Archive for June 2006

Kudos to the Workers Party

29 June, 2006

The Capitalist Infidel’s attention has just been drawn to Worker’s Party leader Sylvia Lim’s interview at Little Speck. The interview allowed The Capitalist Infidel to understand how she felt and The Capitalist Infidel liked what he saw.

The Worker’s Party went ahead with the campaign knowing full well the modus operandi of their opponents, which often included character assasination and smear campaigns. It also included frequent lawsuits which in this particular campaign, hit another hapless party. The Capitalist Infidel really liked this display of courage.

Ms Lim also articulated how she felt during the campaigns and her insecurites. This made The Capitalist Infidel see the human side of her. The Capitalist Infidel is willing to accept politcians who err, as long as they do not resort to underhanded tactics and especially when they are so ready to admit it. The Capitalist Infidel is pretty sure we will never see this from the incumbents. While they often admit to their mistakes unintentionally, it doesn’t count. Incompetence does not count as humility.

The Capitalist Infidel is was also happy to see how the Workers Party performed in the recent elections. They did not win new seats but gave the incumbents a run for their money. This gives The Capitalist Infidel new hope for the country. The Hammer may look eerily communist, but down to earth leaders for the country will surely benefit it.

The Capitalist Infidel would like to salute the Workers Party and Ms Lim for their courage and efforts.

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Scrap, not Increase, Estate Duty

29 June, 2006

The Capitalist Infidel has just read a letter to the Propaganda Straits Times Forum Gossip Coloumn asking for estate duties to be increased. The Capitalist Infidel thinks that Mr Goh should take Economics lessons and that the Editor of the Straits Times should have his head checked for letting such a letter to be published.

Mr Goh felt that the rich are getting richer and that it was unfair for their children to get a headstart because of it. After The Capitalist Infidel stopped laughing, he remembered that this has been posted on the national Propaganda broadsheet. Apparently, after censorship of the good arguments, the Editor felt that this was one of the few letters worth publishing. This is proof that only the dim survive their censorship.

Allow The Capitalist Infidel to display his superiority. Estate tax involves taxing the money you leave your children after you pass away. Increasing it means that the government takes more of it when you pass away. Why the government would stop you passing money to your children is beyond The Capitalist Infidel.

Passing money to your children is taxless before you die, but after that, it is something to be discouraged. This gives an incentive for parents to transfer their possessions before they die, when they still need it. And the government wonders why the elderly are giving their properties away and ending up with children abandoning their parents. The children are wrong, but the government just gives them an added excuse, they are an accessory.

And yes, it may be unfair for the children of the rich to have a handout the others do not recieve. What Mr Goh left out was that they also recieve better healthcare, more attention with regards to education, a nicer house to live in when they were kids and the luxury to not worry about money. In fact, I cannot offer you an exhaustive list because there are too many advantages. Come to think of it, that’s what people get money for, so that they and their families will get to live in better conditions. Take this away and the most productive people will move out of Singapore.

Mr Goh’s logic is flawed. Grossly flawed. He feels that we should remove the advantages people have so that things can be fair. Should we stop the smartest kids from going to school to level the playing field? It’s not fair that the hardworking kids should get better grades either. Everyone should get the same grades in school. How’s that for fairness Mr Goh?

To top it all off, estate duties also encourage the rich to send their money out of Singapore, where it cannot be taxed. Very smart Mr Goh, capital flight will solve all the problems we have regarding fairness.

His letter is as follows:

Increase, not scrap, estate duty

I UNDERSTAND there are people lobbying to abolish estate duty. According to the Government, the estate duty collected had not been significant. The passing of wealth from one generation to another creates a grossly unfair headstart for the wealthy few. In a civil society, it is the duty of the Government, as a matter of principle, to tax such estates to ensure that the future generation’s less fortunate have a fairer chance to seek space for themselves.

Tax policy should thus be finetuned to be more effective in collecting more estate duty as the rich are getting richer. The world’s two richest men, Mr Bill Gates and Mr Warren Buffett, are strongly against bequeathing great wealth to the next generation. Let us heed their views.

Goh Hock Tee

Support for Israel

29 June, 2006

The Arab League has blasted Israel for its invasion of the Gaza strip as “mass punishment for the Palestinian people”. The Capitalist Infidel would like to remind the Arab League that the Palestinians voted Hamas in and doing so expected their government to start conflict against Israel ( see When a Democracy Votes for War).

Hamas is a terrorist organisation and the Palestinian People knew that before they voted them in. It is not altogether surprising that this organisation would start conflicts in Israel, who by the way had retreated their troops last year. If Israel were to send troops in when a terrorist group kidnaps its troops, they may be described as what the Arab League did, but when the democratically elected government party performs this actions, it is clear that the Palestinians have supported the war.

In this case, if the Palestinian people voted for a terrorist group to run the government, can they blame Hamas for kidnapping the soldier and Israel to respond in such a way to a hostile government? The Capitalist Infidel does not think so. While The Capitalist Infidel is not a Zionist, he feels that Hamas should have expected hostilities from Israel by carrying out such actions and that the Palestinian people should  have expected Hamas to do such things. They did vote in the more militaristic Hamas in this case. This is the people’s will, and they should face its consequences.

Anti-virus Software check

29 June, 2006

The Capitalist Infidel has found a useful tool from lifehacker.com.

Click here to test if your anti-virus software is working.

Costs and Standards of Living

28 June, 2006

The Capitalist Infidel has read with interest Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s recent reports on the costs an standards of living throughout the world. This survey ranked Moscow as the most expensive city to live in, and it was not even in the top 51 cities when it came to quality of living. Singapore was ranked 17th most expensive and had the 34th highest quality of living. Such discrepencies looked odd to The Capitalist Infidel. Questions such as why weren’t the Moscovites moving out of Moscow where they were obviously getting ripped off came to mind. The Capitalist Infidel decided to do some detective work.

The first issue The Capitalist Infidel had to resolve was why a HR firm was doing a cost and standard of living survey. The Capitalist Infidel had always assumed that was the job of the UN or some other international body. A quick look through Mercer’s website quickly yielded answers. To quote Mercer :
Our indices are composed of the following categories and are weighted according to our research results:

  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Domestic services
  • Food at home
  • Food away from home
  • Health and personal care
  • Household supplies
  • Sports and leisure
  • Transportation
  • Utilities

Mercer also highlighted the fact that its survey result were designed to help companies design accurate expatriate compensation packages. It all seems clear now. While The Capitalist Infidel cannot speak for the Moscovites, he has a very clear picture of what distorted the costs of living. Mercer was did not really care about costs of living for Singaporeans in Singapore. Singapore has relatively low taxes to offset the fact that our housing and transportation costs more. This distorts the whole survey completely.

So while Singaporeans can heave a collective sigh of relief, or disappointment if you were going to talk to your boss about a raise, this is not necessarily good for the development of the economy. While your jobs might now look safer considering companies would hesitate sending expatriates over, it is also a reason why our standards of living are comparatively low.

Expatriates who work here create value for us in our economy. Having a high cost of living is like a tax that discourages them to work here. This means less value is created and with it, a lower standard of living. This of course, is only a minor factor in our standards of living. Other factors such as a lack of *ahem* liberty, are also at work. But the issues of expensive housing and lack of liberty are for another day, right now, relax, it’s not as expensive to live in Singapore as a Singaporean as it looks. In fact, treat it as a sign of greater job security, from expatriates anyway.

When a Democracy Votes for War

27 June, 2006

The Capitalist Infidel felt sad as he read the report about how Hamas launched a raid from Gaza to Israel. How many people have died to the fight between Israel and Palestine? How many of them were innocent civilians? How long more will it last? Will peace ever be possible?

The Palestinian actions in recent months has made it seem obvious that the Palestinians do not want peace. They want the deadlock to be resolved, regardless of the human costs. When the Palestinians voted for Hamas, a right wing militant movement to replace Fatah, a much more dovish party to power in the Palestinian Authority. It is clear that the Palestinians have voted for war.

Of course, the Western world tried to stop any conflict that could escalate to war. They starved Hamas of foreign aid in an attempt to force them to recognise Israel and give up violence. This may look hypocritical at first sight, advocating Democracy and not accepting its result when it goes against our expectations. But The Capitalist Infidel would like to highlight the fact that we do recognise Hamas as the legitimate winners of the election but we cannot accept a government that will threaten the lives of people, and with it the stability of the Middle East.

It is obvious that this attempt has not worked. While it may have prompted the President Mahmoud Abbas to call for Hamas to sign a document recognising Israel, Hamas has been able to use it to gain political capital by stirring up dissatisfaction with the West by portraying them as hypocrites. All this has culminated in the attack on Israel.

This is either a stroke of military genius or suicide. Israel has been carrying out unilateral withdrawals and building security walls around its territories. America is also overextended with Iraq and Iran. If Israel is retreating because of a lack of military strength, Hamas has struck at the right time. They have struck before the barrier is set up and before Israel has a strong advantage, however, if Israel is not retreating out of weakness, Hamas has just handed them a pretext for war.

Reuters and al-Jazeera have both reported that Israel will not declare war yet, but have demanded that they release an Israeli conscript captured in the raid. Hamas’ demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners has been rejected by Israel who have threatened to bring Hamas down if the conscript was not released on time. The militant wing of Fatah, has taken the opportunity to urge Hamas not to release the conscript. Doing so would lose Hamas political capital but failing to do so may result in an Israeli attack.

It is now clear that Hamas is not suited to govern the Palestinian Authority. While they might have been useful attack dogs, putting them in government will only destabilise the region. This is not in the interests of Israel, but neither is it in the interests of the Palestinians or the Arabs. Instability will only result in the inflow of foreign troops, definately not what the Arabs want.

The Capitalist Infidel supports the proposal for the Palestinians to be allowed to hold a referendum on whether to acknowledge Israel. Doing so would allow the Palestinians to decide their stand and avoid being drawn into an unwanted war. The region has had too many people die to militants. Hamas was chosen democratically, it should learn to accept that in a democracy, the governments do what its people wants, not use it as a mandate for personal causes.

Faces of Capitalism

26 June, 2006

Warren Buffett's $37 billion to foundations run by his friend Bill Gates and by the Buffett family has set a new record in charitable giving in the United States, and probably the world. This is a display of how capitalism has improved the world we live in. For all the evil the Microsoft monopoly has said to have created, it cannot be denied that that a lot of good has come out of it.

Businesses don't buy things that don't help them make money, Microsoft has improved efficiency around the world and thus living standards. Much of the profit has also gone to people who are unable to use Microsoft's products, mainly because they are too poor, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Meanwhile, over at America OnLine(AOL), the exact opposite is happening. While they are not ripping charities off, they are not creating value either. In fact, they are destroying value, and no one likes that. In one of the many articles against AOL on Consumerist.com, AOHELL showed how hard it is to cancel a plan with the company.

With publicity like that, it is no wonder Time Warner, AOL's parent company's accounts show a drop in operating revenue for AOL in the last quarter from $530 million to $442 Million. That's a 16.6% drop in operating profit. In fact, it's the only Time Warner subsidiary that deproved in performance.

In the jungles, only the fittest survive. The same goes for the capitalist world. Consumers have more power than they think and only the creators of value survive. That is why the Capitalist Infidel supports the power of capitalism, and personal freedom. The choices we make shape the world we live in this hidden hand must be allowed to work with as few restrictions as possible.

True capitalists create value in the world they live in. It is no coincidence the two most successful ones are putting most of their wealth to help people with no demand for returns. In fact, they are not the only ones throughout history. Capitalist charities can provide more than any state backed welfare plan can.