Nov 17, 2013

Buddhism Deep Down

source: Prapaynee Thai Culture

Thailand has turned out to be an intriguing but comfortable place. In a practical sense, first, it is very easy for foreigners like me to stay in Bangkok. Everything is cheaper; most information, not only those for tourists, is available in English; and many Thais can communicate in English. I feel its English proficiency is higher than many other Asian countries.

Besides the dazzling Buddhist culture and mouth-watering foods, people are quite modest, polite and nice: from citizens as a whole, to railway station staff to street vendors to bar girls to scammers. Yes, scammers and hookers are at every corner of Bangkok. But, they are never aggressive or disgusting — they just do their business in their own ‘innovative’ ways. I have not seen any serious meanness in them; rather, their efforts are sometimes even adorable.

Overall, given my limited knowledge, I would say Buddhism is the key factor of these characteristics. It seems to be deeply ingrained in thai life, and I really feel comfortable in such a society.

Jul 16, 2013

Serenity, Courage and Wisdom

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
—Reinhold Niebuhr

There has been a puzzle for a long time. When expecting responses from others, I feel uneasy or even get vulnerable as I check inbox more. In contrast, I rarely become anxious when faced with individual challenges. What's going on here?

Today, it was so annoying that I decided to spend some time on the issue, and fortunately Reinhold Niebuhr’s quote came back to mind. Without caution, I check the entrance, email, or naturally think about what I’m waiting for, and then exacerbate the situation. This is the point. I do them with the intention of solving the unease. But, as a matter of fact, a glance at the door obviously doesn’t bring people I want to see; rather, the glance confirms or perhaps creates my anxiety. It sounds like deceiving myself due to the lack of serenity and patience. Apparently, I’m okay for having a bit of courage to enjoy challenges. So, in the end, it turns out quite simple. All that matters is an effort to distinguish things within my reach from those which belong to others.

Jun 6, 2013

Bounded Rationality on Humanity

source: Inspirational Daily

I love economics. It’s a profoundly powerful tool for facilitating rational decision-making in life and society as a whole. I dare say, as far as we exist as human being, we hope to be as rational as possible.

Yet, it’s limited. Particularly, when it comes to humanity, our rationality appears to be hopelessly bounded. In such cases, cost-benefit analysis on overall eudaimonic welfare is, if ever, rarely correct because we fail to identify major benefits of being humane.

So, it’s no wonder that many people ask religions for guidance. I too, despite an atheist, follow some wisdom. This is another ‘rational’ second-best choice in life. It may not be strictly the best, yet will likely bring about better outcome than any other painstakingly conceived strategies.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
—Mother Teresa

May 31, 2013

Assimilation of Loneliness

As is the case with most people, I don’t like loneliness. So, it often becomes tempting to wipe it out, and actually I attempt it now and then. With my meager social network, however, I fail, miserably fail all the time and become more vulnerable. Okay, this time, I’d like to not only pick myself up but also take a little step forward. Hence, here I am leaving a note.

Although I’ve known for a while that eliminating or even masking loneliness hasn’t been my option and never worked, it can get irresistibly tempting when suddenly facing the situation. After the promised surrender, I try to remember what Sherry Turkle tells about it.

Then, to bring back my own approach together, I recall how I am with the help of Susan Cain.

Here I go. Take a deep breath, absorb the loneliness swirling around me, cuddle myself and come back to be effectually alone. At the end of the day, this is my second-best solution because this is how I well function and feel really grateful to others — far better than the miserable failure of the attempt at eliminating it.

May 26, 2013

Individuality and Political Systems

There’s another fruit of the interactions with those girls from China. They are flesh and blood. This obvious fact, however, gets me thinking – What do political & economic systems really have to do with individuality?

As illustrated in 1984, even under the extreme circumstances, human beings are probably resilient enough to develop their own uniqueness. Yes, we do more or less. The problem is that there’s something holding back the process, naysaying the celebration.

Although history has, by and large, proven Karl Marx’s theory is implausible, still his central thesis in itself makes sense to me – capitalism causes alienation. I’d be happy to deduce something meaningful from the comparison of those from China or Japan, were there enough data in hand. The best I can do is, though, to allege a case and dream up the future along a wishful thinking. Let me do that.

Based on statistically very insignificant data, there observed are some vibrant & unique Chinese girls and inward-looking & faceless Japanese girls. If there were something wrong with the current form of capitalism, it would be due to the dysfunctional top-down haughty and disdainful government. I’m not saying China’s approach is more humble or respectful of citizens, because I don’t know. But, I’m saying capitalism has left behind humanity, care, and dignity in exchange for economic growth. What on earth have we learned since ‘small is beautiful’ came along 40 years ago? Over last 40 years, seriously? And, without due care and attention, China might follow suit and lose those vibrant girls. That’s too bad.

In order to avoid the capitalist alienation and foster the individuality, to begin with, why not boldly put Karl Marx and Milton Friedman together and propose that policymakers should admit their limited abilities and be satisfied if they do no harm.

Well, I know I know too little about the issue and must keep on studying. For the moment, I wish to become an expert in economics that sees people matter, like E.F. Schumacher.

May 24, 2013

Vibrant Girls from China

source: The Australian

The university has many students from mainland China. I too have chances to talk to some of them, particularly girls. While 20ish-year-old girls, obviously, have millions of things to do besides studying, I've found one thing in common among them: challenging fate.

I don’t know much about how they were raised in what circumstances. They express to me some sort of ‘coming-back-home’ pressure from parents. I can imagine not many parents just send abroad their precious girls — only girl for each under the policy — and let them live whatever life they prefer. Some declare war of pursuing academic success at foreign universities. Others say girls just want to have fun with boyfriends made here.

I for one grew up with virtually no restriction on life. This has indeed profound impacts on how I am now. So, although I’m not a right person to really understand their pressure, it’s only natural to encourage and give a hand to such sweet girls. What do I do? Helping with economics assignments, of course! With those girls, the future seems bright for China.

May 23, 2013

Economist's Voice in the Air

source: The Guardian
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
—John Maynard Keynes
I too as a madman, who hear voices in the air and distill a frenzy from academic scribblers, believe economics is a right tool for me to make a little contribution to the better world!

Mar 19, 2013

A Little Untidy Science

Because macroeconomics is closely related to the economic problem of the day, it does not yield its greatest rewards to those whose primary interest is abstract. Macrotheory is a little untidy at the edges. But then the world is a little untidy around the edges.
—Rudiger Dornbusch, Stanley Fischer & Richard Startz

Oh, I like this! It perfectly explains my impression on the subject. What textbooks say make sense, and I think I got it on the surface. Still, I can’t help feeling something missing; haven’t yet captured something profound, impressive, and perhaps elegant. I know it must be so given the fact that it’s always the topic at every corner of the society. This piece of wisdom has given me a new perspective for fully appreciating Macroeconomics.