Monday, October 04, 2010

"The Trap" by James Goldsmith....

While I was doing some reading to find out how deregulation in the US markets during the Regean years with Alan Greenspan as FED chairman led to the junk bond and buyout boom in the 80s and eventual market failure, I stumbled upon the writings of James Goldsmith. James Goldsmith was an extremely controversial but interesting figure in his day - a successful corporate raider, failed politician and has a scandalous personal life[wiki link]. He was once thought to be the world's richest man for a while and famously exited the markets before the 1987 crash. During his later years, he became an enviromentalist.

In the early 1990s, James Goldsmith wrote a series of books among is the "The Trap", a profound piece of work that foresaw the effects of free trade and globalisation on income inequality:

"Nations ... cannot allow themselves
to be overwhelmed by immigration
otherwise they will lose their identity
and cease to be nations." - The Trap

The 1st section of the book discusses the flaw of using GNP and economics as a measure of quality of life. The 2nd section criticises a number of capitalist dogmas - among them is the belief that free trade is always good. In this section he wrote the devastating effects of free trade (and cheap 3rd world labor) on the working and middleclass of Western societies unless govts take serious actions to mitigate these effects. The 4th section discusses immigration and how much immigration a country should allow:

"...nations need new blood and new ideas. But they can only absorb a limited amount at a time. They cannot allow themselves to be overwhelmed by immigration otherwise they will lose their identity and cease to be nations. Newcomers who are welcomed into a nation should want to honour and respect the customs of their new home. They must not step on shore or over the border and reject the national culture. If they do, the inevitable results are hostility, intolerance and conflict" - The Trap, page. 59

Here is a prophetic interview with James Goldsmith by Charlie Rose in 1994.

Goldsmith called his book "The Trap" to point out the many "traps" in the thinking of leaders surrounding immigration, GDP growth and free trade. Has Singapore fallen into this trap?


lim said...

It is pure common sense that mass importing of foreigners, with diverse backgrounds, in a short time frame will surely erode a nation's identity, causes hardships and friction with the local borns, and a host of other social issues..

Just wonder why our so-called "talents" cannot see this...

Anonymous said...

Singapore will pretend that it has not fallen into this trip, pretence enforced by the bootlickers and groupthinkers.

Anonymous said...

Thnks for linking this extraordinary interview. It is must see for those, like me, who is trying hard to understand why our immigration policies are causing us so much pain.

wee said...

It prove James Goldsmith was correct after 16years. Thanks for the video Lucky.

Alex said...

That's quite a good piece, Lucky. I do agree that we have fallen into this trap as our government is doing its best to give the people a very positive figure of the economy. Unfortunately, things dont always work like this. We have many years of growth & if you take a look around, why are there still so many elderly folks fighting for Coke cans or selling tissue papers?

Dont get me wrong, growth is important, but not at all cost. The rosy GDP growth only benefits a few choosen ones,while most of us dont really get to taste the fruit of success, or maybe just what's left when the elites toss out the pips or skin. I would rather see a slower growth in the economy & the government takes care of the sick & poor. So, are we really rich? No, we have lots of things like 3 TVs in a house or a maid to help us, but if you look deeper, most of us are in debt. From HDB loan to monthly car repayment, all these things are on credit!! We dont own anything unless it's fully paid up, so the government might paint us a rosy pix on the situation, but honestly, all of us are in deep shit & we really pray hard we dont lost our jobs!!

Anonymous said...

our leaders, being the highly-paid elites that they are, could not have fallen into the trap. Nope, all that was done was for our own good and the good of the country and, urm, good for their big fat pay packet.

Anonymous said...

"Has Singapore fallen into this trap?"

Without a doubt, yes!!!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of the decision makers/policy makers in the Singapore Government themselves are "foreigners" [not born neither bred in their formative years in singapore and never having interact with regular singaporeans in their foundation years in singapore...instead of "interacting" with other elites in overseas institutions and "paid" by Singaporeans tax work for singapore and its people...not for party or "some" conception of some familial past loyalty from their original "home" countries]...and how much of that plays a part in the decision making process and direction to be taken in the end for many of the PAP government policies within and without of Singapore...

I wonder.


Anonymous said...

Amazing relevance of this scarily prophetic 1994 US interview to the frustrating situation that all native Singaporeans find themselves facing today.

A great influx of cheap foreign labour into our borders for the pure sake of feeding economic growth numbers comes at the expense of tearing apart the very fabric of social cohesion and threatening our livelihoods, especially the poor, with even the middle class not spared. This situation can only get worse with time.

Given that "big business LOVES the idea of getting total access to unlimited giveaway labour" and that our nation's current policies have increasingly been oriented in that direction, its not hard to conclude who our leaders have been in bed with with for at least the past decade. said...

Folks remember, we are price taker, and not price setter. We are the one who benefited from globalization when LKY sell our labors to sweat shop MNC, and claim credit that he is a clever man. In fact, its the woman operator who make Singapore what we are today, and many of them are still struggling at their old age, no monies, no savings...etc

We are in the mercy of MNC. I believe MNC said this to LKY, "give me 1000 PHD at below $3000", because China is going to give us 100 000 PHD at even lower price. This is part of the reason why we have our foreign talent policy...etc

Lucky Tan said...


That is why the question is asked whether we should have developed some homegrown industries and the domestic market to reduce our dependence on FDI&MNCs.

We were the beneficies then it became a race to the bottom when cheap labor from China came along.

The Goldsmith video asked a very important question. What is the purpose of an economy? It is to serve the people or for the people to serve it to achieve numeric GDP growth.....

Anonymous said...

He was most probably brotherhud IMHO. They are all very good public speakers for some strange reason.

Anonymous said...

Singapore will not fall into "The Trap".

Even if Singapore falls into, Singapore will be able to get out of it.

Because Singapore has a very strong government.

When you are strong, you can afford to make mistakes and got a
2nd chance. Or even 3rd chance.

So most important is to reach a strong position. Or be rich. Same for human beings too.

Then you can afford to make mistakes and losses and can still recover and be alive and kicking. said...

Hi Lucky,
Singapore used to breed the best entrepreneurs in SE Asia, giants like Tan Kah Kee, Lim Ngee Soon, Tan Lak Sye. They are the "industrialist" unlike the "license tycoon" such as Wee Chow Yew or Ng Teng Fong.

Unfortunately, they are also the Chinese patriot who despised PAP as banana and running dogs. So they are destroyed by PAP. An example, our Land Acquisition Act actually targeted these people which owns hugh plantations in Yishun Sembawang and Boon Lay.

Thats the reason despite numerals plea, PAP refuse to go the way of Pak Chung Hee(Korea), or Chiang Ching Kuo (Taiwan). And one of the bonus byproduct of MNC is they actually destroyed the wealth of industrialist, and decimated PAP's enemy.

When I read history of SG, I saw too much life of righteous people destroyed, just because of LKY lust of power and his asshole lieutenant Goh Keng Swee.

In fact, the very day asshole Goh Keng Swee courted foreigners, we are damn into cheap workers of MNC perpetually.

Anonymous said...

When I read history of SG, I saw too much life of righteous people destroyed, just because of LKY lust of power and his asshole lieutenant Goh Keng Swee.

In fact, the very day asshole Goh Keng Swee courted foreigners, we are damn into cheap workers of MNC perpetually.

Lets be fair. Goh Keng Swee did what he had to do at that time. He played some part in the formation of the GLCs that provided many with employment. Goh was a capable economist but was ousted before we were ready to move on to the next stage of development. It was LKY whose simplistic knowledge of economics got SG deeply addicted to FDI and with it cheap labour and FTs.

Lucky Tan said...

anon 21:32,

What you said is true. We grew rapidly on FDI. The question is how do we go ahead to deliver even higher standards of living for our citizens and to halt the decline for a large segment of the population living in poverty.

We are now told to work forever, never retire and don't be fussy and accept low wage jobs. How long can our society tolerate the income inequality? The video I posted talks about America but we have an income gap bigger than America and all other developed countries.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

I sent this goldsmith video link to u 3 to 4 mths ago when u posted a great deal about the mass foreigner influx. I thought it was super profound & presient as the original YouTube title suggested. cos I found it on an overseas blog which I personally think is great reading and in it's macro coverage of the global political & financial intrigue should be a good intro about the game plan & hegemony of the global elite & their new world order.

The entire alternative history of the world is a very paradigm shifting concept, but I think sheeples got to know who probably has been setting them up as lambs to the slaughter .
Watch zeitgeist the movie , empire of the cities, loosechange, the beautiful truth on YouTube....& piece together the puzzle..
Go down the rabbit hole as they say...Sir James Goldsmith said it in the same 40plus minute interview with Charlie rose, that the whole democracy thing is a sham...yes right there in the EU & the beacon of hope.. ..The USA

Anonymous said...

Thanks lucky. Great piece. Most of us don't even know how to make head or tail out of this. If we go by what Mr Lim (manpower minister) has to say, it is decided, but when I come hear and listen to this a whole universe opens up and I ask, what???????????

Btw, he is definitely Brotherhood. They all talk in a certain way, look at the hands, it is a secret code. Look very carefully, they are communicating to their own kind.

Anonymous said...

Lucky Tan at 4/10/10 21:47,

How do you know "...a large segment of the population living in poverty."?

How is your "large" and "poverty" defined? Any hard data or evidence to support?

And even if it is really "large", how then do you account for the 60 over percent support for the PAP at every election?

Do you think those in "poverty" will still vote PAP? And if they do, isn't it wonderful for PAP? And what hope is there left for the opposition?

Lucky Tan said...

anon 00:13,

Today, 400,000 are low wage and eligible for workfare:

Bottom 20% household earn less that $1.2K a month. That is one in 1 in 5.

Lucky Tan said...

anon 00:13,

Whether the richer 60% of Singaporeans care about the bottom 20% is the function of cohesiveness in our society.

If we only care about ourselves, the PAP will win every elections by satisfying 60% of the people.

To me, the measure of a society is how the poorest are treated.

Bufallo Bill said...

Yes, Lucky, you´ve addressed the problem clearly in your post and the clip is a good resource.

Part of the solution is to think of a smaller economy, not unlike the Penang model. This will however require bold leadership, a paradigm shift and some tough decisions which will require deep seated changes.

Change is not possible without undoing some key components in our present socio economic system. The present leadership in the ruling party however are bred from this system. They will tweak the system but never change the fundamentals; the system has worked for them, their families and social circle.

The elite have by and large never lost their job to a foreigner nor experienced the humilliation of a cost cutting retrenchment. Its hard for them to really understand Goldsmith's point in the clip.

The elite never see themselves as part of the elite. They view the disparity between them and the "not so well off" as part of life. Yes, they will help those below them but not at the expense of the current system.

Change is unlikely. LKY´s passing away might bring to surface voices of change...but these voices will remain voices unless a bright young leader emerges.

Anonymous said...

Look like we are in deep shit due to this foreign policy. Vote PAP out is the only solution. What they have done will take Singapore century to undone.

Anonymous said...

Simply put, this country made lots of money, but, those money are possessed by just a few good men tat refused to share with their workers and citizens. The question really is, wat do they do with the money ?

Anonymous said...

Why are singaporeans always thinking tat it is only with the passing on of Lee Kuan Yew tat change is possible. Does this implies tat there are really no calibre capable of matching or exceeding him ? If tat is so, then Singaporeans have to submit to him, like it or not, right ? Resign yourself to fate then.

Anonymous said...

Singapore govt has aggressively pursued bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with many countries all in the name of GDP growth and we are just seeing the consequences in all its dimensions...Singaporeans are mistakenly led to believe it's all good for them!! In an FTA, Singapore has to open its doors to many things from these countries(labour, capital, finance, competition, etc) and cannot be reversed now...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps these re-quotes from a real thinker would help...

Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. By Albert Einstein

The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible. By Albert Einstein

But on the other hand with this other re-quote...

Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish. By Albert Einstein

Good day all.

DanielXX said...

I believe that Singaporeans have fallen into the trap, Lucky. But in no way have the elites fallen into the trap! It is exactly how things would have panned out: the rich get richer. And I'll tell you that in their own interpretation of events they will believe that it's too late to turn back the wheel, and that it will be more detrimental to reverse course. That's NUTS for you: no U-turn syndrome.

Therefore, the next election should be seen by citizens as a referendum on whether we should stick to this course, or should we reverse it? To me, there is no clear-cut conclusion, for indeed there is truth in the view that reversing course might undo all the effort of thr past few years. Is it better to manage the risk instead, instead of reversing it?

Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks LKY is bad should just leave the city. the average sg who are also gullible will be happy just staying in a hdb and taking public transport and paying huge price for them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky,

How's the stock market now, relative to your forecast back in July 2010?

Is it a good time now to see if your earlier stock market predictions were correct?

Anonymous said...

to anon 22:25

I am a vested player in local stock market. Indeed, the current level is very good as compared with, 2-3 months ago.Many people would have expected the upside to be capped at 3100 but now it went beyond. Being in this market for a decade, I am qualified to say no matter how much tech/fundamental analyses you subject it to, the market is very much played by sentiments.

So, unless you can tell me for sure the market will go up further and you are liquidating all your assets and throw them in, your question or advice remains a very much subjective thing, just like what Lucky had done.

rex said...

rex comments on anon 11.24's post

you said :Why are singaporeans always thinking tat it is only with the passing on of Lee Kuan Yew tat change is possible. Does this implies tat there are really no calibre capable of matching or exceeding him ? unquote

comment: if lky does not phase out, the draconian and unreasonable laws which drive away creativity, productivity and innovation will continue to be applied, because every singaporean fears these three letters, L, K and Y. Nothing gets done without his approval. Conversely any idea un-approved will be doomed. The media will also throw its full weight to psycho public opinion in the direction of the three letters. IT is an unacceptable state of affairs in this modern age where information is no longer the monopoly of a privileged few.

LKY system encoruages yesmanship and stifles innovation. LKY system does not provide space for alternative ideas. LKY system is a "holier than thou System, you wrong i right, get lost, shoo".

This is why LKY need to be first phased out. It is not so much a question of whehter there are other capable people in singpaore. I personally think there are. I come across many people, and also in blogs, there is a lot of substance and intellectual content, and practical ideas, from these people, the stuff of which a nation can rely on.

Talents exist, but some have been chased out of the country, others migrated voluntarily sadly to other lands because they "tak boleh tahan" the repressive regime, and in particular do not want their children to end up in this kind of robotic society which only worships money. I think some day the sons of the soil who are talented and patriotic will return, and build a better singapore, together with those talented people still around but obliged to sing the same tune as L, K, Y.

Do you think this answers your question, anon 11.34?


Anonymous said...

Part One
Hi Rex, a very good morning to You Sir!

Me am very glad that at least and at last, me got a response from You. May i say that me had posed many questions and sad to say, You're the First to respond to one of them.

Indeed, much of what You said are true.
Me am about two and a half decades younger than Lee Kuan Yew, such is to say me lives through much of my life under his control except for a decade of British Rule.

As one more convinced by socialism and nationalism, me was and is not in harmony with the political developments after the British gave Singapore its' independence. As a subject, me witnesses the Local Leaders paved the highway to economic success and to the pinnacle of materialism which to me was the inevitable cause of many downfalls of civilizations and nations.

In fact, me said the downfall of Singapore will not be due to poverty, on the contrary, it shall be GREED and materialism. This country was GIVEN independence due to the wanning power of the Colonial Master. There was no struggle for liberty, it was given on a silver platter with golden folk and spoon thrown in. There was not a national spirit born out of struggle nor was the population then looking for a nation(hood) in unison.

In the 50s, Singaporean Politicians were struggling amongst themselves over business, labour and local community leaderships with probably some hopes of ultimately running the Island one day.

NATIONHOOD WAS NEVER THE MAIN MOTIVE WITHIN THE INFIGHTINGS IN THE SO-CALLED STRUGGLES. The Britist too was never perturbed, much less, challenged by any local fighting against them for independence. And the British was simply too powerful for any local.

So, the British had absolute control of this tiny island. But, then It governed and developed the Island in a way that most inhabitants were not unhappy. Migrants from China, India and other nearby countries made their ways here to escape poverties in their homelands and some were here due to the wars in the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

Anonymous said...

Part Two
When the Locals took over the running if the Island after the British presented it to them, the LOCAL LEADERSHIP had/has total and absolute control over the populace as the British did.

THE DIFFERENCES and they were big changes; such as the English Language was made to be the PRIMARY LANGUAGE and Vernaculars were relegated and gradually atrophied as they became Second and Third Languages.

The local inhabitants were relocated from their countryside abodes to government built compact highrise HDB Flats. Huge proportion of Singaporeans were deprived of their livelihoods dependent on primary production. The main reason, me suspect, was to have the people moved to the industrialization embarked on by the Local Government.

It did improve the economic progress and industrialization was further speeded up and expanded. Soon, it was high tech development and followed by commercialization and finacial marketing to health, education and now vice industries.

Throughout the whole process and phases of economic programmes. Materialism was breeded and INCULCATED progressively to higher planes and it leads to GREEDS.

Singaporeans, dare me says here, were very AT EASE and in fact many were fine with the System. And until this very moment many are comfortable with the journey of progress.
However, some see and foresightedly knew that decays brought about by materialism and greed is bringing more woes to the people and each and everyday. More Singaporeans are unhappy as day goes.

Despite a late awakening by some, only a handfull of intellectuals are active in taking actions while most are apathetic.

To sum it up, those freedom fighters in the past were neglected and given cold shoulders by Fellow Singaporeans. In my view, it was not just the draconian laws and schemes that make the Present Regime invincible. IT IS THE APATHETIC ATTITUDES OF THE INTELLECTUALS TO THE OVERALL POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND THEIR UNSYMPATHETIC FEELINGS TO OTHER FELLOW SINGAPOREANS THAT CAUSED THE SITUATION SINGAPOREANS ARE IN TODAY.

Me thanks You much for the interaction.


Lucky Tan said...

anon 22:25,

Hi. I expected the stock market to correct in late Aug 2010, but it only did so briefly. I'm surprised by the current bullishness in the market - the US & Japan govt declaring they will keep printing and printing money. The Japs even cut interest rates yesterday. The US Fed swear they will have QE2 (print money 2nd round) if economy weakens. That will only postpone the inevitable and bring about inflation - did you see the gold & Oil prices moving steadily up.

Marc Faber said they can keep printing and markets will go up but these are bubbles without the underlying improvement in the real economy. Basically, you can't keep printing money to support the system...just not possible.

I don't want to 2nd guess the market after all the fighting the trend is a loser's game. But I would be extremely cautious and ever ready to exit at this point in time.

rex said...

rex comments as follows,

hello patriot, that was a fair summary of what transpired from 1962 to-date.

It is quite true that much of the nation's infrastructure and administratie machinery was inherited from the british and many things were on silver platter ready-to-go when LKY et al,took over.

However as with most singaproeans, we are grateful for what the old man did by assembling Gohkengswee, Winsemius, etc to attract investments and create jobs AFTER the full withdrawal of the british. Having the existing machinery inherited from British, is not enough, but additional creative ideas was necessary to keep the system alive and to feed the baby boom, and these very successful ideas were spawn by the once well respected PAP.

Of course there were trade offs in the name of progress, but such is life. But even with such tradeoffs, in those days, Greed is no where near what Greed is today! so i totally agree with your analysis.

Particularly, I am very saddened at the way LKY is driving singapore. It is very sad to see someone whom you once respect, degenerate into a money sucking machine, devoid of culture and pursuit of finer things in life (work for money till die! CRAZY!). He sets a very very bad example for any aspiring national leader to follow, there are innumerable wrong things he had been doing in the last couple of years.

Is there any hope?


Anonymous said...

The hope has died. He was Bob Hope. A comedian like you guys.

Anonymous said...


Many are hoping, including me who was/is eagerly hoping for the conscience and humanities to return to the hearts of the Leadership. So far it's hopeless.

Out of the hopelessness, a wish arises and it seems to have more chances of being realized. Time is catching up, many things have happened and if there is any worse to come, it will be shortlived. Me am optimistic change is inevitable this time round.

This island home has not lose its' allure due to it's developed state and retention of the strategic location. The people are now pragmatic to the political situation and survival than they were pragmatic to making wealth.
The drive to be successful in life remains constant, ideal is more tempered with realism and not wild dream.

Yes, me am positive that change will come.


Anonymous said...

This is what really going on the mind of majority.

Anonymous said...

"Marc Faber said they can keep printing and markets will go up but these are bubbles without the underlying improvement in the real economy. Basically, you can't keep printing money to support the system...just not possible."

Lucky Tan 6/10/10 13:52

I agree with the above by Marc Faber and as quoted by Lucky Tan. But so what?

Because most important is the US political system and democracy is not affected at all. And also social peace and stability.

Do you see riots in the US due to persistent unemployment or the way the US govt print money to sustain it? Or President Obama being overthrown? Or the US $ become toilet paper? Very unlikely, right?

So the current status quo of political stability, social peace, stock market and property boom will continue for a long time to come, not only in US but also in Japan and other countries.

Once this can be achieved and sustained, everything will continue to look normal and prosperous.

What more do political leaders want?

Anonymous said...

They want "boiling frog syndrome"

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above by Marc Faber and as quoted by Lucky Tan. But so what?

Because most important is the US political system and democracy is not affected at all. And also social peace and stability.

Do you see riots in the US due to persistent unemployment or the way the US govt print money to sustain it? Or President Obama being overthrown? Or the US $ become toilet paper? Very unlikely, right?

So the current status quo of political stability, social peace, stock market and property boom will continue for a long time to come, not only in US but also in Japan and other countries.

Once this can be achieved and sustained, everything will continue to look normal and prosperous.

What more do political leaders want?
I'm very sure you are a frog, but this blog is for human only.

Anonymous said...

The market crashed in 1929, 1987 and 2008 in the month of October. Will this happen on 20th October 2010? Two weeks more and we will know. Get out now you will not suffer much, holding on may see you lose much more than you bargain for. Best to save on gold and silver methinks.

Lipton said...

may i know where can I find the book locally?
can't seem to find in any bookstores/library

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