Just had a lovely dinner with David Topolewski who runs a really interesting technology firm in Beijing (www.qooco.com) and we talked a lot about what we saw as America's problems from a long way away here in Asia.
I brought up the Tom Friedman's idea of being "China for a day" - the ever smug Friedman's (in this case entirely valid) notion that China gets to make mandated smart decisions because of their complete lack of democracy and how, in small doses, it makes for some super smart plays. We agreed that America needs something radical like this to change because, as David said, "reform takes decades, innovation is far more immediate".
We then got on to Singapore politics and I pointed out that while many don't like the Singaporean system because it's far from democratic, it does work. David pointed out that in the 50's Singapore's GDP per cap was the same as Jamaica's, now look at us today. Like it or not, Singapore's mix of semi-democracy, nation building and ruthless single minded vision has worked pretty damn well.
I don't think Singapore is "China for a day". But, I do think Singapore is "China for an hour a week" and, like it or not, it's worked. The kinds of bold, long term strategies that real change demands, don't get done in this world of 49%/51% politics. Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea, but right now my Singapore Dollar is higher than ever, the property market is on fire, GDP is higher than ever, unemployment is 2.1%, we just got voted the third most popular place in the world to live and we're about to overtake Macau in terms of gambling revenue. This is a remarkable and interesting place, and people who still talk of us in terms of caning people and banning chewing gum would do well to think again!