Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Securing the Future: Children or Environment

China's recent relaxation of its one child policy is to counter the problem of a declining population (which it was designed in 1979 to achieve in the first place) and more critically of the working-age group (as to be expected). If this line of reasoning is correct, then I think we have a problem in thinking about how to take care of the future of the human beings on this earth.

The issue of the so-called aging population is in almost all developed or even developing countries but more pronounced in Japan. Not only is a fallen birth rate the issue - which could also be due to the rising and high cost of living in the world today - as well as to the improvement in human life longevity, I presume as medicine and diet improve. I am sure there are also other factors that lengthens the life of human beings, but there are not the critical issues for us here.

I wish to suggest, from the macro perspective, that we seem to have our thinking a bit twisted as we worry about escalating population growth, dwindling natural resources and environment, as well as economics of growing old. We want to slow down the population growth and ease off the pressures on the natural environment while at the same time we are arguing for a rise in the working population to get the economy to grow and to feed the old.

I think we have a problem with the concept of economic growth.

Bear in mind that the current concept of the GDP was invented by Keynes (and translated into the national accounts by Richard Stone in Cambridge in 1941, who gave, for me, his famous quote: "Data, unanalysed, are dead as mutton") on the fundamental idea that there is a direct and positive correlation between income or output produced and labour employed. It is this simple idea that keeps economists and politicians today pushing for GDP growth at all cost and as fast as possible - with not entirely positive results.

Instead of the increase in output resulting in higher wages, the rise in output leads to higher profits and often at the expense of wages. There is a disproportionate distribution of income between corporations and people, and this seems to be justified on the basis that corporations need to make huge profits in order to keep investing. While the rise in investment creates more jobs, the tendency for governments to give tax concessions to corporations (often foreign ones) ostensibly to induce investments has led to a disaster in the management of the government budget, especially when too the government is getting into the act of investment in the hope of raising those jobs that do not seem to benefit the local population.

The budget deficit now being the scourge of government, the fall of the knife is often on those "unnecessary" operating expenditures which deal with the welfare of people including pensions and retirement benefits. At the same time, to encourage work and income (which means to cut income taxes) and to reduce consumption, the now ubiquitous goods and services tax or the value-added tax is now proposed to be the panacea of all human material problems on earth.

But in the original conceptualisation of indirect taxes such as the GST or the VAT, the notion is that income which is not consumed is invested, by definition. This is true in agrarian economies where the rice that is not consumed today is saved for consumption tomorrow or as seeds for planting in the next season. In the heavily monetised world of today, that which is not consumed is considered as unsold goods or redundant labour and the resultant action by investors is to abandon the old investments and find new ones. There is a constant search for new ideas and new skills which calls for a certain degree of agility and hence "disloyalty" though not necessarily loss of "integrity" especially to one's own confidence in one's own skills and ability (without which they cannot survive).

As such, therefore, safety net for these workers probably relatively young ones is not there as they jump from one new opportunity to the next. It would seem that that safety net can probably best be provided by the extended family (if it is capable) for the state fears that the provision of an unemployment benefit or support of in-between jobs will lead to universal laziness. The systematic pressures that are being put to the working individual to work hard in order to keep up with the rising cost of living in order to keep the GDP growing is, I think, the biggest error in policy making today - for they lead to what governments are also worrying, which is the lack of sufficient energetic workers to support the workers who have grown too old to be productive in contributing to the concept of sustained GDP growth.

(There is currently an attempt to rethink on the concept of poverty for the urban poor.)

The problem economic policy is that there seems to be a believe that the printing of money by fiat is the only way to stimulate economic growth. This is the tail wagging the dog. The growth of an economy will result in the rise of the money supply, either in the monetary base or the velocity of the circulation of money through the economy. Attempts to increase the money supply to increase the economic growth runs the risk of throwing good money after bad investment ideas with the cost of the loss being borne by the general population which can be made to bear these systematic losses with too violent a struggle is through persistent rise in prices for all commodities and services. It is without doubt that, at the end of the day, the economic battle is fought over who gets to consume what and how much and for how long. The almost universal application of the GST (a fact that is now being touted as the rationale for its introduction in this country!) is testimony to the loss of general human welfare from the abuse and mismanagement of the money supply or rather of the international reserves by the reserve issuer.

I think the future direction of the world economy is to reduce the family size and hence slow down the world population, to reduce the overproduction of physical goods in order to slow down the utilisation of real resources, to reduce income growth and consumption growth, with poverty due to incapacity and old age being handled by direct transfers by governments through welfare programmes. I don't think we can salvage the self-destruction of the earth in its ultimate eventuality, or are human beings likely to be the last life on this earth; at the very least, we should moderate our wants and leave rooms for those less fortunate than us in this space and time.


walla said...

hishamh said...

My little contribution:

walla said...

I think we need to go back to basics. What we are facing today is the economic aftermath of triumphalist hubris.

It's like agriculture. Last year might have delivered bumper crop. This year would see a decline until even agrochemical suppliers are affected.

Therefore the first basic is no free lunch. Even free coupons have to be redeemed from pricing embedded elsewhere while cheap means short spans.

So if we mine natural resources, we must be prepared to replant and regenerate. While we can and must do so for timber, rubber, oil palm and fishery, it will be impossible for fossil fuel and tin. Therefore all the more reason to be careful how we spend what we get from them.

Which begs the question why we have yet to set aside a part of petroleum earnings as a separate provident fund for the aged and infirm of the future especially when the young of today are too hard-pressed themselves to even save up for their own future let alone provide support for the aging population.

And that because of pay-performance disparity which may be attributed to skills-productivity mismatches which in turn distorts employment markets thus affecting businesses trying to make a difference. Which in any case is all that matters these days.

So money gets invested in high risk high returns activities instead which are mostly embarked upon by a few only. Leading to the idea if we shape financing just for the small guy, we can make him an enabler on his own scale and steam.

By this osmosis, money drifts away from the few who invest on leverage to the many so that they can do more for themselves independent of malignant governments and political patronage.

But that will require the second basic. A structure for life-long career-oriented learning. The education system we have is structured to paper milling when it can be restructured to include practical enablement. First stage of the learning is how to do something. Then how to refine the method of doing the thing. Then how to solve lateral problems around the method. Finally how to think out of the box and apply to some objective. Towards all this, the full power of all media and channels can be brought to bear. If some people just care enough. To open their eyes and use their heads.

Which comes to the third basic. What ails us here today? There is something systemically wrong in the way we are governing this nation.

It is impossible not to fully realize we are standing at a precipice.

We cannot continue to depend on the forty-percenters of brains, workforce and oil.

We have to move upscale across a broad front so that everyone can get motivated to spruce up and strengthen resolve for a concerted, coordinated and full-fledged national effort to remake this country where it should really be heading the rest of this new century rather than perambulate in some somnambulistic daze while the rest of the world breezes by.

walla said...

And therefore the fourth basic. We need the individual will to make a massive swing towards political change.

Take every single problem we have had before that has hit the news, tease it apart with a scalpel, put the stethoscope to the heartbeat of those affected and refer to the latest edition of the medical uptodate database. The diagnosis is inevitable. A bunch of simians have destroyed the banana plantation that was meant for all until even the values and standards by which their trespass could have been evicted have themselves vanished in just thirty years. Those best years of a growing and productive person if we want to equate a country to a human being.

So we come to the fifth basic. The prognosis is to realize the disease and find the fastest cure, not ingenuously try to genuflex around it using the assumption that present status quo is the best insurance against the uncertainty of future change. After all, if something is painfully bad in all aspects, how can bad soon change to good if it has already not done so in the lifetime of a new nation, given all the chances, reprimands and powers of the universe that it had commanded?

If change is not made, the cost of business can only be higher. In today's case of the federal city, arbitrarily higher, what with assessment rates soon to raise rentals which will multiply all other prices, affecting those who live and work in that city. How can that possibly jive with the earlier plan to make that city more livable and livelier?

By the way, one understands nuts are good for longevity. So, nuts!

Which brings us to the sixth basic. Hard smart work and reward pegged to performance and result. If this means meritocracy, proffer a good reason how doing otherwise can sustain anything. Do revisit the first basic sans the spin.

How many chairmen can one have in this country who walk in and demand a pay no less than that of the MD who has had to sweat his way up with his entire group of staff to build something out of nothing that the chairman now wants a thirty percent silent partner stake made the easier because he cannot in any case deliver results of his own because the projects have already been parceled out furthermore serviced by concessionaires holding monopolistic rentier stakes which they themselves didn't earn by so much as one drop of sweat or sacrifice. How in the entire ball-game do the ordinary folks benefit? On the contrary, the increased cost of business will hit them where it hurts, their puny wallets and future job openings.

At least in the planet of the apes, it ended with an atomic bang. Here the young of today will only be bequeathed something worse. Slow die by economic asphyxiation.

Unfortunately, that will be belying the seventh basic.

Not chotto matte kudasai. But jinsei wa fūzen no tomoshibi.

Life is a candle light before the wind.

And we are worried about accounting practice to treat fatuous investments?

walla said...

There is, of course, an eighth basic. Small divided by big becomes less.

The more children the poor have, the less each will get from the parent. Unfortunately many a time, an improvement is only achieved if there is sufficient amount of something. If each gets less than that amount, the chance of improving is lower.

Don't take chances. Use Supermax.

walla said...

In everything that the present gomen has been saying and doing so far, it has either been a bad script spun at high cost or a knee-jerk reaction said with a tic on the lips, with both to no avail except to juice up those listeners whose only sole achievement in life is to strategically latch themselves as fortune hangers-on and freeloaders.

In all, nothing connects to those great organs, the hypothalamus and the prefrontal cortex, which would have asked what is the reality, where is the common sense, how in doing this can that not be affected, and what's the real agenda behind it all... and so on, so forth.

Instead we get whims and fancies. No win but only whines for the rakyat from the whims, and only fanciful temporary soothers lasting as long as the flies-visited free food on the table after the talk, half of whose length is made of salutations and inane remarks taken from the library of form sans substance.

Nobody sits up to ask why we are still only looking for the mice to try and dispel our buried fears of the elephant in the room we persist in ignoring to our own peril.

The most important slogan we should have is a simple question:

"So what-'s the difference?'

walla said...

Environment is not just the physical aspects of our natural resources.

It is also the daily living world in which the dynamics of ratiocination operates. By that is meant burnishing the alloy of wisdom, intelligence, knowledge and the human spirit through proaction and reaction with modern-day realities.

Therefore if we widen the scope of environment, securing the future must necessarily be for children AND environment.

Renewing our natural resources environment is straightforward. For every tree timbered, another must be planted. For every acre fertilized, pH and microbial rebalancing must be done regularly to rehabilitate the soil. For every polluting source, alternative energy applications must be found and made popular in concert with shortening the entire chain of processes that cause existing pollution to accumulate. This includes relocating high-risk sources like incinerators, goldmine processing plants and even rare earth refineries.

Solar, water and wind energy applications should be sourced and made as cheaply available as possible. Be encouraged we already have a biogas source in Parliament which is fast reaching critical mass pungency.

walla said...

The other environment is less straightforward. It should enable every child to grow up with competencies to make sensible choices for sustained personal progress in a responsible manner that will contribute value to self and society.

Since one can assume no one has a monopoly on the definition of those items after the word 'competencies', the first competency should be critical thinking skills because they will help each child to weigh and balance choices based on observation, analysis, conclusion, action and adjustment.

The second competency should be how to find out things and identify what is signal and what is noise. In other words, what is important and what is trivial to the matter in mind. If in the process of developing this competency, there grows wonder and curiosity, initiative to delve and interact further, part of the magic of education would have been achieved.

Do we see any child these days wondering about anything when how varied are the universe, life and man is already abundantly recorded?
Maybe it's a language problem.

This wonder about things and happenings could be important and for one reason. If we observe how our manpower do things and face issues, it has become almost mechanical. See a problem, scramble for a solution, hit it and move on with an eye on the clock or hand-phone.

That approach will only at best be mechanically iterative and therefore will expend more energy, time and resources, ergo cost and lost opportunities, when focus on root causes can cut recurrences because solutions can be fashioned more holistically and extensively even to the extent of creating learning curves on how problems come up that can be avoided in the future.

So that the third competency is to teach them how to stay focused, develop good habits, channel their energies, read the situation clearly, and think ahead coherently.

In other words, imbue them with skills and motivation to plot their own latitudes and longitudes for value-adding living, thereby developing in them an examined life.

In which the eight basics will find repose.

walla said...

If we can get those competencies in place through creative programs, it is possible the next generations will be better equipped to surf the waves caused by the intrinsic instability of capitalism whose operational objective is to maximize profit using the least resources with the instability coming from losing the second condition while chasing the first target.

Because of the time factor.

Everyone knows time is not just a dimension but a galaxy of factors. One may have the best idea but not at the right time will it fly. One may have the best resources but not at the right time can it be deployed. And so on.

Life is therefore a moving target pushed by contending forces whose resolution requires the paradox of bimodal management, or achieving seemingly opposing objectives.

Meanwhile life is brief in meaning, short in span, replete with disappointments, and sequestered in scope.

walla said...

It is also excruciatingly pedestrian.

On which note we can now talk about money.

To be specific, one hundred million ringgit of the consolidated federal fund that was strangely but deliberately blocked in this year's budget speech from being distributed to the Chinese schools.

Could it be that spectral analysis has revealed most of the ringgit notes from this year's tax collections had lard so that to reduce the total lard density in money circulation next year, take off that amount for a start?

But what about the same amount that will be munificently distributed to the Tamil and Islamic schools who will be fortunate this round to again receive such beneficence? Will it be also lard-free in keeping with creating a low-cholesterol society?

Since that would be illogical and we cannot possibly believe that our government acts illogically although they might have coined the term endless possibilities, one must therefore conclude there is another reason.

In practicing the second competency stated earlier, one wonders what the real reason could be.

If it is given to Tamil and Islamic schools, then it cannot be that the Chinese are suddenly second-class non-Muslim pendatang's because the Tamils are categorically in the same boat.

So it must something which the Tamils have done which the Chinese hadn't. Could it be that the former had voted for the present government in the last election but the latter didn't? Next to wonder, curiosity surfaces.

If it is so, why did the Chinese not vote for them? Note that it is semantics but an important distinction to ask why did the Chinese voted against them? How can one vote against a party? The ballot paper doesn't say put an x on the symbol you want to eject. Maybe it is entirely possible in our new world of EPs that those lard-eating critters didn't realize that lard spoils eyesight and most of them had put the x in the wrong box.

No, this also doesn't sound right.

The only possible reason is that the Chinese must have voted for a cause while knowing full well the character of the present government will use its political machinery to punish them should they so much as show disloyalty.

Yet if this is so, what about those of the Islamic schools who voted for the other side?

Curiouser and curiouser, no?

walla said...

So what was the cause that had made the Chinese vote for the other side? It has been surreptitiously whispered in many seedy places that the cause was to stop corruption.

Why corruption is bad has been extensively analyzed in this very blog not too long ago, if lard-free memory serves.

If that conclusion is universally accepted, then one wonders why the illustrious government in keeping with its endlessly possible 1Malaysia multiracial progressive country that pays rm900 million a year to MACC to fight corruption can deny the Chinese a mere rm100 million for their schools?

In fact, they should be given rm1 Billion minus tax plus a gold medal for national loyalty towards good causes for proper governance of an economically fragile country in need of more tax funds.


The conclusion is therefore the government gave the rm100 million to the Tamils because they voted for them and another rm100 million to the Islamic schools because they didn't want them not to vote for them but they didn't give the third rm100 million to the Chinese because they voted for a cause that is unhealthy for the government.

Which logically means the government wants to protect its corruption.

In which case, why didn't the government then close the MACC and then give its rm900 million a year to the Chinese schools?

That would have increased the next election votes by nine hundred percent for the government from the Chinese, wouldn't it?

This is all quite puzzling.

And then there's the matter of the tear-gas. Given the propensity of the citizens to erupt these days for unfathomable reasons like bersih, there must still be stock of tear gas around in each state.

So if in giving the rm100 million to the Tamil schools the government has merely given this time the carrot when last time it has all along been the stick which in cells are batons, then why was tear gas not used in the raid but shoot-first bullets instead? Was it because some lives are cheaper than live bullets? Why not let the valuation of such lives be conducted in a proper court of law?

walla said...

Maybe it's because there are no more such things as proper courts of law.

After all, if self-confessed killers can walk free without being called to identify their commander, one must keep up with the times to learn that maintaining justice is now less important than maintaining corruption.

This reversal of principles must somehow have a root cause somewhere. What could that be?

A shower of hands is shown by those milled out of the Islamic schools. They ask - if the government by that singular omission has practiced racism on the Chinese and bribery of the Indians, what did they practice on us? Religious respect? But if our faith is against racism and bribery, how can we accept the distribution from one that is patently racial and corrupt? Yet for the same reason the Indians did, we should even if doing so minimizes immediately our moral conscience standardized by our faith. However in doing so we would be no different from the Indians who have had to because they are still at the marginal fringes. But are we? And if we are, what could be the cause all these years? Corrupt practices reducing honest economic opportunities?

To clear the air, let's ask an askance observer outside all four. Diplomatically the reply could be:

One won't be surprised that by that peculiar manner of slanted distribution, the government in question has insulted all three civilizations, a total of 13,000 years, give or take.

It has insulted the Chinese because it doesn't recognize their right as equal citizens to vote for a cause. Since it doesn't treat them as equal citizens, therefore it treats them as pendatangs which means they are still viewed as coming from another country.

It has insulted the Indians because it thinks their right to conscionable voting can be bribed off. That this could be true must be because the Indians have been marginalized until they have to grasp for any chance to return to economic normalcy as citizens again.

It has insulted the Muslims because it thinks that money can make them forget the moral worth of their faith that is the lifeblood of their existence built on universal principles of charity to all.

walla said...

No less an authority than the greased eminence of the country has admitted publicly that the Chinese pay the most taxes.

If that be the case, what answer can the government expect from the Chinese to the government's question, "what more do the Chinese want?" that was made immediately after the results of the last general elections had congealed?

Now that the same government has withdrawn the rm100 million from their schools, will it accept if their reply is, "less taxes"?

To add, "so that we can support our Chinese schools now that you have taken away the funds from our own tax money paid to you because you thought by using our own money you can bribe us to vote for you when our reason is to put an end to the bribery that is the root cause of the economic woes of all, especially those you portray yourself to defend" ?

Now how would a good government answer that?

After all, it seems the Chinese only want to secure the future of their children through a good education system they have built on their own that has sustained the economic and industrial thrusts of this nation since its formation.

As for securing the future of the political environment, perhaps they can leave more of that to the Indians and Muslims who will no doubt become more educated to learn what is right and wrong.

One understands that is one of the remits of a good education so necessary for securing futures, whether of children or of environment.


etheorist said...


I'm overwhelmed by your exuberance.

walla said...

Hopefully not irrational, etheorist.