This Personal Statement was part of Jun Long’s successful application to the University of Oxford to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The same personal statement also gained Jun Long offers to read Economics at the University of Edinburgh, University College London and King’s College London.
Besides being of monumental significance to the global economy as well as the politics of my country, the year 2008 was also the year I started reading the newspaper. That was what got me interested in economics and politics.
Over the years, I watch the development of the global economy, ranging from the European Sovereign Debt Crisis, the fluctuations of the global oil price, to the slowdown of global trade. My observations of the tepid recovery of the global economy suggested to me that the global economy is suffering from structural problems. To understand more about economics, I expanded my knowledge by reading widely, including Time, The Economist, local newspapers like The Star and also books.
I read “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty, which informed me about the nature of income inequality in current times. In the book, Piketty argued that the growing inequality was part of the structural design of our current economic system, and as long as r remains larger than g, income inequality will continue to grow. Many things from this book were surprising, however the patience and ingenuity that Piketty had in assembling his data as well as his urge for his fellow economist to focus more on empirical data were two things that I gained. I also read “The End of Alchemy” by Mervyn King. In here, King suggested that the structural problems of the current banking system, not greedy bankers, were to be blame for the global financial crisis. All the economic actors were stuck in a prisoner dilemma, they had to act the way they did. The role of incentive was a central message that I gained. King suggests banking is inherently unstable due to its design, and gives a solution that I find interesting, but at the same time idealistic.
Why too idealistic? The changes in the Malaysian political scene across the years gave me clear insight on the difficulties of implementing changes through politics. After many years of promise of change by politicians, nothing much has come out. This led me to question the idea of democracy as the best system for governance.
Recently, I started reading “The Republic” by Plato. I have not finished it yet, but from the parts I have read, I was surprised by the argument of Plato that to maintain justice in a nation, a government that was autocratic and restricted individual liberty was needed instead of democracy. Through my various readings, I also came across one article that talked about how the founding fathers of United States created an election system that attempted to reduce the power of the masses. Originally this idea seems to be against the principles of democracy, but the fact that Donald Trump has a possible chance of becoming the president led me to think that the founding fathers’ idea had some rational.
Meanwhile, my participation in student government allowed me some insight into the nature of governing. I learnt about how hard it is to satisfy the different stakeholders, the college management and the students. I also had a first-hand experience on why governments suffer from efficiency problems. Bureaucracy, without a doubt was the thing that slowed many changes. In order to implement changes in the college, there were many process which sometimes required months of following up. However, managing to eke out small victories like extending classroom hours to allow students to study was something that motivated me to continue being in student government.
Economics require excellent mathematical skills, which I have been developing and had managed to obtain a gold medal from the Kangaroo Math Competition and Distinction in the Euclid Competition. Currently, I am attempting the DOE gold award and I continue to be active in my college Toastmaster’s Club. I enjoy running and sometimes participate in charity runs. I also enjoy reading during my past time. Currently, I am under the National Scholarship sponsored by my country.
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