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Visible moral leadership first defense against societal decay

Long before the recent brouhaha over “Taiwanese laborers” in Australia, Taiwan has been the export powerhouse of fraudsters to the mainland and Southeast Asia.

On Sept. 18, the Philippines deported 279 Taiwanese arrested in the country's biggest crackdown on online fraud. They were accused of impersonating police, prosecutors and bank officials to convince victims in China and Taiwan to transfer money into accounts provided by the syndicate, the Associated Press reported.

In an analysis published by The China Times on Sept. 22, National Cheng Kung University political science professor Yang Yung-nane suggested Taiwan might have acquired the unfortunate title as the world's biggest exporters of fraudsters. The proliferation of Taiwanese fraud ring members had become so big a disturbance of Philippine society that Manila considered holding the 279 Taiwanese to face charges brought by local courts, Yang said.

Part of the reason for the profusion of Taiwan fraudsters is educational, Yang suggested. The science-oriented Taiwanese school system is not providing enough humanist and cultural education to its students, resulting in skilled graduates being absorbed by fraud rings. Taiwan's economic problems, in part caused by the structural mismatch between education and business needs, result in a failure to provide adequate jobs for these graduates. Yang also suggested lax punishment of fraud, among other reasons, as contributing to the popularity of fraud among local criminals.

While the professor has a point, the country's proliferation of fraudsters stems from more profound problems than the lack of proper humanist education, better jobs and tougher laws.

An analysis of the fraud problem should be anchored to the fundamental fact of fraud: it is a crime. A university graduate may choose to cut meat eight hours a day in Australia for better pay but most people don't become criminals simply due to educational and economic reasons alone. Taiwan's economy may be slowing down but it is far from the point of collapse where the majority of the public are forced to criminality just to survive.

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