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General Paper Essay Outline : Affluence is a blessing, not a curse. Do you agree ?

Interpretations :
Affluence = abundant wealth, including money and material possessions/assets
Blessing = benefit                      Curse = detriment, harm
To whom ? = to those with, and those without, the affluence (individuals, families, societies/countries, businesses)

 

Thesis Statement :
Affluence is a blessing, but it can become a curse if it is used as a tool that benefits only select groups, at the expense of others.

 

Body Paragraphs :

1. Affluence helps individuals and families get more of the things they need and want
a. List : food, education, housing, medical care, private transport
i. Case of education in UK : According to BBC, 57% of parents polled would want to remove their children from
the state school system if they could afford it, citing quality of education, discipline and class size as their
main concerns
b. luxuries, enjoyment : e.g. S’pore residents made 4.4 million trips abroad in 2001 (up from 1.6 million in 1991)

2. Affluent societies have a headstart in development
a. rich nations have more investments in infrastructure, technology, research & development, high value products
e.g. S’pore : among the most connected cities in the world – aims to be medical and banking hub in Asia

3. Being affluent means having the capital to increase wealth even further
a. investments in property and businesses
i. expanding and diversifying business
e.g. Facebook (from start-up to global company); Sg billionaire Peter Lim (wide range of investments
from Wilmar International’s oil palm to Thomson Medical Centre to FJ Benjamin fashion distributor)
ii. buying up start-ups or angel investment
e.g. Computer security company McAfee bought S’pore start-up tenCube, the company that created mobile
security service, Wave Secure
iii. rental income e.g. http://www.globalpropertyguide.com tracks the rental market for investors worldwide
iv. stocks and shares
b. government investments
i. Sg’s Government Investment Corporation (GIC)’s portfolio :
42% in the Americas, 26% in Europe, 29% in Asia

4. Affluence oils the cogs of our consumption-driven economy
a. Consumption is the main feature for measuring the economic health of a country
i. C + I + G + (X-M) = GDP    – for better GDP, the country and its people must have the power to spend
          ii. e.g. S’pore’s GDP per capita is around $60 000 vs Democratic Republic of Congo’s ($300)
b. better products, more variety of products will be available to meet the demands of a richer nation
i. e.g. international brand names in S’pore, but counterfeit goods in poorer countries
c. trickle-down effect ; multiplier effect
– when there is more wealth, even the less well-off will gain
when the affluent use their services or employ them, or give to them in charity

5. Affluence helps people, businesses and nations pull through an economic slowdown to some degree
a. More resources – List : savings, reserves, assets to sell
i. Case : S’pore – $240 billion (2012 figures) – 2009 was the first time that the President gave  approval for the
government to draw out reserves after 2008 global financial meltdown
b. But the poor have far less disposable income – can save very little

6. There is a link between affluence and independence
a. Poor, and especially war-torn countries – less money, little R&D – not able to develop.
Instead, they are dependent on mining, but are being exploited by multinationals
Case of Sierra Leone : biggest contracts for mining have gone to London Mining and African Minerals (listed in
London). The corporations received substantial tax breaks, which some say go against the mining act that is
meant to protect against resource predation. Much development is geared towards facilitating the work of
these corporations
b. Among ordinary citizens, affluence helps people avoid jobs that subject them to exploitation
Case of China : abuse of workers at Foxconn – reports of workers locked in plant; suicide of worker following
loss of prototype; other pay-related suicides

However, affluence can be a curse when it is not properly managed, or when it is used to entrench one’s position at the expense of others.


1.Affluence becomes a curse when those who are rich do not manage their wealth properly.
a. contributes to transgressions, or even crimes.
i. List : excessive spending (living the high life to the point of debt), gambling, alcoholism, drugs, going to
prostitutes etc.
ii.Case : Gambling is one of the primary causes of debt in the US,
but the industry is worth $550 billion per annum
iii.This is not to say that the poor will not face these problems, but there are some forms of vice and crime
that pose a possible temptation only if people have more means to even begin contemplating such a choice
iv. They suffer emotionally and eventually financially, and so do their families.
b. Bad risk management à heavy losses in investments or at the stock market
The option of making an investment is not available to begin with for those who are not rich.

2. Affluence can encourage negative values or attitudes among people
a. materialism – buy because we can, not because we need; encouraging debt à bad for the environment too
b. competitiveness within society; status-consciousness
c. can lead to disdain for local, traditional products (loss of culture) in favour of posh-sounding imports
d. money can solve everything (when it cannot)
i. Case : Addiction to plastic surgery; using plastic surgery to solve body image insecurities
2/3 of plastic surgery patients are repeat patients
ii. Corruption – Money can even buy justice
Case : Bo Xilai’s wife – murder of UK businessman Neil Heywood.
China, having been accused of corruption at high levels, is under pressure to show that its
justice system is not corrupt
iii. Family ties : Compensate for absence with material goods

3.Affluence becomes a curse to society when there are problems of distribution leading to inequality
a. When wealth is inherited or earned through hard work, there can be greater insensitivity to the plight of the
poor à it’s their fault à they do not deserve help
b. Case : S’pore – highest concentration of millionaires in the world, but second highest income gap in the world
– the act of blaming the poor can be seen as a contributor to the policies that do not help reduce inequality
e.g. govt adamant against minimum wage even though wages of menial workers is extremely low when
compared other developed countries
e.g. price of public housing increased more times than the rise in income
c. When wealth is seen as only enjoyed by a specific group (e.g. people of Chinese descent in Indonesia)
à social unrest

4.The economy’s reliance on affluence causes problems for all countries within this global economic order
a. Consumption-driven, debt-based economy – too reliant on spending
– If the biggest markets for goods (US , Europe) slow down consumption, the other countries are affected.
b. Irresponsible, fraudulent printing of money just to keep up the facade of wealth needed to boost spending & debt

5. Affluence can kill enterprise
a. When large players buy out start-ups and small companies, or use economies of scale to squeeze them out
i. e.g. Microsoft Windows comes with Internet Explorer (end of Netscape Navigator)
ii. e.g. Google acquired Jaiku, but did little to develop it, causing Jaiku users to migrate en masse to Twitter.
Many others cases of neglect by rich companies that buy out small players

6. The wealthy, corporations and some lobby groups use their affluence to influence policies
a. Case of US : Pro-rich policies (such as cuts to capital gains tax) did not lead to the ‘trickle-down’ effect as expected,
and in fact did not prevent the second largest economic collapse of the past 100 years.
In short, the rich did not spread / share their wealth very much.
But now, when Obama tries to tax the rich, he faces fierce opposition.

b. Opensecrets.org – non-partisan group that monitors money’s influence on US elections and public policy

Resolution :
Having said all of the above, affluence is essentially a blessing. Our daily experiences of enjoying the many things we have are testament to this. However, affluence is not without challenges. We can do much more – as individuals, a society or a nation – so that affluence becomes less of a curse. For this to happen, we need to re-envision affluence as a responsibility – not just a source of pleasure and power.

Any other ideas ?

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