[This is the concluding section of my 9-part series for Feb 2009.]
The refrain of one of the hits of ABBA, a Swedish pop group, goes like this:
“Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world.
Money, money, money
In the rich man's world.
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world.”
If economics is the be-all and end-all in this game,
then why don’t we en bloc The Istana? Does it have to be in busy, crowded Orchard Road where official motorcades would exacerbate the traffic jams now and then (time is money in our frenetic lifestyle)? Do we need all that sprawling grounds? Ever noticed that most of the buildings along our prime shopping belt are under 20 storeys? Probably for aviation clearance path in the event of escape evacuation. Or that the apartment blocks in the bordering residential district of Cavenagh Road are mostly low-rise? Again, for obvious security reasons. Imagine how much economic value would be unlocked in such prime commercial and residential districts if the storey height restrictions were lifted and as Development Charge levies once again swell our government coffers, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial/economic crisis that significantly depleted our reserves.
But, I, for one will say a resounding “no” – The Istana MUST stay where it is. That is one of our last few national icons left whole and intact. There is a sense of time and place in The Istana – despite today’s building technology that would enable The Istana to be identically re-constructed brick-by-brick on cheap land somewhere else! The grounds where Queen Elizabeth may have strolled by. The steps where Chairman Deng Xiao Peng may have climbed. The hall where President Nelson Mandela dined. The spot where our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew stood on as he took his oath of office. For all of this and more, money cannot buy.
Our national iconography, our country’s history ... forever priceless! But that’s only me and maybe 19% of you out there!
Often times, our Gahmen waves the flag of “Majority”, “80% Consent”, “Collective Will” of condo owners. So, what’s wrong since so many want to en bloc??? They don’t get it? Or we don’t get it?
Yeh, what’s wrong? Let’s grab this raging bull by the horns! This calls to mind the distinction between the two schools of governance (note: this is a deliberately over-simplistic comparison to draw out the point):
(a) “Democracy” – If all 35 people in a mob agree to kill the target victim, the lynching will go ahead.
(b) “Republic” – Even if all 35 people in a mob agree to kill the target victim, the law prohibits lynching. So lynching is stopped. But if it is effected, the lynchers will be punished. NOTE: This assumes that the law is “just” to start with. As reminded by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr: “There are two types of laws: Just and Unjust.”
In the harsh reality of the world, there are Black Swans. There is the non-equilibrium economic theory of Econophysics. There is 80-20 Pareto Distribution. So many factors, correlation ranges from 0-100%, they are dynamic and of varying weight under different sensitivities!!! Small changes can have exponentially exaggerated effect. Human beings are not 100% rational. Herd behaviour. Fear. Greed. Exuberance. Knowledge is not equal. Markets are not perfect. The end results are more random than we think. So “Majority”, “80% Consent”, “Collective Will” and the blah may well belie the needs and desires of owners (excluding speculators and flippers).
If I may dredge up the slouchy Homer Simpson in all his slothful glory: “Never under-estimate the power of stupid people in large groups!” Please excuse my irreverence ...