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Asean Affairs   1 January 2014



The beginning of a new year can be a time of reflection. What will the new year be like? What should it be like? Will it be a better year than last year?

Doubts can crowd in on us as the old year reaches an end. We have had a devastating war in Syria where over 130,000 have been killed and over 4 million displaced because one man seeks to retain his grip on dictatorial power. Once again, over 5 million children have died of starvation this year who did not have to die. The inequality divide grew larger in 2013, not less. A billion of our fellow human beings lived in extreme poverty while a few basked in luxury. Billions were spent on the weapons of war while billions went hungry.

Is everything bleak? No.  But the magnitude of the problems tower over us so much that  we may wonder if there is any solution. Is there any solution? The answer is an unequivocal yes.  If we live according to that great gift that we have been given – reason – there is a solution. What does reason tell us?

First, that each human being should have adequate food, clothing, housing, health care and education. This flows from the fact that each human being is precious. Thus, the most important task of any economy is to do what is necessary to achieve that goal.

Second, all economic activity to achieve the above goal must be undertaken in conformity with the nature of our planet. Our technology must be planet-friendly. For example, producing energy by fossil fuels which threaten our global environment is clearly not planet-friendly. Furthermore, any economic activity above what is necessary to achieve the above 5 goals,  must not damage the planet.

Third, there should be as much individual liberty as is consistent with our joint life in society.

Fourth, all should be able to equally participate in the running of the society in which they live. Electoral campaigns should be publicly funded, and private funding not allowed.
Fifth, as we now live in a global world, effective measures have to be implemented to enable global governance.

While the implementation of the above is not easy, it is possible. If we want war, cruelty, poverty, inhumanity to disappear, we must abide by at least the above 5 principles.  Happy New Year!

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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