Foreign Exchange

Hongs Guangzhou Canton Thirteen FactoriesPhoto Credit: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/rise_fall_canton_04/gallery_places/pages/cwC_1805_E78680_Flags.htm

Before 1842, Canton (Guangzhou) was the only port in China open to foreigners.

After losing the Opium/Trade War to the British, the Chinese government finally gave in to British demands, conceding the right to trade in five port cities.

I see no point in arguing whether or not that was justified — because when a foreign country has greater military prowess, it wouldn’t be difficult to overpower or impose on others.

Instead, I will quote philosopher and father of economics Adam Smith regarding the discoveries of America and the passage to Asia:

At the particular time when these discoveries were made, the superiority of force happened to be so great on the side of the Europeans that they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice in those remote countries.  Hereafter, perhaps, the natives of those countries may grow stronger, or those of Europe may grow weaker, and the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force which, by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another.  But nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force than that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally, or rather necessarily, carries along with it.

Another form of equality occurs because as the costs of labor increase, foreign investors start to look at countries which could be more profitable…until all countries have been improved because of investment.

Now, even if foreign investors may wish to leave as a result of rising labor costs, allowing them the right to fully own foreign firms can make them stay, as with the case of Singapore.

And then, innovation can also get investors to stay (e.g. Silicon Valley).

Thus, the human potential is further explored.

Shenzhen stock exchange center construction cranesPhoto Credit: Xublake

But, if we were to have a retaliatory or resentful mindset, can we flourish as a people and as a nation?

Now that Iran has agreed to halt uranium-enrichment beyond 5%, signed November 24, 2013 as the Joint Plan of Action also known as the Geneva Interim Agreement, economic sanctions have relaxed on the country and foreign firms are lining up to get their foot in the door to do business with a nation dubbed an international pariah.

Surely this is preferable to the instability that characterizes the Middle East of the present era.

If Iran can take the lead on improving the country through economic investment, it could become a power for good in the region, the same way it was for Islam when Persian culture, which was already 1,500 years old at the time, fused with that of the Arabs.

Iran Polandball Comic Inflation Economy Exchange Rate

I also want to refer to my post on Foreign Investors, because in it I qualified which type of investment is more beneficial.  China has proven how the manufacturing sector produces substantial employment, strengthens the economy, and reduces poverty.  But foreign investment into the primary sector can be limited because of its exploitative nature as it relies on the extraction of natural resources.

That is the reason why developing countries rich in natural resources become wary of foreign encroachment.  But if we focus more on the secondary sector and not the primary, we can avoid our demise and benefit from:

“…that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally, or rather necessarily, carries along with it…”

Sale of Shares Factories Privatization IranPhoto Credit: Farian Sabahi

Sources:

Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1988

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-adam/works/wealth-of-nations/

http://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2011/157355.htm

http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-trade-business-reaction-sanctions-lifted-nuclear/25236337.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-17/iran-lures-investors-seeing-nuclear-deal-ending-sanctions.html

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100599893#.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/why-the-developed-world-is-eager-to-do-business-in-iran/article15593082/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/29/us-iran-companies-opening-idUSBRE9AS08T20131129

http://seekingalpha.com/article/2285563-billions-of-dollars-will-soon-flow-into-iran

http://blogs.wsj.com/middleeast/2014/03/12/post-sanctions-iran-could-be-a-turkey-size-win-for-investors/

Abercrombie, Thomas J. “The Sword and the Sermon: An American Moslem Explores the Arab Past”. National Geographic, July 1972, pp. 3-44

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Politics

New Zealand Observer Political cartoon

Photo Credit: The New Zealand Observer, work initialled “BLO”

In Book III Chapter 9 of Politics, Aristotle concludes that:

Political society exists for the sake of noble actions.

But is this what we think of when we hear the word “politics”?

If it isn’t, the reason is found in Book V of Plato’s The Republic:

Until philosophers rule as kings in cities or those who are now kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor, I think will the human race.

That is why the human race has no rest from evils.

But in The Republic, Socrates’ idea of dividing society into three classes (producers, guardians, and rulers) ensuring that philosopher-kings lead, liberating us from the foibles that traditional politicians have, is just too rigid  — which would explain why it’s never been tried.

I believe there is a way for humanity to rest from its evils, and I will explain this next through the rise of Japan as a nation.

Roman Forum Comitium

Photo Credit: From the book The Roman Forum: a topographical study By Francis Morgan Nichols 1877

On April 7, 1868 the Charter Oath (五箇条の御誓文), which outlined the aims of the Meiji government of Japan, was decreed.

The Oath consists of five clauses:

By this oath, we set up as our aim the establishment of the national wealth on a broad basis and the framing of a constitution and laws.

  1. Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by open discussion.

  2. All classes, high and low, shall be united in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.

  3. The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall all be allowed to pursue their own calling so that there may be no discontent.

  4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature.

  5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule.

This set the legal stage for Japan’s rapid, seamless modernization, and “can be considered the first constitution of modern Japan.”

If we can have a constitution that also legislates that knowledge be sought, it would aid our leaders to the point that Enlightenment would rule, and not an administration.

As in the woodblock print below, the Meiji Emperor merely oversees the assembly, symbolizing the rule of enlightenment — as that is exactly what Meiji () means.

Yōshū Chikanobu House of Peers Meiji era woodblock print

Photo Credit: http://www.harashobo.com/english/

What knowledge should be sought in our time?:

Knowledge should be sought regarding the equitable management, acquisition, and creation of natural resources in relation to the population of the planet.

Knowledge should be sought to eliminate environmental waste and pollution, and respond to climate change and its effects.

Knowledge should be sought regarding the best method to reduce poverty and to provide employment through investment.

Knowledge should be sought regarding the best educational system that would lead to humanity’s well-being or eudaimonia (εὐδαιμονία).

Those are just a few examples.

So, with all that humanity has been given, and the tools that have been developed, is the world’s self-destruction really inevitable?

Naka-ku, Hiroshima Japanese Garden Moon Bridge Shukkeien

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_Oath

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*I will be on hiatus after this post, but there is more to be written…

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Democracy

Jesse Washington Lynch Mob

Photo Credit: Fred Gildersleeve (1881-1958)

Why is democracy the ideal form of government?:

Because otherwise — to use the philosopher Montesquieu’s phrase from The Spirit of Laws — “the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control.” (Montesquieu 152)

But democracy is just the form of government.

What is/are the goal(s) of government for society?  And do democracies ensure a greater likelihood of success in achieving these goals?

If a country is struggling with poverty or strife, is having this form of government what will solve those issues?

Since there are people who study those concerns, does a democracy guarantee that the government will listen to those experts, or aren’t we still subject to the whims of the government-elect?

Here is another challenge of democracy in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract:

Suppose the state is made up of ten thousand citizens.  The sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body, but every member as a subject has to be considered as an individual.  Thus the sovereign is to the subject as ten thousand is to one, that is to say, each single member of the state has as his own share only a ten-thousandth part of the sovereign authority, although he submits entirely to it.  Now if the people is increased to a hundred thousand men, the position of each subject is unaltered, for each bears equally with the rest the whole empire of the laws, while as sovereign his share of the suffrage is reduced to one hundred-thousandth, so that he has ten times less influence in the formulation of the laws.  Hence, while the subject remains always one single individual, the ratio of sovereign to subject increases according to the number of citizens.  Whence it follows that the more the state is enlarged, the more freedom is diminished.

(Rousseau 67)

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say, “the more freedom is diminished”, I can certainly feel my lack of influence in the formulation of laws.

That’s why I believe that direct democracy is the only true democracy.

Basel Switzerland RathausEven if most democracies are representative, we should encourage town meetings as a form of direct democratic rule.

Why?

Because this allows citizens to be able to exercise their minds regarding legislation and policy, even if only on a community level, and fosters community involvement.

Why is it that when we participate only by electing officials, there are still so many problems regarding the nation?

Because we have left the thinking up to our representatives while we relieve ourselves of that duty.  And then when they fail we blame them for our problems.

I have been writing about educational and economic reform instead of doing that, but still there is that “lack of influence in the formulation of laws”.

So, while democracy may be the ideal form of government, we should also try to practice the ideal democracy.

And isn’t the ideal democracy one ruled by reason, enlightenment, and virtue?

Allegory of ReasonPhoto Credit: Vitold Muratov

Sources:

Baron de Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat. The Spirit of Laws. New York: Prometheus Books, 1900

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. USA: Penguin Books, 2006

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Read. To be Happy

Reading Campaign Propaganda PosterPhoto Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

While I was in elementary school, I do remember my school having a campaign and posters to promote reading.  But I didn’t become passionate about reading until 5 years ago.

I believe that it’s because that campaign was only about reading and not about one’s interests.  That should not be missing from the campaign.

I also believe that now, we need a reading campaign like the war propaganda poster above.  If there should be propaganda about anything, it should be about reading.

The posters should be in all languages and appealing to look at, using cool graphic design and even, let’s say — fashion models.

Penguin Classics

I also wanted to share images of my books, which is the reason for my lack of savings — but highly appropriate because they went into things of value.

This page from my copy of Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul published by Penguin Books contains Pearson‘s tagline which is inspiring.

The Modern Library Classics Aristotle Works

Next is my copy of Aristotle’s works which I got at a discount because of its condition — but the contents are intact so it was a good deal.  I would have preferred to have more copies of Aristotle’s works by Oxford or Penguin Classics but having most of Aristotle’s works in one book is very convenient.

Studying in the Philippines, I have acquired the habit of using plastic covers for my books as added protection — which can be seen in the picture.  It is not tacky like plastic-covered furniture and can improve the look of secondhand books.

The used book below was purchased for 40 Philippine pesos, which is more or less 1 US dollar.  For that I got Christian, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy as well as George Berkeley and David Hume.

Random House ThinkersBelow is one of my favorite books that I bought.  The cover design is beautiful and the Fraktur is embossed.

German Enlightenment Immanuel Kant Penguin Books Great Ideas

I also wanted to show the cover design below because the crux of the essay itself is on the cover — all the more emphasizing the brevity of life.

Seneca On the Shortness of Life Penguin Books Great IdeasThese are just a few of the books I could have started reading in third year of high school.  I don’t know why during that time, I never listened to Cher from the movie Clueless when she had Tai read one non-school book a week.  If I did, I would have known more possibilities than I did before.

Speaking of possibilities, this is from my favorite Western novel Tucker by Louis L’Amour:

You can read can’t you?  If you can read, you can learn.  You don’t have to go to school to get an education, although it is the best way for most of us, and anyway, all school can give you is the outline of the picture.  You have to fill in the blank places yourself, later.

Again, that’s from a book I purchased for 40 Philippine pesos.

Louis L'Amour Tucker (2)Those are just a few reasons books make me happy.

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Objectives

Training WheelsPhoto Credit: Dawn Endico

Why do we go to school?:

To learn skills that will help us succeed in life.

And after one has “completed his or her education”, what does one have to do for the rest of his or her life?:

Work.

Now, out of all the people who have completed their education, how many are successful at working at a job one can do until retirement?

If one is not one of those people, but has completed his or her education and followed everything he or she was taught, who or what is to blame?

Blaming does not solve anything but I will provide a solution after pointing out the second objective.

Job Interview

Photo Credit: bpsusf

In my post The Social Contract, I referred to a line from Book X of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics which states the purpose of life:

..what remains is to discuss in outline the nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human nature to be..

If that’s not true, surely life’s purpose is not to be sad.  Yet is it not possible to become unhappy with one’s life?

Do we know how long our lives will be such that happiness can be delayed?

So when should one give happiness a thought?

While I was always very in tuned with my own interests growing up, I had this notion that I always had to “follow” — whether it’s my parents or school.

And with an educational system inherited from Prussia, who wouldn’t get that idea?

Prussia Jena students Befreiungskriege Lützowsches Freikorps military

So, with that educational model, how would a child or student get the idea of happiness, the purpose of life?

Now, I will continue the discussion regarding the first objective.

There is nothing wrong with following.  Jobs require us to be able to follow instructions.

But is following all we need to do in order to be successful?

Here is what I propose to reform the educational system:

There should be a weekly class called Self-Knowledge & Free Thinking.  In this class, students are free to go to the library and/or use any learning resource that pertains to one’s interest.  Students are recommended to write their interests down in a notebook/journal so that they can refer to it and pursue their interests on their own when they can.  Students should also be encouraged to read the Classics and books from the Enlightenment since these are the foundations of excellence and quality learning.

I could have started on those books in junior year of high school, but maybe some could start earlier.

This would just be a once a week, non-graded class.  The rest of the education system can remain unless other improvements can be found.  There can still be tests, grades, assignments, etc.  The system does not have to be upended to be reformed.

But the fact remains — it must be reformed.

Learning does not stop after graduation, so what happens when no one is instructing us?

With our current education system, how many students who have graduated are able to succeed in life and learn without someone telling them what to do?

With the Self-Knowledge & Free Thinking class, students would have the opportunity to experience learning independently regularly so that despite having to follow instructions the rest of the time, they would know that they have the ability to learn on their own.

If this were to be tested by the department/ministry of education, I would suggest the class to begin at 4th grade.  Although I feel that high school students need this the most, I believe that if a high school student has already become jaded with the educational system, the class might not be as effective.  But with 4th grade I feel that it would be too early for a student to have become jaded and is the perfect time to start learning topics that the school is not providing.

I believe that with this idea, more people can experience happiness and achieve success.

The more support there is for this would show that this should be legislated.

Again, from my post The Social Contract, I noted that under heading B. Happiness of Nicomachean Ethics is:

9. Legislation is needed if the end is to be attained.

IMG_2739

Photo Credit: Marc Wisniak

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Free Thoughts

Friedrich Schiller Weimar Classicism Schlosspark Tiefurt Goethe

In the third chapter of Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere, the protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra, who has just returned to the Philippines from Europe, is the guest of honor at a banquet and becomes subject to the curiosity of the other guests in this dialogue (with English translation) :

“Alin sa bansa sa Europa ang higit ninyong naibigan?” ang lalaking mapula ang buhok.

“Higit pong gusto ko ang Espanya na siya kong ikalawang bayan.  Pero naibigan ko rin po ang lahat ng ibang lugar na pinuntahan ko.”

Si Laruja naman: “Iniisip kong napakaraming bansa ang inyong narating.  Sa mga bansang narating ninyo, ano po ang pinakamahalagang bagay na inyong nakita?”

Sandaling nag-isip si Ibarra.  “Mahalaga po sa anong batayan?”

“Halimbawa po’y sa relihiyon, sa pulitika, sa lipunan, sa kabuhayan…sa lahat po ng bagay.”

Matagal munang nag-isip si Ibarra bago sumagot.  “Bago po ako pumunta sa isang bayan, pinag-aaralan ko muna ang kasaysayan ng bayang iyon.  Pinag-aaralan ko kung paano iyon umunlad at sumulong ang kabuhayan.  At natuklasan ko, ang paghihirap o pag-unlad ng isang bayan ay laging may kaugnayan sa kalayaan o kagipitan ng naturang bayan.  Pag malaya ang kaisipan ng mga mamamayan, mas malamang na maunlad din ang kanilang kabuhayan.”

English Translation (by Charles Derbyshire with my own alterations as well):

“Which country in Europe did you grow fond of the most?” asked the rubicund youth.

“After Spain, my second fatherland, I don’t have a preference for any other.  However, I would choose the freest country. “

“And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you consider the most notable thing that you have seen?” inquired Laruja.

Ibarra appeared to reflect.  “Notable–in what way?”

“For example, regarding religion, politics, society, livelihood — everything.”

Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying.  “Before visiting a country, I study its history.  I study how it developed and its well-being progressed.  I have observed that the hardships or progress of a country is always related to the freedom or oppression of that country.  If the citizens think freely, then it’s highly likely that they will be more developed.”

Immanuel Kant Thinking Cap

Photo Credit: Ariel arito

Now, philosopher Immanuel Kant also discusses freedom in his An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?:

…For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied.  It is the freedom to make public use of one’s reason at every point.  But I hear on all sides, “Do not argue!”  The Officer says: “Do not argue but drill!” The tax collector: “Do not argue but pay!”  The cleric: “Do not argue but believe!”  Only one prince in the world says, “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” Everywhere there is restriction on freedom.

Which restriction is an obstacle to enlightenment, and which is not an obstacle but a promoter of it?  I answer: The public use of one’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.  The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment…

Whether the use of reason is public or private, the bottom line is no one can really restrict another person’s thoughts.  Our actions may be limited by law, but our thoughts can never be restrained.

Therefore, freedom is achieved by thinking.

If freedom is simply doing as we please, and doing without thinking, then animals have achieved freedom.

So freedom is about thinking.  Thinking beyond limits.

Because if one’s thoughts are limited by ignorance or emotions, then one would not be free from those things.

Freedom is achieved by thinking beyond limits while acting in accordance with the law.

Who doesn’t have this ability?

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

Bald Eagle American Flag Fourth of JulyPhoto Credit: Pam Roth (Bubbels on sxc.hu)

Sources:

Espino, Vivencio O. Noli Me Tangere ni Dr. Jose Rizal. Philippines: Flo-Vi Enterprises, 1995

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6737/pg6737.txt

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.asp

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Embracing Individuality | γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Temple of Apollo Delphi Gnothi Seauton (3)

Photo Credit: Skhaen

Before entering college, when I was looking through a college brochure to decide what course of study to take, this immediately grabbed my attention:

AB Interdisciplinary Studies

The course of studies in this program is highly flexible and is suited to the individual student rather than to the requirements of a traditional major.  Students may take courses combined from various programs such as management and psychology, literature and communication, political science and economics.  Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student by a senior faculty member.

Many IS graduates proceed to law or business school; work in advertising, business and government; and become teachers, writers, and artists.

I knew in my heart that was what I wanted.  But someone really close to me, someone I considered a mentor immediately dissuaded me from choosing that like it was the plague.

The reason I wanted to choose IS is that I wanted to study sociology, but also learn writing skills.  I am also attracted to advertising, and that was mentioned in the course description.  But what sold me was: “Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student…

But…because of my “mentor’s” reaction, I changed my first choice.

Luckily, the university which provided that course also had a general Communications subject where I was still able to learn writing skills from a reputable professor.

But back to that line: “Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student…

Shouldn’t every student be able to apply that to themselves since everyone is…an Individual?

If the path to one’s goal happens to be the same as many others and is well-established, that makes things easier.  But would that still make one less of an individual?

cookie cutter

Photo Credit: Tomtchik

That brings me to the question:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now, is the answer to that the same as:

What makes you truly happy?

If not, why on earth do we keep asking the first question?  Shouldn’t we be asking and answering the second question instead?

If students are not answering this question and not spending time on their own interests, how interested can they possibly be in studying?

I was always a lover of learning, but I never answered that question until after I dropped out of college.  Had I started answering that from 4th grade, I know that I could have been an even better student.

That is why I paired the title of this post with the Delphic maxim:

γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seauton) or “Know Thyself”

If the educational system does not provide that instruction, we still have the ability to follow it.  But how much easier would it be to achieve happiness if it did?

So how about the first question?

There’s no point in asking it anymore because the answer should always be:

Myself.

Auguste Rodin the ThinkerPhoto Credit: Hansjorn

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