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September 21, 2017

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Stopping drunk driving is everyone's responsibility

Populism has always been a handy tactic for lazy politicians to gain clout. Instead of presenting long-term goals or tackling profound social and economical issues, it is easier and more straightforward for politicians to give people what they want no matter what the consequence.

The government recently introduced one anti-drunk driving policy after another in the wake of a series of high profile car accidents involving drunken drivers. One incident that attracted particular public interest was the so-called "Young Master Yeh scandal," in which a man from an affluent family hit a woman while driving under the influence of alcohol, killing her as well as his own friend. The woman's husband died three days after the accident, apparently overwhelmed by grief.

The public was outraged not only by the deaths caused by Yeh's drunk driving, but also by the fact that Yeh is wealthy and the deceased were not. For some, the event symbolized the repression of the general public by the elite. It has underscored the growing social tension between the haves and have-nots in Taiwanese society. By introducing its hard-line policies at this moment, the government is obliviously trying to both satisfy the people's needs and also to side with the "people" against the "elites." Another example is when former Finance Minister Christine Liu's singled out local tycoon Terry Gou as an example of what has gone wrong in Taiwan's tax system.

The problems of such policies are twofold. First, a society consists of people from all walks of life and a healthy society is one with social mobility and a reasonably harmonious relationship between people from different backgrounds. A society divided against itself cannot stand. Populist rhetoric cannot narrow the income gap; only high social mobility enabled by good education, equal opportunities and a transparent taxing system can.

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