?

Log in

Singapore, economics and pop culture
Recent Entries 


I have occasionally heard of Martin Seligman idea of how to cope with negativity using 3Ps, Personalization, Permanence and Pervasiveness, well summarized here.  I guess nothing really beats hearing it being applied from an actual person that is going thru grief.  I especially like the part when she mentioned that, in the case of Permanance, she experienced what she felt was the "second derivative" of the pain, where she felt sad that she was sad, she felt miserable that she was miserable.

Thinking of "What if"



Her psychologist friend who advised her to "I think about how much worse things could be," brought a smile on my face because it made me recall that excellent episode of the OC final season where Ryan finally found a way to let go of his grief thinking that he was responsible for Marissa's death.  It was that Earth 2 episode where he realized that, if Marissa had not met him, she would have died even earlier, in season 1, when she overdosed on drugs after realizing that her ex boyfriend was two timing her.  During that season, Ryan was the one that saved her.
This particular actor Onew, from Shinee, had a role in DOTS that really reminded me how important it is for a man to solve all his problems in the cave first before he could come out and start to love others.



He was a very happy person but made the wrong judgment that resulted in the death of a patient, that really made him doubt his profession as a doctor.  That blow on his self esteem and confidence was so bad that he refused to go back to Korea when he could, and did not want to call his wife back home, who was pregnant with his kid.

It was only after he risked the chance of being infected with a dangerous virus, to save a patient, and having the soldiers praised him "you looked like a doctor", that he finally found peace in his profession, and he now realized he is okay and could now call his family and his wife back home.



That was really a sweet moment that reminded me that, for many guys, being able to feel competent in our chosen profession can take on such an important role that goes way beyond love.  During such times in our own caves, when we are struggling with the thoughts in our mind, as John Gray would probably remark, our loved ones should give us the time in the cave and not enter the cave to try to force us out by telling us they think we are competent, they love us, etc.

Because, during those times, it may be more important for us to hear that affirmation from people who do not know us well and not from our loved ones.  After all, we may think that those people have no vested interests in making us feel good and will only affirm us if we are really competent.

And only after we get that affirmation, then we can finally emerge from our cave, and start to love our loved ones. 
18th-Feb-2016 06:28 pm - Link between righteousness and health
I don't know how long this sermon would remain up but it has really taught me how to understand Romans 8:11 and understand the link between receiving the gift of righteousness and divine health.

Romans 8:11

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Interestingly, Prince talk about Ephesians as a proof on why God took the most power to raise Christ from the dead, but he might have forgotten to continue to that passage.  After doing some research, I think the verses he was referring to should be

Ephesians 1:19-20 (AMP)

and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength which He [a]produced in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places

According to the Greek, there are actually 4 words describing power here, to illustrate that the mightest power ever seen on Earth was when God raised Jesus from the dead. The first word, dunamis, means inherent power. His second word, energeia, means operative power. The third word, kratos, means ultimate power. The fourth word, ischus, means endowed power.

From these 4 words, Paul wants me to be convinced that God took the mightest power to raise Christ from the dead.  If that is the case, it is easier for God, thru his Spirit, to give life to my mortal body.  That mighty power is in my spirit.

Let me meditate on Romans 8:11 as another verse for my soul to prosper, and I will be in good health even as that happens
.

Introduction: Word of Faith understanding of "I AM"


In New Creation Church 2016, the current theme is “Possessing your Possessions”.  After all these years in NCC, I have now realized one of the aspects that Word of Faith churches have, that other churches do not focus on or may consider as heresy, is the use of the words, I AM.

I AM is the name of God.  In NCC, I often proclaim, “I am greatly blessed, highly favoured and deeply loved”.  In the Holy Communion as well as my daily meditation, I often proclaim out loud, “I am healthy, I am strong, I am living to 120, my eyes will not grow dimmed, nor my strength be abated”.

The lesson here is that the words you speak of yourself has a lot of power.  If I AM is the name of God, and as Christians, we are joint heirs with Christ, I AM also takes special meaning when we say it.

Jesus as the High Priest of my confession

In Hebrews 3:1, it is written that Jesus is the High priest of our confession.  Being a Gentile, it is clearly not easy for me to understand what a Jewish High priest does.  This is again where sitting in NCC under Joseph Prince allows one to understand the role of one.

The role of the HP is to represent Man to God.  Reading Hebrews made it clear that Jesus is a far different HP than the Jewish ones.  He did not enter the Holy of Holies that was man made, the one that Moses built following the instructions of God.  Jesus entered the true Holy of Holies in heaven (Hebrews 9:24 onwards), and uses his own eternal blood to not just cleanse my sin but purge my conscience of any sin in the future.  Once he returned to heaven, he now returns as my high priest to God in heaven, to represent me before God the Father.

But note, Jesus is representing the words that I confess daily.  This again reinforced how I must take care of the words that I confess about my situation.  The primary Greek word for “confess” is homologeo which basically means “to say the same thing”.  In this case, you are to say the same things as God said about you in the Bible.  Be careful of the words you use following the I AM.  For example, do not be so quick to say, “I am sick, I am stressed, I am depressed, I am lonely”.  By saying that, you are proclaiming ownership of those, you are identifying with them.

Reading on in Hebrews 4:14, "Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."  This serves to reinforce the previous chapter.  Even if you don't seem to see things happen in reality, whether it is healing etc, hold fast your confession.  Continue to declare the positive blessings that follow the words I AM.

Finally in Hebrews 10:23 says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."  Faith is the substance of things hope for, and hope is the confident expectation of good.  Here, it is again reinforced not to waver in the confession of our hope.

Conclusion: In NCC, I have learned, do not waver in your confession of the good things following the words I AM.  Believe in your heart that Jesus is pleased to hear those words, as he is the high priest of my confession.  Once I confess good health, and all the benefits of the word sozo, he can then act as THE high priest of those confessions to God.  And remember God the Father sees me in him, as 1 John 4:17 says, As he is, so am I in this world.  Hold fast to those confessions, the possessions are already yours in the Spirit.

Superman and the idea of a Father sending his Son to save humans

In this drama of Supergirl, I recognize similar themes appearing.  The story of Superman has always been very fascinating to me.  Joseph Prince, and I am sure many other Christians, view Superman as linked to the story of how God the father send the son to save all humans.  Being Hollywood, it is probably a good guess that the director and the producer of the movie will be Jews.  I guess if I think deep about it, this is what Jews probably felt about the Messiah.  He is supposed to be powerful and lead the Jews against all the enemies who were coming hard on them, the Romans would be one group.

So when they realized Jesus was not that kind of Messiah, it is not too difficult to understand why they rejected him, not knowing of course, the true enemy that need to be defeated was not any human being, but rather Satan and the curse of the law.  So I figured that, if Jesus was more like Superman, it would have been much easier for Jews to accept him.  Well, we believed that in Jesus's second coming, he will come with power, and that is where the Superman analogy would apply then.

Of course, such Christian comparisons typically end with Superman 1 and did not proceed on. If people try to do so, they will face the awkward situation in Superman 2, where Superman decides to give up his superpowers for the sake of loving a single lady, Lois Lane.  I have reflected on this theme years ago, as illustrating the male theme of how man should not give up the forest, for a single tree.

The idea of Clark Kent being Superman's perspective of humans.


The movie Kill Bill 2, also brought up this very interesting theme of how Superman is different from other superhero story in the sense that, while the others wear a costume to prevent being recognized, Superman already had the S cape among his clothes when he came to Earth.  According to Quentin Tarantino, Superman’s costume is “Clark Kent”, which is his critique of the entire human race.

I noted with a smile that this theme was not carried forward with Supergirl.  During episode 3, Supergirl, in her "interview" with Flockhart (the Ally Mcbeal in the 1990s), I really laughed when I saw how Supergirl still seem rather intimidated by her civilian boss.  Remembering the Kill Bill speech was definitely an important part of that realization.

Supergirl and the idea of being an eagle among turkeys


The pilot episode was very heartwarming to me, it definitely reminded me of the story of the eagle and turkey that is explained here.  Supergirl expressed something that many Christians, from the Word of Faith, will be able to identify with.  She knew she had the same abilities as Superman but she sees herself trapped in her present life of just being a Girl Friday to her boss.

As an NCC Christian, this theme is often in my mind.  I am a new creation, I know that I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. I am a joint heir in Christ. Yet, in my flesh, I see sickness, I see lack and so on and so forth.  The Word of God says I am already healed, I am rich.  So when I see Supergirl being so excited about saving the plane and finally being herself, I could easily identify with that joy.

The same heart warming feeling returned when I saw the scene in episode 17 of how a young Kara saved a girl, and Dean Cain, her adopted father told her that "The world already has a Superman, all you need to be is Kara Denvers."  Its like the turkey who told the eagle, "We are turkeys, be like us!"  But Christians are meant to soar! =)  In this sense, I finally understood better what the term "gas-lighting" means, Supergirl is constantly being gaslighted by all the people around her, which if you view it negatively, its a form of mental abuse haha.

Conclusion

So if this year's theme is "Possessing your possessions", let me be as excited as Supergirl was in this drama.  Let me believed that all the possessions are already deposited in my Spirit, and I am that Spirit, I am not this body that people sees.  If "saving people" is what Supergirl is born to do, being "destined to reign" is what a Christian is born to be too!

Introduction

Spartacus ranks as one of the top TV dramas I have watched in the last 5 years.  A superficial viewing of the drama might turn some people off, due to the graphic display of nudity.  Of course, others might be intrigued to watch due to that same reason.  But viewers who took time to do so might eventually realize what a deep and interesting script that drama possessed.

To me, it was the aspect of how life was before the era of meritocracy.  Interesting thing about the
Spartacus era was that, you were automatically born knowing your station in life. You are either born a slave, a citizen or a noble.  It was extremely difficult to upgrade your station but apparently not the other way round.

Changing your station in life

The entire theme of Blood and Sand was about how Spartacus, who was a citizen, become a slave after disobeying military command while serving in a auxillary army.  He was actually quite contented in his life as a gladiator but the death of his best friend Varro, made him realized that he needs to return to his previous status as a free citizen.

The other major plot throughout the season, which actually intrigued me a lot more, was how Batiatus, the boss of the gladiators, also wanted to rise above his station in life.  Being only a citizen, he made use of the fame he had, being the owner of Spartacus, to attempt to rise to a noble.

In that sense, both Spartacus and Batiatus were trying to move up one notch in their station in life. The owner of a slave could grant the latter freedom by signing the relevant papers, a theme that was also present in the movie, Django Unchained. In that sense, a slave has to please his owner.

To move from citizen to noble requires a similar approach, although a citizen is a free person, meaning there is no immediate owner to please. The Roman method, if one sets mind towards that purpose, is to get support from those people who are already nobles, the term I have learned in that drama is "seeking patronage".

Batiatus tried to secure patronage from the existing Magistrate, only to be rebuffed and made him so bitter that he ends up killing the Magistrate.  He then made use of another murder, by Illythia on Licania, to coerce patronage from a Roman legatus, Glaber.  Ironically of course, Spartacus started his rebellion on the first night of celebration of patronage being granted, resulting in Spartacus being a free, albeit hunted, man, and the death of Batiatus.

Indeed, I realized how, even now in the workplace under meritocracy, it will also aid one's career advancement if one is mentored by a senior, more established person in the workplace. You rise in the workplace in many places, basically by making your existing boss look good, who will then, hopefully, fight for you in front of his boss. If you don't feel your boss is willing to fight for you, it might be worthwhile for you to "tether" yourself to another. The higher that boss stands in the hierarchy, the higher your probability of advancement would be.

Politicking among woman


Throughout that plot, Batiatus's wife, Lucretia, was trying to help him all the way.  She had a side plot of her own, as she had to fawn on some of the noble ladies too.  I have to say that was the most intriguing part of the entire drama for me, seeing how Lucretia and Illythia, who was Glaber's wife, interacted throughout.



In that aspect, the scriptwriter was excellent and really showed guys how ladies think and play their politics among one another.  One of the things I was always amazed was how, in the workplace, ladies can hate one another but still talk as if they were very close friends.  I guess the saying is, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer".

One particular event showed how Lucretia had to win the favors of several important noble ladies, those whose stations in life were higher that even Illythia. One of them was Licania, the cousin of the richest man in Rome, Marcus Crassus.  Illythia warned Lucretia that Licania, "is of a strata above your station, and will not hesitate to remind you of it when her mood shifts, and it shifts frequently!"

It was such a great event, that I must have watched those particular episodes 8-9 at least 20 times by now.  Those episodes really summed up how difficult it was to rise above your station in life then.  Lucretia worked very hard to make that night as pleasant as possible for those noble ladies, until one of them, Amelia, who was the wife of the previous Magistrate, Sextus, remarked, "Oh she is trying hard, is she not?"

Indeed, during the Romans era, once you are a noble, it is very difficult for you to downgrade your station in life. Being secure in your standing, you could talk in a very condescending way towards people trying to climb to your position. In this aspect, I could empathize with Lucretia.  I would consider myself more or less a "heartlander" and, I do get a chance to interact with people from the "elite" group and it is indeed remarkable to realize how different the topics can be.  I have also been to houses which are vast in size, with 3 BMWs parked inside that made me went "Wow".

Well, if I was 20 then, you might feel a tinge of envy.  But after 40, you have gathered enough life experience to realize that, each of us have our own worries in life and happiness is actually quite independent of material possessions, haha.

Conclusion

To sum up my feelings towards the drama Spartacus, season 1 was definitely the best for me, season 2 was still good due to Lucretia and Illythia continuing their politicking but season 3 really suffered from these 2 not being present.

In this aspect, meritocracy is probably an improved system.  Its definitely easier to move between stations but of course, like poker, the problem is you have to work very hard if you happen to start with a poorer hand, say 7 2 offsuit, while those who come from rich and connected parents may allow them to start with pocket aces, giving them a much easier life journey. 




But the bad thing, as Alain De Botton has said before, the term "loser", that never existed before during Spartacus era, now exists under meritocracy.  When a noble during that era meets a slave, she would never call him a loser, that term simply did not exist since all of them were born into their station in life.  Now under meritocracy, like what Lawrence Lien also stated, you are seen as deserving of your success but also equally deserving of your failures in life. 
One minute in: "What the hell is this? Did I download the wrong show?"
Press pause in my VLC player, press the home button in iPad, then: "Correct what!  Season 2 episode 9!"
Two minutes when opening credits came in: "Oh, OK, there's Gretchen. What the hell is going on?"
Five minutes in: "Why are they focusing on these hipster uber-douches so much?"
Ten minutes in: "Oh, I see where they may be going with this."
Thirty minutes in: "That was one of the gutsiest and most amazing pieces of television I've ever watched in my life."
===

I have adjusted the above reflection, originally made by another, to fit how I really felt when I saw this episode of You're the worst.



I have always been a fan of "sliding doors" themes.  Good movies, good books, as well as good TV episodes, are good because they say something that you have been thinking about for a long time, but they do it in such an eloquent way that makes you jump and say, "Yes!  This is exactly what I have been thinking.

In this episode, there was this classic quote by Gretchen that, by the time you are 40, you would have definitely asked yourself at least once, if not many times.

“They talk about how if you make one different decision, your life may be totally different, but is that your only shot? Can you make another decision or a series of decisions that can get you back to your alternative life you never got to lead?”

The ending scene of this episode was especially unnerving, with Aya putting on a fine performance as she realized that dream life that she thought the other couple had was actually an illusion.



It reminds me of the other movie "Coherence" which actually was quite scary when I saw it for the first time, but the great thing was that there was no gore involved. In that movie, due to a comet, several alternative realities were created, and our main actress, who felt her present life was really shitty, actually made her way to one alternative reality, where she sees "herself" having an ideal life, went in and actually murdered that alternative version of hers, in a attempt to take over that life for herself.

That was really a very unique theme in a movie that made it very exciting to watch.
13th-Sep-2015 10:53 pm - Reflection on NES and Super Mario

Always remembered that iconic moment end of 1986 when I played this game for the first time, and within moments, I decided I had to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now I understood better how the designer made the first level so "dopamine releasing" to all players. You jump to hit the ? and coins came out and you felt good. Next you hit the ? and a mushroom comes out and made you big, and suddenly, wow, you can now smash the block when you could not do so before. Dopamine keep being released in my brain. No wonder I was so hooked then!

I guess that was why, being a Gen X gamer, I was amused at how complex games are nowadays, that you need to get some kind of game guide from the Internet, in order to start playing. And of course, I laughed when people like Pew Die Pie can get such a following from others who watch him play games!

7th-Aug-2015 08:25 pm - CLC review


CrystaL Clear, or CLC, debuted with a very catchy song by the name of Pepe, that easily found its way into my gym playlist. They were originally seen as backup dancers for GNA's Secret which I thought was a good illustration of the economic concept of Economies of Scale. Since Cube has many different kpop groups, they can lower the unit cost of producing their videos and performances by using a group that you plan to debut in a video of a more established artiste instead of having to hire another group of dancers and possibly having to pay them more. =)

And just like what I have said for Oh My Girl, Inkigayo also had the best version for this song performance, in my opinion.  Its not so much the background props this time, but the added "photo finish" effect at the ending part of the song, the part where there was a camera clicking sound and a picture was "temporary" taken, that was very appealing to me.  It turned out that this performance was the only one with that photo-finish effect.



Their second song, 18, was especially interesting due to the lyrics.  I never really took notice of that song, just felt it was a nice change to a slower paced song after their debut. However, my eyes widened a bit when I saw the translated lyrics on Music Bank.  The "comparative advantage" of Music Bank would be how they make their music show very accessible to the non Korean crowd by putting in English subtitles.  Understand the lyrics has both good and bad side.  On the good side, understanding the lyrics allow you to understand some parts of the dance cherography, like the "heart pounding" part where they use their hands to push off from their chest.

On the other hand, the lyrics can be quite creepy, given their age profile.  It was about how a young girl who falls in love with an older person. Obviously, the older person is not taking her seriously and she wished that she was 18 so that he would take more notice of her.  Then the rap goes, "I am going for you, watch me!"  What a strange song to be sung by them but I guess it will appeal to a "different group" of fans hah.

Upon further reflection, this seems to reflect the difference between enjoying music in the 1980s vs enjoying music now.  In the 1980s, there was no Internet for you to read about the story of the song, you often don't even have the chance to watch the music video, and no way to find out from other commentators how creepy the song was.  As a result, we just enjoy the song based on the tune.



I recalled the song by the Jets, You Got it All, which I have reviewed years before here.  If i want to examine that song again in 2016, I would probably think, "Wow, the singer was only 12 years old and here in the video, she was singing about her love to an adult male, and if that is not creepy, what else would be?"

Haha, oh well, just random musings from yours truly. =)



Their third song is a bit more normal, like Pepe.  After being intrigued by the lyrics of 18, I woke up from the Matrix and I decided to made sure I checked out the lyrics of that new song before I conclude anything about the song =). It turned out to be more normal, although its still the same theme.  Now I understand better why younger fans may like them, because the lyrics is always about how much they want YOUR attention and love haha.

It was also this song that I realized their main vocalist, Seunghee have an excellent voice and more meaty, which is more towards my taste. Their youngest member, Yoo Jin had many more lines in this song compared to Pepe, at the expense of their Thai member Sorn. I wished Yoo Jin put on more weight though. =)
Incident about the flood

Interesting that, on Tuesday 4th August, there was a huge downpour as I was going to work.  My original path to the bus stop, the covered walkway was flooded due to the water overflowing from the side drain.  I decide to go the other way to the coffee shop bus stop to take a more indirect bus journey to work.  But upon walking for a few minutes, I found that the covered walkway to that was flooded with water too.


Just like the other incident some years back, which also involved heavy rain, I felt sian and I was wondering what to do.  Of course, I was not feeling upset or anything; I have since been well trained, reinforced also thru that incident, to always look at the bright side no matter what.  But interestingly, today, when I saw the 2nd flooded walkway, I began to be more conscious of the thinking process.  By doing that, I could feel the neurons in my brain firing in so many different directions as I was mentally calculating whether there was a plan C.  I remember feeling like some water that is moving around in my head, which was probably the plasma in my brain.

My brain calculated the possibility of plan C in terms of a 3rd bus stop that will require me to take MRT, which will clearly lead to even more risk.  What if the MRT breaks down, what if it was too crowded?  I could really sense my brain furiously calculating all these pros and cons and finally I felt a thought just popped out,

“Why not just take off your socks and put in your workbag.  Take off your shoes and just walk barefooted through the first flooded covered walkway?  Once you are done with the short walk, you could put down your bag, put back your shoes first.  Go to the bus stop, take the bus that you have always been taking.  Put on your socks while in the bus, since you are always guaranteed a seat, and presto, you will be on your way!”

Another thought did pop up though, “But what if the flooded pathway had some sharp objects that your naked foot may land on and thus cause some cut?” But my pre-frontal cortex overrode that possibility and said, “Its worth taking that risk!  So let’s do it!”

As I was walking through the flooded path on my bare feet, my mind was thinking, “Wow, it is this reason that I am really glad to be able to decide on all these options strictly on benefits vs costs, with probabilities thrown in for good measure.”  Then my mind was linking this incident to the comment that I posted on Today about the choices that many unwed mothers have been making, that led to their outcome. 

A life of liberty is indeed one where all of us are free to make whatever choices we are making, and live with the consequences of those choices, whether good or bad.  If I had cut my foot while walking through the flooded walkway, it will be bad but surely I would rather have the freedom to face that consequence, rather than having society decides for me whether or not I should execute that final plan. 

In this aspect, I was definitely influenced greatly by the views of both Fredich Hayek, on his equation of liberty and responsibility here



as well as Milton Friedman in his analysis of how life is a gamble here



Story of the unwed mum "saga"

The story behind the unwed mum issue was also quite interesting and worth recording it down for future remembrance.  On Friday morning, I was replying to a letter from another writer who argues that she doubts many of these unwed mums are there by choice.  Being a libertarian, I just felt a disturbance in the Force and just had to comment on the Internet verison of her letter about my different opinion.

Apparently, the Today editor took my comment and decided to publish it the next day without asking me. It came out in the hardcopy, and naturally also on the Internet.  I didn't even realized that until I received one of 2 "hate messages" over facebook.  The first of them sent me this picture




Then she started ranting at me saying that I was being insensitive to the original letter writer and ended her rant with, "You're gonna be famous among single mothers in Singapore now after today. Congratulations".  The next day, Sunday, another lady sent me a message, "I am disgusted by you".  I smiled realizing that this is the first time I received such comments from the things I post in social media and it was indeed a new experience for my brain.

Reflection on reading those comments

Then on Tuesday, after that flood incident, I took the opportunity to see my "comments" published on Today and I saw that there were numerous comments on that entry, which was a pleasant surprise.  I smiled again as I read so many “emotional” comments that chose to interpret what I wrote, in their own mental interpretations, and then attack my views based on those wrong interpretations. 


I thought I already made it clear that “many, if not all” cases of unwed mums involve choice.  Of course I was aware of exceptions about rape.  It is like I am saying, “Many, not all, swans are white” and people say, “You are wrong, here is a black swan!” =)

The issue of choice and whether society should help



Bryan Caplan had what I thought to be a very good libertarian perspective about how we justify whether we should help.  The criteria he used is, "Are there any reasonable steps you could have taken to avoid the outcome that you are in now?"  The video above basically explains it very well. From the way I phrased the 3 choices in my comments about unwed mum, my perspective is that, for many of them, there were so many reasonable steps they could have taken to avoid being an unwed mum. Interestingly, Bryan even brought up the same issue, the issue of birth out of wedlock around the 31:50 mark.

Reasonable steps of course do not necessarily have to mean easy steps. In this aspect, I also smiled when I realized many Singaporeans never consider seriously the option of giving up the baby for adoption. I have read so many comments both to my comments, as well as elsewhere, that unwed mums are brave in not choosing abortion, thus, no reason why society should not support them.

It seems the 3rd option of adoption is alien to many Singaporeans. It is definitely more practiced in Western countries than in Singapore that is for sure. As a libertarian and not a Republican, I have no moral stand on abortion. While I will probably not push for it, I will not morally judge anyone who chose that option. To avoid stirring any controversy about the morality of abortion however, I decided to use adoption in my comments but somehow that was lost in translation among those comments that I read. =)

As of now, unwed mothers in Singapore do get help but less help than married couples.  I smiled when I realized so many readers interpreted this less help as “punishment”.  I guess that is the main problem of welfare recognized by many libertarians that made us prefer a negative income tax as a way to help the poor rather than having all these ad-hoc welfare benefits. The moment you get some welfare benefits contingent on certain behaviour, say unemployment benefits if you are unemployed, it acts as an implicit tax on working.  Since the moment you find a job, you lose those unemployment benefits so that job must pay you at least as much as the unemployment benefits that you are currently receiving, plus an added premium to reflect your preferences for leisure.

So in this case, the introduction of Baby Bonus as well as the previous BTO benefits for married couples with children, now served as an implicit tax on being an unwed mother.  Although the analogy may not be perfect, it is still quite cute to witness how so many readers regard it as a punishment.  It certainly reminded me of the parable that Jesus shared about the workers of the vineyard.

Observation 1: Joseph Prince in the pulpit

Indeed, upon reflection, I understand better now two different observations.  First, pastors like Joseph Prince will, now and then, use the pulpit to clarify certain criticisms of his approach.  Although he often stressed to us that we do not have to answer for him, for God would answer.  I guess, in the flesh, it is always very tempting to personally step in and clarify the fallacies in their conclusions. 

But this is the advantage of living a life as long as I have.  You realized that people’s opinions, even mine, are formed over many years of our existence and there is really not much point trying to convince them logically because they will never change their minds until they want to. 

And I have also learned this, "Never try to use logic to win against someone who either cannot be or does not see the need to be, logical."  It was probably Chris Rock who first exposed me to this, although he used it in a more "controversial" context hah.



Observation 2: Why many Singaporeans in general are afraid to state controversial opinions

I always smile when I see how so many people would rather post pics of their overseas holidays and maybe restaurant food in their Facebook page, but with zero reflection almost all the time.  Or, they would share articles in the media that may be presenting a more controversial point of view but I realized they usually don’t add their own views on those.

After this incident, I begin to understand better the risks involved.  Putting your opinion on issues that may be going against current trends is indeed not for the faint-hearted.  If you share your opinions of how great LKY was and how grateful you are to him, during the days of the state funeral, you can be rest assured that you will get many likes and support from the public.  So the general public would probably state safe opinions like that most of the time.

However, when you post your opinions on issues that are far more controversial and going against what most people think, you will really get called all kinds of names that have nothing to do with the reflection you are putting up.  Many people do not really read carefully what you are saying or not saying and they often don’t debate with you in a logical and calm manner that allows a fruitful debate. It takes a matured mind to be able to read comments that are clearly coming from an emotional mind and thus make many irrelevant points attacking character, without your emotions also being negatively affected. 

But I guess that is where you grow even more.  As I live longer, I realized that the roots of any “mid-life crisis”, is the feeling that you are auto-cruising through life without learning anything new.  When you were students, every day is basically a new day and every year is a new year.  You are always learning new things, meeting new friends. 

But once you are settled down in your job, it really takes conscious effort to make sure that you grow every year.  And, from the optimistic point of view, I guess when all these events, whether it was the flood today that made me felt my brain racing, or the comments and hate messages over Facebook, over my published perspective on unwed mums and liberty, that kept making me reinforce, "My happiness is within my control, must be zen about the entire thing," all helped me to grow and learn new things.

Difference between an economic mind and a non-economic mind

Many of these critics rejected the basic economic paradigm, that people are motivated by incentives.  We believe that people do the best they can to maximize their self interest in the presence of constraints.  So if the constraints change, say through government policies, at the margin, there will either be an increase or decrease in certain outcomes.

Someone who rejects this economic thinking seems to have a strong belief that helping unmarried mothers, would not, in the margin, increase the number of people who choose to be unmarried mothers.  In economic speak, for economists to frame that argument in a manner in which some answers might be given, they believe that the demand is very price inelastic.

In my mind that is basically a mind built upon the economic paradigm, I was thinking,
“It was nice to see a debate about the elasticity of the demand curve for babies out of wedlock.
I guess the next step is to measure it to conclude this debate. Here is a thought experiment that might help: If many of these unmarried mothers tend to be low income, the price of having a baby is thus a high proportion of that low income.
If you can accept that premise, is it that hard to conclude that these "potential mothers" will be very responsive to any lowering of the price due to the equalization of benefits, and hence we should see a more than proportional increase in the quantity of babies?”

Wow, I really love the economic way of thinking! =) 

Fairness and the most “efficient” way to help

And I realized the issue of “fairness” is a very strong belief in many of these critics.  As an economist, when I see people who argue based on “fairness”, my mind would immediately think, “Ok, time for me to withdraw from such debates”.  Fairness to most economists is basically normative and there is no way to objectively debate such issues.

In this kind of debate, my mind would immediately switch to a “libertarian” mind.  To help these cases, using the government as an agent to basically coerce everyone to hand over some money and then for the government to decide how to spend that money on these unwed mothers, is really the worst way and the most inefficient way to help them.



Basically, that falls under “spending somebody else’s money on somebody else”.  As libertarians, most of us are fine with private charities.  I have no desire to force the unwed mum to work to support her child, and I am not even interested in judging her choices morally.  Libertarians always leave moral judgements out of the picture.  I am merely suggesting that no force should be used to compel others to support them.

This will likely lead to the unwed mums working, but it might not. It’s none of my business if charity X wants to give money to unwed mum Y, whom I perceive as undeserving. Conversely, I may choose to support charity P which supports unwed mums Q because I think she is deserving, perhaps because I know her personally or I understand why she is an unwed mum, but others see as undeserving. 

That is the celebration of liberty instead of coercion.  There is no way any government agency can do such charitable acts without utilizing coercion.  But from the way I read commentators saying, “The government should do this, the government should do that, what does it matter to you if equal benefits are given”, they probably have the idea that there is excess money somewhere and thus no opportunity cost involved in directing them towards unwed moms. 

Conclusion: Papa vs society, who will preach more?

It was definitely the experience of feeling the neurons in my brain firing in the flood that made me decided to take time to reflect upon that and link it to the story about unwed mums.  For the TLDR version:  It is fun to be free, free to make your own decisions.  Freedom to make your own decisions only makes sense if you are also free to face the consequences of those decisions, no matter what those consequences may be.



Reflecting on this issue brought me back to the memories of the 1980s where Madonna managed to discuss this same issue in the lyrics of a kickass song.  After developing my economic and libertarian schemas, I begin to interpret this song from a brand new perspective.  The "papa" in the song is paying for the upkeep of Madonna and her coming baby born out of wedlock.  She is asking her daddy not to preach about the morality of being an unwed mum because she has made up her mind to keep the baby.

That is the "good" thing about private charity.  If you know the unwed mum personally and provide help for her, she is more likely to spend that money as efficiently as she can due to a closer connection to the donor, perhaps to avoid being nagged too much by the donor.  If she is spending taxpayers' money instead, there is less of a connection and that money would be seen as "free money".  As Milton Friedman would say, that type of money would be less efficiently spent as it is harder for you to feel "preached" by society =).
This page was loaded Jun 30th 2016, 4:50 am GMT.