A Meritocracy in You and Me

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Recent controversy over PM Lee's statement that those with 4As in the A levels make the best leaders have set me thinking. Is Singapore a Meritocracy or a Democracy, and which should we be.

While it is all fine and dandy to be meritocratic when it comes to education and job opportunities etc, is it really alright for Singapore's leaders to be chosen based on how well they do in written tests? Apart from the obvious flaws of the A Level and 4As as being a criteria of merit, the bigger question I have is this, should Singapore even be governed by the elite brains? Or should it be governed by the leader they choose?

And I think there's a reason why people favour democracies over other similarly meritocratic systems like aristocracies and plutocracies. The reason is simply because decision making isn't about how your policies are formulated as much as what policies are formulated. For instance, the issue isn't over whether GST hike should be 2% over 3 months or 6 months, but rather whether there should even be a GST hike at all. A democracy is meant to protect the interests of the people by giving them a direct say in representing themselves when it comes to the decision making process and this is something a meritocracy fails to do.

Yet, the situation in Singapore is much much different. Notice that there is a darth of debate over macroeconomic policies, or larger diplomatic issues during elections. In fact all the discussion there is revolves around lift upgrading, whether we're civic minded enough and all the less important issues. This unique situation is where governments tend to focus more on meritocracy than democracy. However, should this really be the case? Should Singapore continue to be a one-party state where Singaporeans essentially have no say over what the government does?