Friday, May 27, 2016

Engage Singapore politics by understanding more about WWE.

With my exams over, my next paper would be sometime in November so I get to enjoy the rest of the summer holidays.

Quite a lot has happened since my last posting. Significant is that some lawyers have been accused of abusing the court process to delay the execution of Kho Jabing. There is also a storm brewing over the use of Singlish in Singapore. I thought I'd share an approach to dealing with these issues before I go back to talk about financial markets and my upcoming WDA talk.

a) The question of whether Singapore should impose the death penalty does not require legal expertise.

First of all, I did spend most of my professional life being intimidated by lawyers (which explains why I am in Law School today). Throughout the debacle, some well-meaning lawyers friends have been sharing the case judgement over social media. While reading the judgment is good, most of the battles over social media revolves around the question of whether the death penalty ought to be imposed.

In such a case, it may be useful to remind ourselves that lawyers do not have an edge over arguments of this nature. The question of crime control as a function of deterrence, retribution or rehabilitation is the realm of the man of the street. You can vote to decide how the government sets the gearing on capital punishment.

For readers of this blog. You need to understand two concepts of positive law and normative law to decide whether you want to get into the wrestling ring with a lawyer, law student or legal expert.

Positive law is the current state state of the law as-is. Lawyers are paid big sums to explain the state of positive law. You consult a lawyer if you want to know what the state of the law is. Normative law, on the other hand, is what the law ought to be. Lawyers have no power over the domain of normative law, academics can take a view but judges can shoot it down. Philosophers have more power over this domain for lawyers and questions on normative law are highly contentious.

When a lawyer or law student argues about the normative law, any man of the street can just say that if you are just extending a moral or economic argument as to what the law should be, not what the law actually is. This falls into the realm of opinion.

b) Question of whether Singapore should promote or eliminate Singlish is a normative argument understood by watching more WWE.

The question is why the Singlish debate is related to argument of death penalty.

In fact the debates on Singlish, Death Penalty, Pink Dot, minimum wages and treatment of migrant labor are all arguments on what Singapore ought to do. At this stage, WWE provides a better understanding of the issues at hand.

Wrestling shows divide wrestlers into two camps, face and heel. Faces and heels normally feud with each other to keep viewers entertained. Rarely do faces battle faces or heels battle heels. When Triple H is a heel, he may feud with the face John Cena or The Rock. He will never form an alliance with another face like Roman Reigns but will gang up with other heels like Randy Orton.

Political discussion in Singapore is also rather predictable. Faces and heels fall into their respective factions and take a very black and white stance to moral issues. If you are pro-Singlish, for some inexplicable reason you will support Pink Dot, a minimum wage, social welfare and will be against the death penalty. If you are anti-Singlish, the opposite stance will be taken.

Like WWE, the feuds also transcend previous arguments and explains the relative bitterness and animosity between the two factions.

While I support plain english more than Singlish because it keeps us connected to global trade, I speak Singlish to connect better with fellow Singaporeans. MPs speak Singlish to connect with voters. So at first, I am puzzled by the disproportionate government response to my friend Gwee Li Sui's Op-Ed on Singlish.

But if you are a wrestling fan and understand the feuds between faces and heels, the response makes perfect sense. Gwee Li Sui's involvement ( and perhaps moral victory) during the Penguin book banning incident may explain this disproportionality.

Similarly, the looming Pink Dot / Wear White event is something akin to Wrestlemania and the government may need to play its hand to show it's support for the majority conservative population in Singapore.

In summary, Singapore politics is akin to WWE, watch more wrestling to understand the tension between western liberals and the conservative majority.

Investors should not be wrestlers.

We should stay by the side to take a position which would bring the best returns to our portfolio.

Of course, to some people, making money is already taking a side in Singapore politics.

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