Tag Archives: Singapore

What Will Major Cities Look Like in 25 Years?

Have you ever visited your hometown only to find that there’s been so much change since you’ve left? I certainly have and it’s amazing to see how different things have become since I’ve moved away. Well, if your hometown happens to be a major city, then the pictures in this slideshow might be quite interesting.

The slideshow demonstrates the changes to some of the world’s biggest cities. It’s simply amazing to see the change in what amounts to a rather short time. For instance, the second one from the slideshow included below), showing the difference between Dubai in the span of 13 years… wow. Of course, this is a bit of an anomaly based on the kind of money that’s been invested in Dubai, but it’s still remarkable to see just how much it’s changed.

Dubai – 1990 to 2003

There are plenty more that are just as amazing as Dubai. There’s Atlanta in the span of about 50 years:

Some of the other images, like the ones of Shanghai, Singapore, and Fortaleza (Brazil), make it appears as if you’re looking at a picture of two different places (and in effect you are, because of the time component). If not for the water landmarks, you might think you were being deceived.

My point in discussing these images is look at where we are today. It’s 2014. Think about some of the major places you’ve come to know and love. There are buildings that we look at and think, “Wow… that building’s so tall… we’ll never have taller buildings, will we?” What do you think folks thought 50 years ago?

That’s not to say that taller buildings is where we’re headed. There’s always the possibility that they’ll be advances in magnetization or some other form of technology and we will finally get those flying cars that we’ve been predicting for so long. I have a sneaky suspicion that when the time comes to pass that we do finally have the “next” bit of where we’re going, that it won’t be what many of us are expecting. I doubt that many people in 1950 would have thought that this is what infrastructure would look like 60 years into the future. Similarly, I’ve learned that we, as a species, are rather horrible at predicting the future, so I don’t know that what we’ve predicted has even an infinitesimal chance of coming to pass. Either way, I encourage you to think about it and reflect on how things different could (will?) be.

Is It Time to Pay Politicians More?

A few months ago, I saw this very argument made in Slate. At first, I’m sure you’re doing a double-take? Why would we pay them more? They are hardly doing the job that we elected them to do in the first place. Why would we reward failure, stagnation, and an inability to get stuff done? That’s absurd!

All natural reactions, yes, but when you take a second to think about it, the idea isn’t that bat-crap crazy. For instance, consider the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Josh Barro over at Business Insider makes the case that the Governor is underpaid. Why? Well, look to the incentives! The Governor of Virginia has a salary of $175,000, which is in the 90th percentile for Governors in the USA. That’s certainly a lot of money — almost triple the median income in Virginia. So, again, you may be thinking, why would we pay them more?

Well, consider the kinds of people that the Governor interacts with on a daily basis. Plutocrats. Governor McDonnell, on a daily basis, interacts with people who have income/wealth that far exceed the Governor’s “measly” $175,000 salary. You may be thinking, why is this a problem if the Governor got into politics for purely altruistic reasons?

Even if the Governor did do such a thing, research tells us that unethical behavior has to do with the kind of person you are and more to do with the situations you find yourself in. For instance, you may be the most ethical person in the world, but if you happen to find yourself in a bind financially and a whole host of other variables are weighing on you, there’s probably a situation that you may find yourself in where overlooking a conflict of interest may seem like an okay thing to do.

That’s the argument for increasing the salaries of politicians — to remove the incentive to be unethical. Of course, there’s still likely to be unethical behavior conducted regardless of what the salaries are raised to, but it may eliminate some of it. How much, I don’t know. What would be a fair salary?

The article in Slate discussed Sinagpore, which is known for being one of the most efficient governments in the world. He explained that in Singapore, the Prime Minister earns more than four times the salary of President Barack Obama and the President gets $400,000 a year! Government Ministers (akin to cabinet Secretaries), earn over $1 million a year. The highest paid cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Treasury) gets approximately $190,000. So, government Ministers earn more than 5 times as much as their American counterparts.

I’m not advocating this particular raise, but I think it’s a conversation worth having.

I suppose the other option would be to remove the influential plutocrats from the equation. Although, I don’t know that with the American political system arranged in the way that it is, if that’d be constitutional. Larry Lessig, someone who’s been working tirelessly on the option of getting money out of politics was asked what a question about salaries for Congress. I’ll leave you with the question and his answer:

Question: You advocate in your book that congressmen should be paid much more than what they are right now (about $175,000/year). How much do you think they should be paid to make them lose the incentive to become a lobbyist? Does 250-300k sound better?

Lessig: Oh please don’t out me on this. Ok, but DON’T TELL ANYONE I SAID THIS: They are lawmakers. Why aren’t they paid as much as a first year partner at a DC firm? In Singapore, gov’t ministers get paid $1 million a year. Where is corruption in Singapore. NO-where.