Broader Perspectives 2014 03 Compre Answers

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COMPREHENSION 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

COMPREHENSION

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The Hollow Republic

Comprehension Answers available at www.broaderperspectives.com.sg & www.twitter.com/ThinkTankMags

QUESTIONS ATTACHED

THE SPACE

BETWEEN THE

INDIVIDUAL AND

THE STATE

Yuval Levin

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COMPREHENSION 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

President Obama must surely wish he could undo the campaign speech he delivered in Roanoke, on 13 July 2012. That was where he offered up the view that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” It is a line that could haunt him right to November, revealing as it does an unwillingness to credit individual success and a sense of hostility toward the culture of entrepreneurship. But the remark came in the context of a broader argument that was just as telling on a different point, and no less troubling. After laying out his plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the president said this to his audience: “You know, the Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.” This remarkable window into the president’s thinking shows us not only a man chilly toward the potential of individual initiative, but also a man with a staggeringly thin idea of common action in American life. The president simply equates doing things together with doing things through government. He sees the citizen and the state, and nothing in between — and thus could be said to see every political question as a choice between radical individualism and a federal program. But most of life is lived somewhere between those two extremes, and American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions that occupy the middle ground — the family, civil society, and the private economy — to thrive in relative freedom. What is disconcerting — and a grave concern — is how Obama’s attitude toward that middle ground is increasingly characteristic of many modern day governments across the world.

Again and again, we have witnessed many governments that have sought to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. Their approach to the private economy has involved pursuing consolidation in key industries — privileging a few major players that are to be treated essentially as public utilities, while locking out competition from smaller or newer firms. This both ensures the cooperation of the large players and makes the economy more manageable and orderly. And it leaves no one pursuing ends that are not the government’s ends. This has been the essence of the governments’ policies toward automakers, health insurers, banks, hospitals, and many others.

It is an attitude that takes the wealth-creation capacity of our economy for granted, treats the chaotic churning and endless combat of competing firms (which in fact is the source of that

capacity) as a dangerous distraction from essential public goals, and considers the business world to be a parasite — benefiting from the infrastructure and resources provided by the “genuine” common action of the state. Of course, the state’s benevolence is made possible precisely by the nation’s wealthiest citizens, but it increasingly seems to be that governments are adopting the view that this is simply an appropriate degree of “giving something back.” The positions of political

Privacy Matters

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Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’ by Daniel J. Solove, for the purposes of the ‘A’ level General Paper

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COMPREHENSION

leaders and actions by their administrations imply the view that government is the only genuine tribune of public desires, and therefore seeks justification in harnessing the private economy to the purposes and goals of those in power.

This intolerance of nonconformity is even more powerfully evident in the shifts in governmental administration attitudes toward the institutions of civil society, especially religious institutions involved in the crucial work of helping the needy and vulnerable. The aim increasingly appears to be to turn the institutions of civil society into active agents of the government’s ends, even in violation of their fundamental religious convictions. In a number of instances, but most notably in the controversy surrounding the American Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requiring religious employers to provide free abortive and contraceptive drugs to their employees under Obamacare, the appalling contempt for the basic right of religious institutions to pursue their ends in accordance with their convictions is undeniable. The HHS rule did not assert that people should have the freedom to use contraceptive or abortive drugs — which of course they do have in our country. It did not even say that the government facilitates people’s access to these drugs — which it does today and has done for decades. Rather, the rule required that the Catholic Church and other religious entities should facilitate people’s access to contraceptive and abortive drugs in flagrant disregard of their responsibility to remind and reinforce to the public that life is sacred and belongs to God.

Such rules implicitly assert that our governments will not tolerate institutions that are unwilling to actively ratify the views of those in power — that there will be no acceptance of differing views and attempts to find other ways to put those views into effect (even though many other ways exist), but will instead compel it to participate in the enactment of the ends chosen by elected officials. This is an extraordinarily radical assertion of government power, and a failure of even basic toleration. It is, again, an attempt to turn private mediating institutions into public utilities contracted to execute government ends. This shocking dynamic goes to the extent of recasting the basic

definition and purpose of other institutions in defence of its own unwillingness to compromise. The final HHS rule defined a religious employer exceedingly narrowly, as an institution that primarily serves and employs people of its own faith and has as its basic purpose the inculcation of the beliefs of that faith. This leaves no room for most religiously based institutions of civil society — no room for hospitals, for schools and universities, for soup kitchens and homeless shelters, for adoption agencies and legal-aid clinics. In other words, religious institutions may preach to the choir, but otherwise they may not play any role in society. Do we really want it to be that when other organisations disagree with those in power, that they must be cleared out of the space between the individual and the state?

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Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’ by Daniel J. Solove, for the purposes of the ‘A’ level General Paper

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COMPREHENSION

This difference of opinion about mediating institutions is no trifling matter. It gets at a profound and fundamental difference between the Left and the Right. The Left tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it enables the application of technical knowledge that can make our lives better, and that this knowledge can overcome our biggest problems. This is the technocratic promise of progressivism. The Right tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it has evolved to channel deep social knowledge through free institutions — knowledge that often cannot be articulated in technical terms but is the most important knowledge we have. For the Left, therefore, the mediating institutions (and at times even our constitutional forms) are obstacles to the application of liberal knowledge. For the Right, the mediating institutions (and our constitutional forms) are the embodiment of liberal knowledge.

This attitude toward mediating institutions is by no means novel or unique. It has been essential to the progressive cause for more than a century, and indeed has been an element of more radical strands of liberalism for far longer than that. As far back as 1791, Thomas Paine, in defending the French revolutionaries, complained of the distance that traditional institutions established between the citizen and the regime, which he described as an “artificial chasm [that] is filled up with a succession of barriers through which [the citizen] has to pass.” Conservative voices have defended these mediating layers precisely for creating such barriers, which can guard the citizen from direct exposure to the searing power of the state. Alexis de Tocqueville celebrated America’s bewildering array of associations, institutions, and corporations of civil society for their ability to offer individual citizens some protection from the domineering sway of political majorities.

Thus, Obama’s exceptionally revealing description of America in his Roanoke remarks points to a key dividing line in our politics, and to a central issue of contention for all interest groups. And so, if we want to create communities where we are truly free, then surely we must continue to speak out against the juggernaut that threatens to trample our cherished institutions underfoot.

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Adapted from The Hollow Republic by Yuval Levin for the purposes of the ‘A’ level General Paper 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

Comprehension Questions

1 Explain what the author means by the expression “could haunt him” (line 3)? [1]

2 What does this “different point” refer to (line 6)? [1]

3 In what way does the author consider the President’s thinking to be “chilly” toward the potential of individual initiative (lines 11)? [2]

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

4 According to the author, why has there been “unprecedented human flourishing” in American life (line 16-17)? Use your own words as far as possible [2]

5 What do the words in the parenthesis (lines 30-31) reveal to us about the author’s attitude, and the reasons for his attitude, towards the endless combating of competing firms? [2]

6 Why is the word “genuine” in inverted commas in line 36? [1] 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

7 What do rules such as the HHS rule (paragraph 4) “implicitly assert” (line 54)? Use your own words as far as possible. [3]

8 Explain the meaning of the phrase “radical assertion of government power”? (line 58) [1]

9 Why is this difference of opinion no “trifling matter” (line 70)? [1] 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

10 What does the quote in lines 84-85 suggest about Thomas Paine’s view of institutions? [2] Use your own words as far as possible.

11 What does this “juggernaut” refer to (line 93)? [1]

12 Summarise how and why governments seek to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. [8]

Using material from paragraphs 2-4, write your summary in no more than 120 words, not counting the opening words which are given below. Use your own words as far as possible.

Seeking to hollow out the space between the individual and the state, governments have…

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13 Yuval has considered the shortfalls of giving priority and credit to group contribution when it comes to success, and how this undermines individual efforts. How is contribution viewed or acknowledged in your society? [10]

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

Comprehension Answers

1 Explain what the author means by the expression “could haunt him” (line 3)? [1]

The author means that President Obama might regret (1/2) what he had said for his detractors could possibly continue to highlight his message and use it against him and his election campaign (1/2). 2 What does this “different point” refer to (line 6)? [1]

It refers to how the author was troubled most by the President’s amazingly shallow notion (1/2) of common action in American life because the latter merely equated doing things together with doing things through government (1/2).

3 In what way does the author consider the President’s thinking to be “chilly” toward the potential of individual initiative (lines 11)? [2]

The author highlights how the President downplayed/dismissed (1/2) the possible gains of an

individual’s resourcefulness (1/2) when a businessman/an individual succeeded and instead attributed (1/2) the success to the collective efforts of society and government (1/2).

4 According to the author, why has there been “unprecedented human flourishing” in American life (line 16-17)? Use your own words as far as possible [2]

Line Lifted Paraphrased

16-18 American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions (1/2) that occupy the middle ground (1/2)— the family, civil society, and the private economy — to thrive (1/2) in relative freedom (1/2).

There has been a human prospering that has never been witnessed before because America has allowed the entities/ organisations (1/2) that stand between the individual and the government (1/2)

such as the family, civil society, and the private economy, to have a fair amount of liberty (1/2) to flourish (1/2).

5 What do the words in the parenthesis (lines 30-31) reveal to us about the author’s attitude, and the reasons for his attitude, towards the endless combating of competing firms? [2]

They reveal to us that the author, in contrast with the view of many governments (1/2), holds a positive view (1/2) towards the endless combating of competing firms because he believes that it is precisely in this kind of never-ending competition that the American economy finds its ability to create wealth (1). 6 Why is the word “genuine” in inverted commas in line 36? [1]

The author is trying to confer a sarcastic tone (1/2) and to cast doubt on the actual contribution/ involvement by the state (1/2).

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

7 What do rules such as the HHS rule (paragraph 4) “implicitly assert” (line 54)? Use your own words as far as possible. [3]

Line Lifted Paraphrased

54-57 Such rules implicitly assert that our

governments will not tolerate institutions (1/2) that are unwilling to actively (1/2) ratify the views of those in power (1/2) — that there will be no acceptance of differing views and attempts to find other ways (1/2) to put those views into effect (even though many other ways exist), but will instead compel it (1/2) to participate in the enactment of the ends chosen by elected officials (1/2).

Such rules implicitly claim that our

governments will not permit the existence of organisations (1/2) that are reluctant to take the initiative (1/2) to formally approve the opinions of those who are governing (1/2)—that they will not embrace different perspectives and endeavours to find other avenues (1/2) to implement their views but instead force (1/2) the organisations to be involved in carrying out the goals selected by the governments (1/2).

8 Explain the meaning of the phrase “radical assertion of government power”? (line 58) [1] It means an extreme enforcement (1/2) of force by the elected authorities (1/2).

9 Why is this difference of opinion no “trifling matter” (line 70)? [1]

It is no trivial matter as the views are in direct (1/2) and irreconcilable (1/2) opposition with each other. 10 What does the quote in lines 84-85 suggest about Thomas Paine’s view of institutions? [2] Use

your own words as far as possible.

Line Lifted Paraphrased

84-85 “artificial (1/2) chasm (1/2) [that] is filled up with a succession of barriers (1/2) through which [the citizen] has to pass.”

It suggests that he views institutions as unnecessary/a nuisance (1/2) [inferred] as they a manmade gulf (1/2) that is replete with a series of obstacles (1/2) through

which the governed person in the country

has to overcome (1/2).

11 What does this “juggernaut” refer to (line 93)? [1]

It refers to the huge and powerful force (1/2) called the state/government (1/2).

12 Summarise how and why governments seek to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. [8]

Using material from paragraphs 2-4, write your summary in no more than 120 words, not counting the opening words which are given below. Use your own words as far as possible.

Seeking to hollow out the space between the individual and the state, governments have…

Lifted Paraphrased

From para 2:

Their approach to the private economy has involved pursuing consolidation in key industries

From para 2:

sought to gather together in main sectors

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

privileging a few major players that are to be the big firms by favouring them

treated essentially as public utilities, as necessary infrastructure

while locking out competition from smaller or

newer firms. and preventing smaller ones from competing,

…ensures the cooperation of the large players and makes the economy more (a) manageable and (b) orderly.

making it easier to (a) control and (b) organise the economy

And it leaves no one pursuing ends that

are not the government’s ends. as everyone will then seek the country’s goals.

Para 3:

takes the wealth-creation capacity of our economy for granted, treats the chaotic churning and endless combat of competing firms

Para 3:

They regard competition among firms as

(which in fact is the source of that capacity)

as a dangerous distraction from essential public goals, and

diluting focus on necessary national objectives

considers the business world to a parasite — benefiting from the infrastructure and resources provided by the “genuine” common action of the state.

and hence views the industries as benefitting freely from society.

The positions of political leaders and actions by their administrations imply the view that government is the only genuine tribune of public desires, imply that he views the government as the only genuine tribune of public desires,

They see the state as the true champion of public wishes

and therefore seeks justification in harnessing the private economy to the purposes and goals of those in power.

and aim to utilize the business world for governmental objectives.

Para 4:

This intolerance of nonconformity is

even more powerfully evident in the shifts in the governmental administration attitudes toward the institutions of civil society,

especially religious institutions involved in the crucial work of helping the needy and vulnerable.

Para 4:

They required also institutions of civil society to conform

The aim increasingly appears to be to turn the institutions of civil society into active agents of the government’s ends,

by forcing the latter to further governmental goals

even in violation of their fundamental

religious convictions. even in infringement of their spiritual beliefs, …appalling contempt demonstrating their disdain

for the basic right of religious institutions

to pursue their ends in accordance with their convictions is undeniable.

for the fundamental entitlements of spiritual organisations.

(114 Words) Award full marks for 14-16 key phrases.

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THE HOLLOW REPUBLIC

13 Yuval has considered the shortfalls of giving priority and credit to group contribution when it comes to success, and how this undermines individual efforts. How is contribution viewed or acknowledged in your society? [10]

This passage is about the author’s views on how governments (such as Obama’s administration) that do not respect the roles of institutions of civil society and the role individual efforts play in the economy are posing a threat to the promotion of individual initiative and an entrepreneurial culture. It also relays the author’s concern about the increasing monolithic reach of the state and sounds the clarion call for us to preserve the “middle ground” that institutions of civil society occupies, for they are instrumental in protecting the individual from overwhelming governmental interference and power.

Key arguments/threads of thoughts that students can consider are:

a) Yuval lambasts a dismissive attitude towards the potential of individual initiative as it reveals an unwillingness to credit success and a sense of hostility towards the culture of entrepreneurship. How does Singapore fare in this area? Do we downplay the effort of the individual in favour of focusing on how individual success is only possible because of community contribution?

b) Yuval also frowns upon the attitude of viewing endless competition as a negative thing, as a distraction from concerted governmental action. He does not agree with the view that individual firms should give up their respective pursuits for the sake of group goals such as that of the government. What is the Singaporean society’s views on such matters?

c) Is there anything unique or different about the Singapore context, e.g. culture, size, trust in political leaders, etc, that makes it easier for individuals to sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of collective public interests?

d) Candidates can also consider how a greater focus on group contribution can lead to a long-term erosion of the rights and value of the individual unit, and even a near totalitarian power of the state. e) They can also discuss instances of public recognition of successful entrepreneurs in the country on

the part of the state in order to foster a stronger enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. 2014 BROADER PERSPECTIVES The Institutions Issue

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