Saturday, January 24, 2015

For hands of gold are always cold...

Sometimes you wish that some classroom would erupt into full-scale political war. This almost happened the other day in class when we were discussing about the removal of juries in our legal system. A faction in class feels that the population is educated enough to being juries back but another feels that it is more efficacious to leave decisions regarding the facts of the case to the judges.

I have very civil classmates and the discussion ended pretty quickly, had this been other students, the discussion could have turned ugly very quickly. In an alternative universe, this would have become an opportunity to bitch about the strongman politics in the 1960s and some progressive will hijack the discussion to talk about human rights.

What is not obvious to most people observing this exchange is that underlying this discussion is that a specific ideology may have infected Singaporeans which go beyond their support for the PAP or the Opposition - The idea of Plato's Republic that there are Men of Gold, Silver, Bronze or even Lead. Our Administrative service is full of Oxford PPEs, living Philosopher Kings who determine national policy for the best of the country - readers do note that these super-scalar public servants cannot be voted out in 2016 no matter who you vote for. 

The abolition of the jury is just a small symptom of the underlying root cause. There is a notion that a judge, person of higher learning, is more capable of cutting through the rhetoric to dispense judgement in Singapore. This arose from the belief that there is someone more eminently qualified, or even better than a different class of persons.

This does end with the courts.

Opposition supporters, while upset with the PAP's elitism, are visibly impressed when Chen Show Mao has joined the cause of WP.

Some very silly Singaporeans abdicate the management of their finances to the so called Financial Advisors.

For now i would like to just like to invite the reader to see where they stand on this idea.

Strong-form of the theory

The strong form of theory is that not only are there men of gold, silver or bronze, children of parents of gold are also people of gold. This is the eugenics argument and part of the reason why many civil activists fought off the graduate women's policy which was implemented in the 80s ( Progressive are unlikely to give that hat tip to Vivian balakrishnan for fighting the good fight right ? ).

While this idea might seem repugnant to most readers, social science has lent support to the argument. In the US, assortative mating is now the root cause of income inequality with a whole lot of social advantages going to the children with graduate parents. Go read this week's Economist for more details.
Semi-strong form of the theory

The semi-strong form of the theory has more adherents. It is the idea that there are men of gold, silver and bronze but it is not an in-born trait. You can rise to your position based on your own talents and life is not an ovarian lottery.

This is an attractive idea for progressive change, but sadly this has less support in social science. You need to retool  and engineer society to make this a reality. This starts with more tax payer money to the poor and socially disadvantaged.

Weak form of the theory

The weak form of the theory would appeal to hipsters and art history majors. Whether a person is a man of gold, silver or bronze is contextual. A person can a man of gold if he chooses the right vocation and is put into the right situation.

This theory can be logical and I can imagine a lot of coherent arguements for it, but I fail to see what kind of consequences can arise from this belief. Since everything is contextual, do we leave things as status quo?

Fuck the theory

Some anarchists or communists will decide to simply fuck the theory. There are no philosopher kings, men of gold, silver or bronze, just human beings.

I can see the attraction of this stand as no one wants to be labelled a man of lead, the best way is to dispense with the labels. Problems might arise during CNY when your relatives start to label every cousin and nephew based on their income or academic performance.

As for my personal belief, I think that science does support Lee Kuan Yew and the strong form of this belief. But humanity should aspire toward a society that is semi-strong. If a clever kid did not choose rich parents, we need to elevate him to a leader, so tax payers must be prepared to pay to ensure that his disadvantage is reduced.

I am less supportive of the weak form of the theory because there are traits like conscientiousness which create all-round good outcomes for folks with such traits throughout his/her life so "better" people do exist ( try working with a flake if you do not believe me ) . 

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