Sunday, March 23, 2008


The elections in Bhutan sound like a really bad idea. William Dalrymple summarises the issues. (This must be a good piece as I normally try and avoid linking to the excremental mess that is the Telegraph web site.) Bhutan has successfully held out against modernity and the people don't seem to want or need democracy. (I like the fact that tourists are taxed at the rate of $200 a day. This should be applied globally.) But the King insists and, as Bhutan is not yet a democracy, there will be elections. It is strange how the idea of democracy has become such an absolute, incontestable good. I wonder if it really is. Anyway my message to the good people of Bhutan is, 'Unite, you have nothing to lose but your votes. Abstain in the name of freedom!'


  1. you can't have it both ways - the King insists on this and his word is law!

  2. In the neighbourhood, though a more topical region, a short article. One reads it and thinks simply: 'it is so'.

  3. It is so, Snakepit, thanks for that link

  4. I like the fact that tourists are taxed at the rate of $200 a day.

    While that might keep out the ordinary global riff-raff who want a packaged tour of the sites complete with gift shops, colorful local guides and lunch at McDonalds, it might actually backfire as a strategy to unburden the populace of foreign annoyances. The wealthier tourists will gladly pay the tax to vacation in a spot free of the above-mentioned riff-raff, and will probably expect a more culturally satisfying experience, meaning more intrusive into the lives of the ordinary inhabitants.

    Now these wealthy globetrotters are not only culturally curious, they are socially aware. So they can't rely on the small governments and kingdoms of Central Asia to manage their tourism industries in a socially responsible manner. Only an NGO can tell them how to ensure that all of the inhabitants share in the bounty of their tourist dollars. So, of course, the United Nations has formed the "Development of Cultural and Ecotourism in the Mountainous Regions of Central and South Asia" organization.

    The project aims to promote sustainable, community-based cultural and ecotourism in isolated mountain areas of Central and South Asia, focusing on:
    # community development and poverty alleviation;
    # reduction of rural-urban migration;
    # preservation and conservation of heritage.

    Now that doesn't sound intrusive at all, does it?

    Reduction of rural-urban migration? Is this to help the locals or to preserve the tourist experience? Sounds like they are more interested in freezing the quaint rustic culture in time, like some Epcot Center exhibit. Beware foreigners bearing good intentions!

  5. Quite indeed, Bryan! If one is truly interested in preserving the culture or envorinment of a remote geography, the absolutely best way to do that is to stay the hell away from it.

    I think of this NGO/CSO meddling as the second wave of Western Imperialism. I wrote about a similar program on the Daily Duck. On what basis do these mandarins assume that the locals want to stay in the countryside? Maybe they'd move to the city in a heartbeat if there were better opportunities. Maybe subsistence agriculture really sucks. Maybe they'd really want the chance to own an I-Pod, eat a pizza and to surf the net.

    If these busybodies were around 150 years ago, I'd be a Habitant stuck on some miserable farm in Quebec with 14 children.

  6. Reminds me of The movie Aeroplane and the attempt to teach the natives basketball.
    Incidentally, far better to have a bunch of Eurochavs descend upon you for a two day pissup than the churches ram their ideology down your throat. Mind you, both ways, they get to meet our savages.

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