Embrace Teddy Roosevelt’s Conservatism

September 14, 2014

Embrace Teddy Roosevelt’s Conservatism: Equalize Opportunity

by David Skelton@www.theguardian.com

teddy_roosevelt“I wish to preach … the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labour and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes … to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.” That was how Theodore Roosevelt, never one for understatement, but arguably America’s greatest president, summed up his creed. And his was a life that was never boring – a war hero during the Spanish-American war, a perpetual man of action – he shook up the then-stuffy business of American politics with his relentless spirit. And politicians in 2014 should consider the powerful message that was at the heart of his politics.

Conservatives, in particular, should learn from a man who was able to show that conservatism could broaden its appeal and not be seen as the plaything of the rich. As British Tories consider how to break beyond their heartland they should look to Teddy Roosevelt, a conservative who claimed the progressive mantle as his own.

His message was one that successfully broadened the appeal of the Republican party, exiling the Democrats to their then “solid south” and winning more electoral college votes than any president before him. His was a conservatism that unapologetically represented enterprise, small business owners and workers. It was a conservatism that took on vested interests and legislated in the interests of ordinary voters, with measures such as the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

This was a man who believed instinctively that prosperity came from “thrift, business energy and enterprise”, but didn’t believe that being conservative should mean unthinkingly defending big business or monopolies. In his words: “We wish to shape conditions so that a greater number of the small men who are decent, industrious and energetic shall be able to succeed, and so that the big man who is dishonest should not be allowed to succeed at all.” He argued that monopolies meant higher prices for consumers, lower wages for workers and shut out the small businessmen and innovation that create prosperity.

Roosevelt was right that Conservatives should be prepared to act where market failure occurs and stand upcameron-radical against vested interests in both the private and public sector. Those who argue such an approach is unconservative would also find disagreement from other conservative icons. Adam Smith argued: “The monopolists … sell their commodities much above the natural price … and raise their emoluments … greatly above their natural rate.” Edmund Burke stood strongly against the monopoly power of the East India Company. Little wonder that Roosevelt described himself as “the true friend of property, the true conservative”.

Conservatives should be strong defenders of the power of capitalism to create prosperity and social progress, but they should remember that the free market and big business aren’t the same thing. Conservatives should create the right environment for start-ups and entrepreneurs. But supporting free enterprise isn’t the same as supporting the water monopolies, who, as Rob Halfon has pointed out, saw director’s salaries increase by between 37% and 171% over the past five years, while bills increased by up to 37%. They should be prepared to speak up about anti-consumer behaviour, whether it be over food packaging, bank charges or excessive utility prices.

It’s important that a regulatory environment is created in which encouraging competition, rather than concentration of power, is taken seriously, and monopolies aren’t allowed to abuse their dominant market position. The creation of a powerful, cross-departmental secretary of state for consumer protection would also help tackle rip-off practices. Polling last year also showed that a Conservative party that clamped down on big business that ripped off its customers would be an important way of showing that Conservatives weren’t just for the rich and powerful.

Roosevelt was a strong believer in capitalism as an engine for growth and a capitalism that works for everybody in society. His was “an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best there is in him”. For him, “the essence of the struggle is to equalise opportunity, destroy privilege and give to the life and citizenship of every possible individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth”.

Conservatives should firmly position themselves as the party that is the relentless champion of opportunity and the enemy of the closed shop, with education reform, improved childcare in the poorest areas and a strong vocational offer at its heart.

It’s pretty clear that the low paid and many parts in the north and Scotland didn’t benefit from the economic growth under Tony Blair. Between 2003 and 2008, GDP increased by over 11%, but real wages stagnated at best and wages have failed to keep up with prices for more than a decade. Roosevelt argued that “no man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living”. He was an early advocate of a minimum wage – understanding that such an idea was entirely consistent with conservatism and making the free market work for everyone. Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid of looking at ways of increasing the minimum wage, which has failed to keep up with prices in recent years, whilst reforming employers’ taxes to minimise the impact on job creation.

Teddy Roosevelt stood for the “square deal” and so should today’s Conservatives. A square deal for the small businessman and the entrepreneur, for the young person who deserves to make the most of their potential, for the consumer and the low paid. Modern conservatism must be compassionate and should be about removing barriers to opportunity, tackling vested interests in both the public and private sectors and promoting a free market that creates prosperity for all. Today’s Tories should hold up Teddy Roosevelt as a guiding light.

Public Announcement–Azmi Sharom and Academic Freedom

September 10, 2014

Azmi Sharom and Academic Freedom HARTAL at University of Malaya, KUALA LUMPUR

PM NajibOur government must stand with us in partnership for national development. We Malaysians are not the enemy just because we beg to differ. Indeed we are your source of strength in times of national stress. Please own up to reality, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. In our hands lie your political future and premiership. Listen to the voices of dissent and address the underlying causes of our discontent. And demonstrate to us that you have got what it takes to lead us to a future of hope, freedom, and justice, unity and harmony. –Din Merican

This is to remind all UM Alumni and Members of the Public that University of Malaya students and Faculty will hold a hartal in its Pantai Valley, Kuala Lumpur campus today. All are welcome to this peaceful assembly to support Associate Professor of Law Dr. Azmi Sharom, and stand up for academic freedom.

It is time that we inform our government that dissent in the name of FREEDOM is an integral part of our democracy. A grave injustice has been done to Dr. Azmi Sharom and other civil society activists who dare to speak up on issues of governance, justice, freedom and democracy by the indiscriminate use of the Sedition Act, 1948, a relic from the British colonial era, to achieve political ends.

Harry S TrumanTo quote my favourite American President, Harry Truman, “[O]nce a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Our government must stand with us in partnership for national development. We Malaysians are not the enemy just because we beg to differ. Indeed we are your source of strength in times of national stress. Please own up to reality, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. In our hands lie your political future and premiership. Listen to the voices of dissent and address the underlying causes of our discontent. And demonstrate to us that you have got what it takes to lead us to a future of hope, freedom and justice, unity and harmony. –Din Merican

Azmi Sharom Hartal

Azmi Sharom Hartal2Azmi Sharom Hartal3

Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Denied

September 7, 2014

Tokyo, Japan

Azmi Sharom Case: Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Denied

by Terence Gomez


Azmi UM

When Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor of Law at the Universiti Malaya, was charged under Malaysia’s Sedition Act for providing a legal opinion on a constitutional matter, it shocked the academic community.

It was particularly alarming to academics as it is now well acknowledged that the Sedition Act is an obsolete relic of British colonial rule, introduced to curb dissent. Even Prime Minister Najib Razak had expressed the view, about two years ago, that this Act had to be repealed.

Najib’s government is now preparing a National Harmony Bill to replace this Act. Azmi was, however, one of a number of people, many of them politicians in opposition parties, to be charged under this Act in the recent past.

The issue that Azmi had commented on was in response to the question as to how the next Selangor menteri besar should be selected. Azmi’s views were published in the online portal of The Malay Mail. He is quoted as saying two things in this article: “You don’t want a repeat of that, where a secret meeting took place” and “I think what happened in Perak was legally wrong. The best thing to do (in Selangor) is do it as legally and transparently as possible.”

It was baffling that these opinions were viewed as being seditious. In fact, the Bar Council, in its statement on Azmi’s case, is quoted as saying that his comments “cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute sedition”.  Azmi, in response to this charge, has argued that his “statements were based on established case laws and democratic principles” and that he views this charge against him as “a blow to academic freedom and the freedom of expression”.

Like the Bar Council, many have viewed this sedition charge as perplexing. It is not when we consider that this charge has been proffered against Azmi. His statement on the Selangor political crisis and his response to the charge against him are a reflection of Azmi’s now long-recognised willingness to talk the talk of justice.

Through his regular – and popular – column in The Star, to which he has been contributing over the past few years, Azmi has been providing, fearlessly, critical feedback on major flaws in society, the economy, academia and the legal system. The overriding impression one gets is that this charge is a blatant attempt to curb dissent and in Azmi’s case, a punitive act to silence critics.

Browbeat academics into obedience

Najib2The irony of this charge against Azmi is that the government has been persistently calling on academics to ensure their research is deployed so as to have an impact on society. In fact, government funding for research comes with the strict stipulation that the findings must contribute to the betterment of society.

Meanwhile, in the public domain, academics have now long been subjected to much criticism of their inadequate contribution to society as public intellectuals.

A growing lament, and one apparently indicative of declining academic standards in Malaysian universities, is this: where have all the public intellectuals gone? With this sedition charge against Azmi, the government is clear on one thing: academic feedback is warranted, but not on matters politic, specifically those that suggest the need for reforms.

This act against Azmi will compel academics to rethink any aspiring notions they may have entertained to be in the forefront of intellectual discourse about ways and means to solve the problems that ail the Malaysian economy and society.

The challenge to academics – and the general public if they value the need to have intellectually vibrant tertiary institutions – is to call on the government to stop what amounts to an attempt to intimidate academics into obedience, an act that will only serve to further undermine the credibility of Malaysian universities.

A large number of academics, about 300 of them from across Malaysia, have publicly stood by Azmi, a clear collective commitment of their resistance to any attempt to stifle academic freedom and to browbeat university faculty into silence.

There are other crucial reasons why the government should revoke this charge against Azmi. An obvious repercussion of this act is that it will diminish, even subvert, critical discourses in the universities which can seriously hamper high quality scholarship. This will, in turn, undermine meaningful tutelage which can have a significant bearing on the quality of graduates Malaysian universities now produce, an issue already viewed with much concern.

The government cannot call on academics to produce graduates with the capacity to think creatively, a clear project of educational empowerment, while stifling academic freedom.

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New Dean for The George Washington School of Business

July 15, 2013

New Dean for The George Washington School of Business, The George Washington University, w.e.f  August 1, 2014

June 01, 2014
Dean Linda LivingstoneDean Dr. Linda Livingstone

The university announced in May that Linda A. Livingstone has been selected as the next dean of the GW School of Business. For the past 12 years Dr. Livingstone has served as dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, and is the incoming chair of the board of directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the leading international accreditation body for business schools.

She begins her service at GW on August 1, 2014.

“Linda Livingstone has been a highly successful dean, respected not only within her current institution but also by her peers in business schools around the world, who have elected her to lead their accrediting body,” GW President Steven Knapp says. “Her proven skill in managing a complex organization and recognized leadership in business education will make her a tremendous asset to our School of Business and our university as a whole.”

At Pepperdine, in California, Dr. Livingstone led a business school with approximately 1,600 students on six campuses and more than 35,000 alumni worldwide. She oversaw a $200 million expansion of the business school’s regional campuses, increased the school’s international partnerships to 40 business schools around the world, and led the school to membership in the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative and as a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education.

Under her leadership, the Graziadio School established the Education to Business Live Case Program, which was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as “one of the top 10 college courses in the country that will pay off at work.” She also launched the Dean’s Executive Leadership Series, a high-profile lecture program that brings to campus leading business innovators; introduced a student business plan competition; and added new degree programs in management and leadership, applied finance, and global business.

“I look forward, with enthusiasm, to the opportunity to serve as dean of the School of Business at the George Washington University,” she says. “Working with the faculty and staff to build on a strong foundation of programs and research to continue to enhance the quality and reputation of the school will be a privilege.”

Dr. Livingstone earned a Bachelor of Science in economics and management, a Master of Business Administration, and a PhD in management, with an emphasis in organizational behavior, all from Oklahoma State University.

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Gotta’ keep on learning

July 13, 2014

Schumpeternomics: Gotta’ keep on learning

by (Tan Sri) Dr. Lin See-Yan@www.thestar.com.my (07-12-14)

Lin See-YanI JUST returned from the summer meeting of the board of governors (on which I am a long-standing member) and the board of trustees of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati, Manila. It celebrated its 45th anniversary…

To mark the occasion, AIM held its second Asian Business Conference against the backdrop of an emerging ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. It was well attended by a wide cross-section of Asian businesses, research institutes and universities, under the banner: “2015 Approaching: Priming for ASEAN Integration.”

I spoke at the strategic session on banking and finance with particular focus on the need for Asia (and indeed ASEAN) to keep on innovating to create a truly learning society, in order to maintain its competitive edge and remain relevant in an increasingly hostile and uncertain world. To survive, we just gotta’ keep on learning!

Technological progress

I learned early as a Harvard graduate student in the 1970s from no less than Nobel laureate Robert Solow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) down the Charles, that rising output and incomes can only come about in a sustained way from technological progress (TP), not from mere capital accumulation. Put simply, Solow repeatedly emphasised that TP comes from learning how to do things better; indeed, there’s always a better way.

As a practising banker and economist at Bank Negara after my PhD, I quickly undertstood that much of the productivity increases we see come from small incremental changes – they all add-up, other than the lumpy gains arising from dramatic discoveries or from unpredictable phenomena. It all starts with nurturing our education system and the process of its development to ensure youths are properly educated, not just in terms of literary, quantitative and scientific skills, but also with the right moral values and civic outlook.

Broadly, along what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz (pic) has been advocating – it always makes goodJ Stiglitz sense “to focus attention on how societies learn, and what can be done to promote learning, including learning how to learn.”

Innovation and creative destruction

The seeds of the critical role of innovation in economic growth were first planted about a century ago by Harvard economist and political and social scientist Joseph Schumpeter, a contemporary of John M. Keynes. His economics (hence, Schumpeternomics) is based on the ability and capability of the market economy to innovate on its own.

I recall reading his 1939 book Business Cycle: A Theoretical, Historical and Statistical analysis of the Capitalist Process, where he wrote “Without innovations, no entrepreneurs; without entrepreneurial achievement, no capitalist returns and no capitalist propulsion. The atmosphere of industrial revolutions – of “progress” – is the only one in which capitalism can survive.”

So, Schumpeter went about challenging conventional wisdom in three areas: (i) misplaced focus on competitive markets. He contended that what matters was “competition for the markets, not competition in the markets,” as rightly pointed out by Stiglitz. It is competition for the markets that drives innovation. Sure, this can (and do) result in the rise of monopolies; still this would lead to improved living standards over the long haul (eg. Microsoft, Nokia – acquired in 2013 by Microsoft). (ii) undue focus on short-run efficiency which can be detrimental to innovation over the long-term – classic example is helping “infant industries” learn.

But governments should not be in the game of picking winners; the market can do this better (witness Obama’s failed “clean energy” projects or Malaysia’s wasteful car-maker Proton). Sure, there are exceptions where government invests in research that has since led to development of the Internet and discovery of DNA with enormous social benefits.


(iii) Innovation leads to creative destruction – it can (and do) wipe out inefficient industries and jobs. The Internet has turned businesses from newspapers to music to book retailing upside down. In their place, more efficient businesses have popped up. In his biography of Schumpeter – Prophet of Innovation, Thomas McCraw wrote: “Schumpeter’s signature legacy is his insight that innovation in the form of creative destruction is the driving force not only of capitalism but of material progress in general. Almost all businesses, no matter how strong they seem to be at a given moment, ultimately fail – and almost always because they failed to innovate. Competitors are relentlessly striving to overtake the leader, no matter how big the lead. Responsible business people know that they ignore this lesson at their peril.”

In 1983, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Schumpeter and Keynes, Peter F. Drucker proclaimed at Forbes that it was Schumpeter, not Keynes, who provided the best guide to the rapid economic changes engulfing the world, according to McCraw.

Higher education

The business of higher education has changed little since Plato and Aristotle taught at the Athenian Lyceum. With government patronage and support, close to 4 million Americans and 5 million Europeans will graduate this summer. Emerging nations’ universities are expanding even faster. I was told in Shanghai last month that China has added 30 million university places in the past 20 years.

Indeed, I do see a revolution coming for three main disruptive reasons:

  •  Rising costs – Baumol’s disease has set in, i.e. soaring costs reflecting high labour intensity with stagnant productivity; for the past two decades, costs have risen 1.6 percentage points above inflation annually.
  •  Changing demand – a recent Oxford study contended that 47% of occupations are now at risk of being automated and as innovation wipes out jobs and drastically change others, vast numbers will be needing continuing education.
  • Fast moving TP will change the way education is packaged, taught and delivered. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) today offers university students a chance to learn from the world’s best and get a degree for a fraction of today’s cost. Harvard Business School will soon offer an online “pre-MBA” for US$1,500 (RM4,778)! The reinvention of universities will certainly benefit many more than it hurts. Elites like Harvard, MIT and Stanford will gain from this creative destruction process. Education is now a global digital market.

What then, are we to do

Corporate giants come and go in a competitive economy. Microsoft and Nokia used to rule the digital world. Now they don’t. No monopoly is permanent, unless enforced by government, which as everyone knows hardly changes, even as the rest of the world passes it by. In the United States, it is reported that the administration wants to prevent Apple’s iTunes and AppStore from abusing the network “lock-in” created by Apple’s tech ecosystem. But the judge has since ruled that “I want Apple to have the flexibility to innovate.” That’s something, isn’t it?

economics-poster-smallMy professor at Harvard, Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, used to extol about the importance of learning by doing. So, those who want to innovate, let them just do it – hopefully with no government intervention even though there is a compelling “infant” argument for industrial protection, which can be a double-edged sword when it comes to learning and innovating.

Most of the time, the infant seldom grows up. But reinventing the ancient institution of higher learning will not be easy. EdX, a non-profit MOOC founded (and funded) in May 2012 by Harvard and MIT, is now a consortium of 28 institutions worldwide. No one knows how big the online market will eventually be. It’s more akin to online airline-booking services – expanding the market by improving the customer experience.

Still, innovation at MOOC will definitely reduce the cost of higher education, grow market size but with widespread creative destruction collateral damage, and turn inefficient universities on their heads. MOOC estimates that university employment can fall by as much as 30% and 700-800 institutions can shut-down. The rest have to reinvent themselves to survive. Our learning society will change forever, whether we like it or not.

Former banker, Dr. Lin See-Yan is a Harvard educated economist and a British chartered scientist who writes on economic and financial issues. Feedback is most welcome; email: starbizweek@thestar.com.my. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Leave US alone, says UM Academic Staff Association

June 30, 2014

Leave US alone, says UM Academic Staff Association

BY JAMILAH KAMARUDIN–The Malaysian Insider
Published: 30 June 2014

Academic staff of the University of Malaya today hit out at the Education Ministry over its role in the removal of Professor Datuk Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman, saying it was clear Putrajaya did not rate academic freedom highly.

Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom (pic), who heads University of Malaya Academic Staff Associationazmi s (PKAUM), said if the ministry had leaned on Redzuan, then it is clear that decisions are made based on political importance and not academic reasons or interests.

“This is one of the reasons why Malaysian universities find it difficult to develop because there is political interference,” he said.

“Leave the academicians alone, our studies and methodology are done according to academic standards. If the government is facing problems or has issues, it is not our problem.”

The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Education Ministry had told Redzuan to quit as director of Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel), while his tenure as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in the university was also not renewed.

Azmi said Putrajaya should stop mouthing platitudes about academic excellence. “Close your mouth and keep quiet. Do not dream of delusions of academic grandeur and Malaysian universities making the Top 100 institutions of higher learning in the world rankings,” he said, adding that academic freedom was the basis of a top university.

Dr Amin Jalaludin“The top universities are free of political interference, especially in matters concerning research. However, the Education Ministry appears to have failed to understand this particular point,” Azmi said. On the issue of Redzuan’s tenure not being renewed, Azmi said the UM’s Vice-Chancellor (left) had the full power to determine the most qualified individual to hold the position.

“Even if the votes are in Redzuan’s favour, the V-C has the final say. The academic staff can only propose who they like. We do not know how many of the faculty staff supported Redzuan.Even if Redzuan wins the popular vote, the final decision lies with the V-C. However, if it is true that Redzuan won the popular vote but failed to retain his position, then it will be another example of Putrajaya’s interference at play,” he said.

The Malaysian Insider also reported that Putrajaya was uncomfortable with UMcedel’s research which was seen as favouring Pakatan Rakyat during last year’s 13th general election.One such research was a survey which indicated greater support for PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, compared to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The research conducted by UMcedel was later proven accurate when PR won the popular vote during the 13th general election.

Attempts by The Malaysian Insider to meet Redzuan was in vain as he was said to be busy in meetings and refused to speak to the media. Following Redzuan’s removal, former higher education deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said he was quitting his post as a senior research fellow in the university.