Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Leopards and spots - no handouts to SPDC

The potential international donors appear to have listened to reason and refused to simply write cheques to the regime. This is the only sensible course of action. We often remark upon the irrationality of the SPDC, but this claim must be viewed in its proper perspective.

On the hand rationality relates to the relationship between ends and the use of available means. In terms of some stated ends, such as economic development, the actions of the regime are clearly irrational, leading to the very opposite outcome. In terms of their *actual* ends - maintenance of power and rent extraction - they are obviously quite rational (apart from the possibility that their oppression will in the long run be self-defeating, a proposition currently based more on hope than reality alas).

From another perspective (economic theory) rationality means consistency of behaviour, and it is this aspect of the SPDC's rationality that must disbar them from international assistance. In economic terms rationality as consistency means that the choices made by an agent satisfy at least the Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference: once an agent has chosen option A from an available set, they will not subsequently choose any of the rejected options when A is available.

The regime has already demonstrated that when faced with the choice of using available resources to save the lives of their people or using them to maintain/improve their own material and political position (stealing/rebadging supplies, failing to use military resources for rescue/relief, allocating resources to a sham referendum instead of rescue/relief etc) they chose the latter. If they are rational in a technical sense, which we believe they are, they will *always* make the same choice. They have revealed their preferences, and that evidence must preclude any guarantees on monitoring, access etc that might accompany any international assistance. In the face of their actions (and signals they have already sent in terms of the allocation of projects to Asia World Company, Htoo Trading, the Eden Group, Max Myanmar, Shwe Thanlwin etc) claims of intended compliance with specified conditions have no credibility. The Tatmadaw behaves, in effect, like a hostile army in the field in the pre-modern military era. It will continue to support itself at the expense of the surrounding citizenry as it has done for decades. Any flow of resources from outside will be appropriated for the same purpose - at all levels.

To argue otherwise is to suggest that the SPDC has undergone a road to Damascus experience in the past couple of weeks. That truly is the triumph of hope over reality. They are rational, and like the scorpion cannot fail to show their true nature via the choices they make. They should be dealt with accordingly.

1 comment:

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