Negative thinking Undermines Political and Economic Evolution
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 6, 2012
Summary: Taiwan must extricate itself from political and economic stagnation.
People must change their way of thinking. They must reject pessimistic,
confrontational, negative thinking. They must adopt optimistic,
competitive, cooperative, positive thinking. Whenever they confront a
problem they need to think more like engineers and less like
politicians. To find solutions, people on Taiwan must not waste energy
on unnecessary confrontation. Time is no longer on our side. If we
persist in wearing each other down, the legacy bequeathed to us by our
predecessors will be utterly squandered.
Full Text below:
Taiwan's economy faces a difficult battle. There is no assurance it will experience even a 1% growth rate this year. Politics is mired in quicksand. The only feature of democracy that survives is elections. How can Taiwan escape this political and economic predicament? We must examine the problem the structural level. We must consider political interaction and value systems. Only then will we find a solution. One key worth considering is Taiwan society's "Negative thinking."
A vigorous reform movement on Taiwan during the 1980s bequeathed us a democratic miracle. But the glory of the 90s soon came to an end. During the 21st century, Taiwan's democracy led to Blue vs. Green stasis. Social divisions led to an economic nosedive. The result was a permanent state of "non-consensus." This lack of consensus has spread from the political realm into the social, cultural, and economic realms. It has engulfed all areas of public policy. As a result, neither the Blue nor the Green camp is able to govern the country. Worse, Taiwan has become idle, wracked by internal conflict and economic stagnation, without even realizing it.
Youth unemployment did not begin today. Wages on Taiwan have been declining for over a decade. Taiwan has also had a problem with industrial upgrading. Many manufacturers have relocated. This shows that the doubts are real. But these problems have been forgotten amidst the fog generated by a decade of political confrontation. Is this the unavoidable cost of Taiwan's democratization? Possibly. Nevertheless we must attempt to stem the losses. We must correct our course. Otherwise, what will happen to Taiwan down the line?
So-called "negative thinking" refers to political attitudes that are fundamentally obstructionist, that restort to boycotts, and that engage in "opposition merely for the sake of opposition." If Negative thinking has a rational basis, it can play a positive role, as "checks and balances." It can prevent the abuse of power. It can prevent the derailment of the decision-making process. But if it lacks a rational basis, if politicians stubbornly engage in obstructionism, public policy will run into a brick wall. Even measures beneficial to the public will be stalled. The last ten years of political confrontation and economic stagnation are largely result of the latter. This sort of thinking is apparent during ruling vs. opposition party confrontations. It also manifests itself endlesslessly during confrontations between the executive and legislative branches. As a result, the confrontations within civil society are not much better.
Such negative thinking poses a serious danger. Those who engage in such negative thinking need offer no comprehensive solutions of their own. They need only trumpet their opposition. They find it easy to mislead the public. Take education reform. The public wants college admissions to be procedurally fair. But they ignore the problem of how to teach children to learn and how to ensure their competitiveness. Take U.S. beef imports. Politicians talk about imposing "zero tolerance" requirements. They pretend that science is irrelevant. They pretend that Washington-Taipei relations do not matter. Take the fourth nuclear power plant. The DPP flip flopped back and forth between building it and not building it. They avoided any discussion of how to obtain affordable electricy once nuclear power generation was eliminated. Recently some Blue Camp legislators have proposed changing the fourth nuclear power plant to a natural gas plant. But they said nothing about the 300 billion already invested. Will it be written off as a total loss? Take the Wen Lin-yuan controversy. Public attention is focused on a single, isolated case. But 30 or more households approve. What about their interests? What about the system as a whole? Have these been given the same consideration?
In recent years the economy has stalled. Many people are beginning to miss leaders such as Li Kuo-ting, Sun Yun-suan, and Chao Yao-tung. These were the men responsible for Taiwan's economic miracle. Many people miss their vision and boldness. Some say that these fiscal and economic wizards operated under the aegis of authoritarianism. They had more power to get things done. Some say if they were born on today's Taiwan, even they would be bound hand and foot. But lest we forget, these people were trained as engineers. Engineers are trained to be pragmatic when confronted by problems. That, coupled with their own life experiences and insights, enabled them to leave behind a legacy. Contrast that with today's political arena. Government and opposition leaders are mostly trained as lawyers. Their heads are filled with zero sum, confrontational thinking. Instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, they think about how to make the problem more difficult, lest the rival camp receive credit for solving it. Given such selfish reasoning, how can we possibly expect positive thinking about how to make the nation prosper? How can we expect anyone to face problems and solve them?
Recently the public has been debating retirement benefits for military veterans, civil servants, and public school teachers. This issue deserves greater attention. Why have salaries within the private sector been stalled for so many years? If we fail to lift low income people out of their poverty, but merely try to hold down high income people, the result will be a race to the bottom. The same is true of educational reform, which relentlessly held down elite schools. This did nothing to enhance next generation competitiveness. It merely prevented smaller schools from increasing their tuitions. As a result even salaries could not be increased.
Taiwan must extricate itself from political and economic stagnation. People must change their way of thinking. They must reject pessimistic, confrontational, negative thinking. They must adopt optimistic, competitive, cooperative, positive thinking. Whenever they confront a problem they need to think more like engineers and less like politicians. To find solutions, people on Taiwan must not waste energy on unnecessary confrontation. Time is no longer on our side. If we persist in wearing each other down, the legacy bequeathed to us by our predecessors will be utterly squandered.
2012.11.06 03:17 am