The penitent season

It’s about that time of the cycle again, when the penitent seek forgiveness for the sins they have committed. They humbly, or in this case, not so humbly, go to the people who they have offended and ask that they forgive him or her. For if offended don’t, the aggressor may face hell, or worse.

Yes, its pre-elections season and the government has actively gone around trying to right wrongs.

For one, for years the government has been told that companies are too reliant on foreign workers. It constantly defended its policies, preferring to lump two arguments into one; that of the foreign workers with foreign talent.

On the one hand, it said foreign workforce is crucial to the economy because it provides businesses with the slack to work. If businesses don’t have the ability to hire cheap labour, they go to another country to set up shop.

On the other, foreign talent gives Singapore skills that Singaporeans don’t have.

It’s a difficult argument to rally against. Singapore is small, Singapore is competitive, Singapore is an open economy. Those are the three assumptions that any argument about the economy is based on.

Yet, the argument has always been built on weak foundations.

One, if companies can simply set up shop elsewhere, given cheaper labour, then our entire value proposition is reduced to whether labour is cheap here. This can’t possibly be what Singapore has prided itself on, can it?

Two, there are ways to manage the foreign worker flow, without having to cut off supply. Clearly, businesses are exploiting the foreign workers because they can. Recall the numerous cases of Chinese workers filing complaints against construction companies at MOM.

In this case, it is not a function of what the company needs, but what the company wants.

Underlying all these problems was a hidden story; that of falling productivity. For a nation priding itself on knowledge, science and technology, to have productivity fall over 10 years is horrifying.

Of course, productivity is nowadays defined in many ways. Rising real wages is a real problem. But if you look at the statistics, rising overall wages are due directly to the top earning more, rather than everyone earning more. According to the Dept of Stats, the bottom 20 per cent of household’s real wages (which is adjusted for inflation) has declined the most in the past three years, while the top dropped by less.

Those who live in private housing earn an annual income of $54,000 at least twice those who live in HDB flats. They earn ten times those who live in 1 and 2 room flats.

So what does this say about the situation here?

It is quite clear that while wages have risen, it is those who are are the top who have experienced these increases. This cannot account for the loss in productivity since people who earn that much are expected to pull in more for the employers (except maybe top civil servants, hah)

So the fault was always with foreign workers; foreign workers who did not get trained by their companies because they were transient labour, those who were given the lowest wages possible since they earned more much in their currencies due to the SG dollar strength.

And so now, the anger has risen from those who have fallen through the cracks; those who demand a decent wage so they can live and thrive in sunny Singapore. For them, whether or not the companies fail or go bust is irrelevant. For them, tis a question of survival. Surely anyone can live on $800; but how does he live?

If these were obvious problems, why did the government not react earlier? And why now and not in boom times when it was better to make adjustments? (to be fair there is never a good time to do these things for the companies. But given how the PAP has always harked on their abundance of political capital and will, one wonders.)

It is not late now to change all this. And to this end, the government has embarked on a systematic purging of unproductive companies. Doubt me not, many companies will fail because they have relied so much on foreign labour and the cost savings they brought. But I rather them fail, send the foreigners away, save jobs for Singaporeans, free up housing for us.

I am not against foreigners. They are human beings out to make a decent living. I know many of them. They are essential to many parts of the economy.

But if and when it comes to defending the rights of locals to a decent jobs, a decent wage in one of the richest countries in the world, I say, death to the firms which rely on foreigners.

But as with all transgressions, the people forgive the sinner?

Mavericks in the civil service?

On Saturday’s venerable ST, a curious article appeared about Eddie Teo’s apparent irritation with potentials scholars who give yes-men answers.  Such answers end up ” giving the impression that they have no integrity,” he said.

He goes onto say that he wants potential elites to be themselves and not hemmed in by expectations of what they should or should not say.

In fact, Mr Teo says: ‘Even a few mavericks – people with unconventional viewpoints who are willing to challenge assumptions – will be useful because they will add vitality and diversity to the service.’

The first normal reaction to such statements is “Don’t talk cock la”. It’s the usual spin of a top civil servant taking on the establishment or rules that govern the system. Much like Philip Yeo or Ngiam Tong Dow.

But Eddie Teo is no fool. He has been around hob-nobbing with the leaders of the day. He knows what he is saying and it would be a real surprise if he did not say it without first having told his chief, Teo Chee Hean or PM himself.

So is he geniune about what he means? Another way of putting it is, what exactly does he mean when he says no yes-men more mavericks.

The usual definition of mavericks is one that is out of the box. Someone who does things that don’t conform. A hero in a novel is not the guy who sticks to the rules but one who rebels against it. Think Leonardo Da Vinci, or Tom Cruise in Top Guy.

In Singapore, there are a few mavericks in the political and civil service. Probably the first mavericks were LKY and his gang of overseas educated locals who dared to challenge the British. But LKY has since become the system.

Other notables include current US ambassador Chan Heng Chee, who was quite a critic of the LKY regime in its early days. Tommy Koh, the all-in-one rolled together ambassador. Ho Kwon Pin of Banyan Tree and do-not-discriminate against the gays husband of Claire Chiang fellow. To a certain extent, lesser mortals include NTU journalism school head Cherian George, who was once harshly rebuked by Wong Kan Seng on writing a piece that slammed the Parliamentary process.

These are of course the mavericks who made it in the system, despite their antagonistic stance towards the people who run the system and, in fact, the system itself. Those that didn’t are far more numerous. Francis Seow, the former Solicitor General, local dissident Chee Soon Juan, former WP chief JBJ, among others.

So what does this say about mavericks? Clearly, only some mavericks are welcome. And only those who “with unconventional viewpoints who are willing to challenge assumptions”.

One thing that is common among those people who have had success are also those who know how and when to raise their objections. They quite clearly state that it is not that they want to overthrow the system but simply that they disagree with whatever it is that they disagree with. They usually also present their arguments very cleverly so that they cannot be accused of saying something they mean.

Some, like Vivian Balakrishnan, who was a vocal opponent of the Government in his earlier days, get fully co-opted. Others tend to stay at an arms length, for they may not want to fully compromise their values.

Indeed, they are no more than verbal sparring partners for the ruling elite.

So what does Eddie Teo want really?

I hope he wants people with balls and gumption to say things and say it with conviction. The civil service has enough of people who carry the balls of others. It needs real men and women who will no longer sit idly at the meeting table with the minister, twiddling their fancy Blackberries or iPhones and simply agreeing with what the minister says. We need civil servants with backbone, who can form their own opinion and say it.

An infusion of those who not only think critically but also hit out at their superiors will rejuvenate the civil service, which is efficient but dour and seen to be serving the whims of their political masters.

No more than simply mavericks, we need revolutionaries. People who can challenge not only assumptions but decisions. If the PM decides to leave a memo to the elections committee to redraw boundaries of the electoral map that may be detrimental to the chances of the opposition party, the chief of the elections department needs to be able to stand up to him and disagree. Fat chance of that happening now.

Or if the Minister of State of some ministry decides that it may not in the best interest of the nation to publish certain statistics on say the population or job market, the civil servant should have the guts to question the wisdom of such a move.

Right now, from what I know of the service, most are simply willing to get by. The minister is the boss so defer to his judgement. Ultimately he has been charged with the responsibility of  running the ministry since the people voted him in so why bother.

So where art thou, dear maverick?

The “Mother” of all Budgets

So $20.5 billion for companies and individuals, with the bulk of the money going towards firms.

The biggest component of Budget 2009 must certainly be the innovative and interesting CPF-cut, that is not a CPF-Cut.

Called the Jobs Credit, the $4.5 billion package is in essence a wage-subsidy direct from the Government to companies.

Everyone was expecting a CPF contribution cut despite many political leaders insisting that they would not cut it. And why not? AFter all many have said and are still saying this is the worst recession. Ever. Singapore will possibly contract at a massive 5%, the deepest worst recession. Ever. In 1998 CPF was cut because it was the fastest and most potent way to cut costs for companies. Compared to that Asian Financial Crisis, this global downturn is probably 10 times worse, given that it afflicts everyone.

So instead of cutting CPF rates, the Govenrment will give cash to companies, which means that it is shouldering the burden instead. Well, not actually. Because they are funding the subsidies with money from higher GST. So we are actually paying for it in other ways. We just don’t quite feel it.

The other big point is that the Government is not only running a huge-ass deficit but also dipping into past reserves. OMG. This is like what!

For its prudish stance towards spending on savings, the Government has decided this time that the time was right. It will darw $4.9 billion from reserves estimated to be some $600 billion large. This is barely 1%.

But more than the amounts involved, this move has a potent signaling effect. One, it signals that the Govt is treating this recession seriously and is doing serious things in return. Two, it is justifying its past insistence on balancing the budget with its dip into the reserves now. These are potent political messages that will not be lost on the average citizen. ie We are only able to weather the storm now because we made the right decisions then. So trust us.

That leads on to the next question and one that will have people speculating

Is this an election budget?

No. When one says it is an election budget, it means the electio

Crime and Punishment – Round 1

In one corner, Law Society President Michael Hwang, in the other, former top lawyer, now Law Minister, Shanmugam.

Michael takes the first swing by posting two pieces critiquing (not criticising) the Penal Code.

You can find it here and here

But I append the entire treatise in both parts here ( I do realise that this maybe infringing copyright – If I am, and law society says to take it down, just drop me an email)

Crime and Punishment

In my message for this month and the next, I propose to examine some basic thoughts on the purpose of our laws on crime and punishment, commencing with crime.

There are many statements of the purpose of the criminal law, but my favourite short and simple statement is from the Wolfenden Committee in England set up to review the law on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. The function of the criminal law, as they saw it in their 1957 Report, was:

… to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others, particularly those who are specially vulnerable …

It is not … the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour, further than is necessary to carry out the purposes we have outlined … there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business.

If we accept this as a working statement of the guide to criminalization of conduct, then the following principles flow from this:
1 It is not the function of the criminal law to shape personal conduct in the way that lawmakers would like Singaporeans to behave.

2 Acts (or omissions) should only be made criminal if they cause positive harm to:

a

other persons or beings capable of sentient feelings;

b

the actor himself;

c

the state;

d

public order; or

e

the community as a whole.

3 Harm has to be tangible and provable rather than speculative or subjective.

4 Harm to others (2a above) needs little explanation except for the second part which is meant to justify laws against cruelty to animals.

5 Harm to the actor (2b above) can be justified either by the principle of paternalism (sometimes the state knows better than the individual what is harmful to him, defining harm in terms of (3) above) or the welfare principle (it is against public policy to utilise the resources of the state to expend time and money on attending to the injuries of those who could protect themselves against such injuries with little inconvenience).

6 Harm to the state (2c above) will justify offences set out under Chapters VI and VII of the Penal Code and offences such as failure to pay taxes.

7 Harm to public order (2d above) will justify:

· (in principle) the laws against public assembly and
racially insensitive speeches, although the degree
to which it is necessary to control the activities of
public assembly and freedom of speech is debatable; and

· laws which prohibit behaviour which many not cause tangible harm to the object of the act concerned but, if not prohibited, will cause people who are so outraged by that act that they will take redress into their own hands (eg necrophilia).

This will also distinguish public decency and private morality, so that (for example) there should be:

· criminalization of sexual acts committed in public (which would be justified in the preservation of public order); but

· non-criminalization of sexual acts performed in private (other than those which cause physical harm even to consenting adults).

8 Harm to the community (2e above) distinguishes the interests of the state from the community at large and provides justification for offences such as:

· those which protect the integrity of the financial markets; and

· those which save the community from the trouble and cost of having to take action to rectify the consequences of acts which cause harm to the actor (eg taking drugs or attempted suicide), which is also justifiable under the welfare principle described under (5) above)

If we follow these principles to their logical conclusion this should lead us to re-examine why certain offences remain on the statute books and whether they should be repealed or modified.

The point of this analysis is that we should not criminalize conduct which we simply consider to be immoral unless harm also results from the conduct. We can argue about what ‘harm’ means for this purpose, but the essential principle should be: no harm, no criminal offence.

That is not to say that morality has no place in the criminal law. All criminal laws must be rooted in morality in the sense that it must have the moral support of the majority of the community, otherwise it becomes the rule of the oligarchy, who think they know what is best for us all. We cannot criminalize conduct if the majority of the people think that the conduct is not wrong enough to require state enforcement (eg adultery). But the converse argument does not follow as a matter of logic: to enforce morality for its own sake cannot be justified by legal arguments. Hence, the arguments about prohibiting the consumption of alcohol or the practice of homosexuality need to focus on the actual or potential harm caused to the persons involved, especially if they are vulnerable (by reason of age or mental incapacity) and not capable of making a fully informed decision as to whether they understand what harm they might suffer from the conduct in question.

All the above is not original thought; it is largely reproduced in the standard criminal textbooks, and I am simply reminding people who have a say in the revision of our criminal laws to take the above into account.

We need to apply intellectual rigour to our attitude to criminalization of human conduct, and should not simply argue for criminalization of conduct which offends us personally for reasons which do not fall within the objective criteria set out above.

So let us clear our minds of cant, and think logically and progress towards a more rational theory of criminal law.

In next month’s message I will deal with what I consider to be the relevant principles determining the imposition of penalties for criminal behavior.

Following on from last month’s message, I want to share my views on the purposes of punishment insofar as they should be reflected in the sentences imposed by criminal courts.

The old view (which is still maintained by many) holds that there is a necessary moral connection between wrongdoing and punishment (variously called ‘ethical or moral retribution’, ‘retributive justice’ or the ‘desert justification’). This theory is a refinement of the ‘revenge theory’ best expressed in the ‘eye for an eye’ principle.

An alternative view (which I prefer) is that offenders are punished only for social reasons, looking forward rather than to the past. This principle is best expressed pithily in the words of the Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, who wrote:

All punishment is mischief. All punishment is in itself evil. It ought only to be admitted in as far as it promises to exclude some greater evil.

Retributive justice looks to the past when it seeks to punish the offender for what he has done, while the utilitarian looks to the future to justify the imposition of punishment. The utilitarian justification for punishment is not to take revenge on the offender for his wrongdoing but to prevent future offences of a similar kind, whether by that offender or others. In short, the principle of deterrence should underpin a rational policy of sentencing. The sentence should be determined by its effect upon the person punished (particular deterrence) or by serving as a warning to others (general deterrence). In addition, the penal process can have a certain educational effect, both on the offender as well as the community at large in reinforcing the social values of the community as expressed through its criminal laws. However, the educational process should only be regarded as a side effect of punishment, and not as its primary justification. To that extent, I would therefore respectfully disagree with Lord Denning who once famously said:

The ultimate justification of any punishment is not that it is a deterrent but that it is the emphatic denunciation by the community of a crime.

As I pointed out in last month’s message, the purpose of the criminal law is not to enforce the moral standards of the community as such, but only to protect the community and individuals from tangible harm. Accordingly, punishment should not be based on moral denunciation as its primary justification.

But utilitarianism does not provide a self-contained justification of punishment, as there are cases where utilitarianism would provide too harsh a penalty, or where it would not justify a punishment at all where clearly punishment is necessary.

If one carried utilitarianism to its logical conclusion and make deterrence the sole criterion for punishment, there would be times where the easy way to abolish a socially undesirable practice would be to impose extremely harsh penalties, eg to impose huge fines or even imprisonment for parking offences. But the community would (rightly) reject such penalties because they would violate another principle that is commonly accepted as a necessary ingredient of a rational sentencing policy, viz. the principle of proportionality. That principle reflects the correct place where retribution ought to be reflected in punishment – in the distribution of justice, rather than in its primary justification. The extent to which an offender ought to be punished cannot be determined solely by the need to stamp out future repetitions of the same offence; there is a moral limit to the law’s power to make an offender an example for others to fear.

Conversely, there may be occasions where an offence may result in no overt harm, but may attract such moral outrage that, a failure to punish (or punish adequately) such an offence will lead to those outraged to take physical action to vent their feelings. This is the basis for laws and punishment against those that express views which give serious offence to religious or racial groups. Indeed, this was the original justification for having laws at all, because, in the absence of government having a system of law and order and punishment for violation of those laws, victims of wrongs committed against them would have to resort to self-help to gain redress for the loss and suffering they had sustained. It is to this extent that Lord Denning’s dictum can be justified, but only as a postscript to any thesis on the purposes of punishment.

On a more practical note, Singapore is sadly lacking a principled and transparent penal policy. Our universities barely cover the study of criminology, and even less the more important study of penology. Possibly, this is because Government has not published detailed statistics of crime and punishment so that social scientists can undertake adequate research on the causes of crime and the effects of current penal policies on prisoners (especially recidivists). One traditional justification for the lack of such statistics is that these are sensitive figures which could be interpreted as indicating that certain communities might be more prone to commit certain crimes, but we cannot continue to put our heads in the sand and hide important social facts which need serious study by objective scholars in order to improve our society. Only rigorous research with full access to relevant information can help us determine important penological questions such as:

· Is the death penalty effective in preventing murder and other capital crimes?

· Do strict liability offences achieve their object of deterring anti-social behaviour?

· What kind of punishments best deter what kind of behaviour?

· Should we follow the UK in adopting indeterminate sentences?

· Is corporal punishment an effective deterrent against the crimes for which it is imposed as a penalty?

So I end with the message that we need to re-think our policies on crime and punishment at a more fundamental level than hitherto so as to base our laws and sentences on a proper jurisprudential as well as practical basis.

Michael Hwang, SC
President
The Law Society of Singapore

2009 – the year of change

Boo to economics, cheers to politics.

I don’t particularly look forward to seeing the damage that has been inflicted on the economy. Everyone knows there will be tragedies this year. People will stuggle, people will fall and people will die because of the economic woes from the excesses of 2008 and before.

No, this year is/will be a bad one. But human history has shown that it is always in bad times that salvation is wrought.

Particularly so for Singapore politics. Already, we see outsiders making inroads into local politics. These outsiders are traditionally those who have steered clear of opposition politics simply because the opposition has been too incompetent and too messy.

Tan Kin Lian has been causing ripples with his activism in rallying people in the aftermath of the Minibonds fallout. He has “declared” his intention to run for Presidency and has started an online petition to get support for his bid to run for office.

A ploy, some say. But there is no doubting that his grand entrance into politics is causing great unease among the ruling elites. Here is a man who has run one of the premier insurance companies since he was in his late 20s. Late 20s! If that doesn’t speak loads about his competence, nothing will.

And in my humble opinion, there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with him garnering support through his current activities. Who says politics is altruistic? It’s the same with the PAP sending its raw recruits to help out at grassroots – to build goodwill so that voters will vote for them during GE.

All’s fair in love and war and politics – and in politics more fair than others.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam – He is another behemoth who will change the political landscape if he does enter into opposition politics. And signs are present that the double-first class from Cambridge (I think) is keen on taking up his father’s legacy.

Over at TOC, a mysterious poster named KJ has been writing flowing and sharply critical pieces against the mainstream media. Is this person Kenneth Jeyarentnam (KJ?) A click on his blogsite refers him to this blog where there is a tribute to JBJ and an email to Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

If it is indeed him, the ruling party would have much to worry about. If KJeyarentnam can avoid getting into the muck of law suits and avoid character assasination, as will definitely happen, his entry into opposition politics will surely galvanise educated voters who yearn for proper checks against the PAP.

But unlike his father, who knew how to connect with grassroots, much leaves to be seen if KJ can not only sit behind the keyboard but rally voters to vote for him. He has the intellectual mettle, and by golly can he write, but can he get the ah-soh who has only been voting PAP all her life, to vote for him?

I might be putting the horse before the cart but I can’t help it. After a whole decade since SDP lost it’s two seats in Parliament and a decade of failed opposition politics, these developments portend a revival of opposition politics, even if it is all just conjecture.

JBJ Died

IPS-Law Fac forum on AIMS paper

Just got this mailer from IPS. Thought I’d post it up in case anyone is interested.

IPS-NUS Law Faculty Public Forum “Consultation Paper by the Advisory
Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS)”

Date:               19th September 2008

Venue:            Seminar Room 4-4,NUS Law School,Block B, 469G Bukit Timah Road

Time:               4.00 pm – 6.30 pm (Registration begins at 3.30 pm)

Attire:              Office Attire

The Institute of Policy Studies and the Law Faculty of the National
University of Singapore will be organising the above forum to gather
feedback from members of the public on the recently published
consultation paper by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media
on Society (AIMS). The advisory council was appointed last year by the
Government to study the far-reaching social, ethical, legal and
regulatory implications of a rapidly growing new media sector. Last
month, it unveiled its consultation paper, entitled “ENGAGING NEW
MEDIA – Challenging Old Assumptions”. The paper contains
recommendations on how and whether Government should engage with
citizens, regulate the Internet and protect minors from harmful online
content. The paper is available for download at the website of AIMS
(see http://www.aims.org.sg/library/docs/Executive%20Summary.pdf for
the executive summary and
http://www.aims.org.sg/library/docs/AIMS%20consultation%20paper%20-%20Engaging%20New%20Media.pdf
for the full paper). AIMS will refine its paper in the light of public
feedback before submitting it to the Government.

To register for the forum, please complete the attached Registration
Form and email it to Ms Raihidaya Wapa at daya@aims.org.sg or call
6837-9842.

If you have further queries regarding registration and administrative
details, please feel free to contact Mr Aaron Low (Email:
aaronlow@aims.org.sg) or Ms Yvonne Pang, (Email:
yvonnepang@aims.org.sg).

If you unable to attend the forum but will like to give feedback on
the consultation paper, you can do so at the AIMS website at
http://www.aims.org.sg/ or at the forum located at
http://forum.aims.org.sg/ You can also give your views by sending a
SMS to 94354608 between now and the end of 30 September, 2008.

Thank you.

How fast can you SMS?

So like to break from the usual politics-social commentary blah blah, I went to look up some of the more interesting tech waves hitting our mobile devices and laptops. And found this:

 I thought this was a freaking marvel. I mean I have a HP PDA and using stylus to type SMS just plain sucks. It stops me, literally, in my tracks as I have to bend over and write the message. Properly. And if I get one letter wrong, I scream and start to sweat. So, it’s a pretty annoying situation. I went back to my old Nokia after 6 months of putting it up with it.

Now, with this it is highly unlikely it will be able to detect things like la, lor, wah lau. Maybe we can input the Singlish dictionary in…

Myopia and its related illnesses

Myopia, as it is defined, afflicts many people.  Those with myopia see nearby objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred. (Wikipedia) Singaporeans are known to have one of the highest rates of myopia in the world. Many blame it on computer games, TV and reading in a poorly-lit room.

It seems myopia has not only overtaken our sensory functions but also our way of thinking.

Our treasured and dearly-loved elites over at Serangoon Gardens most clearly and stunningly exhibited this form of myopia. Not only myopia, might I humbly add, but also xenophobia and sheer racism.

Before I continue, I have a disclaimer. I do not appreciate the massive human jams on the public transport system nor in the shopping district especially on Sundays. While it is easy to blame foreigners, I don’t. I resent that it is crowded environment but I also greatly appreciate that we need these foreigners in our midst. Its the same everywhere else in this world. Fact of life: No one wants to work as a cleaner for $800 a month. Yet in my estate, I see young men and women from China clearing our the rubbish, dilligently, might I add.  (The economic solution to this is to pay higher wages for cleaners, similar to what we give our young educated men and women. In fact, economic theory suggests that we have to pay even more salaries to attract people to work in lousy jobs because they are lousy jobs. The result? We have to pay at least $2,000 to get a local young worker to work as a cleaner. The implications are quite clear, of course.)

The kind folks over at Serangoon Gardens seem to forget that their trash would pile up if not for foreign workers; their roads not smoothened out, their $2m houses not built; gold taps not fixed; their BMW/Mercedes cars not shined. They are actually okay with foreigners, just not stinky, smelly, dirty (might I daresay, black or dark) foreign workers.

No, let me correct that: they are not okay with having to share their living space in suburban heaven with such creatures. As long as they are out of sight, smell and mind, its okay.  Foreign workers are free to mix with the rest of Singapore, since, you know, people with no money don’t really count as thinking, living organisms either.

The government’s solution? Instead of correcting or reprimanding such racism, it went on to suggested that it would set up a segregated ghetto, as it will certainly become. (WTF are going to be cleaners for a compound of cleaners??!)

“Regardless of race, language or religion to build a democratic society…” Obviously, foregn workers not counted.

I weep for Raja’s vision.

Aiming too far ahead?

So the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS) has finally released its report. More than a year after it was set up it proposed key changes in policies and laws in 4 areas, engagement, online political content, protection of minors and limited immunity for intermediaries.

Great.

Uh, were you expecting anything more? Lots of people are saying, boo AIMS. Lame AIMS. Blah AIMS. Aim higher la.

What? Do cows fly over the moon?

Fact 1: AIMS is government appointed. That it got so far in going beyond what PM said is already an achievement. Don’t expect more than what it can go.

Fact 2: It is run by people who are not practitioners of New Media. No bloggers, no forumers etc.

Fact 3: These are but mere RECOMMENDATIONS. The final decision-maker is the government, and I’m betting they aren’t even going to go as far as AIMS.

So what are we left with? Everything. Look, the world moves on. Even if the government says, hey no one is to post pictures of chicks (I mean the yellow fluffy things that grow up to be McChicken burgers) or cats online, does that mean that the Net will suddenly be filled with a dearth of chick flicks (Haha)?

Fact is the Net ignores everyone and no one. We too have to move on and create something out of nothing. I find it amusing to see people write “The Net is unregulable!”. If so, why are they petitioning or writing about why the government should relax rules on the Net? If it is, it is.

If the idea of community moderation is to take flight, it is now that it should. We don’t need a stamp of approval.

Just do it

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