Things happened in Berkeley this past week.
(To all the people who are confused/ambivalent/worried/gloating…thousand kinds of responses, I believe that the majority of Berkeley students protest peacefully. )
Having said that, I finally decided my class schedule this semester!!! I am excited because I always find it extremely hard to have my classes set before the first month at school ends. I am super lucky this semester. Here are my classes:
PoliSci2: Introduction to Comparative Politics (I put this class at the first place for specific reasons! I will write more details about it in the following blog post.)
IAS45: World History
IAS106: Intermediate Microeconomics
Decal: Symbols of China (I admit, I took this class simply because I lack two units to be qualified as a full-time student, yet I have way too much reading to finish for the other three classes. Thus I choose this decal… simply because I don’t want to put into any effort outside of the three main classes I mentioned above, and I don’t want to get into trouble with my school. But after the first session, which is surprisingly informative, like I leant that the 户口 house registration system in China actually started around Qing dynasty, which is 200 some years BCE! During our discussion, one of my classmates said that he regarded house registration system as “domestic passport”, which I found it quite an interesting definition/metaphor. We also talked about the importance of the house registration system. Most of my classmates found it quite a nuisance but I guess its existence is originated from the fact that in China Land Ownership is only 100 years, or at least that’s what I was told, thus it’s a little bit confusing for the government sometimes, to keep track of who actually lives in one place or another. But that’s my interpretation and might be wrong.)
Ok! Let’s talk about PoliSci2.
I didn’t want to take PS2 initially. I was planning on taking PE100, another class from the political economy department. But then I tried PE100 for one week, and found out that the reading assignments were just way too much to handle for me. Now I realized that I should only blame myself for not being able to handle all the readings, but I guessed if there was one thing that I learnt from being kicked out of school once *that’s another time’s story, quite interesting actually* is that I never, never, never want to push myself again. Not that I find “push” myself a negative term, it’s only that I realized that I could be really stubborn sometimes, more that way if I have inputted/sacrificed a lot of my time and energy into certain project. I sometimes lost track of my ability and practical possibility to actually success in the course. Anyways, I think maybe I should choose another class, not something too lighter in reading load because I do want to learn how to read before entering upper division poli-related classes, but also not something too heavy like PE100.
The reason that I was pumped about the class was mainly because of my GSI. Now, I realized that this statement sounded superficial but please hear me out. On our first session, my GSI instructed us to play a game called “Principle and Agents”. Basically the rule is that: in a country, a principle is someone like president/prime minster, he or she might not be excellent in economics and thus he or she appoints someone to be the Chancellor, in charge of Money, which, in this game, is the agent. Now, the agent will always want to achieve higher interest rate, while the principle will always try to limit interest rate. The game is all about how an agent can persuade/lie/trick/whateverheorshedoes/makethe principle to accept the interest rate that the agent has on his or her mind.
Something like that. I’ve never played any games like this. Although my discussion with my partner is quite concise, because both of us didn’t quite understand what the game was all about at the point (lol) but it was quite amazing to see the results after everyone finished their games. I tricked my Principle to believe that 8.7 is the interest rate I am heading towards. Thus my Principle proposed 7.7, I accepted, while the true target interest rate is 6.7. This means that I was able to obtain an interest rate that was one percentage higher than expected. Is this good? I have no idea. To be honest, the game happened way too fast.
We played another game on week 2 (this week)’s session, it’s called(?) war or trade, basically it’s another version of the Prisoners’ dilemma.
Other than the section, the lectures are interesting, so far. I found it a little bit amusing (although I really shouldn’t) how my professor talked about China in such an ambivalent way. What we learnt, in lecture and in readings, in short, is that Authoritarianism is more prone to disastrous developmental outcomes than Democracy. But when talking about China, I can see that the professor was baffled: yes, China is authoritarianism without question, yet its economic growth is without question as well. So how should one react to China? Our first two weeks we touched on microfoundations (philosophical chit-chats on what people seek in life) and in my opinion, an rather idealistic/unearthly definition of democracy. What we are taught in class is that Democracy have to be free election + conditions such as free speech/assembly/media to support transparent information flow that lays the foundation of a free and open election. However, I find transparency a nearly impossible concept in human society: not only in politics, only robots can be transparent, desires/power/material/community/etc and etc always motivates people to only distribute information beneficial to them. Whether or not we will like to distribute information in a way that are also beneficial to other people is unknown but definitely, I find transparency an unreal concept.
But I guess if we are going to discuss the many flaws (hehe) of democracy next week, I can learn more about democracy (in a western prospective) next week. Also, I find it funny (again, I really shouldn’t) that professor is criticizing China on its propaganda. I mean, isn’t it common knowledge that one of the best jobs of politicians all over the world is to make propaganda for whatever reason? Maybe it depends on the perspective, but I often felt like politicians only fed people what they wanted. It’s part of their job, part of the reasons they got elected/selected on the first place, isn’t it?
But again, I am only week 2 into Political Science. Things are getting fun!
For my PoliEcon classes, I do learn a lot as well. We are still covering ancient civilizations now but I learnt a lot about religion and history. One thing to keep in mind is that religion is never the same thing as what people do with it. Also, I find it interesting that different professors always have different emphasizes on the same class. Last semester I was trying (but failed due to the long long long waitlist) to get into the same class taught by a different professor, he was brilliant, but he didn’t talk about religion as much as my professor this semester.
Maybe it’s because I have always liked humanity courses more compared to math/science classes, I find all of my professors/gsis brilliant and much much smarter than I am.
I guess this is it for now. I will/want to make myself write an update every week. Next week we are going to Tahoe to celebrate Lulu’s 21st birthday (woohoo snowboarding karaoke dancing night!) Next next week I am flying to Chicago. So honestly, I really need to keep up with my work this week and next week, otherwise I will find myself dead in midterm seasons, which are coming very very soon.