(’03)‘A good leader must always look beyond the needs of his or her own country.’ Do you agree?

Related: Discuss the extent to which global and national interests can be balanced. (’01)

Discuss the clam that in the modern world people should care more about international than national issues. (’13)

How far is it important for people to be aware of current events in countries other than their own? (’14)


(Introduction) We are in the era of globalization. The world is increasingly connected. The actions of one country will affect many other countries; hence countries should start looking out for one another. However, should this be done at the expense of a country’s own interests? The answer to that cannot be easily crafted.  Although international needs are important due to their wide-ranging effects, national needs should not be compromised as it is the duty of the government to do so. Furthermore, national issues are also of importance, in their own right. 

(Refute 1) Some may argue that we should/must always care more about international issues. Good governments should look beyond the needs of their own countries. This is because, due to globalization, countries have become increasingly connected to each other. Each country’s actions will affect another. If a country is not doing well, other countries will also get affected. Hence, governments have to be aware and care about global interests, to make sure that their own country does not fall into ruin. For instance, Economies of individual countries now can only function well if the global economy is doing well, due to the existence, and interdependence of trade between countries. A recession in one country/area likely leads to worldwide recession, as proven in the 2008 financial crisis. Countries that only try to protect its own economic national interests by setting up protectionist measures to protect their own industries lose out in the long run, as they deprive themselves of the chance of getting the benefits of growth in the world economy. Hence, good governments should look internationally.

(Refute 2) Some also maintain that we should care more about international issues, as these issues will likely affect us significantly and permanently, much more than national issues. In this aspect, Good governments should also always look beyond the needs of their own countries.  For instance, global problems such as climate change and global warming would drastically change the world forever, if left unattended. Their effects go beyond damaging the environment. Rising temperatures and unpredictable weather would severely affect agricultural systems and cause crop failures, livestock shortages worldwide. This loss of food security may in turn lead to many more repressions in the international food markets, underdeveloped countries worldwide. Such global issues may not seem to be an immediate problem, as their effects are felt gradually, but these effects often cannot be undone. Can we take back the carbon we emitted? Can we reverse the temperature rise? No. National issues, which are often immediate and short-term, pale in comparison. Hence, we need to focus on global issues, slow down its effects, to ensure sustainability, before the worst happens. Hence, good governments should look internationally.

(Supporting 1) However, I feel, national issues are also important. This is because, many times, they are the ones who cause international issues to happen. Every crisis starts small. If every country makes an effort to tackle their national needs in the first place, there would be less international problems. Hence, good leaders need not always look beyond national interests. They are those who ensure their national needs are met first, before trying to help the world. For example, Euro zone’s PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain—are burdened with increasingly unsustainable levels of public and private debt. Greece, especially, borrowed beyond its means and exacerbated the problem with lots of overspending, little economic production to make up the difference, and lying about its circumstances to prevent Euro zone authorities from realizing the true extent of the situation. As seen, the Greek government clearly overlooked the country’s national needs, and this set the tone for the Euro zone debt crisis. If each of the PIIGS had cared or done something about their national crisis sooner, the situation may not have affected the rest of the members in the Euro zone. Similarly for the issue on climate change, according to a 2014 research done at Concordia University, more than 60% of the anthropogenic global warming that occurred before 2005 was generated by just seven countries. They are the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom. The US is the uncontested leader in contributing to global warming, as the researchers calculated that the US alone is responsible for a global temperature increase of 0.15C, a change that amounts to 20% of observable global warming. Out of these countries, many have now tackled their national energy usage problem, most notably Germany, whose transition from coal- and oil-fired power to carbon-free electricity hit a new milestone when solar, wind, and other sources of renewable energy met 78% of the day’s energy demand. If US, China had also followed in Germany’s footsteps quickly and focused more on their national need of using cleaner energy, problem of global warming may not have become so severe now. Hence, national issues are also of equal, or even greater, importance compared to international needs, and should be addressed first. 

(Supporting 2) Leaders should also focus on national issues. This is because, the main duty of a government is to take care of its country’s needs; not to poke its nose into other countries’, or the world’s issues. This is especially true for countries that are a democracy. Since the government is only there because the citizens elected them in, they are expected to set the needs of their citizens their top priority. Such a government is supposed to be of their people, by their people, and for their people. By meddling in the world’s affairs, leaders may instead neglect their own country and citizens, and that, in the citizens’ eyes’, is not a good government. For example, USA’s military spending has always been high, due to them intervening or leading in many external wars, such as the War on Terror and the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, and most recently in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) crisis. The military budget for 2015 is 495.6 billion. This costs each taxpayer in the States more than $1500 dollars. If each person’s $1500 dollars went into providing free or cheaper healthcare or education for families who need it instead, the lives of many US citizens would be better. Hence, in this case, when countries intervene so excessively in international needs that there may be a potential backlash on its own citizens, it may be a time to reconsider priorities and strike a better balance between national and international interests by ensuring national needs are addressed first.

(Supporting 3) Lastly, for certain countries, good leaders are not those that look to international issues, but rather, those that focus on the immediate problems facing the nation and its people, and implements solutions quickly and efficiently so that the situation does not worsen. This is usually the case for countries where their own national needs are already severely lacking, specifically, the under-developed or developing countries. How can their governments think about helping other countries or about saving the world if their own people are dying from hunger in their backyards? For example, Zimbabwe, a South African nation, is one of the poorest in the world, and also has one of the lowest life expectancies. It also has one of the highest HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rates, and AIDS claims 1,300,000 lives annually. In Liberia, another African nation, each person, on average, lives on $226 a year. The string of civil wars in the country stopped a decade ago. However, the economic situation of the state and its infrastructure are still in a poor condition. Most of the people do not have money even for the basic things of prime necessity. Therefore, in these countries, it is pertinent, as the government, to address national needs first. 




(’07) ‘The view of the majority is always right.’ Do you agree?

(my personal favorite~)


(Introduction) Majority Rule― that is likely the ‘righteousness’/’justice’ that the world goes by nowadays. But how do we even determine what is righteousness? Essentially, by using the number of people as the yardstick to determine what is ‘right’, we degrade the meaning of righteousness. Righteousness is not something that can be mass produced, nor something that is established by the number of people. Even if something is a mistake, even if cruel, even if stupid, if many people acknowledge it, it becomes the truth; this logic is sadly, still relevant, until today. But it is wrong. A right idea, belief or action still stands correct no matter whether one person or the whole world believes in it. We now establish the idea of ‘Majority Rule’ to determine what is right not because it is necessarily justified, sound, or ‘right’, but because it is convenient. And thus, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right.

(Refute 1) Some may say that the view of the majority is always right, because they believe in the morality of every human being. By believing that each individual has a set of sound morals, is logical and clear-headed, and will naturally make the right decision, cumulatively, majority view should always be correct. And in many cases, this is true. Things that the majority decide upon are often good and useful. For instance, Most people wash their hands after using the bathroom, even though they do not understand fully how germs can cause disease. Majority admits that there is a need to do something about global issues such as climate change, poverty, income inequality, water and food shortage, and more. Furthermore, normally, a person will take the view that benefits him/her. Hence, even if a view may not seem correct at first, if many people take it up, it means that the view accrues benefits/happiness most people, and should be the right view, as anything beneficial/that makes people happy is commonly perceived as good and righteous. This follows the utilitarian view, where the ultimate ‘good’/’goal’ of the system known as society is to bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people. Hence, majority view is always right.

(Supporting 1) But, I beg to differ. Firstly, the above argument assumes that each person will always be morally sound. But, in reality, the majority’s moral compass may be skewed, due to certain environmental factors or external influences. For instance, in the past, majority of American whites discriminated against the blacks, with the belief that they were in the right, when, in fact, they were violating the basic principal of human equality, and were morally wrong. This distorted morality that whites held was largely influenced by the fact that historically, the blacks were slaves who worked for white masters, brought in from Africa by European traders, and hence were beneath the whites and deserved to be treated badly. In Harper Lee’s book, ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, where Majority Rule of a white jury convicted an innocent black man of rape, this idea was illustrated brilliantly. In another example, majority of Indians discriminated against the Dalits (untouchables), due to the deep-rooted caste system in their society. Even though the Dalits were also human like the rest of Indian society, they were not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls. Such treatment of fellow human beings definitely feels morally wrong/repugnant to any bystander/observer, but majority of Indians apparently thought nothing was wrong; they had the mindset that that was how the Dalits deserved to be treated. What makes up a person’s value system is then significantly influenced by the environment and culture he/she is living in; if the culture of a society is distorted, the normal person will also not have the correct mindset. Therefore, we cannot look at each person individually and naturally assume that he/she eternally has sound values and will always make the right decision; at any given moment, based on the situation in society, a person’s values may change. In this light, in present America, discrimination against blacks have largely (overtly) diminished, precisely because of society’s change; majority’s moral compass changed accordingly. Hence, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right; Only when society gets it correct, will the majority be right.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, when a person takes the view that benefits him/her, it is out of (short-sighted) self-interest, and does not necessarily mean that the view is right. This is especially true when people are dealing with unpleasant situations that seem to put themselves at a disadvantage; in these circumstances, they first think about themselves, and their short-term interests, without considering what will happen in the long run/other (minority) groups. This short-sightedness and urgency to resolve the unpleasant situation immediately for themselves causes majority to take up the ‘wrong’ view, whether morally or not. For example, Influx of foreign workers into Singapore in the recent years have caused many Singaporeans to view it as a bad thing, with people citing growing strain on their jobs, housing, transport and infrastructure, and dilution of the Singaporean national identity as major concerns. However, in the rush for self-interest, many neglect that this influx is ultimately a good thing for Singapore in the long run. With an ageing population and shrinking workforce, foreign workers are needed to boost the economy. If they are barred from entering, there may come to a point where Singapore lacks labour, and will have to decrease production and raise prices for its goods/services, which is extremely undesirable for an export-orientated economy. Even if some Singaporeans recognize/realize this, they are still likely to choose self-interests over what is right; this is the phenomenon known as ‘groupthink’ in psychology, where the minority in the group concedes to majority’s view. In fact, ‘Groupthink’ tends to be most prevalent in conditions where there is a high degree of cohesiveness, there are similar interests involved, and situational factors that contribute to deferring to the group (such as external threats, moral problems, difficult decisions) are present. In this case, Singapore’s example can be considered to be significantly influenced by this phenomenon, as the situation fulfils all the conditions stated. Psychologists reason that groupthink could likely result in poor decision-making and inefficient problem-solving (also true/evident in Singapore’s case); this, coupled with people’s self-interests that cause them to neglect other possibilities, causes the majority to take up the wrong view at times. Hence, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right.

(Supporting 3) Lastly, view of the majority is not always right, because human nature causes us to largely seek the easy/convenient way out, instead of the ‘right’ way. In fact, in many cases, the ‘majority’ becomes the ‘majority’ not because that many people really happened to have the same view on the subject/issue/topic of interest, but because people just follow what other people do (social pressure), without any real thought/view on their own. Most of us are conformists, even if we do not realise it. Such exemplifies the attitude of humans to seek easiness; what is easier than not thinking? In Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiment, now regarded as a classic experiment in social psychology, Asch investigated the extent to which precisely social pressure could affect a person to conform. 50 male students from Swarthmore College in the USA participated in a ‘vision test’. Using a line judgment task, Asch put a naive participant in a room with seven confederates. The confederates had agreed in advance what their responses would be when presented with the line task.  The real participant did not know this and was led to believe that the other seven participants were also real participants like themselves. Each person in the room had to state aloud which comparison line (A, B or C) was most like the target line. The answer was always obvious. There were 18 trials in total and the confederates gave the wrong answer on 12 trials. Over these 12 trials about 75% of participants conformed at least once. As shown, even for a simple task/answer/view, people tended to just follow what others do, without believing in their own thoughts/views (if they had one in the first place). When met with issues/problems that are troublesome, all the more likely that we would follow other’s view(s). This may lead to majority choosing to ignore these issues, or striving to reach a shortcut. We are reluctant to admit the difficult view, or the view that requires a lot of thought to achieve, and this causes us to make the wrong opinion many times. For example, the 29th American president, Warren Harding, was elected simply because he looked like how a president ought to look like. The convention delegates and similarly the voters thought Harding, who “radiated common sense and dignity”, was the perfect candidate. However, in reality, he was generally limited in his capacities, and did not contribute anything substantial to the presidency. Historians agreed that he was “one of the worst presidents in American history”. As shown, the majority, in their tendency to take the easy way out when they need to assert their view on something, avoid thinking too deeply into the issue, and this results in them not taking the right view. Hence, I disagree that majority view is always right.