Censorship. Who does it benefit?


The Capitalist Infidel has been looking at the attempts of the Singaporean government at muzzling the press, or of anyone saying things they don’t like. They abuse the laws and civil rights of the people in an attempt to look good. The Capitalist Infidel thinks that this will backfire and cause more hurt for Singaporeans and the autocrats than they think.

First and foremost, cliched as it is, is that no person should be denied information by the government. It is in fact the role of the government to ensure that no one messes with the citizens’ rights, not the other way around. The government here seems to take us as its peons, not the people it was supposed to serve. There needs to be a real paradigm shift here. People don’t elect masters. Masters have no role in a capitalist society, what we need are service providers.

Censorship hurts the government as well. They lose credibility overseas. Considering our size, that’s bad. Even China could not survive as an autarky, much less puny Singapore. Suing independent newspapers is not the way to encourage confidence in foreign investors or good PR for the country, contrary to the deluded beliefs of the serial litigants.

Singapore has done well due not to the strength of the government but more due to the weakness of our neighbours. Maersk moved to Kuala Lumpur when it had the chance, it came back because Kuala Lumpur was inefficient, not because Singapore was strong.
Extreme cases of censorship and state control has been met with equally extreme reactions from the populations. In Scientific American’s January 2006 article Murdercide, it was mentioned that,

In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.”

While we are lucky that Singapore is rather safe from terrorism thanks to our police (and that no one cares enough about us), it has to be said that there are large numbers of dissidents. Aside from the fact that this does increase risks of political and hence economic instability, it is also a clear failure of this government to engage and solve problems for the people. Discussions rage among the citizens but they are never heard or discussed in the parliament that was meant to serve the people.

The fact is, because the government and the people are isolated from each other,  the views can never get to interact and we are unable to benefit from the wisdom of both parties to find the best solutions. Animosity and mutual distrust grows and no one benefits. The government is starting to show strain as their approval ratings fell in the most recent elections.
A much better solution would be to allow these matters to be aired, in a national forum if possible, without fear of underhanded retribution. This will help connect the people and the government that is supposed to serve them. It will also allow the government to explain why things are done and hopefully calm the people down. Open debate is the way to solve problems, not censorship, the carpet can only hide that much dirt before the bulges start showing.


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