Sunday, August 28, 2005

Democracy – Not all that it is cut out to be...

Democracy! The idea that the majority rules, seems to be one of the most popular systems of selecting governments and manage many affairs and situations in the world. But I say we need to continue to search for an alternative. Despite its flaws (and there are a few critical ones) we should not be blinded by the idea that the best we have now is equal to the best we will ever have.

For example, if for arguments sake, your electorate consisted of a bunch of intellectually disabled people, would you trust the outcome of any poll? This is obviously an extreme scenario but it serves to illustrate the point! Most electorates are either not fully informed of the issues or not educated enough to understand them. So how is it valid to be asking them to decide on who governs? Of course in this day and age of the internet and greater media coverage, issues are discussed much more than before but the issues have also become more complex. But sweep all that aside for a moment and look at the latest US Presidential elections. Kerry for all his intellectual prowess (compared to Bush) and experience was reduced to the simple label of "Flip Flopper" by the media. Is changing your mind about something that bad. I sure would hope that my leader would have the moral courage to change his/her mind if they knew it was for the greater good!

For another example, would a company conduct a survey of how much salary increases to offer its people? Of course not! We are selfish and we want what is best for ourselves and ourselves only. Well, perhaps, that may extend to one’s immediate family but that’s about it. If we really think people vote for policies because they think it is for the greater good, then we are seriously living in a fantasy.

I am certainly not a great supporter of democracy. Unfortunately, I have not seen a better system so I grudgingly support it in the absence of a better system. But I sure hope someone somewhere is working out some way better because the current process leaves a lot to be desired.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In Support of Klingon Culture

With all the corporate scandals in America, the recent problems at NKF and the numerous times we have witnessed issues arising because someone was “just following the bosses instruction”, it made me think of the failures in checks and balances that has allowed such things to happen. In most cases, the external institutions (e.g. auditors) that were supposed to act as the check and balance were found wanting. Anyway, external agencies can never know the details of an organization as well as those on the “inside”. So, I am implying that organizations need to police themselves. But is that possible to do effectively? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? That is when I thought about how things are done by the Klingons (of Star Trek fame).

In the Klingon world, it is well known and accepted that the duty of someone in a position of responsibility (lets say an officer) is to keep his/her superior in check. Ultimately he/she is even allowed to kill the superior officer if it is thought that the superior’s actions would endanger the common good. Of course, I am not advocating murder, but you get my point! If all those in positions of responsibility or authority have a deputy whose duty it is to be the check and balance, we would probably have less scandals, although perhaps more debates!

I believe this is similar to the concept of “dual control” which is already commonly used in Financial Institutions where much of the risk is mitigated by separating processes that entail access to money. Such processes are split into separate units (whether it is separate individuals, as in a combination to a safe, or separate departments, as in a trading room and its limits). It is precisely because this principle separation of responsibilities was negated that Nick Leeson was able to rack up such a huge position that ultimately brought down Barings Bank in Singapore.

Imagine, if every President had to look over their shoulder to ensure that the Vice-President agreed with his/her actions before doing something. If every Deputy Prime Minister was watching the PM for any poor decisions, you would probably get slower government and management but you would probably also have less risk and scandals.

Lets have a more Klingon culture I say…!