This Personal Statement was part of Azman Wazir’s successful application to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester for Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
Observing my grandfather practice Tai Chi every morning led me to pick up Wing Chun. Looking into my Chinese heritage, I was fascinated at how the martial art evoked its origin – its style reminiscent of ‘the softness of water’ as described in the Dao De Jing. Reading commentaries on Taoism, I realised its synonymy with laissez-faire and libertarianism. The interrelation between an ancient Chinese religion to modern political and economic theories enlightened me of the overlap between the fields of philosophy, politics and economics and has driven me to pursue these disciplines at university.
A passion for history, which led me to self-study the subject at IGCSE, was only fed further by A-Level history, where I gained insight into the rise and fall of political institutions. I was especially intrigued by the transformation of the Weimar democracy into a centralised one-party state, where I saw parallels to how autonomous local districts in my country were brought under the purview of the federal government. Having lived in Singapore, my initial perception that authoritarian regimes facilitated stability and economic growth was put into context by my participation in the Malaysia Public Policy Competition, which showed me the inefficiencies of top-down governance; and the difficulties democracies had managing multiple stakeholders. Being the only team of erstwhile strangers in the competition taught us to manage our diversities by capitalising our advantages while compromising our differences. This reflected in our policy of divvying funding and decision-making between state and federal levels, landing us in the semi-finals.
This experience aided me as Head of the Economics Council of the KYUEM Summit, which honed my communication skills and ability to delegate tasks. I found the Summit’s debates surrounding Malaysia’s fiscal reforms as well as participation in free trade agreements stimulating, as these measures were similar to the IMF’s shock therapy recommendations in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis, which Malaysia ignored. While this gained Stiglitz’s approval in his ‘Globalisation and its Discontents’, Sharma’s ‘Breakout Nations’ blames Malaysia’s currency controls for causing the fall in its growth rate post-Crisis. This paranoia against ‘foreign speculators’ evoked the sermons condemning ‘Western influences’, resulting in my piece on ‘Islam and Capitalism’, which noted the existence of free capital flows and trade in the Caliphate era. Analysing contrasting sources from multiple languages required me to formulate my own stances instead of relying on preconceptions.
Interning at CenPRIS, a policy research centre at a top Malaysian university, enabled me to study the ethics of immigration and gave me a glimpse into the philosophical dimensions of politics. Being of immigrant descent myself, Rawls’ Equality Principle appealed to me as a guide on migration policy. Utilitarianism further supported this stance, arguing that denying migrants the right to a better life results in diminished utility for the greatest number. Drafting resolutions in MUN conferences allowed me to witness egoism on a global scale, with individuals and countries pushing their own interests. I was thus able to combine practical concerns with theoretical concepts and economic analyses while writing a policy recommendation on migration.
My multi-ethnic background has endowed me with trilingual fluency, making me aware of subtle inferences lost in translation. My interaction with various segments of society while working part-time in a news outlet led to the realisation that despite an increasingly cosmopolitan world, language barriers isolate the poorest non-Anglophones globally; which preparing a research proposal on social housing reaffirmed. I believe that migration is not just an economic or political question, but a philosophical one, and hope that my degree will allow me to delve into it from these distinct but inseparable fields.
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