Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Elephant In The Room

The Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) Survey was conducted over a period of two months, between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013, and completed by 4,000 Singaporeans. The strange part is that the OSC was conducted over one whole calendar year, and 47,000 people were involved. Given the importance of the objective, to determine what Singaporeans hope to see in 2030 and what their key priorities are for today, the sample size and sampling period seems anemic. Sample size is an important feature of any empirical study in which the goal is to make inferences about a population, too small a sample size results in wide confidence intervals or risks of errors in statistical studies.

Fortunately, the findings did confirm that Job Security, Healthcare and Housing are top concerns among the electorate. Next in order of decreasing ranking, Caring Government, Safety and Security, Public Transport and Education System kept Singaporeans awake at nights. We have heard the placating platitudes about Healthcare, Housing and Education System, but nothing about the elephant in the room, Job Security.

Globalisation is always fingered as the bad guy, and "competition" is the scape goat when jobs are lost or taken away.

Wu Jiaping (not his real name) is one of 200 PRC imports who will be studying at our local universities. He is spending one year at a preparatory school to brush up his competency in English before starting his 4-year degree course, to be followed by a 6-year bond working in Singapore. Wu will be spending 11 years here, 5 years of which are on a scholarship funded by Singapore taxpayers, which includes a generous stipend of $400 pocket money each month. This is way more generous than the School Pocket Money Fund allowance that selected Singaporean children are given for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for their bus fares or using it to meet their other schooling needs (Primary school beneficiaries receive $55 a month, secondary school beneficiaries $90, post-secondary institutions like Polytechnics $120). Wu said his batch is studying engineering, which means 200 engineering jobs have been allocated for this "imported competition". There are other batches involving other disciplines of study. How many more jobs are set aside for the foreigners is any body's guess.

The OSC survey report, like the White Paper, is unsigned, so we don't know who to approach to ask why the respondents to the survey felt Job Security is a top worry. Perhaps they are resigned to the fact that competing for jobs on even basis is already an uphill task, and putting faith in meritocracy to ensure their survival. Blissfully unaware of the loaded deck they have been dealt with.


  1. This whole survey is a farce. Just read the loaded questions where two options were presented. The option not favoured by the government would always contain trade-offs (example less foreigners for slower growth vs more foreigners). They didn't present to you what are the trade-offs for options favoured by the government. The government is obviously trying very hard to manipulate the minds of the respondents hoping that they would tick off the options favoured by them.

    1. Wow, so sneaky.
      Do you want to
      a) pay your kind compassionate excellent ministers $10 million salary
      b) pay $50,000 for corrupt incompetent ministers.

    2. $50,000 for corrupt incompetent ministers, after all what do you think about our ministers now??

    3. Nothing has changed since the master of illusion posed the referendum question for merger with Malaya to form Malaysia which even Toh Chin Chye thought was a sham.

    4. 10 million wow that much compassion. Shittiezens of Stinkapoor are lucky little buggers indeed. I like, no I love it.

  2. you wonder when we take our PSLE, O level and A level, english is one of the must pass subject. Failing it will jeoparlise our chances to attend tertiary education. But these imported scholar just have to attend a pre course and they can enter our university.

    1. Then you shud also wonder why some are chopped white horses in NS, some are branded "top talent" at the ripe old age of 18 years with passport to diamond-crusted rice bowl for life, why Jinx is the "best decision of Dhana's short life"...

      But you are correct - at the HSA blood bank at Outram Rd, I once encountered a PRC scholar serving his bond. I couldn't understand a word of his english when he interviewed me before I donated blood. How many singaporeans were deprived of a decent education because of some distorted idea of some old fart who thinks Beijing would value "his gift" to the communist regime's cause? Maybe he still harbours hopes of being elected mayor of shanghai,... in his next life.

    2. Same experience there with a Myanmar doc. Did not understand what she was asking and dare not answer for fear of giving false information. S'poreans have short changed for the longest time and they do not realise it.

  3. Sinkies are simply too complacent and 'bochap' themselves.
    Very UNFAIR to put blames on others

    Just ask yourself what has the people done all these years?

    1. The people are the politicians' paymaster. Shhh, not allowed to say.

  4. (this article has been taken out of circulation)
    Part 1
    Sat, Jul 12, 2008
    This article was first published in The Straits Times on 10 July

    Addressing concerns

    Three months since taking over the reins at the Manpower Ministry,
    Mr Gan Kim Yong talks about the headaches and highlights of his job.
    Excerpts from the interview:

    Inflation and income
    Mr Gan: 'We have learnt from our experience in the 1970s and 1980s -
    when wages rise in response to inflation, the outcome is not
    Then, when prices increased, pressure on wages went up and employers
    had to raise wages. Employers' costs went up and they had to raise
    prices further to support higher wages.
    This created a wage-price spiral and led to further inflation. So
    wages will never be able to catch up anyway.
    We understand the pressures employees face when prices go up. That's
    why the Government has measures like the Workfare Income Supplement
    scheme and Growth Dividends scheme to cushion some of this impact.'

    Local versus foreigner debate
    On the continuing need for foreign workers
    Mr Gan: 'Foreign workers will continue to feature in Singapore's
    labour market as they play a useful role. Some are doing jobs that
    fewer Singaporeans want to do, especially in construction. Some are
    filling in the talent gap we may have. Some are here to provide the
    vibrancy, the diversity and allow our economy to be competitive.
    We need to help Singaporeans understand that foreigners are here to
    make contributions to our nation, so they are able to accept them.'

    On views by some academics and retired top civil servant Ngiam Tong
    Dow that Singapore is too welcoming
    Mr Gan: 'Even during Mr Ngiam's time, we had a significant number of
    foreign workers from the construction sector.
    If we want to restrict numbers, there can only be two ways: Force
    Singaporeans into that sector or slow down development and have
    fewer construction projects. Instead of building the integrated
    resorts in two years, let's take four or five years to do so. It's
    possible, but not desirable.
    We are not too open. We have a quota system. When the economy is
    slowing down, we tighten the quota so there will be more jobs for
    Singaporeans. When the economy is expanding, we adjust accordingly.'

    On allowing in only foreigners who add value
    Mr Gan: 'Mr Ngiam talked about whether we should draw a line - that
    those whom we take in must be better than Singaporeans. But again,
    there would be some jobs that fewer Singaporeans want to do, like
    construction. It's not practical to draw a line. Then who's going to
    do construction jobs?'

    Joshua Chiang

  5. Part 2

    On improving earnings for low-wage workers like cleaners and
    Mr Gan: 'Many new workers have come into the market. Some of them
    are doing part-time work. So they slow down the increase in the
    lower end of the jobs.
    These jobs also reflect the operating cost of companies; so they
    have to make sure their costs are managed. Thus, some of the wages
    may not increase as fast as that in other jobs.'

    On the view that foreign workers depress such wages
    Mr Gan: 'I don't think foreigners are to blame. By getting rid of
    foreigners, it does not mean the salaries of such workers will
    automatically increase if it doesn't come with increases in
    (AsiaOne.com+/Business/+A1Story20080710+Addressing concerns)

    Joshua Chiang

    (Veritas Singapore asset inflation 1 PAP the wizards of bubbleland)
    (Is Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew the world's richest man ... - John Harding)
    (Lee Kuan Yew The Singapore Strongman « Chinese Indonesian)
    (ex Chersonesus Aurea: Dissent)

    Joshua Chiang

  6. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (George Orwell Politics and the English Language)

    (What Is Politics? — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen)
    (Obedience and Power in Psychology 101 at AllPsych Online)
    (BBC News - The psychology of the powerful)
    (Identity Politics As Outgrowths of Narcissistic Pathology | Beyond Highbrow – Robert Lindsay)
    (Politics and Education Don't Mix - P_L_ Thomas - The Atlantic)
    (Biggest Scam in History - The Federal Reserve System)
    (Mass Mind Control Through Network Television)
    (Transitional Eternity: The inequality of DPM Tharman’s equality)
    (Transitional Eternity Medi-genies to tame our healthcare costs and 6_9 population)
    (Transitional Eternity LHL’s strategic shift in shifting our focus)

    Joshua Chiang

  7. In essence, what PAP is saying is that Globalisation means rising living standards in the developing world (think myanmar, vietnam, china, india) and falling living standards in the developed world (think SG). Without protecting national local workforces, what often happened in the west (US or EU) is simply workers seeing their jobs offshored. In the case of SG however, our PM/MPs are in-shoring these cheap workers (Lower level or these past few years, PMETs in mid to top levels) to compete with our local talents. What invariably happens is - it's a toss for everybody who has either the connections/tribes to stick around. Meritocracy ie. your skills and talents (experience) up to a certain point is irrelevant.

    IN short wherever there is a totally free market the jobs will go to those who are in possession of the requisite skill set and charge the least for their services... (local PMET 20yrs vs foreign PMET 10 yrs). Why pay more when you can pay less and can 2 Headcounts? Anyone in the hiring business will know, and most probably guilty of partaking and perpetuating the same practices.

    And with multinationals the profits will accrue in whatever country has the lowest tax regime.,arbitrage in labour rates, skills and tax regimes..leading as you say to a race to the bottom.

    Welcome to SG Inc. If you haven't the slightest peabrain what it means to your survival or security, you will soon find out. By then, it will become too late to add any Opposition parties to stop their wilful actions to the citizens and the country. Because we simply didn't give David the time and opportunity to ramp up their expertise in our backyard to challenge the Golliath. Blame only yourself.

    1. peabrain I don't know la! but people tend to vote close to their pockets - where one stands depend on where one sits, tio bo? therein lies the problem with (and also the merits of) democracy too, everyone for himself, huat arghhh.

    2. The contest for labour here is based on unequal terms with advantage to the foreigner on 2 counts:

      1. They do not face deductions in their salary
      2. They do not face military reserve duties (males)

      This advantage is intentional, and the people in Government are fully aware of this.The people too know that they know and the frustration is that they still do nothing about it.

      As for the contest for the lowest, cheapest labour, yes, it spirals down. Precisely because of our geographical size and limits, we can have a quality of life as we know it now, without the pace and tempo to pursue endless growth.

      We engineer growth we can engineer slower growth. The whole trouble is the government keeps presenting only one perspective:

      Doom, gloom, death, torture, suffering, hell on earth scenarios.

      And they present only one solution to avoid it:

      More workers, more people, more GDP, more PAP.

      The opposition parties have not presented any viable alternatives except to champion for gay issues, removing death penalties,and token questions in parliament. They are good entertainers using critique and pointing to gaffs by the PAP. But no alternative.

      What will I want with more dogs and pets running around more and more parks?
      What will I want with more food courts?
      What will I want with more spaces in primary school? ( with declining childbirth??)

      Give me a job that I want to do
      Not a job that I need to do... I have lots of that at home.

    3. To Anaon 8:07am

      In other words, you are saying you are someone who has no conscience, neither the values nor principles to stand up for what is right, but let your monied landlord hold your nose so that you can butter his and your bread. Woes to the values you are imparting to your generation..and so why are we here to judge our generation who have raised them?!

      "Apathy as we think we know it, doesnt exist. But rather we do care, but that we live in the world that actively discourages engagement, by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way."


  8. /// The Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) Survey was ... completed by 4,000 Singaporeans.
    .... the OSC was conducted over one whole calendar year, and 47,000 people were involved. ///

    So does this mean it's confirmed?
    PAP has between 4,000 and 47,000 Singaporeans in their political party?

    1. I think the 47k number is too high because some "ministers" later complained (off the record) to organizers about the large number of uneasy questions at the OSC. The 4k number might also be questionable, because again off the record, there were "new citizens" who volunteered for the survey and some civil servants who were volunteered by their bosses.

  9. The survey says the majority of Singaporeans want a more compassionate society and a slower pace of life, and also indicated strong preference for the preservation of green spaces and heritage spaces over infrastructure development. In terms of values, those relating to a sense of community, nationhood and security resonated the most.

    And what are they doing about these? Hahaha. The real elephant in the room is the 6.9 million target. You don't need to be an Einstein to imagine the pace of life and compassion when you have 6.9 million packed in this red dot, and how much green you can see. As for nationhood and the Singapore core, dream on.

    1. Battery hens are turned into pet food when they can lay no more.

  10. Cases like Wujiaping is not new.
    Where in the world where govt can tell Graduates who come out of school and immediately have a guaranteed job for 6 years (in the name of bonding and repaying back their contributions) ? Didn't you see the sparkle in PM Lee's eyes when he mentioned about the 10millions of graduates coming out from China & India that is up for (PAP's) grab like as if Singapore owes these citizens jobs? Where do you think they get such entitlement about how much of a "talents" they are, that singapore needs these lots and that's because
    1) there is not enough us to go around
    2) the ever complaining singaporeans are not grateful
    3) The ever complaining singaporeans are picky and not CBF

    With these sorts of fabricated narratives going around long enough...sprouted by our MSM, govt officials and MPs/Leaders..you have to wonder what kind of lousy trade agreements have we signed off in exchange for our sufferings?
    IF these MPs so want to exploit or hire these graduates and create jobs for them, we should retire them so that they can be engaged as highly paid Political consultants to India/China and become their labour chief or politicians instead!!

    No wonder up to 6% of the PR who bought resales friends will sell off their apartment within 5 years. Because they come in as cheap labor but make money off property all these years..and you wonder why aren't they slapped a % of tax for PRs who sell off properties within 10 years? Is about time we stop treating PRs as one of us..lumping them as same data like true blue Singaporeans. Afterall, nobody knows exactly what is the SG/PR ratios in the mysterious numbers, do we?

    1. At any moment there are about 350,000 PRs in Singapore .Every
      year they give citizenships to about 25,000 in this pool, allowing them fresh PRs in. The 6% will remain rather constant as converted to new citizens will be taken off from the statistics.
      During GCT times, we were told FTs were let in to make hay while the sun shines and to reduce the number during bad times.
      However in 2009, after the financial crisis there was an increase of about 130,000 FTs over 2008, while the GDP shrank.
      They even helped the employers with the job credit schemes from the reserves.The jobless Singaporeans are sent to retraining schemes to be taken off from the employment statistics.If you stopped contributing to CPF for 6 months you are considered voluntarily retired, removed from the statistics.
      There are brilliant in painting a beautiful picture.

    2. Yup, a beautiful picture indeed. That's becoz we have given them a clean slate and canvas to begin with. But the painting is a forgery, not by the real Picasso masterpieces. Layman and experts can tell if you look and study hard enough.

    3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EPFM_s8Iuk

      If you watch this Taiwan youtube episode comparing TWN vs SG PM, you will see everything is nicely packaged about his LHL's image to his NDP address, all calculated to win back the voters for fear of a GE 2011 repeat. All these actions were done and driven internally because it's the "right thing" or was he motivated by his fear and inclination to populism? However you view it, one must not forget this. He has been a PM for 9 years..meaning 9 NDP rallies and 2 GE later, that he has only started to listen to the people and the ground?!!! How many 10 years does one have?~! In chinese is called 猫哭老鼠-假慈悲.

    4. Dont worry, he will forget what he said in the mass indoctrination exercise.

  11. Speaking of job security.

    Why hasn't anyone bring up the obvious elephant when HSK said earlier in response to young people who used unfamiliar terms about "new jobs that I have not heard of..." !!?

    These are the kinds of MPs who supposedly are paid millions to be ahead of the curve ball but have no clue where the next jobs are coming from? It shows how out of touch they are. I'm still waiting for taxi/bus drivers to ask LHL where their jobs will be after the robots take over their driverless cars in 2030?

  12. The National Rally is simply a big PR promotional exercise for our PAP leaders with some Mandarin pop songs thrown in to mask their real intentions of achieving the 6.9m target. So is the OSC, also known better as the National Con ?

    Maybe they should be honest enough to tell us whether any foreign PR company has been engaged or paid to help the PM promote their Party agenda ahead of our next GE to address the increasing dangerous trend of PAP losing their popular vote to the opposition ?

    Just think why would the old man want to criticise CSM if he is not that a serious threat to PAP as alleged ?

    1. A 6.5 million population target was mooted as far back as 2007. Here was what Mah Boh Tan said:
      "At the time of the Concept Plan 2001 review, our population was around 3.9 million and our long-term population parameter was 5.5 million. Today, our population is close to 4.5 million. We have therefore revised the long-term population parameter to 6.5 million. Bear in mind that this is not a target population figure. It is a planning parameter, which takes into account current demographic trends and population policy. It is a realistic number for the planners to base their projections and their planning methodology on, to ensure that we are ready for future growth opportunities."

      Give it to the Old Fart when he said in 2008: "I have not quite been sold on the idea that we should have 6.5 million. I think there's an optimum size for the land that we have, to preserve the open spaces and the sense of comfort." Instead, he projects for Singapore an optimum population size of five to 5.5 million for Singapore. But as everyone is aware, his about-turns need no mention.

      And these conniving assholes disingenuously sprang onto us the Population White Paper, when the NPTD (National Population and Talent Division) under DPM Teo, had been planning it for donkey years. The Old Fart threw a curve ball at the DPM in his book: "DPM Teo Chee Hean has put up a White Paper. Let’s wait a few years for it to be implemented, to see if the measures work." Kinda like playing masak masak with people.

    2. Poor things, Sinkies are toys for the Papigs to play with.

  13. Australia once rode on the sheep's back. Fair to say this glorious island's fortune are from her good sheeples' blood and sweat.
    It's so unfair to ask, what have the citizens class done for the meritocrats. Everything.

  14. When job security is of the highest concern, it only goes to prove the uselessness of the unions to represent & fight for the low and middle class.
    Today, they can keep on touting that Singapore offers "safe and secured" environment for businesses to operate which is akin to saying that Businesses chose SGP because of its strong anti-union or (non existence protests) which open up opportunity for in-shoring cheap labors/jobs for companies to continue their exploitation, not out of 3rd world slums but 1st world air-condition nation. That my fellow singaporeans, is the unvarnished truth and USP (unique selling proposition) of the PAP's price-taking position.

    1. Sin city - a glorified sweatshop, where the rich gets richer and the poor are told to make babies (GDP fodder).

  15. Part 1
    Studyworld,What Is Politics
    October 25, 2012

    What Is Politics
    On hearing the word politics, what usually springs to mind are images of
    government, politicians and their policies or more negatively the idea
    of corruption and dirty tricks. The actual definition seems to have been
    obscured and almost lost by such representations and clichés that tend
    not to pinpoint the true essence, which defines this thing, called
    politics. In order to make an attempt at a definition of politics a
    systematic approach is required. To begin with, a brief historical
    overview will be considered, to understand the origins of politics.
    Following this, different core concepts, which are imperative to a
    definition of politics, will be discussed, in the hope to discover a
    true and fair interpretation of the word politics.
    The word politics comes from the Greek word "polis", meaning the state
    or community as a whole. The concept of the "polis" was an ideal state
    and came from the writings of great political thinkers such as Plato and
    Aristotle. In his novel "The Republic", Plato describes the ideal state
    and the means to achieve it. Hence, the word politics originally has
    connotations in the ways in which to create the ideal society. An ideal
    society is in practice a rather difficult aim and even an impossible aim
    to achieve. Politics implies measures which could and should, in the
    views of their devisor, be implemented in the hope to create a better
    society, than that which is already present. The very fact that Plato
    and Aristotle saw imperfections in the societies in which they lived,
    prompted them to write their political philosophies. These philosophies
    provided the first written recognition of politics. In his writings his
    "The Politics", Aristotle states that "Man is by nature a political
    animal"(The Politics, 1) in another words, it lies deep within the
    instinct of man. It is almost primal. Due to his nature man should
    consider and realise his role within the "polis". So according to
    Aristotle Politics is not a dreamt up concept, but rather an inherent
    feature of mankind.

    To begin with, the basest premise that underpins the notion of politics
    should be considered in order to arrive at a fair definition. Man is
    self-preserving by nature. He thinks and acts, whether that is as an
    individual or as a group who share interests, with foremost regard to
    his own interests. Self-perpetuation is the number one rule. He
    therefore possesses his own interests, ideas and preferences, which may
    differ to those of his contemporaries. In the "Blackwell Encyclopaedia
    of Political Thought", Miller supports this premise:
    "Politics presupposes a diversity of view, if not about ultimate aims,
    at least the best ways of achieving them". (Miller, 1987, p.390)

    Politics consider this view of man, in that on meeting others whose
    interests oppose his own, conflict is bound to occur. What could be the
    cause of this conflict in interest? The world has its limits; all
    material wealth within it is exhaustible. Who therefore, gets how large
    a share, of those resources, which are present on the earth in limited
    supply? If man were permitted to act on and pursue his own selfish
    interests, snatching that, which he desires, a society would quickly
    become under rule of violence. Politics is a way of combating the
    degradation of society into a violent and unstructured mess by reducing
    it to be governed by the primitive instincts of man in order to resolve
    conflict. Leftwich states in his essay entitled "Politics: people,
    resources and power" from his book "What is Politics?"

    Joshua Chiang

  16. Part 2
    "...politics compromises all the activities of co-operation and
    conflict, within and between societies, whereby the human species goes
    about organising the use, production and distribution of human, natural
    and other resources in the production and reproduction of its biological
    and social life." (Leftwich, 1984, p.64-65)

    Politics therefore may be defined a means to resolving this conflict
    through various means, which will be tackled later in this essay. If
    however one was to take this premise of the existence of opposing
    opinions as false, conflict between individuals should never occur and
    politics would not be required to resolve problems. To justify politics
    however, this premise must be true and through simply considering, the
    society in which we live it is evident, that conflict exists. In his
    definition of politics in the "Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political
    Thought" Miller advocates this view, stating that if "people (were to)
    agree spontaneously on a course of action...they (would) have no need to
    engage in politics."(Miller, 1987, p.390)(Added) Thus, politics exists
    due to the broad spectrum of ideas and opinions within any society.

    To resolve conflicting opinions, a consensus must be agreed upon by all
    parties affected. Also in "The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political
    Thought", Miller cites three methods which are a feature of politics
    when resolving disagreements within society, these three elements are
    "persuasion, bargaining and a mechanism for reaching a final
    decision"(Miller, 1987, p.390). This means that politics tries to act as
    a peacemaker by offering solution(s) to conflict to the parties involved
    by means of discussion with them. The outcome will most probably require
    the yielding of at least one of the parties implicated in order to meet
    at a compromise. The mechanism is the way in which the parties make
    their final decisions based on the scenarios with which they have been
    provided. This may take the form of a vote.

    How is it that the final decision made though compromise is enforceable?
    For surely in order for politics to be of any use as a pacifier in
    strained relations it must carry some sort of authority and power.

    Politics implies power. Dahl, in Modern Political Analysis, states that:
    "a political system as any persistent pattern of human relationships
    that involves, to a significant extent, control, influence, power or
    authority." (Dahl, 1984, p.9-10)
    Certain members of a society must have the authority over other member's
    in order to enforce civil discussion in the first place. It seems to
    follow that for certain individuals to exert more power than others they
    must have the support of a large proportion over those which they have
    authority. Going back to the premise that man is at heart a selfish
    creature, it must be true that even those in power are immune to the
    effects of pursuing their own goals to a certain extent. Politics could
    therefore be defined as a power struggle between those in influential
    positions. Power can only be obtained by obtaining the support from as
    many groups and individuals as possible. This can be achieved by
    providing tempting solutions to conflicts that already exist in a
    society, whether this be in a honest or dishonest way. By appealing to
    members of a society with solutions to their problems and promises to
    act in their interests, a group or individual can gain support and
    ultimately authority over other groups and individuals. Politics could
    thus be defined as a calculating art of power gain or power retention or
    more simply as power struggle.

    Joshua Chiang

  17. Part 3
    The ultimate power is found in government. Miller continues to name the
    state as "the chief arena of politics, in the modern world. (Miller,
    1987, p.391)
    It is within this institution that all of the aforementioned takes
    place. Thus, politics could be defined as the workings of government as
    a guarantor to a peaceful society. The government is run by the
    politicians, it is the politicians who form the ideas to hopefully
    settle conflict in the society they govern. However it seems that if
    politics are the working of government those societies and communities,
    which do not possess a government, are devoid of politics. In Britain,
    we have a government so we tend to relate the politics as the workings
    of that government. However, in every community and corporation where
    there is hierarchy politics must exist. In a company for example, a boss
    makes decisions and resolves conflict. In a tribe, a leader makes
    decisions to keep internal conflicts to a minimum and ultimately ensures
    the survival of his tribe. Thus politics is present in every community
    and is used to manage workings and disagreements that may occur within
    any co-habitation. John Horton, contributor in Leftwich "What is
    Politics?" supports this view. Horton quotes from "Rationalism in
    Politics and other Essays"(1962) by Michael Oakenshott;

    "Politics I take to be the activity of attending to the general
    arrangements of a set of people whom chance or choice have brought
    together. In this sense, families, clubs and learned societies have
    their politics" (Leftwich, 1984, p.112)

    Here Oakenshott acknowledges the existence of politics in all kinds of
    human societies and communities, because of co-habitation. Horton
    however goes on to name the state as being as possessing certain
    features which make it particular from those other examples of politics
    listed by Oakenshott. These features suggest the mandatory and
    authoritarian nature of the state, when compared to those politics that
    exist in say a sports club. Politics occurs in all kinds of communities.
    Whether it be the sports club or the state government and is concerned
    with devising a method of organisation and attempting to implement that
    method of organisation within that community over which it acts. It is
    present in these communities as a necessary measure to avoid conflict
    due to those inevitable diversities in opinion and therefore ultimately
    needed to promote as peaceful an existence as possible.

    In the process of establishing the core concepts of this affair called
    politics, it is plain to see that a brief definition is virtually
    impossible. Politics is not simply an object or a single stranded idea.
    It is not a concise term but rather a complicated notion, which embraces
    premises, opinions, and qualities of human nature, actions and
    institutions. It seems to arise in those situations where humans live in
    coexistence whether that be by choice or otherwise. Any attempt at a
    definition would be to confine and customise politics to suit ones own
    particular views. Nevertheless, in fitting with the title of this essay
    an attempt at a definition shall be made.

    Joshua Chiang

  18. Part 4
    Politics is the means to creating a more organised and peaceful society,
    by providing methods to resolve conflict that naturally occurs between
    men, by means of civil discussion and rational compromise. It thus stems
    the need for violence in tense situations and ultimately looks to avoid
    the degradation of a community into utter chaos. Authority is the
    underlying feature of politics and ensures its enforceability. Power
    underpins its very existence; it is a prerequisite for politics exist.
    Without authority, politics simply is not feasible. The most visible and
    widely accepted example of politics is the workings of the governmental
    institutions. However, although at first glance one may not be aware of
    it, politics in its various forms is present wherever and whenever
    humans form a community. Referring back to the views of Aristotle,
    politics is an intrinsic feature of mankind.END.
    Aristotle (1996) The Politics and the Constitution of Athens (Cambridge:
    Cambridge University Press)
    Crick, B (1992) In Defence of Politics (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
    Dahl, R (1984) Modern Political Analysis (New Jersey: Prentice Hall)
    Leftwich, A (1984) What is Politics? (Oxford: Basil Blackwell)
    Miller, D (1987) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought
    (Oxford: Basil Blackwell)
    Plato (1987) The Republic (London: Penguin)
    (this article has been taken off-line)

    Joshua Chiang

  19. How to Write Like a Painter
    If you’ve seen the creation process behind a drawing or painting you’ll know
    that artists rarely produce a finished artwork without a rough sketch beneath.
    What starts off looking like a lopsided scarecrow eventually becomes a
    beautifully rendered person. The canvas that begins as a few splotches of color
    eventually morphs into a life portrait.
    The artist knows generally what they want to paint. What they might not be sure
    on until later is the detail. This model is incredibly useful to us. As
    producers of written content we can adapt this strategy to what we write.
    This is a simple tip, but it can increase the quality of what you write and
    allow you to produce articles faster.
    Once you have an idea for an article it’s
    relatively easy to work out what you want to say. It’s the how that trips us up,
    so often causing writer’s block. We’re trying to paint a masterpiece in the
    first sweep, when every great masterpiece grows from very humble beginnings.

    Building the foundations of a strong article
    Like a painting, the articles we write need a firm foundation to stand on. It
    requires we put up with some pretty ugly writing (for a little while).
    I use this method all the time now, and every blog post I write starts out
    looking horrible. If I published the posts as they are then I’d lose my
    readership overnight – just like any painter who tried to show off a sketch as a
    finished piece would be laughed at.

    A post like ‘Criticism: A Rite of Passage on the Web?’ (picked at random) would
    have looked a lot like this when I first sketched it out:
    1. Recognize that unconstructive criticism has no value
    2. ‘mass viewing + unaccountability = idiocy’
    3. Logic doesn’t work on an illogical person
    4. Aim to diffuse

    A little ugliness can be a good thing
    (in the beginning)
    The above ugly and useless for the reader. Without explanation, none of those
    points have value. For the writer, however, this sketch is incredibly useful.
    Rather than tacking the post as a whole, this process breaks down the article
    into manageable chunks. You’ve sketched out what you’re going to say. This makes
    the how easier.
    Flesh out your first point. Explain it. Qualify it. Define it. Say everything
    that you want about it. Once you’re done, move on to the next point, tackling
    each one at a time. As you focus on one point, don’t think about the others.
    It’s a lot easier to write one paragraph than it is to write a whole article,
    but an article is built out of paragraphs, one after the other.
    When you’re done, your sketch points can be deleted. Or they can be retained, as
    sub-headings, or emphasized sentences. If it helped you write the piece, chances
    are it will help visitors to read it.
    Give it a try: next time you write an article to publish online, first, set out
    (very loosely) your points and then flesh them out, one at a time. You could
    even write the introduction last if you like.
    The advantage of doing so is that introductions can seem a lot less daunting
    when you know exactly what you’re introducing!
    (this article has been taken off-line)
    (How to Write Like a Painter « Skelliewag.org)
    Joshua Chiang

  20. Why Great Writing Doesn’t Matter Online

    When I studied journalism last year I learned that your ability to write is
    largely irrelevant when it comes to producing hard news stories (e.g. a young
    male driver was killed last night when he collided with a passenger bus… those
    kinds of stories). The words you use are just a vehicle for what’s really
    important: facts, which ones you include, which ones you leave out and how you
    present them. In many ways, the words you choose are expected to convey the
    facts of the matter without getting in their way.
    A painting can’t exist without a canvas, but the viewer should, ideally, forget
    the canvas exists.
    I want to suggest that writing on the web is much the same. The fast pace of web
    browsing and the vast amounts of writing available have created a medium unlike
    any other.

    People don’t read online. Nor do they scan. They extract ideas, resonating with
    some and disregarding others. They do so at breakneck speed, only slowing down
    when a particular idea truly warrants it.

    If you’ve ever fretted about not being a good enough writer,
    I hope I can convince you to allay your fears. Good
    writing, clever writing, beautiful writing — all of these things are unnecessary
    in the creation of great web content. In this medium, writing is just a vehicle
    for entertaining ideas, useful ideas, novel ideas and practical ideas. All great
    web writing must do is communicate great ideas without getting in their way.

    Great headlines hint at the great ideas to follow.

    Great opening sentences hint at the same.

    Traditionally ‘good’ writing, clever turns of phrase, immaculate grammar,
    flawless spelling and crisp sentences are relatively insignificant. Clarity is
    the only necessary characteristic of good web writing. Humorous pieces and
    personal stories are the only exceptions: some degree of finesse matters for
    both, though the ideas behind the writing are still more important than any
    other factor. We read these more for the experience of ‘reading’, rather than
    what we can take away from
    The ideas I’m speaking of don’t have to be new ideas — just ideas, notions,
    concepts: nuggets of information which affect you in some way, spike your
    interest, make you feel a certain emotion, start you thinking, persuade you or
    dissuade you, stoke your biases or challenge them.

    Good ideas will shine through ‘bad’ or just ‘OK’ writing.

    Good writing can’t save bad ideas (or a lack of ideas).

    Traditionally ‘good’ writing can sometimes cloud good ideas. It’s why so many
    journalists make lackluster bloggers. They aren’t aware that their writing is no
    longer being read. It’s being mined.
    I want to add one caveat, though: clear writing that is just ‘OK’ by traditional
    standards is enough, but bad writing can be a hindrance because it influences
    the perception of your ideas. In truth, though, truly bad writing is rare. The
    vast majority of bloggers fall into the ‘OK’ category. In fact, the vast
    majority of the world’s most successful bloggers fall into this category — their
    work wouldn’t pass muster in most mainstream publications, and yet they’re
    probably read by more people (and read more passionately) than all their staff
    journalists combined.
    Average writing abilities are more than enough to write great web content.
    Average ideas are not. Your words aren’t your content — they’re just the vehicle
    for it.
    Joshua Chiang

  21. Part2
    Unless you’re a truly bad writer (and I highly doubt that you are), go easy on
    yourself. Shelf The Elements of Style. You don’t need it. Your readers aren’t
    looking for great writing — if they were, they’d look inside a broadsheet
    newspaper, a well-loved magazine or a Pulitzer Prize Winning novel. They want
    your best ideas. They want information that means something to them.
    Is that what you’re giving your audience?
    And another thing: social media is a rapid-fire trade in ideas. Writing doesn’t
    matter there, either. Different services reward different kinds of ideas. Which
    service is right for yours?
    (this article has been taken off-line)
    (Why Great Writing Doesn’t Matter Online « Skelliewag.org)
    - http://www.skelliewag.org/why-great-writing-doesnt-matter-online-246.htm
    Joshua Chiang

  22. Part 1
    An excerpt,

    The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain de Botton)
    Michel de Montaigne

    After centuries of neglect, at times hostility, after being scattered and burnt and surviving only in partial forms in the vaults and libraries of monasteries, the wisdom of ancient Greece and Rome returned triumphantly to favour in the sixteenth century. Among the intellectual elites of Europe, a consensus emerged that the finest thinking the world had yet known had occurred in the minds of a handful of geniuses in the city states of Greece and the Italian peninsula between the construction of the Parthenon and the sack of Rome--and that there was no greater imperative for the educated than to familiarize themselves with the richness of these works. Major new editions were prepared of, among others, Plato, Lucretius, Seneca, Aristotle, Catullus, Longinus and Cicero, and selections from the classics--Erasmus's Apophthegmata and Adages, Stobeus's Sententiae, Antonio de Guevara's Golden Epistles and Petrus Crinitus's Honorable Learning--spread into libraries across Europe.

    In south-western France, on the summit of a wooded hill 30 miles east of Bordeaux, sat a handsome castle made of yellow stone with dark-red roofs.

    It was home to a middle-aged nobleman, his wife Françoise, his daughter Léonor, their staff and their animals (chickens, goats, dogs and horses). Michel de Montaigne's grandfather had bought the property in 1477 from the proceeds of the family salt-fish business, his father had added some wings and extended the land under cultivation, and the son had been looking after it since the age of thirty-five, though he had little interest in household management and knew almost nothing about farming ('I can scarcely tell my cabbages from my lettuces').

    He preferred to pass his time in a circular library on the third floor of a tower at one corner of the castle: 'I spend most days of my life there, and most hours of each day.'

    The library had three windows (with what Montaigne described as 'splendid and unhampered views'), a desk, a chair and, arranged on five tiers of shelves in a semicircle, about a thousand volumes of philosophy, history, poetry and religion. It was here that Montaigne read Socrates' ('the wisest man that ever was') steadfast address to the impatient jurors of Athens in a Latin edition of Plato translated by Marsilio Ficino; here that he read Epicurus's vision of happiness in Diogenes Laertius's Lives and Lucretius's De Rerum Natura, edited by Denys Lambin in 1563; and here that he read and re-read Seneca (an author 'strikingly suited to my humour') in a new set of his works printed in Basle in 1557.

    Joshua Chiang

  23. Part 2

    He had been initiated in the classics at an early age. He had been taught Latin as a first language. By seven or eight, he had read Ovid's Metamorphoses. Before he was sixteen, he had bought a set of Virgil and knew intimately the Aeneid, as well as Terence, Plautus and the Commentaries of Caesar. And such was his devotion to books that, after working as a counsellor in the Parlement of Bordeaux for thirteen years, he retired with the idea of devoting himself entirely to them. Reading was the solace of his life:

    It consoles me in my retreat; it relieves me of the weight of distressing idleness and, at any time, can rid me of boring company. It blunts the stabs of pain whenever pain is not too overpowering and extreme. To distract me from morose thoughts, I simply need to have recourse to books.

    But the library shelves, with their implication of an unbounded admiration for the life of the mind, did not tell the full story. One had to look more closely around the library, stand in the middle of the room and tilt one's head to the ceiling: in the mid-1570s Montaigne had a set of fifty-seven short inscriptions culled from the Bible and the classics painted across the wooden beams, and these suggested some profound reservations about the benefits of having a mind:

    The happiest life is to be without thought.--Sophocles

    Have you seen a man who thinks he is wise? You have more to hope for from a madman than from him.--Proverbs

    There is nothing certain but uncertainty, nothing more miserable and more proud than man.--Pliny

    Everything is too complicated for men to be able to understand.--Ecclesiastes

    Ancient philosophers had believed that our powers of reason could afford us a happiness and greatness denied to other creatures. Reason allowed us to control our passions and to correct the false notions prompted by our instincts. Reason tempered the wild demands of our bodies and led us to a balanced relationship with our appetites for food and sex. Reason was a sophisticated, almost divine, tool offering us mastery over the world and ourselves.

    In the Tusculan Disputations, of which there was a copy in the round library, Cicero had heaped praise upon the benefits of intellectual work:

    There is no occupation so sweet as scholarship; scholarship is the means of making known to us, while still in this world, the infinity of matter, the immense grandeur of Nature, the heavens, the lands and the seas. Scholarship has taught us piety, moderation, greatness of heart; it snatches our souls from darkness and shows them all things, the high and the low, the first, the last and everything in between; scholarship furnishes us with the means of living well and happily; it teaches us how to spend our lives without discontent and without vexation.

    Joshua Chiang

  24. Part 3

    Though he owned a thousand books and had benefited from a fine classical education, this laudation so infuriated Montaigne, it ran so contrary to the spirit of the library beams, that he expressed his indignation with uncharacteristic ferocity:

    Man is a wretched creature... just listen to him bragging... Is this fellow describing the properties of almighty and everlasting God! In practice, thousands of little women in their villages have lived more gentle, more equable and more constant lives than [Cicero].

    The Roman philosopher had overlooked how violently unhappy most scholars were; he had arrogantly disregarded the appalling troubles for which human beings, alone among all other creatures, had been singled out--troubles which might in dark moments leave us regretting that we had not been born ants or tortoises.

    Or goats. I found her in the yard of a farm a few kilometres from Montaigne's chateau, in the hamlet of Les Gauchers.

    She had never read the Tusculan Disputations nor Cicero's On the Laws. And yet she seemed content, nibbling at stray pieces of lettuce, occasionally shaking her head like an elderly woman expressing quiet disagreement. It was not an unenviable existence.

    Montaigne was himself struck by, and elaborated upon the advantages of living as an animal rather than as a reasoning human with a large library. Animals knew instinctively how to help themselves when they were sick: goats could pick out dittany from a thousand other plants if they were wounded, tortoises automatically looked for origanum when they were bitten by vipers, and storks could give themselves salt-water enemas. By contrast, humans were forced to rely on expensive, misguided doctors (medicine chests were filled with absurd prescriptions: 'the urine of a lizard, the droppings of an elephant, the liver of a mole, blood drawn from under the right wing of a white pigeon, and for those of us with colic paroxysms, triturated rat shit').

    Animals also instinctively understood complex ideas without suffering long periods of study. Tunny-fish were spontaneous experts in astrology. 'Wherever they may be when they are surprised by the winter solstice, there they remain until the following equinox,' reported Montaigne. They understood geometry and arithmetic, too, for they swam together in groups in the shape of a perfect cube: 'If you count one line of them you have the count of the whole school, since the same figure applies to their depth, breadth and length.' Dogs had an innate grasp of dialectical logic. Montaigne mentioned one who, looking for his master, came upon a three-pronged fork in the road. He first looked down one road, then another, and then ran down the third after concluding that his master must have chosen it:

    Here was pure dialectic: the dog made use of disjunctive and copulative propositions and adequately enumerated the parts. Does it matter whether he learned all this from himself or from the Dialectica of George of Trebizond?

    Animals frequently had the upper hand in love as well. Montaigne read enviously of an elephant who had fallen in love with a flowerseller in Alexandria. When being led through the market, he knew how to slip his wrinkled trunk through her neckband and would massage her breasts with a dexterity no human could match.

    And without trying, the humblest farm animal could exceed the philosophical detachment of the wisest sages of antiquity. The Greek philosopher Pyrrho once travelled on a ship which ran into a fierce storm. All around him passengers began to panic, afraid that the mutinous waves would shatter their fragile craft. But one passenger did not lose his composure and sat quietly in a corner, wearing a tranquil expression. He was a pig:

    Joshua Chiang

  25. Part 4

    Dare we conclude that the benefit of reason (which we praise so highly and on account of which we esteem ourselves to be lords and masters of all creation) was placed in us for our torment? What use is knowledge if, for its sake, we lose the calm and repose which we should enjoy without it and if it makes our condition worse than that of Pyrrho's pig?

    It was questionable whether the mind gave us anything to be grateful for:

    We have been allotted inconstancy, hesitation, doubt, pain, superstition, worries about what will happen (even after we are dead), ambition, greed, jealousy, envy, unruly, insane and untameable appetites, war, lies, disloyalty, backbiting and curiosity. We take pride in our fair, discursive reason and our capacity to judge and to know, but we have bought them at a price which is strangely excessive.

    If offered a choice, Montaigne would in the end perhaps not have opted to live as a goat--but only just. Cicero had presented the benevolent picture of reason. Sixteen centuries later, it was for Montaigne to introduce the adverse:

    To learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads.

    --the biggest blockheads of all being philosophers like Cicero who had never suspected they might even be such things. Misplaced confidence in reason was the well-spring of idiocy--and, indirectly, also of inadequacy.

    Beneath his painted beams, Montaigne had outlined a new kind of philosophy, one which acknowledged how far we were from the rational, serene creatures whom most of the ancient thinkers had taken us to be. We were for the most part hysterical and demented, gross and agitated souls beside whom animals were in many respects paragons of health and virtue--an unfortunate reality which philosophy was obliged to reflect, but rarely did:

    Our life consists partly in madness, partly in wisdom: whoever writes about it merely respectfully and by rule leaves more than half of it behind.

    And yet if we accepted our frailties, and ceased claiming a mastery we did not have, we stood to find--in Montaigne's generous, redemptive philosophy--that we were ultimately still adequate in our own distinctive half-wise, half-blockheadish way. (Excerpted from The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton)

    Joshua Chiang

  26. Part 1

    The Role of Philosophy in Politics
    This post was written by Guest Post on November 10, 2009
    Posted Under: Philosophy

    Guest post by Tendai. N

    PlatoPhilosophy has an unfortunate reputation outside the world of philosophers. And even people who understand themselves to be philosophers are often poets more than anything else. One reason for this is a lack of understanding about what philosophy is, and does:
    there’s a belief that philosophy is the name given to a Sunday afternoon’s pot-addled meditations; or the name given to “what you feel strongly about”.

    To make my starting assumptions clear, I suggest the following description of philosophy. I take philosophy to be a form of inquiry, whose method0logy is based on rational argument, logical rigour, and the ability to absorb counterexamples. A philosophical claim, like a scientific one, is capable of verification or falsification, and possibly capable of observation.

    You can have good philosophy without speculation about what’s behind the universe. That’s so 19th century. Philosophy, in short, is something you do, not merely something you read or feel.

    Foundations of good political philosophy

    On the face of it that would sound like an ideal method for arriving at political positions: reason, logic, and general applicability are attractive characteristics for a political idea. But obviously political and moral philosophy (two sides of the same coin) runs into unique problems. The most glaring difficulty is that they relate to the choice of values. Individual
    lives are incommensurable, so many of their values are incommensurable too. How, then, do you justify telling somebody what to want to do?
    The weakest attempts to persuade on those lines make reference to such vague and made-up things as “duty”. I’m not being flippant in calling duties “made up”, but I’m drawing attention to the problem of treating what are essentially social fictions, as things that were ‘read of universe’. To paraphrase one philosopher I admire, “we are not conscripts in the army of virtue, we are volunteers”. In other words, the only reasons that enjoin action are personal ones. We are not in all cases, to be required to act as though we were not
    ourselves. It is, after all, a requirement of liberty to only make minimal demands on the will of an unwilling other.

    One attempt to get round this is to presume that we all want to be rational. But cognition is not magnetic, rationality is not normative – I may well have no reason to want to be rational.

    I’m not going to stop smoking, drinking or eating copious amounts of shortbread because it’s rational to stop. Reason is only applicable in so far as it allows for your chosen goals, and, possibly, in selecting those same goals. But I imagine 70% of our lives have nothing to do with reason, and don’t need to.

    OK, we might say, then “do as we say because justice requires it”. This seems a stronger argument for requiring action. In our societies, with their rigid and uneven allocations of power, unpredictable shifts in those allocations, there is a “something for everyone” appeal in a good theory of justice. In the absence of perfect future knowledge, justice as a value is basically in everybody’s best interests. Regardless of their respective weaknesses, I think this is something Cohen, Rawls and Nozick address with exceptional insight.

    Joshua Chiang

  27. Part 2

    Objectives of good political philosophy

    So we at least have a way, in principle, of arriving at a scheme of values. Should political philosophy stop there? The trouble is that a programme of values may take no account of where it must operate. And this is one point on which many philosophers who dabble in politics fail miserably, and a key reason why they are not often taken seriously.

    One of the reasons why Marx, Hayek and Dworkin are so successful in gaining influence on institutions and their agents, is because they take into account (and give an account of) how institutions in society work, and make decisions. There is a tendency in ideological discourse to speak as though our “duties” trump the social mechanisms that will allow us to fulfil them i.e. “moral duties are more important than the law”. They may or may not be, but
    that offers no advice on how to achieve those ends in a law-constrained society.

    For political philosophers to be taken seriously, they must not only prescribe values impartially, but they must also understand what it takes for an official or institutional agent
    to take and implement a decision: that to close Guantanamo Bay one must overcome a mountain of paperwork, and the resistance of unwilling institutions. Norman Geras, in my opinion, is an example of the sort of philosopher who does this well. This practical aspect of political philosophy is, I think, too often ignored by philosophers and intellectuals. If they can give useful analysis on these sorts of issues, then they become infinitely more useful.


    I don’t think philosophy is merely opinion – it’s not an alternative form of self-expression.

    And philosophers should resist the temptation to use it as a prop for their personal inclinations. I won’t name names, but the left suffers from political commentators who do just that. This is often coupled with an unpalatable cynicism and contempt for society, the West, and the politically uninterested. It causes liberals to be taken less seriously, and is a waste of intellectual energy better used in providing workable ideological and practical programmes.

    As a liberal I am perhaps naturally inclined to the rational. The magic of reason is in reducing the risk of error, and the time spent being held back by error. To this extent, philosophy can be a powerful ally to those in power. And that’s at least one good reason to do political philosophy well.
    ( http://thethirdestate.net/2009/11/the-role-of-philosophy-in-politics/)

    Joshua Chiang