Sat, 15 May 2004

Colonialism is not the answer

I refer to the letters of David Wallis on corruption and bringing back colonial rule as its antidote, followed by the rejoinder by John Christian Torr. In fact, Torr has done a good job in bringing out the weirdness in "logic" in Wallis' letter.

Wallis seems to assume that colonial rulers were clean and not susceptible to corruption, which is far from the truth. While they exploited the colonies, quite a few of them also feathered their nests quite nicely. So bringing back colonial rule would only mean that the money so earned would go overseas, as opposed to the present situation where the money -- at least part of it -- remains within the country.

As the saying goes, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." So whoever rules will get corrupted one day or the other. Some may justify this by saying they are collecting funds for their party, while most of them don't bother with justifications unless they are caught! If Wallis feels that Westerners are less corrupt, one should not forget that the vice president of the richest country on earth had to resign from his post in the early 1970s for taking bribes.

There is no doubt that democracy is the most inefficient form of government, as its decisions have to be partisan, populist and are easily swayed by the short-term emotions of the public at large. Quite often these decisions are compromises and not necessarily in the best interests of the nation. In fact, the only thing in favor of the democracy is that it has a "term" of four, five or seven years and one can change the government peacefully at the end of its term.

This does not mean that I am defending corruption or corrupt people. But those who give bribes are as much responsible as the people who take them. One of the richest people in the world, Azim Premji of the Wipro Group in India, is very proud of his company's ethical conduct. He has steadfastly refused to "grease palms" to get the work done. So the antidote is not colonialism, but the people themselves taking an oath not to give bribes.

As long as we don't follow the maxim "Charity begins at home", we have no right to express opinions on this subject. If we still do, it is nothing but pure hypocrisy.

K. B. KALE, Jakarta