Sat, Mar 15, 2014 - Page 8 News List

‘Means’ mixed up with the ‘ends’

By Shih Shou-chuan 施壽全

The successful completion of any task involves setting goals, making plans and then carrying them out. However, when Taiwanese government authorities are implementing policies, they seem to be unclear or have totally forgotten what their “ends” are, instead often investing great resources in the “means” they use. The result is a lack of justice and an increased feeling of public discontent.

Let us take the example of taking somebody’s basic information and checking identification documents, which is the correct way of identifying patients seeking treatment at hospitals or clinics — although it is not really necessary for familiar patients.

Still, when members of hospital accreditation bodies once observed a hospital pharmacy dispensing medicine and saw a few patients receiving their medication without following the standard procedures, the officials cited this as an example of the hospital not properly identifying patients. In that particular case, some of the patients were familiar to the hospital and no mistakes were made.

The goal of identification is to make sure a hospital has the right person and as long as they can do this, it should not matter how it is done. However, accreditation bodies demand that hospitals follow these identification procedures strictly, even for very familiar patients. This is not only a waste of time, but also makes the patients feel that they are not being respected.

However, regulations must be followed, because the “means” have now become the “ends.”

The government is planning to start levying a luxury tax and it requires that the actual selling prices for property transactions are reported in the hope of lowering housing prices. However, runaway housing costs are mostly concentrated in Taipei and New Taipei City. In the rest of Taiwan, there are 800,000 empty houses, and in Chiayi, a 30 ping (99m2) apartment can be had for a mere NT$1.6 million (US$52,750).

If the goal of housing policy is to ensure that everyone can own their own house, then the government should increase public investment throughout Taiwan to create more employment opportunities and give younger people the chance to settle outside of Taipei, instead of forcing them to move up north to try and make a living.

The government has focused much of its energy on taming real-estate speculation, but is it possible that this method will allow earners of average incomes to own houses in Taipei’s Daan District? This is obviously very unlikely. Despite this, cooling down real-estate speculation remains one of the most discussed issues: What is a means to the end — housing justice — has become the end itself and now symbolizes that housing justice.

Now let us look at the issue of energy. It is of course best if energy is safe, clean and affordable, but if the government has trouble delivering on all these three, then safety should come first, for reasons that are obvious.

The end is to provide adequate energy to meet demand. There is not only one type of energy source and the government has a responsibility to make all information about the pros and cons of different energy sources known to the public, so as to build the widest consensus possible.

However, this aspect keeps getting covered up and is not explained clearly. Instead, a lot of time is spent discussing nuclear energy in general and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮) of New Taipei City in particular. When all is said and done, nuclear power is but one means for the government to provide power, but it now seems to be the only end and this is both unfathomable and regrettable.

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