Written on: Mon, Mar 26th, 2012
On the Yale-NUS College

Do We Need Yale?

Do We Need Yale?
Photo credits: Flickr Commons  
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Recent articles by the student Walker Vincoli (who had spent 2 semesters in NUS) and even by Yale faculty members argue against the Yale-NUS venture using simplistic, stock authoritarian-Asian regime stereotypes .

For Vincoli, “Singapore is not a free country and NUS is not a free university”  and for these Yale faculty members, “They [architects of the Yale-NUS College] have thrust us into the politics of an authoritarian regime, in partnership with a university with seriously, dangerously compromised standards of academic freedom, including surveillance of faculty.”

The debate on this Yale-NUS venture certainly runs deeper and wider than this – and there are many more concerns at an institutional level that I, as a mere student, would not be able to appreciate as keenly as employees of both institutions. The only problem that bewilders me is the kind of careless, generalized stereotypes being traded not only by students, but also by Yale faculty members – which seems to betray the very ethos of good scholarship.

If Yale is asking herself if she should partner NUS/Singapore in this YNC venture, should we (NUS/Singapore) not be asking the same about Yale too, considering the quality of arguments proffered by some of her tenured best?

Because for these people, America is the land of the “free”. Every other country is shackled or fettered, unfree and forlorn, beyond comparison.

Because “freedom” in America is understood mainly as “freedom” from state intervention, so it is completely fine and dandy if oil tycoons fund philosophy departments in their universities because for them, only governments can interfere with freedom or with academic freedom, only governments have ill intentions. Corporations are persons in America, and can never interfere with “freedom” of persons hence. In America, “freedom” is freedom from the state, even if you’re still held in thrall by private corporations.

Vincoli’s experience in NUS where “[s]tudents change arguments, button their lips and absorb opinions from on high” jars so incongruously with the scene on the ground that one wonders what crowd he was hanging out with exactly.

Youth wing leaders of opposition parties – who are also NUS students – go about their activities on campus, and some are regular Dean’s Listers. Their names are well-known, and they have their supporters. Online student newspapers, like the Campus Observer and our own Kent Ridge Common are brimming with critiques of the university administration (here, and here too) and of the country’s political system and politicians (and this KRC article also features then-NUS undergraduate Seah Yin Hwa who directly challenged, in person, the Prime Minister at a ministerial forum – the Yahoo! news article here. Repression, much?) All these articles are written by NUS students who have published their full names online, proudly and openly. Just search the archives.

Yale faculty members critiquing the venture also default upon essentialized representations of Singapore and tend to obsess about the legality of homosexuality in this country. Shall we obsess too about Guantanamo Bay and other dubious “anti-terrorism” laws in the US, remnants of the disaster of George W. Bush’s (a Yale alumnus, no less) presidency?

Don’t get me wrong – the Yale-NUS joint venture can be critiqued in so many other ways (Potential elitism? Accessibility to those who cannot afford the fees? Institutional incoherence vis a vis YNC’s relationship with the mothership of NUS? Indeed, KRC has critiqued this venture before.), but I would have expected more sophisticated arguments from these Yale professors, not arguments that sound so typically Orientalist and which have already been used by so many (MOYDN) before them.

These scholars and students, whether or not they have been to Singapore, appear to see the world only through the blinkers of their prejudices. Just like the Portugese explorer, Vasco da Gama, who landed in Calicut, India in 1498. Where there were Hindus, da Gama saw only Christians of a “tawny complexion”.

This point may resonate especially with Walker Vincoli, who spent two full semesters here without sensing any form of “everyday resistance” à la James Scott (who, incidentally, is at Yale, so he should be able to educate his colleagues about the multiple manifestations of resistances existing in other cultures), or even overt subversion or opposition at all (contrary to popular belief, the Illegal Assembly Laws are rarely enforced.) It is hard to believe that tenured Yale professors would accept such superficial analyses of a whole political system, nation.

Articles like theirs do nothing to promote intercultural communication and mutual understanding. How ironic then that they should so doggedly lambast the Yale-NUS College, which, as a collaborative educational venture between establishments from two vastly different cultures, aims to do precisely just that.

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  1. Tan Xiang Yeow xy says:

    NUS should spend her resources more wisely. Instead of expecting to transplant Yale’s academic culture, she can dedicate her resources into nurturing liberal arts program in Tembusu, Cinnamon and the two other residential colleges. Allow time for these colleges to grow into being.

    There is hardly any point in a forced marriage.

  2. For some of us who teach at Yale, the Yale-NUS controversy has never been primarily about the sins of Singapore, real or imagined. In the essay linked below, I have characterized what I and many others believe are the most important concerns. Two other versions of this essay (at tpmcafe.com and the London-based openDemocracy.net) say explicitly that some Asian societies — maybe even a Singapore in transition — may actually do a better job of balancing civil order and liberal education than we Americans have been doing lately.

    But that is precisely the problem we have at Yale: Because we are struggling to maintain our balance of freedom and order in the United States, it’s far from clear that Yale should be undertaking this venture, perhaps as if it is hoping that the Singapore tail can wag the New Haven dog.

    Please let me stipulate that I and my colleagues admire and encourage those of you in Singapore who are expanding your freedoms and inquiry under what we acknowledge are changing circumstances. We agree that stereotyping is wrong and, in our discussions, it has been minimal and unintended. In my article, linked below, I characterize Singapore at one point as an authoritarian corporate city-state, but I go no further because the main controversy for us is not one that implicates Singapore. It concerns the Yale administration’s own mixed motives in undertaking this venture, its high-handed and possibly misleading conduct of the negotiations and agreements that have gone into implementing it, and its apparently abysmal misunderstanding of what a liberal education requires and entails. I sketch these problems in my article.

    Although the Yale-NUS venture has been a catalyst to further analysis and, yes, to opposition on our part, we do respect and admire what some of you are doing. Here is my analysis of the challenges we face. James Sleeper, Lecturer in Political Science, Yale College

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-sleeper/how-yales-singapore-ventu_b_1352729.html

    • Koh Choon Hwee Koh Choon Hwee says:

      Sir – I am well aware that this debate runs deeper and wider than stereotypes about Singapore/NUS.

      There are quite apparent internal divisions within your university, as there are within mine (to a much smaller extent though, for better or for worse). I certainly am not comfortable with my government/university paying Yale so much money for her name, because I think these resources could be put to better use in existing NUS infrastructure and programs, like Tembusu’s and the USP. I think NUS is competent enough and does not need partnership with Yale to ‘improve’ or scale new heights, although the leadership seems to think that this joint-venture will speed up NUS’ race to the top.

      However much you may display a nuanced, complex understanding of Singaporean society and NUS culture in this comment, damage has already been done by your one line in the Huffington post, as well as by your colleagues in other media platforms. ‘Unfreedoms’ of speech exist in many forms, and in our time-scarce age of information overload these manifest most potently in the hegemony over media platforms and audience access. Yale is world-renowned, as are her campus newspapers, and when a Yale faculty member or student writes a news article, it has a wider reach and a deeper impact globally than an article written by an NUS faculty member or a student.

      In waging your internal war against pro-YNC people, a whole culture/nation/country has become the casualty. It also doesn’t help that perpetuating the authoritarian Asian state myth is a convenient, easy resource to be had by those of you who are against the YNC venture.

      I am at best ambivalent about the YNC project, but it is not my ’cause’. For you and your colleagues, this YNC venture is important in so many different ways that I cannot even begin to appreciate, because it is not in my dharma to do so I guess.

      Similarly, my country and my university are important to me in many different ways that you and your colleagues cannot begin to appreciate, because it is not in your dharmas to do so.

      But isn’t this an all too familiar trope? This careless callousness of the world superpower and her citizens with regards to other cultures and societies?

      I shall stop here, but thank you for your comment. I wish you well in your quest.

    • I appreciate this response, but I am wondering if you would deny that Singapore is an authoritarian corporate city-state. I don’t believe that that characterization is a stereotype, and some of us in New Haven would be interested to hear other reactions to it in addition to Koh Chun Wee’s reactions.

    • Koh Choon Hwee Koh Choon Hwee says:

      I’d already mentioned in my article reasons why I disliked the stereotypes/simplistic slogans being peddled by those debating the YNC venture, hence I shall not engage you on your question.

      I agree strongly that you all should hear other reactions, and if you would care to look around you will find much material, in the same way you stumbled upon our obscure site. There are also many Singaporean students at Yale whom you could ask.

      Thanks.

    • Zhijun Tan says:

      James, I agree when you say that it’s also a question of Yale’s intentions. But also with all due respect, it’s a really simple thing getting a person’s name spelt right but it seems that you did even take that small step of an effort to do so – it is Choon Hwee and not Chun Wee. If you sincerely wish to find out the truth whether your characterization of Singapore is a stereotype, then I humbly suggest that you visit and stay in our little red dot of a country because I believe no amount of reasoning here will be able to convince you otherwise.

    • Tommy says:

      Sir,

      Would you care to qualify your use of terms such as “authoritarian” and “corporate”? If by “authoritarian” you mean the likes of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, I would emphatically disagree that Singapore falls within that category. At the very least, this is a country which holds free elections at regular intervals, which allows its citizens to hold its government accountable for its policies and actions. The current government received over 60% of the popular votes during the last General Election, still a high level of support by global standards (e.g. President Obama received 53% of the popular votes in 2008). Therefore, could you explain what you mean when you say that Singapore is “authoritarian” or “corporate”?

      Again, you stated that you don’t believe that that characterization is a stereotype. Could you please substantiate this claim? When you accuse a state for being “authoritarian” or bring any charge of that sort onto a nation, the onus is on you to explain why you hold that belief; the onus is not on us to disprove the validity of your belief. Therefore, may I know on what basis you believe that that characterization of yours is true?

      Thank you.

    • Paul Ananth says:

      Actually, by those criteria, North Korea is the least authoritarian state on the planet. Before he died, Kim Jong Il managed to secure the suppport of 99% of the electorate, a far higher percentage than either Mr Obama or the PAP

    • Alexander Pop says:

      And what if we are ? Does it make any difference if the label is ‘true’? Labels exists in so far of their context and if we are talking about academic freedom here what does it matter if it’s controlled by corporations or by the state? BOTH are equally restrained.

      You sound like someone that really wants to believe that people under your particular label are docile.

    • Big Tan says:

      Let me put it Singapore is pretty authoritative in many ways. From the way you make purchases to the education you take. From what I know HDB dont even release the construction and land cost values of the public housing where 80% of the people live in.

      How can this happen in a free economy?

    • Tommy says:

      To Paul:

      Comparing Singapore elections with NK “elections” is unjustifiable. How did Kim Jong-Un (or his father and grandfather, for that matter) come into power? Did the people of North Korea have any say in choosing who they wanted to be their leaders? Do they even get to directly elect their representatives in their legislative body? There is arguably no way they can hold their government accountable except by revolution or protest. How is that analogous to the political landscape in Singapore? By comparing Singapore with NK, are you suggesting that the parliamentary elections in Singapore are somehow inherently undemocratic or illusory? Do you have any evidence to back it up?

      Thanks

    • Paul Ananth says:

      None at all :-) Just saying that the argument made by Tommy was that just because 60% of Singaporeans voted for the PAP which then won 90% of the seats does not give them “still a high level of support by global standards (e.g. President Obama received 53% of the popular votes in 2008).” unless you really believe that nine days of campaigning, the world’s highest election deposits, the world’s only GRC system where one man/woman gets five votes and others get one, total control of the print media by a self-declared pro-ruling party company run by a politician from the ruling party is the same as a system where a candidate has to go through rounds of gruelling primaries, win delegates in 50 states, campaign against a hostile news channel (Fox news) etc etc. The US election system is by no means perfect – too much money involved but it is at least as far from the Singapore system as the Singapore election system is from North Korea. Anyway, don’t knock North Korea. The book “Nothing to Envy” points out that the majority of North Koreans (perhaps 60.1%) are part of the ruling party, military etc and are happy with clean streets, no crime, opportunities for their children to study, become doctors, rocket scientists etc and so they do not feel that there is anything wrong with the Kims. It is just the perhaps 39% of North Koreans who clamour for Western ideas of democracy, freedom of speech, South Korean dramas, cell phones, facebook etc etc

    • Michael says:

      You should note that there are huge, huge barriers to opposition in Singapore and that the government has been known to gerrymander voting districts in favor of PAP.

      So maybe Singapore isn’t as bad as North Korea but so what? Their still both totalitarian and fascist states, plain and simple.

    • octopi says:

      This reply is for Paul.

      There are many ways in which the Singapore electoral system is tilted against the opposition. But the outcome of the elections are still honoured, unlike places in Hong Kong where they don’t even get to elect their chief executive.

      Singapore does not conduct disenfranchisement on a huge scale, the way that Florida did with black people in 2000. Singapore conducts gerrymandering, but so does the US.

      Your point that 60% of the votes gets you 90% of the seats is invalid. This is a feature of first past the post, a system which the US also uses. Consider: Barack Obama won 53% of the popular vote in 2008, but he won 68% of the electoral seats. Does that mean that that system is screwed up? We both inherited our forms of democracy from the British, remember that.

      It is undeniable that the US elections is a gruelling one that places great demands on the president-elect. Whether this ensures that better people get elected (*cough* Bush*cough*) or it means that the demands of pleasing the electorate distract you from doing your job as a chief executive, is still a very open question.

    • hz says:

      Sir,

      Granted that Singapore does indeed have more elements which are associated with authoritarianism than the average Western country, but such things surely exist on a spectrum, with it being a judgment call on which point a country should be labeled “authoritarian”. Academia such as yourself would be better placed to make an objective judgment on that based on your expertise.

      However, I wonder if you have had enough sight of the many elements which are not associated with authoritarianism in Singapore to make a well-informed judgment. My own opinion is that the crude 3 word label of “authoritarian corporate city-state” does not do justice to the reality in Singapore, which is far more nuanced than that.

      In addition, I wonder if you are aware of the connotations that the word “authoritarian” has for the average non-academic such as myself.

      Just taking the definition from an online dictionary, “authoritarian” means:
      1. favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom.
      2. of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
      3. exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others:

      As a Singaporean, I resent being characterised as 1. A really obedient sheep 2. A prisoner in my own country 3. A mindless automaton.

      Perhaps this was not your intent, but historically, when Westerners have called Singapore “authoritarian”, it has almost always been in a disparaging context, and in a self-righteous way. This is why this discussion is not just a purely academic one, given the cultural baggage. I hope that you and your fellow academics would be more careful with such sensitivities, and show some respect to who Singaporeans are.

    • Steve says:

      The question is:
      1) Will Yale has even bother to setup campus here if not for Singapore government’s generous financial offer of enticing Yale ?

      2) If Yale care about academic freedom and political issues, why didn’t Yale champion this actively in Singapore before the announcement rather than paying lip-service ? Why rather say that Yale’s presence in Singapore will make any difference ?

    • octopi says:

      I wonder if you would deny that the US of A is a corporatocracy, and that it is very difficult for congress to do the right thing because it has been captured by big business lobbyists. And if so, whether that would be sufficient grounds for taking Yale out of the US of A.

    • Avinash says:

      NUS Alumnus here. Just wanted to thank you for presenting your arguments in a coherent fashion, and for respecting the fact that we in Singapore are indeed in transition, when it comes to freedom of expression and other political freedoms.

      Your main point here is well-taken, that because of the way this has been setup, there’s more than a strong whiff of corporate quid pro quo happening here that’s at odds with the notion of a liberal college.

      As for the debate on whether Singapore is an authoritarian corporate city-state, well, I’ve had lesser problems with authorities in Singapore than in the US: security staff in Changi is unfailingly polite, policemen on the ground are virtually non-existent and so on. Compared to the absolute bullying that TSA did to me at LAX and SFO, I’d say Changi feels freer any day.

      The world is getting to be complicated even when it comes to political freedoms. We’ve seen two rounds of elections in Singapore last year, and they’re among the freest I’ve seen; none of the nonsense regarding voter ID’s etc that you sometimes tend to have in places like Texas or Wisconsin, for one.

      I firmly believe that Singapore has the potential for being a leading light in bringing political freedoms to the region; already, zaobao.com gets more visitors from China than Singapore, for instance.

      I’ll grant you ‘corporate city-state’, though. Authoritarian… well, things are changing!

  3. [...] is a re-post of Koh Choon Hwee’s piece “Do We Need Yale?” that appeared in The Kent Ridge Common on March [...]

  4. Amos says:

    Dear Choon Hwee,

    While I wholeheartedly agree that either side should not engage in crude sloganeering and glib stereotypes, I am anxious to hear your thoughts or clarifications on the assertion that Singapore is “not a free country” (as well as its implications for academic freedom). Your essay, especially its penultimate paragraph, leaves open the possibility that you categorically reject the notion that Singapore possesses some (if not many) of the qualities of a ‘soft’ authoritarian state. I am not sure this counterfactual is correct. However, if that was not your intent, please forgive my error.

  5. Kaddy Mutu says:

    I don’t see why we need to have a partnership with an institution that has produced the talents who along with their fellow Ivy league compatriots have morally and financially bankrupted their once great nation. Your nation’s economy is in a depression as your central bank robs the general population with its easy money policies transferring more wealth to the bankers. Your political parties are both bought and paid for. Your men and women are sent to die in senseless wars to protect the reserve currency status of the petrodollar. Before this decade is through the Treasury market will be in free fall and so will the dollar along with your living standards.

    Call us authoritarian all you want but we are a prudent state while yours is a once great nation that is a banana republic on its way to fascism. And your nation owes us and other authoritarian regimes A LOT of money. All made possible in part by the notables graduates of Yale and other Ivies.

    I suggest that debt slaves adopt a more courteous attitude toward their creditors instead of name calling n stereotyping. Btw Feel free to come grovel for a job once this comes to pass

    • Your reply amply confirms both of the points I made in my article, which I encourage you to read: a) that Yale should tend to its and the United States’ own indefensible contradictions instead of trying to export them; and b) that Singapore is an authoritarian corporate state. Thank you.

    • passerby says:

      You are a really petty academic, and are still blind to the fact that you cannot think independently from the stereotypes others have passed on to you about foreign cultures.

      Our govt should not be paying so much money for this academic equivalent of an LV bag – such an ugly bag, to tell the truth.

    • JN says:

      Dear Mr Sleeper,

      I think you can have a sense of the way Singaporeans think through this article. It is as difficult for us to see our own country clearly, as it is for many around the world.

      Allow me to set some context. Knowing that Singaporeans are not as able to think as broadly and critically, the “authoritarian” leaders wish to gain Yale’s assistance in bringing these skills to Singapore. In some ways, these very authoritarian leaders are willing to sow the seeds of critical thinking and cause themselves trouble, as they see Singapore as a country in need of the next phase of evolution.

      I submit that Yale’s faculty can see this in the light of the next 20 years, and not the past 50 years. Singapore is going through a soul-searching and a transition from the “authoritarian” past. We will probably always remain corporate as this is, at the end of the day, a nation built on international trade. I submit that it would strengthen your institution to be part of this transition, a transition in the context of the rise and re-thinking of Asia.

      Deep Regards.

      (P.S I did not come from NUS, but another local university)

  6. [...] won’t. Our students, like the many NUS students who openly debate and criticize government and university policy, will make sure of [...]

  7. JJ says:

    I think comments such as “a university with seriously, dangerously compromised standards of academic freedom, including surveillance of faculty.” is really an exaggeration. Labels like “authoritarian” has no intrinsic meaning. All we can say is country A is more “authoritarian” than country B. Concluding that any state is “authoritarian” simply because there is LESS freedom of speech sounds like we are simplifying the classification of nations to only 2 categories: Free and Authoritarian – which doesn’t make sense at all. There is a wide spectrum to the degree of “freedomness”. So I would say it is correct that Singapore/NUS has lesser freedom to speech as compared to US but as to whether the lesser freedom to speech will impede Yale or NUS from reaching their initial respective goals in entering this collaboration is another issue. In my personal opinion, I do not think the extent of lesser freedom to speech etc in Singapore is significant enough to “seriously, dangerously compromised standards of academic freedom, including surveillance of faculty”. Sure, Singapore still has much room for improvement no matter in terms of our political state or our academic standards/freedom, but so does Yale in terms of their own nation ills and academic flaws. I think NUS and Yale need each other, the exchange of ideas between 2 universities standing at different mark on the freedom to expression spectrum can in fact stimulate more active academic debates precisely because we can both provide each other more diverse perspectives on 2 dimensions: culture (Asian and Western) and political state(More Freedom and Less Freedom). To put it simply, I think it is just like making an investment. We all love diversification. ;)

  8. Bob says:

    There are alot of people who assume that human-beings are free.

    All these talks on whether there is Freedom and Liberation are useless.

    First we should ask ourselves whether we are really free!

  9. Bob says:

    Do you all think that you are free?

  10. Big Tan says:

    Lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers argued that the application was “wholly misconceived” and “unarguable in law and fact”. – PM has absolute discretion over by-election even not calling one

  11. Curious says:

    I’m curious. Some accuse the US of double standards, but as a country that has yet to revisit say the use of the ISA against some activists back in the late 80s and a government which has remained recalcitrant on the matter, can we honestly say that we aren’t an authoritarian corporatist city state, or is this some silly notion of national pride for which we haven’t even much basis for it?

  12. yossarian_lives says:

    “Vincoli’s experience in NUS where “[s]tudents change arguments, button their lips and absorb opinions from on high” jars so incongruously with the scene on the ground that one wonders what crowd he was hanging out with exactly.” – Kent Ridge Common

    “But the new college will enter a setting where a majority of 27 Singaporean students interviewed said they habitually measure their words to avoid overstepping government restrictions on freedom of expression — both inside and outside the classroom.” – Yale Daily News

    Where is the jarring incongruity now?

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/mar/29/yale-values-be-tested-singapore/

  13. Siti M says:

    I will make no excuses for Singapore because at some point, I too, have used euphemisms similar to “authoritarian corporatist city state” to describe our country and it’s political ethos. It is apparent from James Sleeper’s comments and article that the main point of contention is that Yale’s own house is in disarray and that needs to be sorted before she embarks on a new venture here in Singapore, and I’d like to thank him for clarifying that. What I cannot stomach is that despite Sleeper’s assurance that the debate is not about “… the sins of Singapore, real or imagined” the articles getting mileage from this debacle ARE the ones that level criticisms at the real and imagined sins of Singapore as primary reasons for not embarking on the Yale-NUS project. As a student on the ground, the articles (the likes this [http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/apr/03/yale-princples-sale-singapore/] and this [http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/mar/29/yale-values-be-tested-singapore/] ) getting air-time are nowhere near measured and looks like nothing more than pontification from a moral high horse 9000 miles from here. As a student in Singapore, I find articles of this ilk patronising and mildly annoying. IF the debate is truly about Yale’s administration and the faculty’s objections to not being consulted on the venture, then please keep us (NUS and Singapore) out of it.

  14. Michael says:

    All in all, to me this article just seems like one giant ad hominem attack. Yes it’s true the US is facing it’s own battle for freedom on it’s own turf but that in no way invalidates Yale’s very sound critique of Singapore as a whole being a totalitarian regime — I’d very much like to see the author try and refute that which is obvious to those with even a smidgen of intelligence. At least there is a struggle in the US.. if there is the same momentous and active tide for freedom in Singapore, I just don’t see it.

    • Siti M says:

      Hi Michael, I agree that this article is kinda just lashing out. But Yale’s administration MUST know what Singapore is when they were getting into this – it is no secret what our government is. For the faculty to make their dissent known at such a late stage in the planning of the Yale-NUS College, we can come to some possible conclusions including (but not limited to): 1) Yale’s administration kept the decision from the faculty; 2) Yale’s administration are so disconnected from the views on the ground that they felt that they didn’t need to consult the faculty; 3) Yale’s academics are a little slow on the uptake. If it was scenarios 1 & 2, then the Administration is itself, acting in an autocratic fashion, no? and it it is scenario 3, then I think we should seriously reconsider bringing them for Yale-NUS.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. The author desperately needs a liberal arts education. Or, at least, an education where she is able to think critically, form arguments, and respond to arguments.

    • octopi says:

      Michael, go read the online citizen, temasek review emeritus, yawningbread. Maybe even sammyboy.com. There may be some content that you might find xenophobic, but just bear in mind that ppl in Singapore are more upset about the sheer numbers of foreigners in Singapore than anything else.

      Best of all, you don’t even have to get your ass off the sofa in the process of checking out those websites.

  15. Law Zhiyang says:

    weren’t a 70 yr old British author jailed for writing a book critical of the Singapore government, just last year? This is the very definition of an assault on academic freedom. and Singaporeans’ response? outrage? no, just some xenophobic pretrial comments about their suspicions on whether the “angmoh” will be given preferential treatment and be let off lightly. the very fact that this stark recent example is omitted in the article highlights a serious blind spot in the psyche of even highly educated members of Singapore’s society; which is complete indifference to any notions of free discussions on any but the most mundane topics. then again, scholars will probably do fine here if they restrict their discourses on bread and butter issues such as availability of HDB apartments, conditions of public transport; which resonant with most Singaporeans. venturing out of this sphere, one can expect indifference or even hostility from the public, followed by public sanctioned legal actions from the government. these are very real threats to a scholar working in Singapore (as is obvious from the above example).

  16. Vaishnavi says:

    Choon,

    Kudos for a thoughtful and measured response to some of the shallow generalizations and stereotypes being peddled by Yale alumni and faculty. While the faculty’s main concern may indeed be how its administration came to the decision (without a faculty vote), that is not how they have framed their arguments in the media. Conversations about setting up a campus in an authoritarian corporatist state where we regularly cane foreigners and whack the gum out of you dominate over conversation about internal Yale politics, and reek of ivory tower elitism pompously sniffing at the huddled, persecuted masses in an exoticized East Asian country.

    If we’re going to be peddling in generalizations, there is plenty to be said about the USA’s supposed freedoms, which you have pointed out in a marvellously clear manner. Great article!

    Vaish

    • Michael says:

      That’s the point, though, isn’t it?

      You DO cane foreigners for non violent crimes, punish people for chewing gum and kill folks just for having a piece of harmless vegetation in their pockets. And these injustices are just the tip of the iceberg.

      Why is Yale being persecuted for telling the truth? They should be lauded — especially by Singaporeans themselves — the more the world hears about the blatant violation of human rights and political freedoms done by a totalitarian government the greater the chance at establishing freedom. The key is education.

    • Melissa says:

      No, Michael, that is not the point. The point is that in the debate so far, Yale students and faculty have not deigned to engage with Singaporeans in any manner, other than to talk down to them. The statements are all the “Singapore government must change or else” and the underlying assumptions are all “Yale must lead Singapore into the light, for its own people are clearly not capable”. Walker Vincoli’s article exemplifies this laziness of thought; this sticking to one’s preconceived notions of NUS students instead of finding out if self-censorship is truly as prevalent as he thinks it is. Read the comments on that article, most of which eloquently rebut his specious arguments.

      I would go so far as to say that you share some of that laziness, pomposity and naivete. Your comment makes it sounds like Singaporeans are ineffectual in getting their rights respected and that we need the world’s and/or Yale’s help to make chewing gum legal again. How’s the publicity for Kony 2012 helping the Ugandan people so far? I’m not hanging my hopes on the “education” of the Yalies or Americans. And if you meant that Singaporeans need to be educated on their own rights violations, then…

      The Singaporean people appreciate all the support we can get, but we’ll get it from people who respect and understand us.

    • octopi says:

      Well you’re right about one thing. The key is education.

      The rest is wrong. We cane everybody for non-violent crimes (I’m assuming you’re talking about vandalism), not just foreigners. We kill folks for having a substantial amount of heroin or cocaine in their pockets – but not marijuana. Chewing gum is legal in Singapore – but not selling it.

      The freedom to vandalise public property and abuse class A drugs is a very strange form of freedom. Maybe there is something to chewing gum? I don’t know.

    • Michael says:

      It is the freedom that should belong to every man and woman as espoused by John Stuart Mill — a man’s freedom to do as he pleases as long as he doesn’t harm anybody.

      One is free to smoke tobacco (a drug more addictive than heroin and cocaine and as dangerous that kills far more people) as incessantly as he pleases and risk his own life for whatever ends he seeks to that activity, what is it the business of other men if it doesn’t tangibly harm any other person?

      If drug abuse (and not merely recreational or medicinal use) is really your concern, why do you kill drug addicts with impudence? Are they criminals or merely victims of circumstance? If you want to help them, then treat them medically with love and respect instead of throwing them in prison.

      Singapore could learn from Portugal’s drug decriminalization laws, I think. They legalized all drug use and drug abuse when down by 50%. Punishing drug addicts does nothing. Helping them is the key.

    • octopi says:

      We don’t kill drug addicts. You still need to be carrying enough H or C to kill a human being in order to get hanged. We kill traffickers, not addicts. We do put drug addicts in jail, but a little bit of internet research will show you that Singapore has many drug rehabilitation facilities. But yes, we do throw them in as well.

      I’m not going to defend the death penalty for drugs too much. But I’ve come to believe that there are basically 2 options: decriminalization, which is still in an experimental process, or nuclear war, Singapore / Malaysia style. The USA has opted for a “war on drugs”, and that is widely acknowledged to be a disaster. It facilitates the drug trade because criminalising it makes it profitable. They will be rethinking their options.

      Decriminalizing makes the drug abuse go down by 50% but hanging makes the drug abuse go down by 90%. Taking away the death penalty and doing things US style is obviously going to be a disaster for us. There are people campaigning against the death penalty in Singapore right now. (Google Yong Vui Kong) But if you were to hold a referendum tomorrow on the mandatory death sentence, I think that the mandatory death sentence will win. Nobody wants to change a system that has proven to be effective.

      There are problems with the death penalty, because it tends to send mules to the gallows instead of drug lords, and many people are unhappy with that. The upside is that nobody who is not stupid or crazy will ever want to be a mule.

      I don’t think that marijuana is really harmful. I think the government criminalised it because they think that it’s bad for peoples’ work ethic. I’m not going to defend their stand on weed.

      If you think that tobacco is more harmful than H or C you need to have your head checked. It kills more people every year because it is more widely used, not because it’s more harmful.

      Your point that we should be helping drug addicts instead of punishing them is also not 100% relevant for a few reasons. First, in the USA the incarceration rate is extremely high, and this is because a lot of black people get arrested, many on trumped up drug charges, and put into jail. Helping drug addicts instead of jailing them clearly does not apply to the US either. Rehab is mainly for the upper class people, not for everyone. Conversely, the easiest way to help a drug addict is to help him before he becomes an addict. Cut the drug supply out of the neighbourhood.

      Last of all, drug taking is not harmless to other people. Turning into a heroin addict makes you a burden on society. You lose your job. It makes the crime rate go up when you have to steal to get your fix. It could turn you into a trafficker and that will get other people addicted. Studies of drug addicts have shown that the company of your fellow addicts is the main obstacle to overcoming an addiction.

      When you understand the true nature of the war on drugs, it is not a war on drug users, or even individual traffickers. It is a war on entire gangs, and the entire criminal distribution system.

    • Michael says:

      This post is addressed to octopi.

      Right, drug abusers are a burden on society. The moral and efficient way of dealing with them is merely to decriminalize — use the money to pay for rehabilitation instead of punishment. Letting them fester in prison is immoral and a inefficient use of time.

      What about fat people? Severely obese people who have an addiction to food? They are a huge burden on society.

      How many billions of dollars does the epidemic of fat, unhealthy people cost society?

      You would outlaw being fat, or obese just so you can get more of the scraps left over from the table? You would outlaw overeating and food addiction? You would throw them in jail (instead of treat them medically)?

      I would not sacrifice freedom for economic well being. It seems many Singaporeans, however, do.

      “He who would sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither” — Benjamin Franklin.

    • Michael says:

      @Octopi

      Further, if you legalized heroin and cocaine tomorrow, how many of your friends and family do you know would suddenly start getting shot up on heroin?

      The answer is probably nobody. The only people who would partake in it are those who are already partaking in it. And maybe a couple more who were just not quite desperate enough to take it while it was illegal and punishable by death. For those people, rehabilitation is key not prison (which illegality condemns them to).

      If you need government to tell you what drugs to do and how to do them in a manner that is maximally beneficial to one’s life then you are a nation of children, no?

      The fact that heroin is illegal does not stop me from taking heroin — it is my own knowledge and judgement that stops me from it. There are way better drugs to indulge in. I hope I do not overestimate the intelligences of average Singaporeans if I expect the same judgement from them, too?

      Also, I never said tobacco is more harmful than heroin or cocaine — their about as harmful as each other.

      Tobacco is more addictive, according to many however.

      Actually taking heroin or cocaine in moderate dosages is probably less harmful for one in the long run compared to tobacco.

    • octopi says:

      I’ve read some stories about drug addicts – people were saying, “I didn’t know he’d be one”. So if you asked me who among my friends would be drug addicts if they legalised H or C tomorrow I really wouldn’t know.

      Now, I’m a big fan of western pop music, and I’m really not too happy about what’s happened to Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Sly Stone, Whitney Houston, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Tim Buckley, Janis Joplin, the Pretenders, Rick James, Amy Winehouse or anybody who ever had to struggle with addiction at some point or another.

      You do not seem to have grasped my point that taking drugs is not punishable by death in Singapore.

      There are many other civil liberties worth fighting for in Singapore that you haven’t mentioned. We are working on them.

    • octopi says:

      I’d be willing to discuss with you some other civil rights. I don’t think that anybody in his right mind considers the right to take class A drugs or vandalism to be a meaningful civil right. That is just stupid.

    • Michael says:

      And further, I do not see what is the point in correcting a small technicality..

      Yes, they do cane locals as well for non violent crimes..

      Isn’t that worse? Isn’t it an injustice to meet non violence with violence? Even if you want your government’s brand of justice to be that of an ‘eye for an eye, kill for a kill’, brutally assaulting someone for merely vandalizing property does not fall in line with that primitive brand of justice, even.

    • octopi says:

      First, I don’t have very strong opinions on caning vandals because I am not a vandal. And I’d admit that caning vandals is harsh.

      It is however consistent with the broken windows theory which was so successful in cleaning up NYC in the 90s. Crime rate just goes down in a place where all the public facilities are properly maintained.

      For me, caning vandals does not harm me at all. Having to pay higher taxes because of all the shit that needs to be fixed on the other hand does not appeal to me.

      Now, I’m not denying that vandals have created great works of art. That being said, vandalism is an extremely poor substitute for having nice art schools to go to, and you can go do your painting in a nice place. So instead of my tax dollar going to fixing your shit, I prefer to use it to send you to art school. To be sure, we do have street artists in Singapore – you do have to apply for a permit.

    • octopi says:

      There will be cases where stealing is justifiable, like a starving man stealing a loaf of bread. Does such a situation ever exist for vandalism?

    • Michael says:

      @ Octopi

      On your post on vandals, I notice the same trend.

      You would rather sacrifice justice and morality to keep a little bit more of your money. This line of thinking disturbs me greatly.

      All in all, why not apply that to everything?

      Why not ban everything that bears a significant cost on society and how much one pays in taxes?

      Outlaw cheese burgers because their addictive and make people obese (incredibly expensive), outlaw alcohol and tobacco (huge, huge expenses), outlaw video games.

      You would take all these freedoms away from everyone just because a few, a minority can’t handle it responsibly?

    • octopi says:

      Yes, I think that spending your tax dollars wisely is a good thing, isn’t it? That’s the way we avoid a fiscal problem like you have in the US. Public debt is not freedom. It is slavery. Drug addiction is not freedom, it is slavery.

      It’s interesting that you brought up the issue of fat people, because when you look around in the US and in Singapore, it’s pretty clear that we have better ways of controlling obesity. I haven’t thought of why. My guess is that there is not very much consumer choice in the US regarding food. So I’d say that it’s because Singaporeans have more freedom to choose what to eat. We don’t ban foods. But in the US, it’s surprisingly hard to find food that is cheap that is not junk food.

      The freedom to vandalise and abuse class A drugs will never be handled responsibly, that’s a given. No need to talk about that.

      There are restrictions on tobacco and alcohol. It is illegal to advertise for tobacco. Both are heavily taxed. I feel that this is harsh on the lower class but I also appreciate that it cuts down smoking. There are relatively few places where you can smoke in public. In the film “Thank you for smoking” we see that many Americans want a lot of restrictions on tobacco but they are always thwarted by lobbyists, so let’s not say this is a Singapore thing. Also, a fairly large US university is going to ban smoking on campus in a few years.

      I drink alcohol sometimes because unlike tobacco it is harmless in small doses. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Singapore. And I don’t know about alcoholism, but it would be a fairly expensive habit there. But our rules on alcohol are less strict than in the US. You can drink alcohol when you’re under 21 (and above 18). You can drink it in public places.

      I think there is a notion among people that if you were to keep on controlling what people do, we would end up in a bad situation like Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. It might happen. I’m 40 and we’ve had all these laws all our lives and I’m still waiting for that to happen.

      I don’t believe that everybody can handle freedom. There are a few things where those who are smart enough will know that those freedoms are not worth having, and those who are not smart enough should have those freedoms taken away from them. People are like that, not because I say so, but because they are.

    • KJD says:

      Michael,

      You have absolutely no understanding of the nuances in the sentencing and rehabilitation of drug victims and drug traffickers. Having lived in and read about societies ravaged by drugs (Mexico, Colombia and many inner-city slums in your own cherished US of A , I have no desire to see Singaporeans suffer the same fate. The path the government has chosen to take may be harsh, but compared to the consequences to families and children, I believe it’s a worthy tradeoff. But that’s only my opinion, and if you don’t believe otherwise, you can always choose not to come to my country pontificating about your own country’s superiority.

      As to your stupid remarks about individual freedom and collective responsibility: there’s a saying: your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Is the idea that we have to look out for others so difficult for you to grasp?

  17. [...] took a different approach to the discussion by turning the debate on Yale-NUS around 180 degrees. In a March 26 piece in the Kent Ridge Common, the columnist suggests the question should not be be whether Yale needs the National University of [...]

  18. [...] I Want More In America, “freedom” is freedom from the state, even if you’re still held in thrall by private corporations.- Koh Choon Hwee, Do We Need Yale? [...]

  19. [...] Singapore, an article in an independent student newspaper criticized Yale professors as trading in stereotypes — and suggested that if Americans obsess [...]

  20. Good actors says:

    Singapore used to have 100% free but 1% elections under PAP,the situation improved in 2012 because Face Book and inetrnets forced the PAP to,not that they want to.
    I think PAP government needs Yale very much more than NUS needs Yale.

  21. Good actors says:

    Sorry Sir,sorry,I made some errors,re-post,thank you.

    Singapore used to have 100% free but 1% fair elections under PAP government,the situation improved in 2012 because Face Book and internet forced the PAP to,not that they want to.
    I think PAP government needs Yale very much more than NUS needs Yale.

  22. Amused says:

    I am getting annoyed lately when blog entries critical of the PAP government are deleted on sites I frequently visit. In the Yawning Bread incident the beginning of the crackdown?

    • octopi says:

      Yawning bread has not blogged for 1 month. Has he been drinking coffee with a few friends?

  23. weizhen says:

    hi choon! great article, i really enjoyed reading it. i haven’t been following much on the yale-nus threads, but will begin to after this.

  24. [...] an article entitled ‘Do We Need Yale?’, a writer by the name of Koh Choon Hwee launched an attack against Yale faculty members for using [...]

  25. Dr Philip Lock says:

    It is not the University, it is just a few Yale Professors who are trying to spread their values. They are thinking that we just climb down from trees. Singapore values will prevail. If it make a profit, it is done. If not and too much problem, it stays in the KIV tray for a long time. Nothing serious will happen. NUS will discuss with them and it should take about ten to twenty years. Old professor don’t need forty years to die out, ten to twenty will do nicely.

    Don’t waste time on this. Everyone go back to work. By the time it gets off the ground, most of the current NUS students would have graduated.

  26. Michael says:

    This post is addressed to Octopi.

    But seriously though, just how many would shoot up heroin the day after it’s made legal? Look at Portugal? Why didn’t the people all suddenly start becoming raving rabid heroin zombies?

    I just think it is a horribly condescending notion to the average common people, especially Singaporeans, that you need government to protect you from heroin and cocaine.

    I firmly believe the minority of heroin abusers (not merely users) will remain a minority if heroin is made legal.

    I also am a big fan of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. Under the Singaporean system, if they were to be caught with heroin and cocaine, he would be thrown in jail and spiral further into madness.

    Throwing them in jail solves nothing. Rehabilitation and love is key to helping drug addicts NOT prison time.

    • octopi says:

      “firmly believe”? Government policy needs to rest on somewhat more firm ground than “firmly believe”! Show me the facts and then we’ll talk!

      Yes, a minority of the population will be heroin users (there’s no such thing as a heroin user who’s not an abuser btw). 49% of the population is also a minority. To me, 1% of the population being heroin users is far too much.

      Under the Singapore system, drug abusers get thrown into jail and rehab at the same time, not just jail. What kind of monsters do you think we are? And Kurt Cobain didn’t spiral into madness?

    • Michael says:

      If all heroin users are abusers then all tobacco users are abusers as well.

      The only difference is that tobacco is far, far more addictive than heroin.

      And tobacco is more biologically harmful to the body than pure, unadulterated heroin.

      “Like most opioids, unadulterated heroin does not cause many long-term complications other than dependence and constipation”. – Merck Manual of Home Health Handbook – 2nd edition, 2003, p. 2097

      The danger in heroin is actually due to it’s illegality — ‘street’ heroin as it is called is usually mixed in with all sorts of other nasty stuff and is usually taken intravenously on the streets which can cause infection.

      It would certainly be better, in regards to the safety of users, if heroin could be regulated and taxed by government like tobacco is.

      Although as a note the safety of tobacco isn’t helped much by it being legal either arguably due to the failure of government — cigarette companies are stilled allowed to add in all sorts of chemicals in addition to the tobacco, some say in order to increase it’s addictive quality even at the expense of the consumer’s health.

    • octopi says:

      Well yes there’s no such thing as a user of tobacco either.

      Well I can’t figure out whether you think that tobacco should be legal or not. If you think that the government should clamp down on companies making cigarettes more addictive, why not ban tobacco altogether?

      People shouldn’t be addicted to heroin because it messes up their lives. Instead of living a good productive life, you need your fix every day. I thought that something like that would not appeal to a person like you who purportedly likes freedom so much.

      Rehab also involves locking people up, isn’t it?

    • Michael says:

      In regards to your last paragraph, do you think drug abusers are truly criminals? Or is it an injustice of the law to classify them as such? Do they deserve to be locked up and ‘punished’? For myself, I cannot bring myself to attach the same label to them which rapists and murderers also share.

      All in all, jail time worsens an abuser’s chance at life.

  27. Michael says:

    @Octopi

    Caning vandals isn’t spending tax dollars wisely. It is spending your tax dollars on perpetrating an injustice — meeting non violence with violence. Aren’t we all taught the golden rule when we were young? Would you want your non violent to be met with real tangible violence?

    You also mention drug addiction — yes, self destruction and self harm is always a possibility when pursuing any given activity but a man has a right to put himself at risk of self destruction and self harm as long as he does not harm others.

    Many people smoke tobacco and that is a sure path to self destruction yet would you argue for it to be made illegal?

    Your last paragraph says that some people can’t handle freedom.

    That’s true but what business is it of yours how others use their freedom?

    If it does not tangibly harm anybody else (i.e. as with simply smoking tobacco) then you have no right to ban it.

    • octopi says:

      Smoking tobacco harms other people because of second hand smoke. This is acknowledged in places all over the world, smoking is banned in many places all over the world, not just Singapore.

      Smoking also causes lots of disease and places undue burden on the health system, but mentioning this to you for the umpteenth time is probably no better than talking to the wall.

      I actually think that caning vandals is a bit too much, to be honest with you. I would much rather they just be put behind bars. But your point that caning vandals is expensive is absurd. Jailing people is expensive, not caning them.

      Your intellectual positions are inconsistent. You talk a lot about “being humane”. If you punish people excessively you might be not be “humane”. But for some strange reason you think that not saving people from themselves is also “humane”. There is a tremendous bias here towards non- intervention.

      Suppose you were to see an accident victim on the road, and you didn’t call the ambulance, because “what business is it of yours”. Why is that being “humane”?

    • Michael says:

      That’s why smoking in confined spaces is illegal and not the act of smoking tobacco itself which is, in a real sense, harmless.

      As I said, if you think placing a ‘burden on the health care system’ qualifies as harm then you should support the cause to outlaw being fat, too. It’s probably more expensive than the social cost that deals with smoking tobacco.

      Although I would argue, being a libertarian myself, that the burden of one’s own self being fat falling on on others isn’t the fault of the fat people, it’s the fault of socialized healthcare and a socialist system.

      As for myself not being for saving others.. what have I been talking about for the last past posts?

      I have been harping on and on for rehabilitation, not jail time, to help drug abusers — that involves those who abuse tobacco and get addicted.

      I am in full support for legalizing drugs not just to achieve the freedom that all men and women deserve but also to make drug use safer (through government regulation like we do with alcohol and tobacco) and use the money that normally sends addicts to jail to set up large scale, effective rehabilitation programs to give them another chance at life.

      Your last paragraph is quite puzzling. I think you misrepresent my position.

      All I am saying is that, in the case you propose, it is not my business that a man, for instance, walks in a careless manner across the street.

      He is free to do so as it only would TANGIBLY harm himself.

      But this says nothing of my response to him doing what he pleases with his freedom. I would advise him to take more care in his passing of the road and would certainly assist him if he got hit.

    • octopi says:

      It’s immoral to allow a guy to cross a street if he doesn’t know how to do so. The difference between you and I is I would make sure that he doesn’t cross the street improperly, I would fine and punish him to make double sure. You would do nothing, wait until he gets mangled up by a car, organs dropping out of his body and stuff, then you would start acting “humanely” and maybe call and ambulance, or maybe not, because he doesn’t have socialised health care.

      A pedestrian crossing the street dangerously also poses harm to vehicles, actually. A car trying to avoid him might cause another accident. (If the road is crowded enough, he will cause another accident.) He might end up suing the car driver, and if the courts get it wrong, the car driver will have to go to jail.

      The problem with you libertarians is that everything in the world is more interconnected than you realise. Freedom is a much more subtle idea than what you’re able to grasp.

    • Michael says:

      Actually I retract my statement in regards to crossing the street carelessly..

      That is a bad example. I did not consider that he could also tangibly harm others in the process (by causing accidents as you noted).

      Although, crossing the street carelessly isn’t much of a problem so I do not think it should be bothered that it should be legal. Only suicidal individuals would attempt it.

      Regardless, forgive my giant brain freeze and thank you for reminding me of that.

  28. Michael says:

    @ Octopi

    You say the right to take drugs (alchohol, tobacco, MJ, heroin, cocaine etc etc.) is not a meaningful freedom? That is very puzzling. All freedoms are meaningful.

    Why does one man or a group of men (known as government) or even a tyrannical majority have the right to tell another man what to put in his body as long as he does not tangibly harm another person?

    By the way, I don’t think John Stuart Mill posited that one should be free to vandalize property. It goes against the concept of freedom as we know it.

    Vandalism DOES qualify as tangibly harming others, no? Smoking tobacco or MJ or eating one’s self to obesity and death, on the other hand, even as much as you would not like to partake in these things, do not.

    • Craig says:

      @Michael

      I’m further puzzled by your assertion that all freedoms are meaningful, and I will stand by Octopi’s refusal to discuss drug-ABUSE as being a meaningful freedom. Pardon me for not being up to scratch with John Stuart Miller, but my view is that it’s quite hard to imagine anyone saying that my freedom to stuff myself with cheeseburgers till I’m severely obese, having an ailing liver, reduced vitality/libido etc is meaningful at all (except it does taste nice, I’d agree with you). Yet I’d accept that we do have the right to do as we please to ourselves without harming others.

      Then I’d like to revisit your insistence that doing drugs does not harm others. It might not oftentimes cause bodily/physical harm, but it could harm a family if an earning member is constantly stoned, for example.

      You might want to consider that Singapore’s population is miniscule compared to the US’, with no natural resources and only its small population to keep it afloat. Naturally, our leaders could not afford to have people incapable of contributing to our growth (or even survival) during the formative years. This is probably true even now. What would John Stuart Miller say about that? Would such circumstances deserve our being labeled ‘immoral and barbaric’?

      It is worth understanding our cultural circumstances and history while engaging in debate. The very same thing is happening with our counterparts in New Haven, so it appears to us. It does not feel right to impose your world view on us before looking at it through our lenses. Nevertheless I admit I have really enjoyed your exchanges with Octopi. Thank you.

      On a final note, please note there’s a difference between their and they’re

    • Michael says:

      Hi Craig, your point in the second paragraph also applies if the drug in question is alcohol and the earning family member is constantly drunk. Or if the earning family member were addicted to video games or cheeseburgers thus severely compromising his work productivity.

      Don’t we already have ways to deal with such behaviors that do not involve banning it outright and infringing on very important freedoms?

      Most people can handle alcohol responsibly and know what very dangerous drugs to avoid (eg. crystal meth, certain prescription drugs).

      The same would go for less harmful drugs or in the case of marijuana, a virtually harmless drug/plant.

      The problem is then the small group of addicts that will form and the problem is not alleviated by throwing them in jail.

      Traffickers wont be a problem as they will probably run out of business from private competition since legalizing the drugs means that private companies can now sell them (and people would rather buy drugs — alcohol, tobacco — from Marlboro than the mob or Mexican cartels). The tax on the more harmful drugs can be siphoned into rehabilitation programs for those who get addicted.

      In regards to the circumstance of the country, I actually think freedom and all the good it brings is what will be required to keep Singapore afloat.

      Now I am not entirely up to date with the progress of the country but I am aware there is a high amount of brain drain (some say precisely because there is no freedom) occurring today. One of the highest in the world, if not the highest.

      If people is your only resource would you not want the people to be a set of rugged individualists and rebels of the kind that only freedom will help blossom?

      “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

    • octopi says:

      Hi, your comments are getting more and more inane. Singapore increased its population by 1 million people over 10 years (out of a population of 5 million). That is the opposite of a brain drain. You are irritating people with your lack of ability to get your shit right. I would say that a lot of people come to Singapore because it is more free than where they came from.

      By the way I’m not endorsing this inflow of people because it is driving a lot of Singapore born people up the wall including myself.

      Reading John Stuart Mill is not a substitute for keeping up to date on current affairs! The classics help to get us on the same page and remind us of where ideas originated from. They are mostly proposals and they could not have had any knowledge of how their ideas worked out in practice.

    • Michael says:

      You misunderstand me. I refer to the brain drain involving the leaving of locals. Last I checked, Singapore has a very high emigration rate of natives, especially amongst the tertiary educated class.

      I would doubt Chinese or Indian immigrants would stay in Singapore after their planned tenure, they would go back to their home country most likely. The same applies to the Europeans and Americans.

    • octopi says:

      So why is a net gain of people called a “brain drain”?

    • octopi says:

      No, I said the right to take heroin and cocaine is not a meaningful freedom. Class A drugs. What are class A drugs?

      “Smoking tobacco or MJ or eating one’s self to obesity and death, ” is also harming others. It’s the reason why millions of tax dollars in the US are diverted away from more important things, and why it’s in such a terrible state right now.

    • Michael says:

      The fact that smoking tobacco or eating one’s self to obesity and death places the burden of one’s own health practices onto others is not the fault of freedom. It is the fault of socialized healthcare that the burden of one’s own unhealthy practices falls onto others without their consent. That is why libertarians advocate charity instead of socialism.

      All in all, if you want to deal with the harm of tobacco without taking away an important freedom (to put in one’s body what he wants as long as it does not tangibly harm others), tax and regulate it and then provide rehabilitation centers with the tax dollars.

      Marijuana, I do not consider harmful at all in the sense of harming one’s own health. Neither does the bulk of independently reviewed scientific evidence (not US government propaganda).

      As far as I know, there are no known adverse health effects to smoking marijuana, let alone vaporizing it or eating it in edible form.

    • octopi says:

      Socialised health care is good. Insurance is usually used for health care because you never know when you’re going to need it. It’s letting people die without health insurance that’s immoral. Charity is a very poor substitute for government help. What most often happens in charity is that the giver makes a one time gift, feels good about himself. And then cuts off the benefits the next day. The aid is extremely arbitrary and it’s probably rather cruel. Charity organisations generally have bad governance and in Singapore were involved in huge scandals where the CEOs of those organisations were found to be paying themselves excessively.

      Charity is preferred to taxes for many rich people not because they are feeling generous, but because they give less in charity than in taxes. The only people who think that charity is better are either the rich or those brainwashed by the rich.

      Marijuana leads to violent behaviour. Excessive use of marijuana may lead to psychosis. Other than that I’m not in agreement with my government’s policy on marijuana.

    • Michael says:

      Voluntary charity (as opposed to tax) as it stands now isn’t effective because it has no ‘market’ so to speak, as government takes care of social welfare in the present system. Hypothetically if one removes government involvement in social welfare you will start to see fierce competition, increased demand, stakeholders vigilance and commercial ratings shape up the newly created charities into effective and transparent institutions. Charity donations won’t just be single time gifts (although that option would probably be available) but package deals. It’s much easier to audit and plan that way.

      If mere fact that average citizens such as yourself are even debating the issue is proof enough that in the absence of government aid, people will set aside a percentage of their income for charity as they normally do under this system for tax used for social welfare.

    • Michael says:

      As for the last paragraph on MJ.. I think you watched too REEFER MADNESS and other early government propaganda films a couple of times too many.

      All in all, and if you travel to the US or Canada you will find this out (or if you can’t, just look up the available body of scientific evidence on the subject), marijuana users will tell you (nearly 50 million in the US alone, I believe) that pot makes them much less aggressive and more empathetic and caring of one’s own actions.

      I think it was in a certain World cup or event where the police on duty for guard remarked that they’d rather have the spectators stoned on marijuana than drunk on alcohol because it’s a assurance that there would be no fights or riots.

      It’s like that Bill Hick’s joke.. it’s virtually impossible to get in a fight while on marijuana.

      In regards to the link between marijuana and psychosis, it is just that a link and a correlation.

      Correlation does not equal causation.

      The correlation is actually explained rather well by doctors already.

      The reason why there is an increased incidence of psychosis amongst known marijuana users is because most people who are predisposed to psychosis or already have psychosis smoke marijuana as it helps them treat their suffering or to ‘self medicate’, in other words.

      It’s called the self medication theory. It applies also to alcohol and tobacco.

      Alcohol usage is also strongly correlated (but not proven to cause as with MJ) with mental illness but is also usually explained by the self medication theory. Alcohol and MJ itself are not known to cause mental illness, there is no known biological mechanism for this. It is mental illness that causes people to look for such drugs to relieve their mental suffering, so the theory goes. That is why there is the correlation or link.

    • Michael says:

      Sorry, as a correction for my last post on the topic of the harmlessness of MJ, in regards to the self medication theory explaining the mere correlation/link (not forward causality) between marijuana usage and psychosis, it’s supposed to go:

      *People with psychosis or are likely to have it are more predisposed to smoke marijuana than the average person because it helps medicate and treat their mental sufferings.

    • octopi says:

      Well it’s pretty unfortunate that because of prevailing social attitudes towards marijuana we can’t really study it very carefully, so I’ll let the scientists all figure that out before we get too hasty in proclaiming that marijuana is harmless right? My claims that marijuana cause dangerous behaviour and psychosis are not entirely baseless, as the following articles will show:

      http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/07/marijuana-use-may-speed-psychosis/

      http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/chem-lab-the-sc/

      The other thing, voluntary charity does not work. If it was enough to help all the poor people of the world, it would have eradicated poverty by now. It has nothing to do with government intervention.

      According to the logic of the markets, people are all-knowing selfish optimisers. Market logic is supposed to predict that no voluntary charity takes place. The very existence of charity shows that market assumptions are not 100% correct.

      Wealth and poverty are a by-product of the market economy. The fact that rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer has already been proven by network theory.

      I’m very surprised that people still believe in libertarianism after the Great Recession. It was pretty obvious that it was caused by people who believed too much in free market without government intervention. There are no major countries with governments controlled by libertarian parties, which is probably a good thing because it shows that people in general are not too dumb to see that those ideas are pretty worthless.

      Poor people are already poor in spite of having some co-erced redistribution systems in place. If you took that away, the situation will simply get worse. And there’s no need for me to preface my previous statement with a “hypothetically”.

    • Craig says:

      Should people with mental illnesses be afforded the freedom to consume such drugs/alcohol if they clearly can’t comprehend that they’re at a greater disposition to abuse those substances? While drugs are not legalized, and such individuals do not seek proper psychiatric help, how is legalizing drugs, taxing them and opening rehabilitation centres for such people help at all? Seems redundant to me. Unless in this whole mangled mass of text I’ve lost where this is going…

  29. Michael says:

    This post is addressed to KJD.

    As for the saying you quote — that is why you should not have the freedom to assault people physically since that would constitute tangibly harming others.

    Read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill and maybe you will actually understand the concept of freedom — you are free to do as you please as long as you do not hurt others.

    And by the way, the reason why drugs are so dangerous in the US is precisely because their illegal.

    Just like how making alcohol illegal exploded crime rates and were in some respects the birth of organized crime (eg. Al Capone) in the US.

  30. Michael says:

    @ KJD

    To me killing folks for drug trafficking is like chopping your head off to get rid of a head ache, if you understand me. Or like burning a man alive for stealing.

    It might stop people from stealing but at what cost? Your society would be built on barbarity and immorality.

    • octopi says:

      Well obviously burning a man alive for stealing is not relevant to our discussion. Allowing the war on drugs to escalate out of control and ruin many lives in Latin America is most definitely barbaric and immoral. And allowing people access to class A drugs is possibly immoral because even if those drugs were legal, your life is ruined. Like Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson dying of legal drugs.

      In any case, there are a lot of civil rights denied to Singaporeans that Singaporeans are concerned about. The fact is you have not mentioned them at all while continuing to discuss marginal issues that we don’t really care about. It is very painful to watch you bark up the wrong tree.

    • Michael says:

      By the same token, allowing people legal access to tobacco or xanax is immoral as well. Both are as addictive as heroin, if not more so and actually more harmful than pure heroin (street heroin which is created by illegality is probably as harmful as tobacco however).

      But it would be a sad and unjust world where a man has no freedom to smoke tobacco, and is thrown in jail if he were caught doing it.

      The War on Drugs is indeed a failure. Making drugs illegal increased the power of drug cartels enormously just like how making alcohol illegal made Al Capone and has also made drug use more dangerous.

      It is time to try a new model, perhaps the Portugal model of decriminalization.

    • octopi says:

      The sad and unjust world where people do not have the freedom to smoke cigarettes does not exist, and certainly not in Singapore so I’m not going to discuss that. Even though I’m not certain that it’s sad and unjust, and even though a lot of people right now are discussing banning tobacco for people born after 2000.

      Drug cartels do not rule Singapore or Malaysia. War on drugs may be a failure, but nuclear war on drugs has proven to work.

      Drug abuse is not freedom. If you want to preserve a person’s freedom, you should do everything you can to make him stay off dangerous drugs in the first place.

    • Michael says:

      Drug abuse both is freedom and isn’t.. it’s a cautionary tale that tells us to choose what we do with our inalienable rights and freedoms to do what we wish as long as we don’t tangibly hurt others wisely and with care.

      The ability to merely recreational, medicinal and spiritual drug use, however, is absolutely an essential freedom and must be fought for at all costs.

      In regards to the ‘nuclear war on drugs’.. I consider that too a failure of injustice and totalitarianism. It condemns those who abuse drugs to jail time or even death and punishes those who merely use it for their own spiritual, physical or intellectual benefit.

      It certainly works in eradicating drug use altogether (something I disagree with) however, whether, abusive or merely recreational or spiritual (and in some cases medicinal, if research on the drug is made illegal as well) in smaller countries such as Singapore.

      It won’t work in that sense on bigger countries like the US with large factions of criminality already established within itself and Mexico to the south.

  31. Ethan says:

    I think we can have a more civilized debate about this issue without having to resort to snide remarks and sarcastic undertones. Some of the comments above reveal hurt feelings from the public, which I don’t think is valid or necessary given the excellence of both institutions.

    Singapore is indeed a semi-authoritarian state. Denial is pointless. Doesn’t mean we cannot learn from others constructively, as we have done over the years. This venture is unusual only because it flirts directly with liberalisation. Let us not take offence so easily, or to make unnecessary inferences about what we think of each other.

  32. Michael says:

    In regards to your inquiry regarding the brain drain.. I mean it in the long run and in terms of the natives.

    The majority of the huge growth in population comes from immigrants who will surely leave to their home countries of China, India and Europe and the US after their planned tenure.

    Once they leave, along with the local tertiary educated class amongst which the emigration rate is high, there will be a massive brain drain.

  33. octopi says:

    For those ppl following this thread, it might interest you to note that James Sleeper and Seyla Benhabib are married to each other. Make of that what you will.

  34. Michael says:

    Hi Octopi, yes it is obvious voluntary charity does not currently work now in providing social welfare and a social safety net.. but that’s because people simply do not use it! — the system currently relies on government wealth redistribution programs.

    You misunderstand that the drive for voluntary charity is in and of itself a selfish drive to make one’s own self feel better by doing good for others. We are, for the most part, moral creatures. Few are born this evil or are twisted to that degree of evil so as to not set aside a certain portion of their income to devote to social welfare, whether the avenue is voluntary charity or government wealth redistribution programs.

    The reason why people are so easily duped into socialist and communist rhetoric is precisely because the propaganda used tugs at the selfish desire to do good to others.

    If you look at the basis of every good deed, you will see that it is mostly for self gratification and to optimize one’s own survival. We like being good. It’s a selfish drive. An opiate, in a sense.

    And that is how biologists theorize morality evolved in certain animals.

    The more altruistic members survive and are able to pass on the “altruistic gene” of loving altruism to offspring because helping others is in and of itself a survival mechanism that optimizes one’s chances at survival. We are the descendents of the ultimate altruistic survivors that are simply predisposed to liking the act of helping others because well.. it was good for our ancestors to do it.

    So in actuality, since being good and helping others is an innately selfish biological drive.. the self regulating free market alternative would be most effective at maximizing the drive. There is no question at all, if you think charity is big now, wait and see when inefficient government social wealth redistribution programs are gone.. a huge market for charity will open up.

    People love to help other people.. you must be out of your mind if you think there won’t be a market for altruism. People love money, too, y’know.

  35. Michael says:

    @Octopi

    On your last paragraphs regarding the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.. in the US, that is hundred 100% the fault of big government that probably started with Reagan. Everything from our government schools, to the crap government wealth redistribution programs, to the massive debt, to the fact that we have a bought Congress who deliberately deregulates markets that would otherwise be free and self regulating and literally creates monopolies.

    And again with the Great Depression, that was also caused by government involvement (eg. Hoover’s ridiculous policies) in the markets, amongst other things.

    All in all, you are actually making good arguments against big government.

    As far as I know, the Libertarian party is only 40 years old.

    Most of the crap happening in the US is the fault of a government getting so big and overreaching and literally spiraling out of control. The founding fathers were the ones that were essentially Libertarian in ideology that envisioned a small, constitutionally limited government whose sole purpose was to preserve the freedoms of the people and nothing else.

  36. Michael says:

    @Octopi

    By the way, economic inequality will always exist even in a true, self regulating free market..

    It’s just that government intervention in markets, by proven track record, make’s it worse, far worse.

    What governments has done in getting so big in the last 50 years is break your leg (deregulate deliberately after literally taking bribes and political donations, accumulating massive debt etc etc.) and hand you a shitty crutch (crap welfare programs) and say, hey look! you need us.

    It’s exactly what’s happening in the West all over now.

    You are seeing the death throes of experiments in big government in the US and Europe now.

  37. Michael says:

    Hi Octopi, on the paragraphs regarding MJ, the first link also references only a link and correlation. The link is well established but not forward causality. The same goes with alcohol and tobacco and even prescription drugs such as xanax. However it is not likely these drugs cause mental illness.. there is no known biological mechanism for it. More likely, it is mentally ill people who are attracted more to these drugs to deal with their suffering.

    The second link that deals with paranoia which is a well known phenomenon but it is a mostly temporal symptom. The paranoia wears off. I am not aware of any study demonstrating a long term adverse effect of cannabis in anything, at all, in fact.

    Believe it or not some people do not like to smoke MJ at all for that reason. It may sometimes cause people to slip into deep introspection into one’s own life and personal issues, and for people who dislike a certain aspect of themselves, that isn’t particularly fun.

    All in all, though, I am more pleased to see lots of research being done on the more medical aspect of MJ in recent times.

    It seems it could potentially be a medical wonder drug. Just google “marijuana cancer cure” and you’ll see many articles referencing two studies and clinical trials showing how certain compounds in MJ has been shown to shrink brain tumors in animal subjects. Of course, it also has been shown to be effective in treating depression, addiction to alcohol/tobacco, pain relief, tendonitis, head aches, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease etc etc. as well.

  38. Michael says:

    Also, in addition to my post on altruism/voluntary charity being in and of itself, a selfish biological desire..

    Having myself having some minor experience and ventures into the market and of course doing the appropriate studies in economics, the free market appears to itself only rewards altruistic business practice (transparency, observing contracts etc etc.).

    In a true free market, dishonesty, non-transparency, cheating, fraudulent practices are non-profitable and a sure road to bankruptcy.

    With all stakeholders hounding you — insurance companies, consumers, rival companies, employees and the small minarchist government that the Founding Fathers envisioned etc etc. — for information, for dirt, for transparency then only altruistic business practice becomes profitable and earns loyal customers.

    Once stakeholders get the slightest whiff of fraudulence reflected in price changes or a sudden increased obscurity in financial audits then they change their strategy — competitors prepare to enter the market to compare a large portion of share once the summation of fraudulent practice implodes in on itself for the predatory firm in question, consumers rush to spend elsewhere, wherever and whenever it is possible. Things like extended periods of group price fixing and the persistence of non-benevolent monopolies are theoretically impossible phenomena in a true free market.

    Good companies flourish and bad companies die out in free markets.

    The problem in the US in the last 50 years is that Obama/government protects companies from the free market, essentially deregulating the market making it un-free. It infamously bailed out bad companies and fraudulent banks that failed dramatically, provides subsidization for companies and institutes vast tariffs and licensing administration to prevent competition. Most major monopolies today are government sponsored sadly.

    • octopi says:

      First, you’re probably the first guy I’ve met who thinks that Reagan is a socialist. He expanded the budget, but that was about defence spending. Otherwise, he didn’t really care about the poor.

      If libertarianism was founded upon the values of the forefathers, then why did it take until 40 years ago to get started?

      It’s not that people do not have altruistic urges. It is that their altruistic urges will never be enough to solve poverty. People will never redistribute their income enough.

      Free markets don’t exist, and they can never exist. When people talk about the great recession, you will hear them say over and over again, nobody really knows what’s going on. You have to be nuts if you think that everybody can tell in advance when he’s being swindled. The Great Recession was caused by libertarians who insisted that there was too much regulation going on in the financial markets. Companies can always get away with going offshore, where there are no regulations, so that they can escape tax and commit fraud. They do this not by colluding with governments but going against them.

      Even in the unlikely event that companies which cheat the people / cheat the system do get outed by the market (how many are there? Want to name names? Arthur Andersen? How many others?) Goldman Sachs is still alive and well, JP Morgan, how many others? Your all knowing markets were swindled by Bernie Madoff for the better part of 20 years! How did that happen?

      In market conditions, everybody starts out equal. Then a few get ahead, others drop out of the race. Later on, when the market is split between maybe 10-20 big players, the barriers to entry come up. How are you going to fight against an established player? In the end, we end up with an ogilopoly. Your idealisation of a free market is a temporary condition, and does not bear scrutiny in the hard light of day. When you say “good” companies flourish, you are fudging the ideas of competitiveness and virtue. They are not the same. Companies are fully capable of doing lots of unvirtuous things which are not illegal, and they can’t be shut down because of that.

      I thought that market fundamentalism was a long discredited ideology!

    • Michael says:

      Hi Octopi.

      In a true free market, monopolies are an inherently good thing.

      Why? Monopolies can only maintain their monopoly status by continuing to be benevolent to consumers.

      The minute it becomes apparent that a monopoly has gone rogue and adopts a feast famine strategy of artificially lowering prices just to route out competitors now so they can later screw over customers later with artificially higher prices when there is no competition then consumers will realize this and the sociopathic CEO’s business reputation will be ruined.

      Competitors will then be able to come in to capture the market share by promising and subsequently delivering consistently good prices. Their prices will likely be slightly higher than the failing monopolies for the time being but consumers will be willing to pay the extra $$ in the short term to reap the benefit of consistently good prices in the long term.

      Now your comment about Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan.. You’re right, why are they still in business? Why hasn’t the government dealt with it in an appropriate manner?

      The reason is because the government is already bought and rules in favor of big money interests such as corporations in the US.

      That’s the problem. It’s human nature. Politicians will always vote in favor of allowing money, bribes and political donations. And they will sell their vote to whoever gives the highest bidding.

    • Michael says:

      At the end of the day, it is precisely when a monopoly goes rogue that the barriers of entry to competitors (other rich capitalists) will go down.

      Once a monopoly starts preying on consumers is precisely when competition can easily enter to capture a large portion of the market share irregardless if their prices are slightly higher (but still relatively low as a small business). People will be willing to pay slightly more in the short term to reap the benefits of doing business with good men (and not sociopathic CEOs) in the long term and to get rid of scum business men from the market.

      That’s the beauty of the free market.

    • octopi says:

      Michael, you are a chump. You are too earnest, and there are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of you. Big businesses love libertarians who will champion free market against the evils of regulation, so that they can keep on making a dishonest living.

      What you are saying is incredibly naive. Yes, crime does not pay. People get found out eventually. The bad guys get punished by the market IF their misdeeds are known to enough people and IF people truly care about whether they’re working with ethical companies and IF there is some mechanism to put them out of business.

      And even if all the above are true, it takes a long time for them to get out of business. Maybe 10 years? Maybe 20 years? Who cares if Bernie Madoff met with bad end? He’s enjoyed life for 20, 30 years! Many people wouldn’t mind being in his position!

      The fact is: non benevolent monopolies are transient. But all monopolies are transient anyway. Every company can get away with murder for a period of time, during which the senior execs of that company can get rich. Then their scam is found out, but most of them will still keep their millions. The discipline of the markets is very lax!

      John Maynard Keynes said that he’s not interested in what happens in the long run. If you only care about what happens in the long run, that is intellectual laziness, it is sloppy thinking. In the long run we are all dead.

      I am not interested in your arguments about what is “theoretically impossible”. I’ll listen to you if you can back up your statements with empirical examples. Otherwise stop reading all the philosophy, pick up the newspapers instead and take an interest in what’s going on in the real world for a change.

  39. Michael says:

    Hi Craig, regarding your point on whether people should have the freedom to ‘self medicate’ with drugs such as alcohol and tobacco and MJ, my answer is obviously yes, as long as they don’t harm others in doing so.

    Drinking alcohol does not cause tangible harm to others. Getting drunk and violently assaulting another, on the other hand, does cause tangible harm to others.

    Which is why drunken assault is illegal and a freedom that nobody is allowed.

    You know, your answer is partly answered by medical marijuana programs in California or Denver.

    There, marijuana for medical usage is legalized and people with social/mental problems such as anxiety or depression will go to doctors and get a prescription/recommendation for medical marijuana and be able to legally buy it and treat their suffering.

  40. Michael says:

    A few more comments on the concept of voluntary charity being driven by a inherently self serving biological desire to feel good:

    We like what is good for us, from an evolutionary standpoint. It feels good to do that which promotes our survival.

    For our ancestors, doing good and cooperating were behaviors associated with greater amount of food, shelter, defense and general merriment.

    This trait of liking to perform good deeds because of it’s association with a greater standard of living was passed on from our ancestors to us.

    It’s the reason why for modern humans (and other altruistic species) helping others produces an almost euphoric and blissful mental state within ourselves, and has been even shown to improve our physical health and fitness.

    Doing good to others is in a crude metaphorical sense just like shooting up heroin.

    Given that, I’m puzzled by your assertion that voluntary charity isn’t driven by a selfish/self serving biological desire (to achieve the self serving desire of attaining general well being and euphoria that comes from doing good).

    Of course there are all sorts of other incentives but they are all based on the fact that we are literally addicted to doing what is good in our eyes and that therefore social welfare is a self serving act.

    One of the chief amongst these is the desire to keep social status.. You’re going to have to answer the question ‘which social fund do you subscribe to?’ from your family, friends and colleagues if you want to keep your respect and not be socially ostracized.

    More than that, they’ll realize poverty isn’t in their best interest to ignore. More poverty = more crime.

    All in all, the reasons for providing social welfare are in fact entirely self serving.

    If people want massages the market will provide efficient massage services. If the people want it, the market will provide, always.

    It’s not a question of whether people WANT social welfare (the mere fact that social welfare is a huge issue is undeniable proof of that), it’s a question of how it is provided and the best way to do it is in a voluntary manner, and not through force by the hand of the State.

    • Rocco Hu Rocco Hu says:

      “All in all, the reasons for providing social welfare are in fact entirely self serving”

      That’s a logical fallacy much prevalent in reductionistic empiricism. Earlier on you only demonstrated several self-interested reasons for charity. You did not show that these are the only reasons for doing so. To do that would require you to delineate all the possible other factors that lead people to act altruistically, and then falsify them convincingly.

      What you’re saying is akin to saying that since reproduction is good for the species, that is the only reason why people engage in sexual intercourse.

    • Michael says:

      You completely misunderstood my point.

      What I said specifically is that people when people do good, it’s because it makes them feel good.

      And attempting to make one’s own self feel good is an inherently self serving act.

      You can try all you want to find reasons for doing charity but they are all reducible to the yearning of euphoric feeling attached to doing the good deed and the avoidance of unpleasant feeling attached to doing the bad deed, at that particular time and in that particular circumstance.

      Now, here is where you misunderstood, it’s when I mentioned that doing good was beneficial to our survival. I mentioned it as a possible biological explanation for why we feel euphoria when we do good for others.

      The same applies to sexual intercourse.

      When we do it it’s because we like it’s effects.

    • Craig says:

      I gave up my lunch to a poor friend of mine who couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t stand seeing him go hungry all the time, but I sure felt really hungry and miserable till I had dinner. Didn’t feel any good effects from that :X But it sure felt like a duty to do so!

    • Michael says:

      Also, I am puzzled by your point on my empiricism.

      Yes I am thinking within an empiricist framework.. unless you want to talk about how spirits or angels or God or magic are reasons for why we do charity. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of that.. neither does any man, to my knowledge.

    • Rocco Hu Rocco Hu says:

      Hi Michael, I believe I understand you perfectly, and that you misunderstand me. Perhaps it is my fault for being unclear, so let me line it up again:

      You argue:

      “You can try all you want to find reasons for doing charity but they are all reducible to the yearning of euphoric feeling attached to doing the good deed and the avoidance of unpleasant feeling attached to doing the bad deed, at that particular time and in that particular circumstance.”

      Basically what you’re saying is that the ONLY reason why people do altruistic deeds are for psychological pleasure. But all you did to argue your point was to show one factor which leads to altruistic action, that is, psychological pleasure.

      So I am not questioning the validity of that factor per se, but rather how you treat that argument as adequete proof of your statement, that people carry out charity ONLY because of psychological pleasure.

      In other words, I am not saying that people don’t derive psychological pleasure from altruism. I am just asserting that the presence of that factor does not logically negate all other possible factors.

      And with regard to your blind faith in empiricism I have two things to say:

      1) You seem to define non-empiricism as essentially superstition; God or magic.

      That is untrue. Mathematics (1+1), conceptual analysis and any form of logical deduction is non-empirical, even though they might start off FROM empirical findings

      2) What are the epistemic principles which you rely on which allows you to falsify religious faith so convincingly that you can dismiss it so easily?

      3) Pure empiricism tells one very little. It is only of value when placed within a theoretical framework, which then allows one to predict the causes and effects of a particular action

      For example, fruits have been falling upon people’s heads since Paleolithic times. But it only yielded great scientific breakthroughs when scientists tried to relate it to a theory of gravity.

      Again to avoid misunderstanding, I am not saying that empiricism is BAD, but rather that PURE empiricism, which you are espousing implicitly whether you are aware of it or not, is blind.

    • Rocco Hu Rocco Hu says:

      To clarify myself further, as well as illustrate my first comment which you either misread or could not understand:

      To prove that A is the ONLY cause of B requires not only for you to prove the contribution of A, but also to:

      a) generate all other possible factors

      b) demonstrate that the list of alternative factors you have demonstrated are reasonably broad such that one is not neglecting any other important factor

      c) falsify each and every one of them such that you original factor, A, is the ONE AND ONLY true cause of B.

      In case one dislikes pure conceptual argument, let me illustrate my case with an example:

      Johnny needs to go to school. Johnny has been shown to take the bus to school.

      Can you therefore conclude that Johnny ONLY takes the bus to school? No!

      You need to show that Johnny has no money to take a taxi, nor comes from a family that is wealthy enough to own a car. And of couse you want to generate a broad enough range of hypotheses, you can postulate that if Johnny lives right next to his school (as opposed to far, as assumed in the earlier hypothesis), has no need to take the bus, or that johnny is a rich kid but has a mother who wants him to take the bus every day to help him be more streetsmart.

      here there is space for a critique of the pure empiricism you talked about earlier. Even if you have observed Johnny taking the bus to school every day without fail since he first attended, this does certainly mean that he will do so ad infinitum until he graduates. Johnny might have been taking the bus because his mother wanted him to be street smart.

      pure empiricism yields no certain knowledge here. Only a combination of that plus rational deductions from his situations can

    • Melissa says:

      Michael, I want to apologise for my previous insults to you. When you first started in this forum, your fortune cookie wisdom incensed me because it seemed like a holier-than-thou statement from a superficial slacktivist. Your staying power in this forum has changed that impression f0r me. I may not agree with everything you’ve put forward but I thank you for engaging with us Singaporeans.

  41. [...] month, the Singaporean student newspaper Kent Ridge Common published an excellent column by Koh Choon Hwee, who confessed herself bewildered by the "careless, generalized stereotypes being traded not only [...]

  42. [...] been increased dialogue with Singaporeans who are more sceptical about this, such as NUS student Koh Choon Hwee and recent Yale graduate Huang Zhipeng. I think all of our perspectives are needed to avert a [...]

  43. [...] Singapore, an article in an independent student newspaper criticized Yale professors as trading in stereotypes — and suggested that if Americans obsess [...]

  44. [...] the “Taint-Me-Not” faction, as represented by some of the Yale faculty I was responding to in my previous article, and by those behind the resolution that was recently passed. This may be understood as a [...]

  45. [...] been increased dialogue with Singaporeans who are more sceptical about this, such as NUS student Koh Choon Hwee and recent Yale graduate Huang Zhipeng. I think all of our perspectives are needed to avert a [...]

  46. [...] to establish a liberal arts college, and had expressed these objections in articles (here and here) at the Kent Ridge Common, an independent online student [...]

  47. Fred Mumbai says:

    “IF Yale is asking herself if she should partner NUS/Singapore in this YNC venture, should we (NUS/Singapore) not be asking the same about Yale too, considering the quality of arguments proffered by some of her tenured best?”

    You should be asking whether Singapore needs the validation of an American franchise to run a college REGARDLESS of whether Yale is asking herself anything. C’mon man – stop looking westward!

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