Monday, December 2, 2013

Transforming the Middle Class

I have this thing against bad arguments, especially those ones which are clearly inconsistent (we tell our children that those things are called "lies") which are purposely made to counter a common sense.

The practical problem of the bumbling middle class (in Malaysia) is that of stagnant incomes (except those in speculative activities such as the stock market or the property market and some would even say the financial services including banking) in the face of rising cost of living.

Obviously, when we say things like this, we mean that to a middle class individual person or family (earning by some definition as RM5,000 per month), he and his family is facing higher and higher cost of living. For those who are unemployed, they are not in the middle class - they are in the under class, if they persist in their unemployment or unemployability. So, one cannot go about making a counter-argument by saying that - we are creating more jobs of these salaries which put them into the middle class jobs.

At the same time, one cannot go about arguing that the cost of living is low because Malaysia has one of the biggest subsidies in the world and therefore it is justified for the subsidies to be removed (whose removal obviously will cause retail prices to rise - which is the original argument). The removal of subsidies and the rise of retail prices hit every body.

It is not an logical argument to conclude that, therefore, the only thing to do is for the middle class to become an entrepreneur - assuming that entrepreneurs are those who are entitled to make huge sums of money in no time through some activities whose ethical values are not an issue. Afterall, entrepreneurs are made up mainly of "school dropouts," so goes that argument. I think that is a totally irresponsible statement.

I have spent almost all my hard-earned savings on the proper education of my children (just like any other middle class parent), and I am not asking my children to become filthy rich. I want my children to be educated so that they grow up to be decent human beings and decent citizens to their nation who are respectably to their fellow countrymen. I expect my children to be hardworking and productive in their work - by finding a decent employer or a decent boss - and by their education will learn to be happy with little and will work hard so that the extra they earn can be used to help their neighbours who are less fortunate than they. This is the middle class value and dream. It may sound stupid, but decency doesn't have to be clever and smart. It only has to be truthful and honest.

I suppose we cannot hope to enjoy decent policies when we have people who are badly educated taking the rein of things.


deminimis said...

Good post. I wholeheartedly agree.

walla said...

To start and run a country is akin to starting and running a family.

First people come together and get attracted. Then biology takes over and some more are created. A sense of responsibility replaces both happy and go lucky. Roots are sowed and the great grind begins. Along the way, the drama of life unfolds. Ups and downs round and round. Then stock take and wonder why. Finally the curtain drops as things slow down to peter to a stop.

If the family is run well, the principles of life and the discipline of conduct will see all through whatever the challenges and tribulations inevitable to come.

If otherwise, relationships will break, people will go do their own thing, and the family will lose its identity, direction and role as anchor and safe harbor. The roof over the heads will be blown away.

That's why ceilings fall these days.

walla said...

People will always want to improve. Improvements cost money. Prices will always go up. If income disposed to buy improvements is static as in the case for most wage-earning middle income earners, then they will become poorer defined by increasing inability to buy what they want let alone need.

What is galling in our case has been the false sense of comfort created by distorting our economic performance through subsidization.

This sense of performing well lulled too many into thinking we are competitive in the world market to which our economy and livelihoods are linked.

As subsidies get shaved off one by one, reality sets in because the life-support system in the earlier years is now unplugged when the patient has yet to be able to ventilate his own lungs.

To the false performance caused by ignoring our costs have been subsidized must also be added the false benefits of privatization which in our case has only served to socialize costs but privatize profits.

And the effects of false privatization has in turn been magnified by unseemly spending of enormous amounts of public funds to no accountable effect for public good.

Meanwhile we forget a country can only be sustained in its development by the same thing needed to sustained the propagation of families.

Which is.....

walla said...

A creative class that will inspire the middle class.

A creative class is made up of highly educated and independent-minded individuals making their living by creatively solving complex problems.

We don't have a creative class. The entrepreneurs we have are people who burrow their way through red tape, borrow their way to finance their enterprise and barrow their loads in daily grinds to make an extra buck for tomorrow's dream.

They don't solve complex problems of the world. Because they were not given much of an education of any differentiating standard. So they don't know what is needed to become classy creatives.

They only compensate by trying to be independent-minded. But being so without an ecosystem to germinate ideas or share resources or create new uses and designs or solve hardy and tricky problems will not yield great solutions, for that matter the breakthroughs that world markets of worth demand in common pursuit of real improvements.

The people of the creative class are the people who will start the new industries that will push growth and create opportunities for the people of the middle class to rise up another notch.

Affordability and mobility are this century's pillars of the earth.


The Pillars of the Earth is a novel by Ken Follett whose day and month of birth is the same as that of John Maynard Keynes. And one other person active in this blog.

walla said...

We are, where we are.

Along a Schumacherian vein, the small man in his small house can be as happy as the big man in his mansion because, at any one time, both can only be in one place respectively so that in each instantaneous moment, the calculus of personal satisfaction is just a single-variable function of the personal philosophy of life.

The happiness of the big man testing out every square foot of his mansion cannot be multiples bigger than the happiness of the small man standing in his meager lot because the happiness of either is only realized at each single place at any one time.

Having two hand-phones does not enable one to conduct two conversations at the same time.

Man is made for solitary singularity but can only survive in multiple plurality.

A hidden message perhaps to care more for others than for oneself.

The ennobling lesson of life.

It could be half the problems of the world are caused by forgetting there are limitations to everything.

And the other half must have been caused by thinking there is no limitation to anything.

That's why we have the middle class. In the middle.

guten morgen.

walla said...

In the beginning, life was perilous and difficult. Food was eaten raw, predators were a leap away and the agenda for each day was just to survive to the next.

Then fire was discovered, food was cooked, metal was forged, and new dimensions of being alive were activated.

As the populations grew, nature was harnessed, plant and animal farms expanded, and cultures developed, first by simple drawings on the walls of caves, then by development of hand signs followed by languages.

When few became many concentrated in specific places, communities came into being so that the devastation of natural disasters became more apparent.

Meanwhile, many together caused hygiene to be a concern so that pestilence wiped out some as well.

Because of the close-knit mutual dependency, feelings of attachment were developed and the losses felt started the first question of life:


Without any answer on the ground, they turned to the Sky and sought solace in a quantum leap started from the self progressing to others.

In being preternaturally inquisitive, some asked why louder and in looking at the sky, they saw the stars. And started to wonder about the patterns in physical events in much the same way they had noticed the patterns of seasons and the sniffs of danger.

To make sense of those patterns, they started to count and experiment which led to systems of predictive quantification which led to new applications that harnessed not just nature but the models of nature by which motive force and power could tap for faster progress, mostly in the material direction.

That brought comfort, enlarged and protected communities and created a new sense that enriched daily life by liberating it from the drudge of boredom.

And yet even in plenty and security, the same first question remains. To this very day.