Having been from Hwa Chong, I’ve heard of stories of how his time in Hwa Chong gave inspiration for his early teenage novels. While I never had a chance to watch the films or read the book, I could guess from reading Adrian’s writing that his quintessential wacky Singaporean humour would have been extremely entertaining. Yet he grasped the value of entertainment in the manner it could inform and influence – and he used it for the benefit of Singaporeans through his massively accessible musings on Linkedin.
57 years is far too few years for a man in Singapore to live. Yet in those years he gave much to the legal profession, and Singapore’s art and literary scene. He certainly made me proud to be a Singaporean. Goodbye Adrian.
Bob McGannon introduces some rules for breaking the rules when talking about intelligent disobedience which I found to be useful in general even without considering the notion of intelligent disobedience. He suggested some really quick considerations:
Do it as an exception: only when the standard rules don’t work.
Don’t do it in stealth: Convey your intention and explain the reasons you’re breaking the rules.
Not to be passive aggressive: you don’t play nice and say you’re going to follow the rules and then leave your boss’ room and then break them.
Don’t break the law: if a rule is based on a law, you need to make sure that you’re not acting in a manner that breaks the law.
Why putting these ideas upfront is important for management and also within the context of any organisation is that you want people to be acting intelligently and have a clear robust process for exceptions. It doesn’t mean you create extra bureaucracy; if anything, it is to allow people to act wisely and be allowed to face the music later if they agreed it is a mistake.
Within an organisation, by introducing these ideas, you empower employees and treat them maturely as individuals rather than a cog in the system. In practically all areas of life, when we need people to be more autonomous, we naturally will end up hiring the best people.
I’ve previously read Shock Doctrine and written a review on my personal blog; it was a time before ERPZ started and became active. Here’s a reproduction of the original review:
After 2 months of reading I finally finished Naomi Klein’s powerful book, Shock Doctrine. It was a long ride deep into the dark old mines of history on the different ‘economic revolutions’ all around the world: Argentina, Chile, China, Russia, Bolivia and Poland. It was a book that was written with intentions to put down Milton Friedman, clearly anti-corporatist and in some sense, anti-globalization. From this book I understand finally how the term ‘anti-globalization’ have been mis-interpreted by so many people, even myself. I once thought that it means being against the integration of cultures, economies and companies but then I realised it gets way deeper than that.
The idea of anti-globalization is usually used to mean being against the way the phenomena is taking place in our world, that inequality is rising and corporates are like taking over the world while people in poor countries work in sweatshops, suffer in silence and endure the hardship only to realise generations later that nothing changes. It is the discovery of a certain helplessness in the bottom layer of the world. Shock Doctrine is clearly about that, and more.
In a clear but otherwise way too long writing, Naomi presented a very complete picture of how pure ideology-driven economist are used by corporates and government to advance their self-interest. And of course, in a capitalistic perspective, self-interest is just profit and money. She didn’t over turn free market theories on how a perfectly free market is able to dilute power and increase freedom but she did show that the approach that allows for extreme free market is not exactly compatible with democracy and worst of all, economist have been naive about how a free market can be brought to exist. Case after case cited in the book, firms are privatize just be selling it out to the private sector without proper valuation of the assets and this hasty act would not only delay the attainment of a market equilibrium that would be at least more socially optimal but also create new forces that increases the inertia of the market. In other words, it makes the market less free.
In the area of corporate America and politics, Naomi is suggesting that the corporate people have penetrated politics too deeply with CEOs becoming civil servants in top positions of the government and politicians being lobbied by powerful companies with CEOs receiving incomes more than 400 times the average person on the street. And because of that, government becomes ran like corporations, public sector jobs being slashed and direct public spending is reduced while outsourcing (locally, giving contracts to companies) all the functions that can be done by the private sector. Worst, it is infected by a touch of cronyism; and this probably explains why contracts are rarely distributed by bidding and that the contracts concentrate in the hands of the few big firms that are always ‘aiding the government’ with ‘planning’.
It has been a good read anyways and while Naomi Klein has a rather extreme stance, my reading of Joseph Stiglitz (Globlization & its Discontents as well as Making Globalization Work) have helped me appreciate the gravity of the matters she was talking about and I could understand her thinking. As always, the writer do give us a gleamer of hope about what the future may turn out to be when the ‘Shock Wears Off’ and how we can prevent similar stuff from happening again. I would recommend this book for people who have no fear of heavy non-fiction reading, a thorough interest in learning how and why corporate America is seen in bad light.
I read the review of Alan Greenspan’s book 2 years back in The Economist, but didn’t buy it until late last year when I went on a book-shopping spree. The book gone on to stay on my book table (yes, I seriously need a bookshelf) for another year or so before I dusted it two weeks ago and began reading it. In any case, I bought an updated version, which features an epilogue detailing Alan Greenspan’s take on the Subprime Financial Crisis and his prescriptions.
I was immediately surprised by Alan Greenspan’s clear writing and simple style so contrary to his famous inscrutable public announcements about the Fed. It is this that earned The Economist’s rare praise:
Sub-heading of the book review: “Not many surprises in this memoir-cum-essay except that it is an unexpectedly enjoyable read.”
Book Review Quote: “[D]espite everything, the book turns out to be first-rate. It engages on different levels: it is intelligent in a way that few popular books on economics manage or even try to be; and, wonder of wonders, it is a good read.”
The book begins as a memoir, detailing Greenspan’s childhood, interest in music, schooling, economic/technical inclinations and his long career in the Federal Reserve Bank where he was Mr Chairman. His memoir ends somewhat abruptly in retrospect at the eleventh chapter, The Nation Challenged. Beginning with the chapter, The Universals of Economic Growth, he went on with his economy essays and analysis of various economies, industries and trends. Like what The Economist says, Age of Turbulence is a good read, his memoir was very neutral and he was very humble about his work at the Fed. His accounts of the workings of the Fed provides non-American readers a good starting point to learn about their system. Greenspan’s essays on the world economy and economics stays faithful to his belief in the power of free markets and respect for the freedoms and rights that the American Founding Fathers have sought and preserved.
He defends his views that no one can possibly identify a bubble and actively sought to burst it before it gets too big and cause a crisis in its subsequent burst. As a matter of fact, this is the case because anyone who can confidently identify the bubble can profit from it by going against the flow and thus end up defusing it before it builds up. At times, when the so-called ‘irrational exuberance’ exerts too powerful a market force then regulators wouldn’t actually be able to defuse it anyways. He seem to sigh at the voter’s expectations that the government is almighty and is disappointed by typical politicians who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of ‘trade-offs’. These are typical economist’s perennial concerns about the world in democracies that never seem they’ll ever go away.
As a pragmatist, Greenspan shows great appreciation for the rule of law that has maintained the workings of the market and fostered a culture of trust so essential to capitalism. And reflecting on that, Greenspan gives suggestions on how the emerging economies need to improve their governance and legal systems to catch up with their prosperity and march towards developed status. These are valuable insights gained from Greenspan’s 19 years of being the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Indeed, Greenspan confesses that he knows little about international economics until he took on this role since his work at Townsend-Greenspan & Company (which closed following his nomination to that post) deals little with the economies of other nations.
Overall, Age of Turbulence provides wonderful insights into workings of the capitalist system of America and great ideas about emerging economies, the direction the world economy is heading to – knowledge significant to any economics students and economist-wannabe.