This student is currently a student at the University of Oxford. This personal statement was part of this student’s successful application to University of Oxford, University of Warwick, University of Manchester, UCL, and LSE for Politics and Economics.
My childhood self would watch the evening news with my parents, unable to comprehend the gravity conveyed by the big words and hasty speech of the anchor. It was not the anticipation of cartoons that would follow that kept me seated, but a sense of curiosity seeing different news every day. This persistent curiosity has led me on a pursuit to deepen my knowledge of society through mastering the disciplines crucial to its progress.
Malaysia’s descent into corruption and neglect of civil rights led me to question our democratic foundations. If democracy was supreme per our constitution, why can it bestow power on an incompetent leader? Warburton criticised the imperfect knowledge of voters in ‘Philosophy: The Basics’, presenting a convincing argument against democracy. The notion of democracy as an illusion of freedom is apparent in the immense lobbying power of the bourgeoisie to push their agendas through funding politicians. An unethical party could possess a majority vote, but it may have been through realigning voters’ self-interest. Is the system truly fair then?
I enjoyed Madeleine Albright’s analysis of 20th and 21st century fascism in ‘Fascism: A Warning’ highlighting frustrated citizens, socioeconomic instability and charming leaders exploiting nationalist sentiment as the ingredients for an authoritarian government. She championed democracy, conceding its flaws as the lesser of two evils. I felt the faults of democracy carried more weight as authoritarianism is often a product of its failure. The general pattern of accumulating power is through tampering with democratic institutions. Their susceptibility to be altered to a despot’s advantage is an acute threat, one that leads to tyranny. I am keen to understand how these institutions can be fortified more permanently.
Noting the difference in economic development among authoritarian regimes, I wanted to find out if degrees of authoritarianism corresponded to trends in economic growth. G.W. Dick’s article about GDP growth among low development countries in the 60s showed a tendency for authoritarian economies to either grow at a higher or lower rate than their democratic counterparts. A dictator’s economic finesse makes or breaks a country, Salazar’s Portugal and Castro’s Cuba serving as contrasts in this study. In the case of the former, I considered if the overall utility gained through economic growth could justify the restrictions on personal freedom in an authoritarian government, a conundrum manifest in China now.
The diverse applications of these subjects in the social context lured me away from a traditional science stream education. Levitt’s use of microeconomics in explaining sociological phenomena in ‘Freakonomics’ demonstrated the complementary nature of economics to ordinary decision-making. As a fervent reader of the Economist, I enjoy the discourse posed by experts, taking them as philosophical reactions to political and economic issues. This helped me appreciate the dynamic link between the subjects in understanding current affairs.
The normative nature of questions posed in this course requires a high level of critical thinking, a skill I honed as a member of the Sunway Debate Club. Debate requires one to identify rational, structured arguments to defend a position however absurd. At a law attachment with Skrine, I admired the analytical attitude required in legal research, integrating it into my studies.
Being a secondary school prefect introduced me to basic political ideas such as fair governance and proper public image. An innate aptitude for mathematics backed by consistent academic merit prepares me for the statistical aspects of the course. Organising events as a LEO member taught me time management.
The UK’s role as a progressive state and global financial powerhouse has nurtured many bright minds. Coupled with the evolving economic and political landscape of the region, I cannot think of a better place to study this compelling course.
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