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Phil Ebersole's Blog

“Yves Smith” wrote an important post on her naked capitalism web log about the claim that economic incentives can be a substitute for ethics and morals.

Economics as it usually is taught considers moral values only as one of the factors that influence free choice.   A few make a specialty of writing books and articles purporting to show that acting on moral intuition always does harm, and that self-interest always works to the greater good.

It is true enough that good intentions can backfire if there is no reality check.  That does not mean simplistic economic goals such as “maximize shareholder value” are a substitute for a moral code.   In our complex economy and big organizations, actions and decisions are so far removed from their consequences that it is impossible to design a set of economic incentives that will automatically generate the common good—especially when the structure of economic incentives…

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Phil Ebersole's Blog

President John F. Kennedy famously said in 1962: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” His words, if not his actions, were wise and inspiring, and I thought of them in connection with the Arab Spring and the Egyptian coup.

Thousands and thousands of Egyptians conducted peaceful—relatively peaceful—demonstrations in order to replace the dictatorship of President Mubarak with a democratically elected government.

The result has been set aside by the Egyptian military, which receives more than $1 billion a year from the U.S. government to buy military equipment which has been used mainly against Egypt’s own people.   In return the U.S. Air Force gets to use Egyptian air space and the Navy gets to use the Suez Canal.

If the U.S. government were genuinely interested in promoting democracy and helping the Egyptian people, and winning their good will, we would spend $1 billion a year to…

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Once you start measuring GDP as a way of gauging social welfare, people will start to figure out ways to make GDP go up without improving social welfare (say, by swapping dirty financial derivatives).
Goodhart’s law: on not going by the numbers.


Yee Jenn Jong

This piece was written for the NUS Students’ Political Association The Diplomat publication. I was a panelist at their Top Gun Forum held on 17 October 2012 which had discussed government-citizens engagement since GE2011. I had contributed this article in October at their invitation. This issue of The Diplomat will only be distributed in January 2013. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Workers’ Party or the NUSPA.


Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, minister for the new Ministry of Communications and Information, said in a TODAY news report that more ministries and statutory boards are stepping up efforts to make their presence felt online by having Facebook and Twitter accounts. The government has also started a National Conversation with citizens. Since GE2011, the government seems to have a renewed zest to want to be seen to engage.

It is good that the government wants to engage with…

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Scrutinizing the Singapore government

I haven’t been writing much due to work commitments. But after a long day at work on a weekend, the last thing I wish to read is news like this:


Source: Channelnewsasia

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has cautioned Singaporeans to pay attention to new fault lines that have appeared between new citizens and native Singaporeans.

Speaking at Teck Ghee Community Club’s racial harmony celebrations, Mr Lee said new citizens may be ethnically similar, but fault lines may develop as the new citizens have different norms, habits and attitudes.

So he said Singaporeans must watch out for instances of social friction, especially online.

Mr Lee said new citizens and those born in Singapore must work together to ensure that differences do not affect social stability.

“The new arrivals – to embrace the Singapore values and norms and try and fit in as Singaporeans. And Singaporeans – to encourage…

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Musings from Singapore

Dear friends, as long as there are significant information asymmetries in the government-citizen relationship, Singapore will never be able to have a completely fair and open national conversation.

What information asymmetries exist? Simply, the government has all the data and information, and we, the people, are given only selective access to it. Whenever people talk about the “lack of information” or the need for a “freedom of information” act, it is difficult to grasp what precisely this means in practice, and why exactly we need it.

Hence, in my humble bid to shed some light on this problem, I will adopt the same approach as I did last year, when I wrote a piece entitled “The problem with Singapore’s media“, showing six clear examples of institutionalised bias in Singapore’s media.

Here, I will show three clear examples of how the Singapore government’s stranglehold over data has blunted my…

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So many things they still dun get.

Political Writings

According to the nation-building Straits Times, Mr Lee said that 65,000 babies were born each year when he took office in 1959, much more than today, even though the population has doubled to 5.26M.

He added: “Our educated men and women must decide whether to replace themselves in the next generation. At the moment, 31 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men are opting out. Not leaving a next generation.

“So, just ponder over it and you will know the solution is not simple. But we’ve got to persuade people to understand that getting married is important, having children is important. Do we want to replace ourselves or do we want to shrink and get older and be replaced by migrants and work permit holders? That’s the simple question.”

What he failed to say was that it was his Government that encouraged sterilisation, introduced the Stop at…

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