James Crabtree: What is the Impact of Coronavirus on Technocracies?
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, James Crabtree, journalist, policymaker, and author of The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age, discusses whether this the beginning of the end for democracy in countries like Singapore.
From the episode:
James Crabtree: Singapore does have a functional democracy. It’s just one where one party has won every single time since the country was independent, but it does have a multi-party democracy and it has elections that are free and fair. I think the difference is more that some of the civil liberties that really vex people in the West, both in the Anglo countries and in countries like Germany, people worry about much less here. So there’s no real anxiety amongst the mass population about things like contact tracing apps and the privacy implications coming with that.
In some of the most successful East Asian countries, not only do you have the fact that Taiwan and South Korea and Singapore have built very competent governments now clearly, in many ways, more competent than those that they were previously inspired by in America and in the UK, but also there’s just less concern about hard protections for civil liberties.
So with something like contact tracing, if the Singapore government decided they were going to make contact tracing mandatory as part of their attempts to normalize the situation, people would accept that without too much complaint, particularly as long as it was temporary and until things were back under control. So I don’t think it’s the end of a form of democracy, but I think that this is a different kind of democracy that you have here, and in some ways, it has been one that has made it slightly easier to fight the pandemic
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James Crabtree is an associate professor of practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He was formerly the Mumbai bureau chief for the Financial Times.