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What’s Missing From the 2% GST Hike?

Posted by inspir3d on February 28, 2007

Why are principles, philosophies, constitutions, treaties and “isms” often attached to schools of thought? Isn’t it enough for policy makers to say, “no one will be left behind” or “we will help those who need help.” After all where is the complexity here, they (the policymakers) are even using plain and simple English (presumably for our benefit) to express a clear intention to render assistance to the needy. So what is all the fuss about? Why complicate our already complicated lives by trying to define and delineate the spirit and intention of the recent 2% GST hikes? Besides we all know any attempt to define anything these days is simply an idle, academic pursuit which never amounts to anything of practical value. What do you think really? I am interested to know – but before you rush off to answer this question. Let’s consider why historically man has traditionally seen the need to define schools of thought ranging from welfare, political theories, tools of statecraft, conventions, codes of conduct and even something as trivial as the Japanese tea ceremony.

Contrary to popular belief the practice of defining a school of thought and embodying them in a logical construct such as a philosophy is not simply an academic convenience that serves those in ivory towers. It’s all about gaining a better understanding of ourselves and how we may choose to make sense of our environment and remain relevant — and since humans are naturally prone as Paul Krugman mentioned to “maximize on opportunities to materialize either an advantage or utility,” we can’t even be expected to trust ourselves any more than Dracula can be entrusted to manage the blood bank. If for one moment you consider this a wild and unsubstantiated statement, consider the enduring issue of man’s avarice or how even a modicum of power continues to corrupt him no end and how since the beginning of time stretching all the way back to the Roman period, jurists have traditionally perceived the wisdom of using a guiding or governing philosophy to rein in the fallibilities of man and his nefarious ways, be it the notion of natural justice or the separation of powers. In every case the intention is to instill discipline and coherency into a system that would otherwise be open to abuse of power.

What this means is ascribing a philosophy to an act, be it justice, help, assistance or how best to care for a pet is hardly a useless, dead-end pursuit. It serves a very specific purpose, namely to facilitate the logical and careful thinking process associated with systematic reasoning, and an ability to ask and address difficult questions will allow the attributes i.e assistance, help or justice to remain relevant and more importantly remain true to the spirit and intention which it was originally designed to addressed. That’s the reason why the founding fathers labored over the American constitution, not because it looked terribly good hanging over a fireplace and doing so they incorporated checks and balances such as the notion of constitutional law to guarantee enshrine the philosophy of separation of powers. By dividing the legislature, executive and judiciary into three distinctly independent segments they created the means not only for the democratic process, but also provisioned the source to nourish and renew it to keep abreast of modern developments. It’s an enduring system and despite its many faults, continues to serve as a model to perpetuate the political oligarchies of most of the Western world, thus perpetuating democracy and bringing peace, prosperity and guaranteeing freedom to millions of people on this planet. More importantly, it serves to remind man, he is never above his mandate to serve and power no matter what it’s guise reduces one to merely its custodian – no more and no less – thus emphasizing the notion of service above all else.

Ascribing a governing philosophy to the 2% GST hike requires nothing short of a commitment on the part of our government (I have no illusions here) to ensure this provision remains only for the poor and continues to remain relevant and useful. It will also mean the philosophical problems of rationality, knowledge, perception, free will along with the problems of evidence, decision making, responsibility and ethics that is associated with “assistance” or “help” need to be coherently fleshed out and this could be the reason why the government continues to remain stoically silent about the philosophy (I want to make it clear, I stand to be “corrected,” but one of the reasons why the brotherhood press has remained silent about the issue of 2% GST hikes is because we have been waiting very patiently for a “help” philosophy to be rolled out to justify these increases. The fact that no such philosophy has even been discussed in parliament or has even been given a cursory examination by both parliamentarians and academics remains bizarre and disturbing.)

It’s disturbing because it throws out the question, can these increases be effectively directed to the poor and needy in the absence of a governing philosophy? This is a question that I have to place before all of you, otherwise I will be accused of “interfering” (there are many posts in the internet which suggest, I darkness possess the power of mass hypnosis – you can google it, if you don’t believe me!)

However before you answer the question consider this: is it possible for a “help” or an “assistance” program to remain coherent and relevant, if it isn’t complimented with the philosophies associated with help and assistance in the generally acceptable academic context, namely welfare? Is it possible? Though parliamentarians may legislate on issues, how do those at the grass roots level make sense of these edicts? What will they fall back on as the terms of reference in the absence of governing philosophies, that will serve to define, clarify and render clear and unambiguous, if there is doubt or when grey areas undoubtedly emerge?” I am asking you because I really don’t know (I am a simple man, I don’t try very hard to pretend, if I don’t know. I tell you I don’t know). How would the instrument which makes possible the “help” and “assistance” continue to perpetuate and develop coherently in the absence of a philosophical paradigm? Again I don’t know, could someone explain to me how this can be logically accomplished? Above all, how do we guarantee this 2% GST hike will keep to the spirit and intention of its original appeal, that is to “help” and “assist” the poor? Again I have no answers.

Those who firmly cling to the notion that philosophies are not important, fail to look at the works of ancient Greek philosophers, they were asking the same questions which modern philosophers ask today. And they are still not getting the answers, but ask they will, because man is after all a thinking animal and to say it is irrelevant, is to suggest man knows best, when we all know only too well that’s never the case. By continuing to ask questions we are for a lack of appropriate word simply looking towards a beacon, if nothing else, it reminds us there is a light that will hopefully guide us all back to a place, where we can be counted to do what is right for others and not ourselves.

We just desperately need to fill in the blanks that will make all the difference in the world to those who really need “help” and “assistance.”

(By Darkness / Politics / Econs / EP 9938843-2007 / The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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24 Responses to “What’s Missing From the 2% GST Hike?”

  1. chronicler said

    Dear lady of the lake,

    Darkness has transmitted this message from the star cruiser orbiting the Arullein system. He is onboard the star cruiser, “Liberati.”

    Transmission code: 0083993/ 003/ 22

    “I want to talk to you about serendipity and chance, about those rare, random moments when you just happen to fall silent and still and the world simply stops spinning.

    I want to talk about the early September frost, about harmony and blissful repose, about branches dipping into the lake and the sparkle of the morning dew beneath the awakening day.

    I want to talk about being frivolous and aimless, about the pleasures of silence and stillness, about what happens when you simply know everything is feels warm and pleasant and you are at one with the universe.

    I want to talk you. You will allow me. It has been nearly two years an eternity in a sea of time and longer.”

    Darkness has only one hour before he departs for the Arullien system, our navigators will take over your terminal within one hour, please disable all programs including your security, we have been instructed to deliver you to him in the virtual. He wishes to spend, “a moment with you” to share something he has created, a galaxy in the great hall.

    He extends this most affectionate greetings and ends his transmission with the words, “by your command always, darkness.”

  2. brightness said

    Saying what you mean is not the same as meaning what you say — what exactly are you trying to say, Darkness?

  3. shoestring said

    Brightness, if you are referring to the main post, let me share my interpretation of it:

    Promises like, “no one will be left behind” or “we will help those who need help” do not make much sense when uttered together with, “Welfare is a dirty word.”

    What is welfare? Can it actually be dirty word?

    It’s some kind of oxymoron.

  4. Harphoon said

    Brightness,

    Correct shoestring. Just to add on. I believe what darkness is trying to highlight is the danger associated with just using the word “help” and “assistance” without coupling it with any complimentary philosophy. The philosophy in this case refers to a body of knowledge that specifically addresses the how’s and why’s of “help” and “assistance.” More importantly the body of knowledge can be referenced and has wealth of historical precedents both quantitative and qualitative which will allow policy makers to make better decisions to keep it focused and effective. I am of course referring to economics which may take the form of the collected works of Galbraith along with the standard toolsets develop by Edgeworth, Sidgwick, Marshall, and Pigou, but his point is very clear: it is not possible to do the work without the right tools.

    The reason why darkness believes it is dangerous, is because when the word help is routinely used in a loose manner without one being able to reference it. Then eventually the whole process will lose transparency and become a black box. No one would even be able to empirically determine whether those people who need help will actually receive it or whether it will even be effective because the entire exercise doesn’t even subscribe to a coherent model. Neither will bureaucrats who are charge with helping or assisting have a clear line of sign because the vision or goal remains vague and fuzzy, help and assistance after all means different things to different people. Most of all when the word help is routinely used without a complimentary philosophy eventually it will just be a cliché and there is a danger people will simply get jaded and say, “yeah sure you are going to help.” So in the long run it is lousy for moral of even those who are willing to support help and assistance. I think that was his main grouse, that was why we wanted to wait for the philosophy before commenting, but as you can see it came without one and that I believe was a great disappointment to him. Because he believed they could have done a better job.

    The main issue that really disturbed darkness was the failure to commit and this is where you need to understand welfare is a bit like getting pregnant, you are either positive or negative. You cannot be partially pregnant. The government could have bought into a lower level of welfare i.e scale of one to ten, they could have even opted for a 0.1, but call a spade a spade, that would have been good enough, but not making a commitment simply creates doubt and suspicion. It is not wise.

  5. maya said

    Somewhat long winded.

    The thinkers yesterday meant to question all. No necessary raison d’etre there. The primacy to think through basics had, in itself, an inherent must – a philosophical righteousness in search of knowledge. Ascribing a secondary cause as the corrupt nature of men(“falliability” as you call)was just not it. However, from the examination of what are basic states arose the construct of guiding principles and corresponding values etc.

    The varying answers that men got on natural states (and what caused them in the 1st place)allowed the regulating of man’s place in society and his relationship with others. That Man was born free, has common basic wants etc imposed limits and an ethical dimension in systems of governance.

    Wary and circumspect it should be that the empowered presume mandates. Which is why changes to the constitution require a 2/3 majority. I think we can safely say that there are MPs in our legislature who are not aware of basic rules as this -the long years of dominance, presumptions and an afflicted sense of superiority has sunk the foundation to invisibility. So we talk at superstructure level in parliament, the Judiciary ensures compliance (to the laws of parliament – I do not want to be misunderstood here) and the people are merry and unaware excepting those at crises boundaries.

    There might be an argument that there are differences in the socio-political systems between the East and the West. Its debatable. There might also be an argument that all laws, being man made, should allow for quick changes and flexible interpretations for the cause of efficiency and adaptability. This too, to my mind, is highly debatable.

  6. Harphoon said

    There might be an argument that there are differences in the socio-political systems between the East and the West. (I think these lexicons have always been traditionally used to shore up facile arguments which simply cannot stand up to the rigor of robust scrutiny. Just to point the way, when catholics were burning heretics on the stake in Europe. Emperor Akbar was passing laws to enshrine the freedom of right of all creeds to worship. This goes a long way to debunk the divide between East and West. Besides such lexicons hardly mean anything in the age of globalization. I am sorry, I dont see how it is relevant, unless you can prove to me we are genetically or so culturally different from those in West. The fact that you and me are having this exchange in standard english and we do so with sweeping reference to western philosophy only serves to illustrate how ludicrous this distinction between East and West is or how it may be relevant to the points brought up by darkness.) Its debatable. There might also be an argument that all laws, being man made, should allow for quick changes and flexible interpretations for the cause of efficiency and adaptability. ( what makes you thing subscribing to a philosophy necessary implies stasis. On the contrary even the declaration of independence allows for ammendments. There are after warehouse loads of provisions and instruments that can accomplish this. Infact subscribing to a governing philosophy allows for greater flexibility because it provides plenty of avenues for others apart from policy makers to take up an equity in the improving the process, so again I really cannot see how your observations have any bearing on this discussion. Nonetheless thx) This too, to my mind, is highly debatable.

  7. Harphoon said

    Your post was not clear. I apologize if I didnt get it the right end of the stick.

  8. anon said

    hello

    Wild snake oil polemics masquerading as seminal treatise. Philosophy = checks and balances. Where did you get that from? The help provision will spin out of control without a complimentary set of philosophies? How would you then explain the unwritten constitution of the UK? Isn’t this perhaps a model which serves to provide ample proof, it is still possible to accomplish the goal without necessarily subscribing to a set of fix points? What the bro press doesn’t seem to understand is this is a very complex debate and there are countless social and historical issues which need to be effectively harmonized if we are to secure progress. this is hardly an exercise in simplicity, though for some reason, he con’ts to insist from his disparaging style it is. The last thing we need is to mechanically buy into a welfare program only to back track away from it from it. This is why a cautious strategy would serve us well. I strongly believe our govt has a strategy of implementing welfare incrementally and this of course means they should be given time to conduct their feasebility studies etc. After all despite some of the short comings darkness has pointed out. I am sure even he would agree this is a very big step that our govt has taken. In the past any talk of help was shot down per se. So instead of whole heartedly supporting it, why is the IS supporting a group of people who seem quite content to pooh pooh such a laudable effort? I don’t doubt there are merits to darkness POV, but I believe his views can hardly be considered exhaustive or representative of the whole picture. Do try to have a nice day, it is raining.

  9. anon said

    Hello again,

    Darkness is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic and creative characters ever to emerge from our staid internet doldrums. He was the first to have successfully pioneered on line story telling as an enterprise. If memory serves correcly, it was not unusual for him to turn in 5 figure revenues every week from just churning out his online trite and melodramatic stories. Perhaps he should just continue to focus on this area and even develop it for the sake of our country. After all the internet holds the great promise. It seems to me many of his readers have this misconception just because he excels in fairy tales, he is also equally proficient in serious subjects. However, when he tries to do so, the mood is strained and he is obviously challenged beyond his intellectual reach, often confusing reality with fiction and regrettably coming across as a veritable bore, but I am sure his fans are all too polite to tell him so. After all such is the case of a man is it not, the problem is never in the stars, its in man himself. Very sad indeed. Good day!

  10. cowboy caleb said

    Hello 🙂

    I am not supporting our garmen, but why does help and assistance have to be necessarily linked to welfare? I know when the garmen increase by 2% it 100% cannot be charity, but I am sure there are other management tools that they can use beside welfarism.Thanks for the view from the top.

  11. cowboy caleb said

    Darkness.

    “is it possible for a “help” or an “assistance” program to remain coherent and relevant, if it isn’t complimented with the philosophies associated with help and assistance in the generally acceptable academic context, namely welfare? Is it possible? Though parliamentarians may legislate on issues, how do those at the grass roots level make sense of these edicts? What will they fall back on as the terms of reference in the absence of governing philosophies, that will serve to define, clarify and render clear and unambiguous, if there is doubt or when grey areas undoubtedly emerge?”

    I think this will be the most challeging part. The top may know very well what they want to accomplish, but if the goal is not crystal clear, then those at the bottom will have a tough time implementing. It will be like present day China, where there is always a conflict between communism and capitalism. You can speak to person A he will say the world is round, then go to ministry B and another will say it is flat. Is that what you mean darkness by coherency?

  12. longbow said

    One thing I have notice abt darkboy through the years. Ten people can read what he writes and all ten will have a different view of what he meant to say. Yet all ten will be wrong and still remain right. Funny but not so very fun when I find myself thinking about it all day. You try to get it outa of your blain. The reason I think is because he purposely write open ended like his stories e.g confessions, crimson dreams etc. He gives you only A and Z and deliberately leaves out the rest of the alphabets, that what one always needs to tease out the truth. It is there but only at the edge of your vision and when you look directly at it, its gone!

    Anyway what I meant to say was this, one reason why the garhmen may not want to buy into a welfare based strategy (philosophy) is because it is a very slipperly slope. Once a country goes down the road of welfare, it is almost impossible to make a U turn without looking really stupid and inefficient. So it is understandable that they may be wary at this early stage.

    Another reason may be because of social and cultural differences which makes it quite leceh for the gahmen to use western strategies to alleviate poverty. We are after all not ang mohs, so I dont really see how it is possible to use Western strategies without at least modifying them to suit our local needs. However, this does not stop our gahmen from learning and management skills from other Asian countries which may perhaps have similar problems. Japan comes to mind. However, I do agree that a very large part of the missing jigsaw of 2% is why in the world would we choose to re-invent the wheel all over again when one already exist and it is called welfare. It seems to me even if they did not want to use welfare strategies, it would appear to make more sense to modify welfare strategies, instead of starting from year zero. I seems like try to kill an itch on my left ear by bring my hand all round my back to reach my ear. Help Aiyo, I am stuck, get outa of my blain darkness, get out of my blain!

  13. shoestring said

    Perhaps we should look beyond the words and phrases and examine the mindsets that prompted those utterances. Are they compatible? Can they co-exist in the mind of the same person?

  14. sphgirl said

    Is Bambi mind gaming all of us? Most definitely, he is giving us bits and pieces of information in a very random manner. They all add up, but something is still missing. I can’t put my finger on it just yet. But trust me on this something is definitely amiss.

    He said something that made me think:”we can’t even be expected to trust ourselves any more than Dracula can be entrusted to manage the blood bank.”

    Is he saying man by nature of bad? That is why there is a need to incorporate checks and balances in any program that is designed to help the poor. Arent there already checks and balances in the current system? Payouts after are audited on a regular basis, civil servants need to follow standard operational procedures, and. Of course criterias need to be fulfilled. So what is he on about?

    Is he saying perhaps 5 or 10 years down the line all of us would have forgotten about this 2% increases and it may be used for something else besides helping the poor? Is that why he keeps mentioning man cannot be trusted along with words like “service” “custodian” and “doing the right thing.” Is he saying the only way to ensure the focus remains pointed at squarely the poor is if, policy-makers make a commitment not only in principle to help the poor, but more importantly buy into a philosophy. Because once they frame “help” in a philosophy, there can be no possibility of a black box. Anyone from journalist, social workers or even students can go to a library and check out the philosophy to see whether it makes sense. But without a philosophy everything is just floating around, nothing can really be pinned down can it. It becomes very much like a term he always used before, “shadow warrior.” He is there, but you dont really know where he is, neither can you really pin him down because he is just a shadow.

    Another thing what does this mean?

    “Those who firmly cling to the notion that philosophies are not important, fail to look at the works of ancient Greek philosophers, they were asking the same questions which modern philosophers ask today. And they are still not getting the answers, but ask they will, because man is after all a thinking animal and to say it is irrelevant, is to suggest man knows best, when we all know only too well that’s never the case. By continuing to ask questions we are for a lack of appropriate word simply looking towards a beacon, if nothing else, it reminds us there is a light that will hopefully guide us all back to a place, where we can be counted to do what is right for others and not ourselves.”

    greek philosophers were asking many things, but one of the questions they could never answer was the nature of man himself. That was why they were the first to develop ethics and morality i.e the science of what should be. So what bambie may be saying is this, those who do not see the point of linking help with a philosophy do not want to be questioned on how they may wish to use the money to help the poor. Without a philosophy there is no morality or ethics so anything can be right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair.

    Without morality and ethics, it also means no one even knows where the line stops or begins. Is that why he uses the word, “dangerous.”

    I wonder. Sorry for going on and on and on. I guess he is gone now, so all will return back to normal again. It always does when he is gone. 😦

  15. sphgirl said

    Cooooooooyeeeeeee!

    “Are they compatible? Can they co-exist in the mind of the same person?”

    Interesting that you should say that. In one of bambie’s online novels. I think it was “Moonlight in Daylight.” Some years back ago, he did give an interview and when the journalist asked him how he could consistently produce one chapter every day for over 6 months. He slipped and said something very odd, “it is naturally assumed a piece of work is the effort of one man, but for all you know the man doesnt even exist. Its an army of men that breathes life into the one man that steps forward into the light of the world.”

    Those spaceboys have developed a very efficient way of conceptualizing and writing on a mass production scale. To do that there must be a fair amount of mental consensus, discipline and organizational skill very much like formation flying or water ballet. That could be why every article has all the hall marks as if it is written by the same person. Actually it isnt so much one person as it is a standardised way of writing. That is why I think if you look at some of the essays, there could be up to three or four people. And the same person cannot be making different spelling mistakes on the same word. What I suspect is some of them are not based in singapore, they could be working abroad in different time zones, so when one person finishes off his shift, the work is mailed to another writer who just continues where the person left off very much like a shift worker and so and so forth. Then maybe it goes back to the editor who finally reviews it and gives it a final print approval. Otherwise how can one man have so much time, resources and brains to do it all by himself. It would require either a group of people who obviously had a very diverse range of knowledge or one exceptionally super intelligent singaporean to put this act together. No pun intended, the intelligent singaporean that is. Then again it could just be my little conspiracy theory. I have to go now, it was fun to talk.

  16. inspir3d said

    Anon, why don’t u write in with an essay arguing against Darkness’ post, instead of leaving a comment and just being Anonymous? it hardly adds to the credibility of your argument if you refuse to take any sort of accountability or responsibility for what you write.

    i promise to publish your essay as long as your argument remains on an intellectual level without devolving to the level of personal attacks – which is what your comments appear to be full of.

  17. inspir3d said

    darkness,

    a. why should filling in a philosophy necessarily help those who need “assistance”? Perhaps the government’s unexpressed philosophy behind the 2% hike is actually antagonistic to the poor but has to be painted as ‘help’, in order to be politically correct.

    b. perhaps it is better for the PAP, from a political point of view, not to publish a philosophy. After all, you can’t attack a philosophy without a philosophy to attack.

    c. maybe we can infer what the PAP’s philosophy is behind their GST hikes, without having to wait for them to publish one.

  18. Harphoon said

    Gentlemen,

    I want you to take a long look at anon – thats a PAP troll and judging from the way he writes, “polemics” etc its probably their leader. We have contact. They exist.

    Anon,

    I have informed darkness, he has told me he will return sometime tmr singapore time. Meanwhile he says, you have 24 hrs to retract everything you have said. Otherwise he will just take you apart. Point by point.

    The rest of us cannot interfere by commenting, darkness has informed me, he wants you all to himself. He wants to teach you personally a lesson in humility and respect. So that you will know how to conduct in blogosphere in future.

    Meanwhile feel free to regard it as a threat.

  19. Harphoon said

    Anon,

    It was 7 figures not 5. We dont work for peanuts. You have 23 hr 47 min.

  20. Harphoon said

    Inspirid et al,

    This has nothing to do with us, pls stand to one side. Darkness told me, he wants him all to himself.

  21. Anon said

    (1)I wish to begin by retracting post No.9. Retrospectively, it was uncalled for and most probably inaccurate. I do apologize.

    (2)I will not however retract No.8 as I believe there are too many contextual and factual inaccuracies in his essay, “What’s missing in the 2% GST hike.”

    It is regrettable that darkness feels the need to engage in ad hominem accusations of something “being amiss” by association rather than simply confining his examination to the merits of the recent 2% GST hikes. It is true that there is no philosophy which accompanies these hikes, this no one disagrees.

    But to suggest, it is desirable that all policy initiatives should be linked to philosophy i.e something resembling constitutional theory which he alludes again and again in his essay. That is certainly true as a theoretical matter only if constitutional theory is reducible to serve as an effective policy guide. But as we see very clearly from what he has written, darkness shies away from any attempt to perform any cost/benefits/efficacy analysis to determine whether his constitutional approach is useful in the first place. By conveniently omitting any reference to such pragmatic day to day consideration, darkness fails to comprehend the basic utilitarian calculus policymakers would normally use to determine whether it was in the first place necessary to couple an assistance initiative to even anything resembling a philosophy, let alone one that accords to his own constitutional theory.

    Secondly, darkness’s paints the scenario, it is not possible for any initiative to succeed without at least having something resembling a philosophy. By subscribing to the constitutionalism-as-policy approach that he asserts without evidentiary support he concludes quite strangely the help innitiative without a coupling philosophy lacks the essential element of “commitment”.” A derivative of this would of course imply the help initiative is doomed to failure as he points out again, the absence of “a line of sight” which would presumably mire its efficacy.

    Again by indulging in sweeping references to emphasis his point on the need for constitutionalism. he omits to draw a distinction between the patently obvious: there is a critical distinction between constitutionalism and policy driven initiatives. They have nothing to do with each other and even less on an operational level. In fact the 2% GST hikes do not in any way propose to reform the current help initiatives to the extent of altering how help and assistance is currently being managed.

    What darkness conveniently dismisses is that the very sources of “terms of reference” which he keeps repeating is missing, already exist in the current help initiatives. There are already plenty of text, precedents, tradition and reason – which all combine together to support a coherent approach that is able to holistically meet the needs of those who really need it.

    Darkness makes no mention of these elements which currently exist. He suggest that because none of these elements necessarily provides a determine answer to difficult and what he terms, “disturbing” questions. Instead he suggest we may as well abandon them for his seat on the pants constitutional cum philosophical approach, because for some strange reasons Greek philosophers seem to echo his own lamentations. It is true that text, precedents, tradition, and reason are best embodied in philosophies such as a constitution, but its also true such a deterministic model may even militate against the help initiatives – because what is require, is flexibility in the decision making process which must remain pragmatic, if it is to be effective.

    This could be the reason why the UK which doesnt have a written constitution was able to rapidly respond to the war against terror. While countries like the US continue to be hoobbled by the constrains imposed by constitutional decision making.

    Very disappointing, the b’hood has always been well known for its balanced and well researched essays, this I believe simply misses the mark by the proverbial mile.

    Regards

    Anon

  22. koala bear said

    Hi, nice follow up discussion. I was just thinking even the garmen immigration policy has a philosophy, am I right i.e without talent matilah singapura etc. But somethings do not need a philosophy such as blogging or even the realtionship between bloggers and the establishment i.e garmen and MSM. On a cost benefit calculation what is the cost of the garmen imposing regulations and restrictions in the net? I think the cost is zero. On assistance, I not too sure, I generally think this is a very big step for our garmen, it is also a step that most ppl have a stake in bc even PR’s pay for it after all. GST doesnt differentiate between citizens and non-citizens. I have to think a while about that. But I would be very grateful if darknes can give us his pov, it is always good to live and learn.

  23. darkness said

    (1)I wish to begin by retracting post No.9. Retrospectively, it was uncalled for and most probably inaccurate. I do apologize. (Accepted. This will set the tone in more ways than you can possibly imagine.)

    (2)I will not however retract No.8 as I believe there are too many contextual and factual inaccuracies in his essay, “What’s missing in the 2% GST hike.”

    It is regrettable that darkness feels the need to engage in ad hominem accusations of something “being amiss” by association rather than simply confining his examination to the merits of the recent 2% GST hikes. (there is no philosophy to examine! Beyond what is termed “social spending.”) It is true that there is no philosophy which accompanies these hikes, this no one disagrees.

    But to suggest, it is desirable that all policy initiatives should be linked to philosophy i.e something resembling constitutional theory which he alludes again and again in his essay. That is certainly true as a theoretical matter only if constitutional theory is reducible to serve as an effective policy guide.

    (My whole point is not only is it reducible to serve as a guide, but that it is also imperative should the goal continue to remain focused squarely on helping those who need help. This leads us to ask: what is the best instrument to ensure this 2% remains for only the express purpose of alleviating poverty? A clue is provided by the founding fathers of the US constitution who did not simply say “the government of the day may engage in anything they wish providing they have a mandate secured by an electoral majority,” as you would have us believe they should have done. Instead they (the founders) struggled to articulate very specific and fundamental rights to be enshrined i.e the freedom of speech. By doing so in this manner, they effectively placed these rights above and beyond the everyday pragmatic judgment of politicians. More importantly they made it difficult for these rights to be tampered with unless under exceptional circumstances e.g the right to bear arms, which has since been amended.

    Why did they (the founders) do this? Because they foresaw what modern history has shown to be all too true – that while democracy may be an antidote to oppression, it can also be used to justify a particular kind of tyranny – the tyranny of the majority on the minority. Just because 9 out 10 people have a majority and they all decide to lynch a negro in the name of democracy makes it impossible precisely because of constitutionalism. By constitutionalizing the 2%, it also makes it impossible for not only the government of the day i.e PAP but also any other government to derogate from this commitment to help the poor.

    Constitutionalizing is also a means to guarantee help remains help and this 2% fund isn’t used for another purpose other than what it was originally intended to be used for. I am referring to the danger of “function creep,” which occurs when definitions eventually become blurred as social, economic and political landscape changes with the times.)

    But as we see very clearly from what he has written, darkness shies away from any attempt to perform any cost/benefits/efficacy analysis to determine whether his constitutional approach is useful in the first place. By conveniently omitting any reference to such pragmatic day to day consideration, darkness fails to comprehend the basic utilitarian calculus policymakers would normally use to determine whether it was in the first place necessary to couple an assistance initiative to even anything resembling a philosophy, let alone one that accords to his own constitutional theory.

    Secondly, darkness’s paints the scenario, it is not possible for any initiative to succeed without at least having something resembling a philosophy. By subscribing to the constitutionalism-as-policy approach that he asserts without evidentiary support he concludes quite strangely the help innitiative without a coupling philosophy lacks the essential element of “commitment”.” A derivative of this would of course imply the help initiative is doomed to failure as he points out again, the absence of “a line of sight” which would presumably mire its efficacy.

    Again by indulging in sweeping references to emphasis his point on the need for constitutionalism. he omits to draw a distinction between the patently obvious: there is a critical distinction between constitutionalism and policy driven initiatives. They have nothing to do with each other and even less on an operational level. In fact the 2% GST hikes do not in any way propose to reform the current help initiatives to the extent of altering how help and assistance is currently being managed.

    What darkness conveniently dismisses is that the very sources of “terms of reference” which he keeps repeating is missing, already exist in the current help initiatives. There are already plenty of text, precedents, tradition and reason – which all combine together to support a coherent approach that is able to holistically meet the needs of those who really need it.

    (Disagree. What really constitutes effective “help” are we to believe this is a foregone conclusion? If we give money are we to believe it will actually alleviate poverty? If that is the case then the world would have already resolved the African conundrum that continues to exasperate even aid experts, as the entire continent continues to languish even today despite being the largest recipient of aid for the last 50 years! Pls refer to the works of Michael Easterly.

    This naturally compels us to examine what exactly do we need to effective nail down the poverty? A holistic system is required and I can think of no other instrument that can accomplish this other than the current welfare system.

    I do not subscribe to the notion welfarism in any form necessarily leads to the erosion of either the work ethic or our Asian values. To suggest for one moment, it will is to give currency to the notion to some ephemeral notion that is as much an abstraction as hitler’s uber super man Aryan, Stalin’s indomitable “perfect communist.” Or Osama Bin Ladin’s urine drinking mujhahadin. If you really want to know how insincere a politician is just count the number of times he invokes Asian values to shore up his otherwise baseless POV. You will be surprised how reliable this is as a character judgment tool.)

    Darkness makes no mention of these elements which currently exist. He suggest that because none of these elements necessarily provides a determine answer to difficult and what he terms, “disturbing” questions. Instead he suggest we may as well abandon them for his seat on the pants constitutional cum philosophical approach, because for some strange reasons Greek philosophers seem to echo his own lamentations. It is true that text, precedents, tradition, and reason are best embodied in philosophies such as a constitution, but its also true such a deterministic model may even militate against the help initiatives – because what is require, is flexibility in the decision making process which must remain pragmatic, if it is to be effective.

    This could be the reason why the UK which doesnt have a written constitution was able to rapidly respond to the war against terror. While countries like the US continue to be hoobbled by the constrains imposed by constitutional decision making.

    (the UK may not have a written constitution, but what you have conveniently failed to make mention of is its implicit reliance of historical precedents and conventions stretching all the way back to magna carta! Do we in Singapore have the same historical gravitas? Such as a compendium of Hansard? As for this being a key decider in accelerating the war against terror, this I do not doubt, but it throws out questions, is this such a good thing? This does not detract from the fact the metaphor is flawed, if you consider hamburgers kill more Americans and Europeans than all of the combined forces of donkey riding Osama and his merry man. The US inspired war against terror has been a disaster even by the most forgiving standards. Instead of furthering world peace, it has in effect eroded little of what the US once had in terms of international credibility. Again much of it was self inflicted because they the US failed to heed the advice of their founding fore fathers. In their frenetic urge to rout out the bad currency they condone torture, false imprisonment, interrogations and facilitated the same tyranny their fore fathers wished to avoid at all cost – it’s a mistake that I fear will take generations to live down. Above all its reminds us constitutional principles protect those who are likely to be targets of such tyranny. Relegating such individuals to the mercy of the legislature – denies that threat. Constitutionalizing the 2% whether it is via a commitment to welfare policies is more about operational efficiency as you mentioned. It is a collective commitment to helping the poor. To call that my idle dream is to miss the very point of what it means to invoke the right tools to get on top of a very serious job)

    Very disappointing, the b’hood has always been well known for its balanced and well researched essays, this I believe simply misses the mark by the proverbial mile.

    (The brotherhood press will con’t to write the truth. You seem to know our history very well, this should not bear repeating! Thank you.)

  24. darkness said

    My advice to most people is to bury their heads and ignore us. Let me tell you why, when we first started in Hong Kong. They ignored us, the press, govt and even the forumers.

    They said, if we treat them as if they did not exist, then we dont need to think about them and hopefully they will go.

    So our readers grew very slowly, but they grew from 1,000 to 2,000 to 4,000 to 8,000 to 16,000 to 32,000 to 64,000 to 128,000 and so forth.

    I am going to do the same thing here. I want you to watch because this is what will happen whether you like it or not.

    I want you to watch. Its history in the making.

    I am darkness.

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