Sunday, February 3, 2013

Simple Moral Philosophy on the PAP government

Rational people, reason, calculate and draw a logical conclusion. Eventually we would even be able to create software that achieve the same and along the timeline someone like Lt. Commander Data as in Star Trek.

Type 1 smart people listen, see and work out things rationally and also with their hearts. There is a larger group of Type 2 smart people who albeit more risky, listen and see with their hearts first and then struggle over working it out with their minds until they get a headache. But you if give them a chance to meet you, shake your hands as Lee Li Lian cleverly did, they are able to use the non verbal messages and clear their doubts and headache. These people understand but are quite poor at articulating how they feel. Thinking and feeling are inseparable. So how can they be smart? The secret is in their values. If they hold on to them, they are safe but for the moments they gave in to greed, that is when they get into trouble. They become victims of frauds conceived with higher intelligence than theirs.

In recent years we have seen evidence of  Type 1 smart people, e.g., Lucky Tan who maintains the blog 'Diary of a Singaporean Mind'. I often disagree with him but he is smart. Andrew Loh is another Type 1 person and there is a growing number of them among the alternative political parties especially the WP. People who see the world as it is and not through the lens of dogma.

With Type 2 smart people we don't have a lab test to pick them up at will. If I be permitted to be a little cheeky, we depend on astrological  events to find out, e.g., the last by election of Punggol East.

Now let's move to the stupid people. Type 1 stupid people don't know that they are stupid because they mistake their stupidity for some other virtue. E.g., the Population White Paper. The PAP leaders see it as political courage to push this but it is actually political stupidity. There is no need to discuss other types of stupidity. Type 1 stupid people can be the most intelligent but whatever they spin, Type 1 smart people can tell and Type 2 smart people can feel.

I can go on and on about Type 1 stupid people but another much better writer, Nassim Taleb have dissected them thoroughly. He has never made it clearer than ever in his latest book, "Antifragile". I recently read the book and I can see the way the PAP think and operate written all over inside it.

Stupid people whatever types they are eventually find the rope to hang themselves. It can take a very long time to happen and they might even look very smart for a while. Luck can keep stupid people alive for a while. Sometimes even longer than a lifetime!

The ancients understand stupidity more deeply than we do these days. Morality is allergic to stupidity but intelligence can reside with both smart and stupid people. Morality with intelligence produce wisdom and Type 1 smart people. Immorality and worse amorality with intelligence produce Type 1 stupidity with self deception as its crowning characteristic.

Fortunately it is easier to test for stupid people so that we can do something about them: they all traded their common sense for theories, dogmas and models. That was exactly what the young Goh Keng Swee noticed about his colonial bosses. Type 1 smart people use theories and models as tools and are keenly aware of their limits, but Type 1 stupid people take them as oracles and worse combine them to construct the ultimate idol for other type 1 stupid people near and far to admire and worship. That was how I felt when I read the former Civil Service Head Peter Ho speech delivered on Jan 15. Whatever happened to common sense? How did our former Type 1 smart people in government make way for Type 1 stupid people? I think we can borrow an analogue history from Economics: How Physics envy entered and destroyed Economics with Paul Samuelson as their high priest and a bastard form of Keynes ideas for scripture. Our problem in Singapore is government leaders suffered from private sector envy and apply shallow business philosophy to solve public service and governance problems. Philosophically that is why our model of privately run public transport do not work.

Update: 12:40pm

My friend living outside Vancouver just emailed me a whole lot of animal photos and this was the one at the top.

Update: 5:30pm

Thanks to Bertha Henson for providing the latest example of a Type 2 smart family: the Yaps who recently lost their two wonderful boys in "the bedrock of Singapore". See how perfectly it matched the definition I gave this group earlier. Sure some Singaporeans are spoilt but most are not.

Update: Feb 4, 1:20pm

Quoting the very shrewd Type 1 smart former chief economist of GIC Yeoh Lam Kheong which I found at Yahoo News.

"The problem I have with the white paper is that the tradeoffs considered between good jobs and economic dynamism, and population and workforce growth are overly mechanistic, economically simplistic and astonishingly sociologically and politically naive," Yeoh said.

You can see the consequences of Type 1 stupid vs Type 1 smart from Yeoh from the adjectives he had used and where I can tell they came from.

overly mechanistic, economically simplistic - This can only come from theory directed and/or model based computed outcomes. Theories are always simplified and abstracted.

astonishingly sociologically and politically naive - This the consequence of people working on it who are specialists and know very little of what is beyond their box. A smart economist go outside his area of expertise to enrich the deeper thinking and modeling inside his craft. Wasn't it Yeoh who explained why population projection tend to overshoot? It is an insight completely lost in the White Paper. The quality of thinking of this government has fallen and its practice cannot be far behind.

Ah, I found the bit where Yeoh explained why population tend to exceed forecast. A good example of more holistic thinking which the White Paper failed to display. I quote him from the Today Online.

But Economic Society of Singapore Vice-President Yeoh Lam Keong reiterated that population growth “always tends to exceed projected forecast”.
“Because, firstly, there is very strong demand for labour from existing labour-intensive industries, and industry has a strong influence on immigration policy,” he said.
“Secondly, given economic uncertainty, during the times when we have growth, the Government tends to err on the side of caution and go for more growth. Given these two tendencies, we tend to systematically overshoot population growth, not intentionally, but because of circumstance and current institutional practice.”

What Yeoh didn't explain is that the strategy in the White Paper will also increase our risk of boom and bust but I can tell this is hidden in Yahoo News quoting him in "astonishingly sociologically and politically naive".

I think the guy personally in charge of this report, DPM Teo is clearly under performing in this role. I have always found him predictable and intellectually boring.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that there are more and more(not in PAP camp) of your Type 1 Smart People, such as Leong Sze Hian, Lucky Tan, Hazel Poa, Yee Jenn Jong, Gerald Giam (just to name a few), they are the smart people with hearts and I will like to see them in Parliament, even holding ministerial positions.

    As for MIW, I thought I saw one in Tan Chuan Jin, too bad it was just for a short while only and now, he is no different from the rest (smart or not I am not sure but one thing for sure - no heart).