Monday, August 04, 2003

{{{Boogie on the head of a pin}}}

Here's something to think about, and I'll make no bones about its rather controversial nature...

~Economics, NS, Citizenship and Govt. Where to and what next?~

The one question that inevitably pops up in all social science is, what is the role of a government? Is the government suppose to be the enbodiment of the state? Is it reflected ultimately in monarchies where the head of the state is the state through his divine right ot rule. Is the government suppose to be a composition of men(or women) best able to read the will of the people/society and express it in a tangible form as in Facism? Is a government that governs least, governing the best? Should it, in the words of our SM, stay out of areas where the family (as a basic unit of society so the belief goes) is better able to provide the individual for? A studied form of non-intervention in both economic and social terms? Or should it amnifest itself in Big Government, its laws and statues laid out in most areas of society to create some form of societal welfare?

Events in the past half a decade has shown up certain weaknesses in the social contract of many an Asian country. And in many parts of Asia, the major problem is that of poverty, drawn along and execerbated by racial and religious lines. Once the economy enters a major slump, these fissures rise to the surface and you get tragic incidences like the Anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia. Even since the Asian Crises, life long-employment is now no longer a certainty and has become somewhat of a dream. Pre-emptive layoffs is the new catch-phrase to hit our sunny island, hitting especially hard when they come form what people have come to see as our national champions and worst of all, breaking a fundamental handshake between employers and employees that no layoffs would occur when the company is still making money. Economics before politics was a thread that bound most countries together. Citizens were willing to put up with a certain amount of illiberalism and lack of political participation in return for a rise in their standard of living. Where governmental refusal to put up societal safety nets was once accepted on the premise of secure employment and jobs with a 'stake' in the rising economy, the crash tore quite a few veils from the eyes of those directly and indirectly affected when they realised that it was worth nothing more than an optimistic promise in optimistic times.

There is now a reversal of Kennedy's thinking. The question asked is what can our country do for us? To take an example, a recently ORD 2LT demanded for discrimination of jobs based upon service to the country.

Even at first glance, it wouldn't be too hard to find people with some sympathy for the idea, for at least some of the time. I'm one of them. After all, why should males in this nation have to serve two and a half years in the army and have no tangible future to show for it when they ORD? Even if it discriminates against females, NS is in itself a form of discrimination. Consider the fact that this time constitutes a massive opportunity cost when compared to a female of his age. Factor in the utter lack of choice (Ladies, having a baby does not constitute national service for it is still fundamentally a choice, at least until the government legislates a two baby policy that is) in this matter and you begin to sense a fraction of the resentment at the perception that having spent all that blood, sweat, tears and time for their nation, they are not even going to be guarenteed a job at the end of the day. What then, goes this line of logic is the point of being a Singaporean when the government does not seem to do much or care much for the welfare of the people. Where is the social contract?

Thus, it is all too easy to fall into a sense of xenophobia/rage when the perception is that foreigners (i.e. those who have not served like they have) are taking their 'rightful' jobs and you have a potent mix. As an economist, I know that much of the supposite dicotomy between local and foriegn competition of jobs is pure bunk but as a citizen facing an uncertain prospect...? It is hard to be swayed by numbers or facts when your job and your livelihood is at stake. Where once a scholarship has seen as a presitgious tool for advancement and the bond as a chore, it's all too easy to see of it now as a secure job and future.

The cheese has been moved some time back...but it seems we're only starting to make sense of it.

p.s. The coherence is a little missing at times and I apologise for it. This is actually an amalgation of a number of essays and themes that I was exploring.


Post a Comment

<< Home