these canfot
be imposed from the top by the IMF
Ilnternational
Monetary Fundl, World Bank, or lJ.S. Arny.
It is ; fall.cy to th nk that overall poverty can b
ended by a comprehenslve packag of "things" ike
malarla mediclnes and clean water. Poverty of
low-income societies will slov' ly give way to
prosperity the same waV it happened ln rich
implementing sensible development strategies
osRjc GP 2009
the flipsie{e
(fuestron
b:5houl0 countries or rnternatronal organrsatrons rnterlere rn the alTarrs ol anotherl
Answer: There are rnany problems which are impossible for indlvjdual nation-states to solve and
which require lnternational cooperation, for example environmental problerns, third world poverly,
international law, trading rules, civil strife, conflict with neighbouring countries etc. Should the
nation-state allow for foreign interfernce. There are also systerns of governance and policies
peculiar to a nation-state which others deem unacceptable. Do the "others" therefore have the right
to intervene? Consider the following examples in crafling an answer.
China - Since the end ofthe CoJd War, the trade versus human rights debate has been a major point
of disagreement between American and China. Western politicians and NGOs such as Human Rlghts
Watch and Amnesty lnternational a lege that China engages in a host of systemic human rights
abuses, includinB suppression of reljgious freedom and free speech, censoring ofthe internet, the
use of slave labor, the torture of prlsoners, and the forced relocation of millions of people for public
works projects. Policymakers in the USA are divided over whether the best approach to force China
to improve this siiuatlon is through trade or inlerfernce via the use of sdnctions and isolation to
force China to improve.
Myanmar-Ever since the military coup in 1988, Myanmar has been governed by the military
junta.
The Association of South Fast Asian Nations (ASEAN) argues that anV interference in dornestic
Myanmar politics woLrld be undeslrable and unjustified, whi st others hold strongly to the belief
Myanrnar shou d be reformed. Some advocate the continued imposition of sanctions as the onlV
workable means to nudge Myanrnar towards democratic reforms.
Africa The African continent has been the location ol sonre of the bloodiest and vlolent confllcts of
recent decades. In Rwanda, for exaffple, there was genocide on an unprecedented scale. ln ELrope
and lhe U5A, there has been strong criticism of international organisations such as the United
Natlons for the r tardiness in reacting to crlses in Rwanda and Somalia. However, from another po nt
of view, lt could be argued that non-African organisations and former colonial
powers (such
as
France and Britain) have no legitimate ro e to play in African politics and African conflicts.
The actions of a country usua ly have ra'niflcations
and other countries may be affected. lnterference
is in such situations necessary to ensure the well
being of people. National sm is unimportant when
compared to lhe similarlty of every nation's
position with respect to the environment and basic
human rights and digrjties. We shouid be
prepared to address these issues from a
cosmopolitan perspective There ls no pec!liarly
American, Chinese, Wel!h, Spanish, Swiss or
countries or international organisations interfere in the affairs of another?
W
@sRlc Gt roo,
the flipside
Zambian perspective on the melting ofthe polar
ice caps, human rights, loss of innocent lives or the
Flinilar'on oI world hunger. More than
ju(l
citizens of a pafticular couniry would be affected.
The violation of human rights and immorality of
actions are universal problems crying out for
solutions. Ethnicity, religion or other cultural
considerations can add variety and spjce to daily
life but they should not be obstacles to the
recognition of universal values.
conflicting, vested interests will remain and will be
defended- Therefore, it is inevltable that nation-
states simply will refuse to cede their sovereignty
to others or adopt another system lest they lose
any control over the maintenance of their own
comlorlable socretres lo presJme othcrwr'e r,
utopian dreaming.
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