Monday, 26 January 2015

Even Children Grow Up

Recently Pope Francis reminded us that freedom of expression was a "fundamental human right" like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised "without giving offense."

So why are we in Singapore restricted by laws that do not allow us to gather or express our views without applying for permits?

The ruling party and government are not backward in trumpeting their successes; not the least of which is educating Singaporeans and developing the economy?

Why deny that we have matured in these 50 years by keeping laws that can be used on anyone who speaks up?

Is our government “all mouth and trousers” (sometimes this is also expressed as “all mouth and no trousers”)?

Personally, I find it downright insulting to be treated as if we were children or sub-normal.

Mainland China set the speed record in the race from huts on dirt to landmark architecture and has taken its place as one of the major economies in the world.

China is beyond dispute a much bigger country and has diverse geography, ethnic groups, dialects and cultures that often share little in common with each other. This makes governing it a herculean task.

And yet their people generally have a greater degree freedom of expression than in many self-styled democratic countries.

A recent piece in the New York Times by Murong Xuecun questions the even-handedness of President Xi’s anti-corruption drive.

Few in our country openly attach their names to overt criticism for fear of being hauled over the coals by senior government officials in our MSM. Or, worse, hauled into court in Singapore.

This only drives irate or frustrated Singaporeans online or to tap into the grapevine, both of which do a job of disseminating real or imagined peccadillos or shortcomings of prominent people.

Isn't it worrying that people in Singapore believe in messages, texts, emails, posts on social media and word-of-mouth rumours - often over our mainstream media reports?

But the MSM sometimes has itself to blame for being slow with the news and information.

And as the main bearer of good news for Singapore it’s not surprising that they have bored readers into reducing their subscriptions or eliminating them altogether.

My grouse with the daily ST and Sunday Times is that they still have not managed to suspend (even though they are one of the few newspaper companies that do not extend one’s subscription period or credit one’s account for suspended home delivery) our newspapers when we are away.

Anytime you wish to see the emails that have been exchanged since 2011 I would happily send them to you.

A pile of unclaimed newspapers surely signals that the occupants of the home are away? I’d be livid if I lived in a terraced or other type of rather than a condominium as it would show anyone passing by that the home is left unattended – might as well display a flashing sign that says,”rob us, rob us!”

The inability of getting little things right should worry all of us. One reads about it too often – obviously training, supervision and follow up are overlooked as long as the boxes are ticked off.

There’s no doubt that our government has done us a lot of good and continues to do so. But that does not absolve them from being accountable, open and honest.

The earlier generations of leaders may have preferred to be feared than loved, but governing this way is going out of style.

Sometimes I feel that Singaporeans’ acceptance of the way things work here is due to ignorance or plain old conditioning. I wonder if fear (fear of the unknown, fear of the government, fear of loss) is gradually diminishing as people are better educated, travel widely and do not perceive external threats from occupation or war.

Luckily, our tiny country has managed to dodge the darts of ill fortune and the undertow of political currents manifest elsewhere. But for how long more?

And for how long are we going to enjoy the support of our big and powerful allies if our usefulness to their causes is in any way offset by changes in our circumstances?

We are often called a kindergarten, a nanny state. These terms persist although we are a few generations removed from the urgent need to impose such order on our people.

Maybe, in keeping with the times, our government should update itself on modern trends in child raising?

In any event, spending much time away from Singapore helps to get things into proper perspective.

Occupy Central would never have happened in Singapore. Perhaps, the ring leaders would have been detained and the movement nipped in the bud.

In any event, it happened in Hong Kong and what we thought might blow over in a few days lasted about three months.

We experienced the beginning and the end and thus were spared the long and exasperating period of planning our daily trips, taking the MTR and doing a lot more walking than usual.

The exercise was an unintended benefit for most except those who had breathing or mobility problems.

The unsung heros were the men and women who worked the MTR and pulled extra duties. They were joined by former colleagues who came out of retirement to help during the crisis so that the heavy passenger loads could be eased by running trains at greater frequency – without fuss, inconvenience or breakdowns.

No one made a big deal of this although the general populace was well aware of what was happening – as they were of the men and women in the police force.

Only near the end of OC did the South China Morning Post publish (Dec 7, 2014):

An outpouring of support for the police - driven by their front-line and often controversial role in the Occupy Central protests - has seen close to HK$10 million donated to support officers in the past month.
Officially, the force remains tight-lipped about the amount raised both internally and externally. But according to informed sources, cash donated by serving officers since a special fund was set up in October, added to the amount raised through a public fundraising drive that ends today, brings the total amount donated close to eight figures.

The fund was set up by two unions to support officers whose livelihoods were affected by the Occupy Central protests.
However, it is unclear how the cash will be spent, as relatively few officers have suffered directly as a result of the protests.”

Support for the forces was posted on web sites and in round robin emails.
These are recent samples of the messages posted on the Police’s web site:

The Hong Kong people also deserve to be given credit for being so patient even though they held decidedly strong views, most of them opposing the disruption to their daily lives and businesses.

Friday, 31 October 2014

A Riddle For You

I can’t complain -  it’s been everything but dull this afternoon. Instead of a much anticipated massage I found myself nearly at wits’ end, trying to locate a taxi driver and my missing wallet.

Life in Singapore - for me - is generally dull.

I should give up reading the Straits Times and the Sunday Times because they set me up in a lousy mood for the rest of the day, but old habits like enjoying my morning cuppa with printed newspapers are hard to break.

So a couple of times a week I have appointments for pilates or exercise to try and elevate my endorphin levels and to get me going for the rest of the day.

Little did I realize that this Halloween day would be rather different from my run-of-the mill days. Or that providence would play a part in my insignificant existence.

This morning, after working out with a Halloween ghoul in the gym, I finally got to be properly introduced to some stallholders at Tekka market - by a girlfriend who regularly shops there.

My usual haunt is Tiong Bahru market because I join a bunch of walkers (they walk too fast for me) for their après walk beancurd or coffee fix.

But the markets are complementary and I’ll probably revolve around the two. I find that if we are cooking local dishes, Tekka has the herbs and spices. And TB market has it’s specialities.

After a sweaty workout and traipsing through Tekka, I had a much needed shower and set off by bus for Suntec City to meet a friend for lunch. It was a pleasant ride of only 15 minutes because it was not rush hour and so we had a clear run down Orchard Road.

Despite signs warning bus passengers not to do things like being violent with the Bus Captain, everyone was civilised and the Bus Captain was patient with everyone who asked him if it was the right bus or which bus they should take.  And seemed to know his way unlike some who reportedly have got lost.

My mind reflected on what visitors must think of people here when they see such notices.

Anyway after catching up with my friend and her news, I decided to catch a taxi to go home - because I had two bottles of milk and was in a hurry to make my massage appointment.

Soon I was ensconced in the back of a bright yellow Citycab after telling the driver my destination, “Claymore Road”, which he repeated after me. Or so I thought.

But instead of heading for Rochor Road he headed for the Helix Bridge with Marina Bay Sands framed in the windscreen. I asked him which way he was going and he said, “AYE”.

“AYE to Claymore?”


“Whaat, why didn’t you go to Rochor Road or go to Stamford Road,” I asked. He said, “you want to go Orchard Road ah?”

At that point we stopped at a set of lights and I knew it was our last chance to avoid getting on an expressway, so I said “you better turn around now because I don’t want to pay the fare.”

It seemed to have the desired effect because we made a couple of turns and headed down Central Boulevard towards Chinatown. Home, thought, but in more than the 11 minutes that said we’d take.

The we went off course again!

I would normally have turned right off Havelock road - into Zion Road and past Shaw Centre. But he went past the turning. To be fair the two turning lanes were chock full because of some road works, but a bus was turning in front of us.

I remarked that the bus made the right turn. “Bus make turn, can get fine. Never mind, I take you by Commonwealth” he said.

My reply, “whaat, Commonwealth to go to Claymore Road? Turn right at the next junction”.

“Turn right?”

“Yes, and then go straight, I don’t want to go into Jervois Road”. Followed by, “turn left at the traffic light”.

In a few minutes as we approach ION on Paterson Hill Road, he tried to filter into the left lane.

“Noooo, go straight”.

Then the penny drops, first for him, ”Oh, my Engrish not good lah, I think you want to go Ghim Moh - you say Claymore. Claymore, Ghim Moh.”

Then also for me - no wonder he wanted to get onto the AYE and head west! But to me, Ghim Moh and Claymore did not and do not sound the same at all!

Then we arrive at home; our condo’s security guards are present. As we pulled up under the porch, he said,” Solly, ah, pay me $10 enough” when the meter showed $12.22). And I obliged.

In a hurry, I stuff my wallet back in my bag, pick up my phone and my two bottles of milk and alight from the taxi. But as soon as I walk into the lift and fumble in my bag I realized I didn’t have my wallet.

I rushed out and asked one of our guards to get on his walkie talkie to get the guards at our two entrances to stop the taxi. Being a nice fellow but a little slow he stands there and says, “ but he’s gone already”! Grrr.

The first thought was to call Citycab - I found some on their web site and I tried Lost and Found and the main booking line - both led to an identical message about holding on and experiencing a high call volume. I tried again - same result.

In desperation I dialed 999 expecting to be turned away for calling on such a trivial matter as a wallet left in a taxi.

But no, a very polite young man insisted on going by the SOP - taking down details and starting a report. I kept interrupting him to say, “please do you have a number that will enable you to reach the taxi company because I cannot get though and it’s important to reach the driver as quickly as possible?”

In the end I did finish the report and was given a report number. The policeman then advised me to follow up my report at the nearest police station which he informed me was at Killiney Road. He also said that I would be getting a call from the police.

So, feeling dejected I headed to the lift, only for the phone to ring. After a brief conversation confirming the details of my report the policeman who was on the other end revealed that they too didn’t have any special number at which they could contact the taxi company. Crumbs.

As soon as I got into our home, I called the main line at Comfort Delgro, Dial A Cab and the Customer Service Centre.

Take it from me, you get the same message - I can’t tell if they go into the same telephone or it’s a standard message throughout the company but it’s amazing how both numbers led to the same message.

I was frantic and I know that anyone trying to book a taxi would be too! No wonder commuters complain about booking taxis and at least three taxi apps (not to mention Uber) serve tiny Singapore.

The taxi companies are obviously saving money on call centres and staff, all the better for shareholders dividends no doubt!

Finally, the main line - which rang for ages - was answered and I explained my predicament to the lady at the other end. She took my name and number and said she would get one of the Customer Service people to call me back.

Which they did.

I went through the whole story again with John (at CDG’s end). At some point he also spoke to the taxi driver. Not only did it transpire that the driver was not Jee Chiow Kai whose name I noticed on the windscreen of the taxi, he was a man called Mr Lim!

Essentially, Mr Lim picked up a passenger after dropping me off and delivered said passenger to Thomson Road, near the Assisi Home.

After more too-ing and fro-ing, Mr Lim said he had checked his taxi and could not find a wallet.

After talking to John again, altogether three passengers had come and gone after Lim had dropped me off - and still no wallet!

Oh dear, I thought, the taxi driver or the first passenger must have come across the wallet and so I was at great pains to get John to convey to Mr Lim that I was going to make a police report.

I emphasized to John that I was going to say that I would tell the police that Lim was the first person that they should check with - in the vain hope he’d be more forthcoming about the fare after me. No dice, dry well.

I was about to leave home to make a police report when our home phone rang.  I answered it.

A quiet well spoken man asked if I was “Elizabeth” and I answered, “yes” - all the time wondering how in the world he knew a name I was given shortly after birth but did not use (it figured in my official documents until 2005 when I shortened my unwieldly name).

This unknown caller informed me that he had found my wallet by the roadside near our home and apologized for looking inside to try and identify the owner.

He piqued my curiosity even more when he said he had an appointment in JB at 4:15 and that he was now at Woodlands and would return my wallet later tonight or tomorrow.

He also said that because of his appointment he was reluctant to bring the wallet to a Police station as it would take time and he had this pressing appointment.

I pleaded with him that as I was leaving early tomorrow, I needed the wallet urgently.

He said he was handing his taxi over to another driver, someone else called Hussain who would try to come later to hand it over. I said I’d be happy to pay the fare equivalent.

With a little prompting the called said his name was Irwan (I later took his number from our Caller ID) and that his taxi number was SHB 5839J.

I called Citycab and immediately (nothing short of miraculous) connected with the Customer Care duty person. It was John again. I gave him the taxi number which he checked out and reported that it was not a Citycab.

At about 5:30p I received a call (no called ID was displayed) by a man who identified himself as Hussain who said he was on his way to return my wallet.

Within minutes, our security guards (by then all those on duty were intrigued and wanted to know what was happening) buzzed to say that someone was here to return my wallet.

When we went downstairs we noticed an SMRT taxi and a man holding a small blue plastic bag (the sort shops pack stuff in). He handed it to me and, lo and behold, my missing wallet. I took it out and unzipped it - and everything looked to be present and accounted for!

You could have knocked me down with a feather.

I thanked Hussain, extracted some money from the wallet and handed it to Hussain. He politely decline but I was adamant that he should take it and share it with Irwan who had found the wallet.

I asked where Irwan picked up my wallet and was told he found it, I think, when he stopped and opened his door.  Try as I might, I could not make sense of it.

How could a passing taxi driver notice or stop almost on top of a 20cm x 14cm black wallet on or by the side of a road?

But then only Irwan would know and he was not here.

All I can think of is that someone tossed it out of the first taxi, but who and why?

Why not remove the cash, cash card, EZ Link card first?

I could not remove sceptical looks on our security team’s their faces - even after I reassured them that everything was there.

Over to you, Sherlock!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Some of these writer's opinions are universally relevant

My ruminations are in red.

EXCERPTS from WSJ REVIEW, 7 June 2014.

Twenty-five years after Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama finds that liberal democracy still has not rivals on the world stage. The big challenge for todays elected government: decay.

When observing broad historical trends, it is important not to get carried away by short-term developments. The hallmark of a durable political system is its long-term sustainability, not its performance in any given decade.

Let's consider, to begin with, how dramatically economic and political systems have changed over the last two generations. On the economic front, the world economy saw a massive increase in output, roughly quadrupling between the early 1970s and the financial crisis of 2007-08. Though the crisis was a large setback, levels of prosperity throughout the world have increased massively and on all continents. This has come about because the world has been knit together in a liberal system of trade and investment. Even in communist countries such as China and Vietnam, market rules and competition dominate.

Huge changes have taken place in the political sphere as well. In 1974, according to the Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond, there were only about 35 electoral democracies, which represented something less than 30% of the world's countries. By 2013, that number had expanded to about 120, or more than 60% of the total. The year 1989 marked only a sudden acceleration of a broader trend that the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington labeled the "third wave" of democratization, a wave that had begun with the transitions in southern Europe and Latin America some 15 years earlier and would later spread to sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The emergence of a market-based global economic order and the spread of democracy are clearly linked. Democracy has always rested on a broad middle class, and the ranks of prosperous, property-holding citizens have ballooned everywhere in the past generation. Wealthier, better-educated populations are typically much more demanding of their governments—and because they pay taxes, they feel entitled to hold public officials accountable. Many of the world's most stubborn bastions of authoritarianism are oil-rich states such as Russia, Venezuela or the regimes in the Persian Gulf, where the "resource curse," as it has been called, gives the government enormous revenues from a source other than the people themselves.

"He who pays the piper calls the tune" is an over simplification, but there is something to it. 

You only have to look at how politicians make promises (some much exaggerated and untruthful) in countries where they have to win relatively open and free elections. 

And you'd be surprised when dealing with government employees (e.g. in USA) how helpful they try to be - unlike in 'newly developed countries' and many in Asia (I have not experienced bureaucracy in South America or Africa nor some parts of the European continent).

Even granting the ability of oil-rich autocrats to resist change, we have since 2005 witnessed what Dr. Diamond calls a global "democratic recession." According to Freedom House, which publishes widely used measures of political and civil liberties, there has been a decline in both the number and the quality of democracies (integrity of elections, freedom of the press, etc.) over the past eight consecutive years.
But let's put this democratic recession in perspective: While we may worry about authoritarian trends in Russia, Thailand or Nicaragua, all of these countries were unambiguous dictatorships in the 1970s. Despite those thrilling revolutionary days in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011, the Arab Spring doesn't look like it will yield a real democracy anywhere but the country where it started, Tunisia. Still, it is likely to mean more responsive Arab politics over the long haul. Expectations that this would happen quickly were extremely unrealistic. We forget that following the revolutions of 1848—Europe's "Springtime of Peoples"—democracy took another 70 years to consolidate. 

In the realm of ideas, moreover, liberal democracy still doesn't have any real competitors. Vladimir Putin's Russia and the ayatollahs' Iran pay homage to democratic ideals even as they trample them in practice. Why else bother to hold sham referendums on "self-determination" in eastern Ukraine? Some radicals in the Middle East may dream of restoring an Islamist caliphate, but this isn't the choice of the vast majority of people living in Muslim countries. The only system out there that would appear to be at all competitive with liberal democracy is the so-called "China model," which mixes authoritarian government with a partially market-based economy and a high level of technocratic and technological competence.
Yet if asked to bet whether, 50 years from now, the U.S. and Europe would look more like China politically or vice versa, I would pick the latter without hesitation. There are many reasons to think that the China model isn't sustainable. The system's legitimacy and the party's ongoing rule rest on continued high levels of growth, which simply won't be forthcoming as China seeks to make the transition from a middle-income country to a high-income one.

Even countries whose governments are legitimately elected face economic transitions and uncertainty as their economies adjust in anticipation or in response to changing circumstances. Sustaining growth and income, year on year, becomes increasingly challenging.

China has accumulated huge hidden liabilities by poisoning its soil and air, and while the government remains more responsive than most authoritarian systems, the country's growing middle class likely won't accept the current system of corrupt paternalism when times get tough. China no longer projects a universalistic ideal beyond its own borders, as it did in the revolutionary days of Mao. With its rising levels of inequality and the massive advantages enjoyed by the politically connected, the "Chinese dream" represents nothing more than a route for a relative few to get rich quickly.

This danger is not only China's. There are 'pork barrel' politics and examples of 'crony capitalism' in the Western democracies too.

None of this means, however, that we can rest content with democracy's performance over the past couple of decades. My end-of-history hypothesis was never intended to be deterministic or a simple prediction of liberal democracy's inevitable triumph around the world. Democracies survive and succeed only because people are willing to fight for the rule of law, human rights and political accountability. Such societies depend on leadership, organizational ability and sheer good luck.

While there is no accounting for loads of good luck (or bad luck) the rule of law, human rights and political accountability are vital. Stagnating leadership and lack of organizational experience more than offset brilliant academic minds especially in an environment of denial.
The biggest single problem in societies aspiring to be democratic has been their failure to provide the substance of what people want from government: personal security, shared economic growth and the basic public services (especially education, health care and infrastructure) that are needed to achieve individual opportunity. Proponents of democracy focus, for understandable reasons, on limiting the powers of tyrannical or predatory states. But they don't spend as much time thinking about how to govern effectively. They are, in Woodrow Wilson's phrase, more interested in "controlling than in energizing government."

Individual opportunity is key, even if only a hope that exists in one's mind. Extinguish or suppress aspiration and you snuff out any spark of enthusiasm or desire to excel - for what would be the point of making the effort?
This was the failure of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which toppled Viktor Yanukovych for the first time. The leaders who came to power through those protests—Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko—wasted their energy on internal squabbling and shady deals. Had an effective democratic administration come to power, cleaning up corruption in Kiev and making the state's institutions more trustworthy, the government might have established its legitimacy across Ukraine, including the Russian-speaking east, long before Mr. Putin was strong enough to interfere. Instead, the democratic forces discredited themselves and paved the way for Mr. Yanukovych's return in 2010, thus setting the stage for the tense, bloody standoff of recent months. 

This is the threat used on people everywhere and most of it is true; people unaccustomed to self-government or live in countries that have only known one type of rule have to go through trials and hardship if and when governments change. 

However an effective and efficient public administration would ameliorate the suffering and minimise the chaos; would middle and senior public servants would abandon their offices en masse? They would be forsaking their salaries and benefits and give up chances to rise faster in a time of opportunity.

So it's a matter of voting in clean hands who might make learning mistakes or keeping old hands who certainly would know where the dirt is and might have contributed to its accretion.

India has been held back by a similar gap in performance when compared with authoritarian China. It is very impressive that India has held together as a democracy since its founding in 1947. But Indian democracy, like sausage-making, doesn't look very appealing on closer inspection. The system is rife with corruption and patronage; 34% of the winners of India's recent elections have criminal indictments pending against them, according to India's Association for Democratic Reforms, including serious charges like murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. 

The rule of law exists in India, but it is so slow and ineffective that many plaintiffs die before their cases come to trial. The Indian Supreme Court has a backlog of more than 60,000 cases, according to the Hindustan Times. Compared with autocratic China, the world's largest democracy has been completely hamstrung in its ability to provide modern infrastructure or basic services such as clean water, electricity or basic education to its population. 

In some Indian states, 50% of schoolteachers fail to show up for work, according to the economist and activist Jean Drèze. Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist with a troubling past of tolerating anti-Muslim violence, has just been elected prime minister by an impressive majority in the hope that he will somehow cut through all the blather of routine Indian politics and actually get something done. 

We often read or hear about the necessity of the rule of law. Laws are made by man and are changed or interpreted by man. Look no further than the USA to see how fame, money and influence can make a difference in the way justice is served.

It's always an uphill effort to take on a government in their own courts. In some countries it is futile.

Americans, more than other people, often fail to understand the need for effective government, focusing instead on the constraint of authority. In 2003, the George W. Bush administration seemed to believe that democratic government and a market-oriented economy would spontaneously emerge in Iraq once the U.S. had eliminated Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. It didn't understand that these arise from the interaction of complex institutions—political parties, courts, property rights, shared national identity—that have evolved in developed democracies over many decades, even centuries. 

In this day and age it IS possible for major changes happen without total disruption; human beings are adaptable or how could we have survived for so long? How long it takes depends on the new rulers, the public administration and myriad other factors, but it is not impossible.

The inability to govern effectively extends, unfortunately, to the U.S. itself. Our Madisonian Constitution, deliberately designed to prevent tyranny by multiplying checks and balances at all levels of government, has become a vetocracy. In the polarized—indeed poisonous—political atmosphere of today's Washington, the government has proved unable to move either forward or backward effectively.
Contrary to the hysterics on either side, the U.S. faces a very serious long-term fiscal problem that is nonetheless solvable through sensible political compromises. But Congress hasn't passed a budget, according to its own rules, in several years, and last fall, the GOP shut down the entire government because it couldn't agree on paying for past debts. Though the U.S. economy remains a source of miraculous innovation, American government is hardly a source of inspiration around the world at the present moment.

While the American president seems to blow hot and cold on issues and would rather move his position than follow up on threats, present day American government has its admirers.

It's the way in which elections are conducted and Americans elect their President which is in need of repair and improvement.

It's fiscal clout and economy - as long as the financial world and all forms of commerce transact in US Dollars and Americans continue to be conditioned to spend - is both a firewall and a hammer.

Not many other countries can live like America, no matter what a feckless government it may have. There's always the consolation that like so many things in life, this too will come to pass!

Twenty-five years later, the most serious threat to the end-of-history hypothesis isn't that there is a higher, better model out there that will someday supersede liberal democracy; neither Islamist theocracy nor Chinese capitalism cuts it. Once societies get on the up escalator of industrialization, their social structure begins to change in ways that increase demands for political participation. If political elites accommodate these demands, we arrive at some version of democracy.

But 'closed shops' make it much more difficult for new leaders to come to the fore. Use of the carrot and the stick: making life unpleasant for new politicians combined with sweet offers to attract newcomers to the ruling elite does work. Question is - for how long?

The question is whether all countries will inevitably get on that escalator. The problem is the intertwining of politics and economics. Economic growth requires certain minimal institutions such as enforceable contracts and reliable public services before it will take off, but those basic institutions are hard to create in situations of extreme poverty and political division. Historically, societies broke out of this "trap" through accidents of history, in which bad things (like war) often created good things (like modern governments). It is not clear, however, that the stars will necessarily align for everyone.

A second problem that I did not address 25 years ago is that of political decay, which constitutes a down escalator. All institutions can decay over the long run. They are often rigid and conservative; rules responding to the needs of one historical period aren't necessarily the right ones when external conditions change.

Whether it's decay or perpetuating mediocrity, such political inbreeding is unhealthy in the long run. Unless, of course, citizens choose to keep their governments. In which case, they deserve what they get.
Moreover, modern institutions designed to be impersonal are often captured by powerful political actors over time. The natural human tendency to reward family and friends operates in all political systems, causing liberties to deteriorate into privileges. This is no less true in a democracy (look at the current U.S. tax code) than in an authoritarian system. In these circumstances, the rich tend to get richer not just because of higher returns to capital, as the French economist Thomas Piketty has argued, but because they have superior access to the political system and can use their connections to promote their interests.
As for technological progress, it is fickle in distributing its benefits. Innovations such as information technology spread power because they make information cheap and accessible, but they also undermine low-skill jobs and threaten the existence of a broad middle class. 

One can see this in the USA today.

No one living in an established democracy should be complacent about its survival. But despite the short-term ebb and flow of world politics, the power of the democratic ideal remains immense. We see it in the mass protests that continue to erupt unexpectedly from Tunis to Kiev to Istanbul, where ordinary people demand governments that recognize their equal dignity as human beings. We also see it in the millions of poor people desperate to move each year from places like Guatemala City or Karachi to Los Angeles or London. 

Yet immigrants (legal and illegal) flock to the USA. As well as to any country that can offer them the promise of a better life - better jobs, higher income, quality of life.

Does this mean that such countries do not have to 'liberalise'? Time will tell.

Even as we raise questions about how soon everyone will get there, we should have no doubt as to what kind of society lies at the end of History.
Mr. Fukuyama is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the author of "Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy," which will be published on Oct. 1 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.