Monday, December 15, 2008

Minimum Wage & Democracy

The following are two responses I have given to one forumer in deliberating on the Minimum Wage issue which I feel meaningful enough to be put on my blog.

Dear pfingo,

I understand where you are coming from and I have already qualify, talking about minimum wage will not get me votes in Singapore!

But, that's the catch. You are acting like PAP who digitized human beings. Never mind about these people if they are the minority?

Minimum wage may not affect many people, only 1% maybe? But it is significant for a country developing into a First World country. The intrinsic values that we past on as a nation to many children of future generation, is tremendous. It is a belief of human decency. A belief based on EQUALITY and FAIRNESS to everyone contributing to the whole country's development, be it Singaporeans or foreigners.

We are just too used to the PAP talk of dollar and cents but not the SENSE of the Nation. It may look insignificant to many people here, but it means a lot for a Nation to set its footing RIGHT on basic respect to human decency.

The Americans always feel proud of their country, most of the time, due to the CORE VALUES that their forefathers have set in their constitution. Do our country, no matter how small it is, have any CORE VALUES to start with?

Surprisingly, yes, it's all there but the fact is, PAP has been drifting away from the very CORE VALUES set in our constitution and National Pledge.

Minimum Wage is not just about dollar and cents, not only about how many people will benefit. But it is about setting the basic fundamental core values for our nation in rejecting exploitation of honest, hard working people on this land.

Goh Meng Seng

Dear pfingo,

I find your above statements intriguing.

If the market is truly efficient and there are true balance of powers within the system, there will still be rich and poor. All is relative. True about that.

However, there is one absolute thing: whether there are exploitation by the rich on the poor that will make them richer while the poor more poor.

It is a well known fact that PERFECT Free Market only exists in text books because although the principle assumptions of Free Market is very simple, yet it is very difficult to have such assumptions implemented in real world.

You may think that I am trying to close the income gap "artificially", but this itself is RELATIVE. If the real world is left to work on its own, what will happen is the polars of the rich and the poor will GROW WIDER. It grew wider not because of "EXCEPTIONAL DIFFERENCES" between the skill factors, intelligence, intrinsic biological merits of human beings but merely due to inherited or implied "social influence and powers" that comes along with wealth, status and network connections.

Just state one simple example, one can be a mediocre idiot that is born into a wealthy family. All it needs is for the man to inherit properties with regular rental income to maintain a lavish lifestyle. The man could use his network built by the family to make money much easier than anyone else.

There is no such thing as "equal opportunities" for all because opportunities vary according to different social class status. It would mean that the rich will get richer while it will be more difficult for those at the bottom of the social class to upgrade themselves.

Education used to be a means of providing equal opportunities, but I think the present system does not provide that any more. Well, I shall leave this topic for another day.

What I aim to do is not about closing income gaps. Mistake me not, that's not my intention at all. As long as men and women are born differently, there will bound to be difference in abilities and income disparity.

However, the basic fundamental is that the society or econmic system cannot be left alone in the guise of "Free Market" when we know REAL Free Market hardly exists at all. because asymmetric information, influence, networking etc etc will deter the development of the TEXT BOOK Free Market.

My baseline is simple, the system cannot be skewed towards in such a direction that when the rich get richer, while the poor cannot earn enough to lead a decent life. I have no problem of the rich getting richer as long as the vulnerable group of people, the lowest percentile of the social-economic segment, is not pushed towards poverty with no jobs that could offer them a "living wage" and savings for retirement. This "living wage" is relative in different societies. For example, in countries with big agriculture sector and land, the living wage can be very small because they could basically live off their land. But in a matured urban society like Singapore, this is not possible and naturally, the living wage will be higher than those other countries with big agricultural land.

Interesting enough that you have made your last statement that Economic growth under capitalism has led to democratisation. This may not be always true you.

Singapore is a prime example.

In fact, I think there is a potential danger for ultra-capitalism to lead the whole political spectrum into a vicious cycle of power and influences being monopolized by the few wealthy families who could afford to invest in the political field. Ironically, we will be going round in circles and what we will get is pseudo-democracy in the end, which is in fact a monopoly of power by the few in the guise of democratic process.

In fact, the populace has been brain washed into thinking along that line of only ELITES should be acceptable to become MPs or voted into the democratic power centre--parliament or Congress. Elitism should not be mixed by meritocracy. Meritocracy in politics is about those who will represent the different classes of people best, should be elected into a real democratic power house. But in Singapore's context, we equate a paper qualification with the ability as a politician!

Just ask yourself frankly, would you accept a non-graduate to be your MP? Why not? We have always been subtlely brain washed to believe that only those with at least a degree would be "talented" as parliamentarians. If this is what capitalist democratic system is all about, then it is not going to provide a really representative democratic system.

In a very crude way, I would say that for every social class in the society, there should be adequate representation in the parliament for their interests. Thus, for the high percentage of non-graduates, we should have people who could empathize with their aspirations, worries, problems etc etc.

However, with the "capitalized democracy", we end up is a bunch of "political elites" who could be totally lost touch with the populace that they are supposed to represent! Is this real deomcracy we want from the capitalized system?

Goh Meng Seng

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