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The Concept of Corporative State and National Syndicalism

How does the corporate state work? What kind of "synthesis" does it provide?

The idea is relatively simple. If liberal capitalism produces class conflict and controlled competition in the economy because of its excessive individualism, and if Marxism supports class warfare between workers and owners, corporativism is designed to remove all conflict in the economic sector.

Labor and management rather than attempting to win gains for their respective groups are to achieve a unity of purpose in pursuit of the goal of greater productivity. To this end the state will set up various corporations representative of different segments of the economy (for example, the steel industry, the transportation industry) which will contain representatives from both workers and management. These will be organized vertically, that is, representing the whole industry, rather than the more familiar horizontal organization wherein a group or class of workers confronts a group or class of owners.

These corporations, called national “syndicates”, will be empowered to make decisions on wages and production quotas on an industrywide basis. All of this, of course, will be under the watchful eye of the party and the state.

A corporative chamber, designed to replace parliament, would contain representatives from the various corporations, and this chamber would aid in making economic decisions for the entire nation. It is primarily important as a device to eradicate the influence of selfish interests, whether expressed by a single capitalist or by an entire working class.

It must be emphasized that the goal of all this is increased productivity, social unity and collective strength. As the productivity of the nation rises through cooperative action, all citizens, whatever their status, will benefit.

Filipino left wing socialists could accommodate their own support of Filipino capitalist elements in the name of making things better for everyone. From the ideological perspective one thing stands out: Institutional arrangements are carefully constructed by the state and the party to achieve the goals of national unity and strength. Those aspects of capitalism and socialism that support these goals are maintained; those that detract are discarded. In clear control of all aspects of the economy, the state and the party construct a "third way," an alternative economic system that utilizes the best components of the other two economic systems.

The Nation is like a team, it should eat, sleep, and work as a TEAM!


The Singaporean Example

Corporativism, in a Singaporean sense? Search around on Google for "Corporatism" or "Corporativism" and you’ll find a few definitions. For brevity's sake, here’s Wikipedia’s:

“an authoritarian state, through the process of licensing and regulating officially-incorporated social, religious, economic, or popular organizations, effectively co-opts their leadership or circumscribes their ability to challenge state authority by establishing the state as the source of their legitimacy.”

As you can see, most people look at corporativism negatively. Marxists (all 18 of you out there in the world) compare it to Fascism because of the idea of "
class co-operation vs. class struggle" - eg. all workers registered under one "trade union congress" which effectively kowtows to government dictates. On the other hand, liberals scream at the absence of individual rights in such a regime, the lack of transparency of the operations of the state, and the stifling of free enterprise.

But thankfully, Singaporeans are neither marxists nor liberals. They are simply pragmatists, and so, this article will be an exercise in political framing, in a language all pragmatic Singaporeans can understand. Yes, Singapore is one big corporation, and therefore, you are all shareholders of that one big corporation. You figuratively and literally have a stake in the accumulated income of Singapore Inc., and should press your rights in such a fashion.

Certainly Singaporeans must get the message by now that the government prefers this arrangement. Two rounds of disbursements have occurred – the New Singapore Shares (NSS) in 2001 and the Economic Restructuring Shares (ERS) in 2003. A brief check at the combined
NSS-ERS website shows this year’s dividend rate at 10.9%, a good return in any given year in terms of equity and a stellar one in terms of safer asset classes (presumably a claim on a country’s income is a safer asset class?)

However, from what I understand, the quantum of shares out there are miniscule and hardly worth a sneeze at. If I were a Singaporean, I’d smell an opportunity and use this avenue to pressure the government for more, as well as a higher dividend policy. Currently its 3% + the real GDP growth rate of the previous year. I’d say go for 5% and increase the entitlement. The question is, what level of ownership (i.e. the quantum of shares) is enough to create that sense of ownership in the average Singaporean, set at an optimum level which would not impede the cashflows of the state for crucial re-investment? (presumbly the Singapore government knows this and is not talking)

If the people of Singapore understand their country as a corporation and themselves as shareholders, then many things would become clear. Minister wages make sense. Rents and tolls make sense. The COE and the ERP make sense. Even taking care of expatriates, giving foreign customers better service, and $500 fines for spitting and littering all make sense. And then, Singaporeans would be able to press for reforms that the administrative elites of Singapore would also understand, because reforms would be along the lines of corporate governance and shareholder rebellions, not democracy (corporate governance as a rallying cry has the whiff of Enron; democracy, unfortunately, has the stigma of Tiananmen).

Among other things Singaporeans should ask for:

1. Increased dividend policy as stated above

2. Natural monopolies should have break-even targets (after accounting for necessary re-investment), not profitability targets (ie. like the United States Postal Service)

3. A clear immigration policy should be spelled out, with immigration to those who have added fundamental value to the Singapore economy over years preferred above all else.

4. Public KPIs for ministers and heads of statutory boards for accountability purposes. If they're paid like the private sector, they should be liable for punishment like the private sector – susceptible to demotions, firings, retrenchments and pay reductions.

The grumblings I hear in Singapore are reminiscent of employees in big multinationals bitching about their bosses and their directors getting fat paychecks. It’s time that Singaporeans understood that while they are employees in Singapore Inc., they are also shareholders, and should act as such. It would serve them better than grousing about it on blogs.

Conversely, the state-owned media (i.e. SPH) needs to collectively internalise this political regime and start to work as shareholder advocates, rather than simply management mouthpieces (i.e. move away from being the in-house company newsletter to being the research analyst covering the company). This would give the media greater credibility than it has now, while balancing the state's desire for some control over content.

To me, that would be an interesting development in political science. A new, viable political entity for the 21st century. How's that for putting Singapore on the map?