Is competition always desirable?

Defining competition

The activity of striving to gain or win something by establishing superiority over others, competition is highly prevalent in today’s fast paced and at times seemingly unforgiving society.

To do well for this question, there is a need to compare the benefits of competition to collaboration. Which one is actually more desirable? Students can approach this question from a cross country comparison, and decide which country culture is actually more inclined towards competition and which country is towards collaboration.
Thesis

It is true that competition can be unhealthy as it inevitably invokes stress, which in healthy amounts has the potential to not only decrease morale but also productivity. Some may also suggest that an overly competitive mindset deters collaboration and hence may even compromise on potential outcomes. However, I hold my stand that competition is mostly desirable. Competition compels us to work harder and strive further, empowering us to achieve levels of productivity and achievement which would otherwise be impossible. Also, competition ensures that the leaders who govern the way we live and consume products are optimal and behave in the best interest of society. As pointed out by Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to is.” As long as one does not get too fixated on the idea of ‘winning’, a healthy competitive mindset would most definitely generate the best results.

(Counter) Argument 1
Critics argue that competition can be unhealthy as it inevitably invokes stress which has the potential to not only decrease morale but also productivity.

Elaboration: This is in fact true, as an unhealthy obsession and mindset towards competition can prove to be counter-productive and ironically compel us to underperform. Rather than focusing on doing one’s best, an obsessive fixation on eventually winning and being the best is an unhealthy way to compete. The pressure to win rather than optimize the learning experience distracts individuals from placing full emphasis on doing quality work and bitterness with the knowledge that others may be currently ahead of them lowers morale which would in turn lower productivity.

Example: In Singapore’s highly competitive educational landscape, more and more students are being subject to psychological disorders as they are unable to cope with the mindless scramble to outcompete their fellow batch mates. Evidently, such unhealthy levels of stress has impeded their learning capabilities and has defeated the purpose of healthy competition altogether.

Link: Competition can become undesirable if the environment and competitive mindsets become too hostile and unhealthy.

(Counter) Argument 2
Some may also suggest that an overly competitive mindset deters collaboration and hence may even compromise on potential outcomes.

Elaboration: This is based on the premise that rather than trying to out compete each other, people should gather their resources, knowledge and talents together and achieve a better outcome via collaboration, especially if they are after the same mission. This results in lesser resources spent collectively to achieve the same goal.

Evidence: In the search for a cure for cancer, two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Merck, have entered a strategic partnership. The two competitors will pool resources in order to bring new cancer treatments to market faster.

Link: Collaboration is more desirable than competition in some cases.

Argument 3
Competition can empower us to achieve higher levels of productivity and achievement which would otherwise be impossible

Elaboration: Competition, by compelling us to set our competitors as standards to beat, constantly sets new feasible and progressive benchmarks and milestones for us to overcome. Empowered by a heightened sense of motivation to work harder in order to not fall behind the rest, we naturally do and achieve more.

Example: In the past, American miners had produced two tons of iron ore per hour for decades. When Brazilian iron ore suddenly became cheap enough to import in 1982, everything changed. In the span of five years, the miners doubled their productivity to four tons per hour.

Link: Competition is desirable as it increases productivity.

Argument 4.
Competition ensures that the leaders who govern the way we live and consume products, be it in politics or business, are optimal and behave in the best interest of society.

Elaboration: As one would have to emerge victorious from stringent competition in order to receive the recognition necessary for one to be considered a true winner, the product of competition would be of the highest caliber possible and would have to function to society’s best interest.

Example: Highly evident in business, companies continue to relentlessly work hard to outcompete competitors by delivering the highest quality goods and services at the lowest possible cost. The consumer benefits from such competition, as the majority are inclined to purchase from the leading and most worthy competitor.

Link: Competition is desirable as it ensures optimum output and influences business and political leaders to function at society’s best interest.

Back to the A’levels H1 General Paper 2016 Paper 1 Solutions

38 Comments

  • Tracy

    Hi, would it be okay if i didn’t talk about collaboration but instead talk only about the pros and cons of competition? I’m quite worried now because mine is totally different from yours hahaha.

    • Christine Chen

      Yes it would be fine, since u are answering to the context of the question. You will definitely pass the question, but a quality grade A is unlikely.

      • Tracy

        i wrote about:
        1) how competition drives us to do our best and in the process we learn values like tenacity
        eg michael phelps
        however at the same time it leads to unethical behavior
        eg marion jones
        2) too much competition leads to unnecessary stress
        eg. tuition culture
        3) it leads compromises on our relationships
        eg in the corporate world, between peers
        4) it necessitates a fast pace of lifestyle and thus many of us neglect our health
        would this be okay? Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Jeremy

      Hi, can help me take a look at my essay. Thanks.
      Intro: competition is desirable, but only practised in moderation. It is no longer desirable when people too obsessed over it.

      Paragraph 1: competition improves personal performance, such as Joseph Schooling, but too obsessed leads to increase in suicide rate.
      Paragraph 2: competition between corporations leads to better products and services such as that between samsung iphone, but companies that are too obsessed over it might also cheat the customers.
      Paragraph 3: competition between nations in healthy field such as green tech but not desirable if they compete militarily
      Paragraph 4: competition is desirable if politicians compete to serve the nation well, but some politicians might also too fixated on election victory such that they implement populist policies that are harmful.
      Thanks.

  • Seksman

    Help me take a look!!
    1) Competition is desirable as it drives people to do their best
    – Competition between firms etc allows for better consumer products
    2) We can also look at scenarios whereby competition is absent, people lacking motivation
    – USSR communist, lack of free market competition. Firms lack motivation etc eventual collapse
    3) SG government uses meritocracy as basis of governance, which encourages competition
    -Successful education system etc
    4) However, too much competition leads to unhealthy stress levels
    -Sucide rates amongst students
    5) Competition results in people using unethical means to win, which damages society
    -Atheletes use steroids such as Lance Armstrong etc

    • Christine Chen

      Congrats and thanks for writing in. Your arguments are spot on, would be good if u have discussed a little on collaboration and do a cross country comparison on the degree of competition across different societies and context.

    • sxggxc

      wow we wrote the exact same points. i wrote the first, third fourth and fifth points with the exact same examples LOL. but for unethical i mentioned about exploitation of marginalised groups as well with the lance armstrong eg

  • Shaiwoodley

    Hi there, is it possible to help me take a look at this:

    Cpt: competition with the ultimate goal of victory results in a slip in morals

    Pt: competition though by nature includes opposing groups, enables friendships and new camaraderie to be formed

    Pt: competition spurs innovation, the want to be better than others, eg, pharmaceutical companies

    Pt: competition acts as a signal/benchmark to compare ones talent with another so as to know when one’s fruits of labour is realised, when one ought to move on from something

    Thank you!!

    • Christine Chen

      No issues with these points, though I feel you can improve if you have discussed a little on collaboration (while comparing it to competition) a bit.

  • HI do help me to take a look of my points ya! (:
    1) Competition amongst teenagers (tuition in sg, suicide rates in Japan and Korea)
    -Yale-NUS suicide in early of the years
    2) Lack of sportsmanship as they compete for sponsors, forced to take enhancement drugs to perform better
    3)Competition reduce price and help consumers enjoy better prices, avoid monopoly (Singtel starhub M1)
    4) Adults have to constantly upgrade their skills, if not they will be driven out of the workforce – abit repetitive, it is somewhat link to stress also. (doctors and lawyers)
    5) Countries compete with each other to have greater power (invest in nuclear tech and trade wars)

  • Hello can help me take a look?
    I wrote about:
    1) how competition stimulates progress. 【 egs include individual level: students and working adults striving for academic and career excellence. In science field, it promotes innovation. (GM food, satellites and automachineries). In economic aspect, countries facing competition strive for growth. (China opened trade so that to remain competitive) 】

    2) competition creates positive influences. When outstanding individuals with exemplary traits are recognized, they become the role models and motivate others. 【 sports: Li Na, Joseph schooling inspiring the young athletes. Business: good services by Singtel company. Regional: Singapore as a role model to maintain the environment in Southeast Asia.】

    3) competition leads to dishonest behaviors/ unethical issues. ( Lance Armstrong, companies like New Balance misinform the consumers in advertisement for profits. Electoral fraud in Myanmar and Thailand)

    4) competition leads to stresses.
    (Singapore is ranked the lowest in happiness index. China and Nk students suffered from academic pressure and this contribute to the high suicide rates amongst youths.) my counter argument here is that the when primary purpose of competition is to improve the standard of living, stresses may make competition meaningless as people ending up with poor quality of life.)

    Really appreciate your help!

    • Christine Chen

      Yes these points are valid, I just feel that for point 2 you may want to highlight how in an environment of intense competition, the way an individual or corporation can stand out is through ethical behaviour. Though ironic, it seems that intense competition may promote a sense of positive influence and ethical behaviour, especially in this capitalistic society, where ethics is valued highly given all the fraud and corruption plauging us. Also, it goes a long way towards building and establishing a sound reputation.

  • Jason

    Hi I was wondering if you could check my points:
    1) Helps to spur/motivate individuals and firms to continuously improve
    – Education system in SG based on meritocracy
    – Businesses and companies
    2) Foster stronger ties and forge a clearer sense of identity (I don’t think this point will work as I think it didn’t match with my definition of competition)
    – Successes/Achievements at the Olympics (e.g. Joseph Schooling)
    – North and South Korean athletes coming tgt in the act of sportmanship
    3) However, competition may actually fray and worsen bilateral relations between countries by heightening tensions
    – Riots after losses at sporting events (e.g. soccer)
    – USA and Japan, USA and Phillippines
    4) Competition in controversial areas through unethical means may result in loss of many innocent lives (Not my exact topic sentence but something along the lines)
    – Competition between ideologies (USA vs USSR, North vs South Korea)
    – Competition between nuclear superiority (USA vs USSR, India vs Pakistan)
    Conclusion: How competition is a double-edged sword
    I don’t think I did too well for this in my opinion 🙁

    • Christine Chen

      Hi there, I think your points are all valid except for the second point. How does competition lead to stronger ties and a sense of identity? Unless of course you are talking about how intense competition for a sport (which is a niche sports for the country) that could lead to strong nationalistic pride. Yes competition is definitely a double-edged sword, but the extent to which it is beneficial or harmful would depend on the level of competition already, and whether individuals and societies can handle it.

  • Saitama

    Hi is this answering the question…
    How bout the point on competition undermining the value of learning and sportsmanship? Competitors often get caught up with competition that they forgot their morals and values. For instance, in sports, sportsmen and women often neglect the value of sportsmanship because they become over-concern with winning.

    • Christine Chen

      yes definitely this point is valid. You can def talk about how strong competition may lead one to resort to unethical means to try to attain their goals as much as possible. This is definitely the case for capitalistic societies where the achievements are seen to be highly paramount, or even for circumstances that pride achievement above all else.

  • Zayn

    Hi do you mind taking a look? I approached this from a different way, one that views desirable as something that we actively seek for positive benefits, since desirable has a positive connotation to it. So my evaluation would be on whether our initial expectation of what we would gajb from competition truly aligns with he outcomes, or in the case where trade offs or cons outweight competition , we ought not to desire competing due to dichotomy between views and actual reality

    I kinda mentioned geopolitical competition, competitions between countries in aspect of economics and individually compete to climb up social mobility ladder

    1)Then economic competition between nations is desirable and has positive benefits as it keeps them relevant to global economy keeps them on their toes
    That’s why countries prioritise the oecd rankings they emulate better education models in a bid to constantly improve and they come out with policies like lifelong learning workfare retraining etc to help their people remain relevant in face of global migrants competing their jobs

    2) Then geopolitical competition, mainly for national pride and display of assertiveness and strength I. Em China in South China sea and indo pak conflict

    They compete in terms of arms built up, nuclear built up and terroritary, and not only does it display national strength, but it foster pride in people with some e.g. I. E. Chinese citizens express support on weibo

    3) Then my last point is at the individual level where we compete with one another at standardised exams for the sake of attaining good results, securing jobs or scholarships and climb up ladder (I felt this point a bit weak tho)

    Then I say there’s dichotomy between what expectations we desire and actual consequences

    So in the economic competition between nations and individual level between people, poof non material quality of life, stress etc they make the process of comeptiting a lot less desirable

    And in case of terirotiral or geopolitical competition , competitive behaviour often gets backlash from international community like sanctions with cons outweighing benefits

    Hence in my conclusion I say it’s not always desirable, and depends on whether expectations align with outcomes

    • Christine Chen

      yes i think that these points that you have raised would be valid. However, I feel that the scope could be a little narrow based on these 3 points raised. You could have a better sense of how I approach the question by taking a look at the outline. All the best to the rest of your papers!

  • James

    Hello, I would just like to ask how much would i be penalised if my introduction is not exactly well developed and is rather brief, thank you!

    • Christine Chen

      We do not mark based on paragraph by paragraph, rather it is a holistic assessment of everything. Positive marking, as such do not be unduly worried. Good luck for the rest of the papers.

  • N

    Hello, can you help me gauge the marks I would get if my essay goes roughly like this:

    1) Political: Ensures the best candidates are chosen and positive change would be brought about
    (EG: Singapore: PAP faces competition from opposing parties and hence when they received their lowest ever votes during the GE 2011, it brought about the National Conversations and positive change)

    Rebuttal: Does not always ensure the “best” candidate is chosen
    (EG: Alexis Tsipras, President of Greece, promised a debt free country but failed to do so)

    2) Economic: Firms faces competition and hence would constantly improve the quality of their good, maximizing consumer welfare)
    EG: Telecomm in SG

    3) Social: Brings out the best in people.
    (EG: Singapore meritocratic society and South Korea emphasis on acedemic excellence which led to Singapore and S Korea being one of the top educational hubs in the world)

    Rebuttal: Increased suicide rates (S Korea)
    Unethical behavior: Hwang Woo Suk (who fabricated results)

    4) Helps to build national pride
    Through competitive events like the Olympics, countries are able to showcase their abilities and create national pride

    (EG: Seoul Olympics showed the world how S Korea has recovered from Korean War and Beijing Olympics displayed the country’s cultures and its rise as a economic superpower)

    • Christine Chen

      These points are definitely relevant. Very hard for me to judge the actual grade coz I am unable to see the language of your writing throughout the paper, and the evaluative aspect of it. Also, I would need to be able to see the elaboration of points, whether they do demonstrate insights and maturity. My bet is that based on these points it would be a min of C.

  • John

    Hi do u mind taking a look at this?
    1. Competition is undesirable as it prevents sharing of resources within countries, which leads to inefficiency.
    Eg n korean dont collaborate with others instead compete, lead to its high poverty rate and severe food shortage
    2. Damage relationships,esp when competitions lead to unethical behaviours, thus nt desirable.
    Eg china competition with Philippines and other countries over south china sea. At 2013 when Philippines encounter natural disaster, US donated more than $20million while china only donate 2million because they view Philippines as a competitor.
    3. Competition does nt allow effective tackle of issues, especially when issues nowadays are transboundary, it is a must to collaborate to solve such issues effectively.
    Eg -Europe migrant crisis
    -rise of terrorism

    4. However competition is desirable as it is a motivation to drive us to constantly improves ourselves.

  • John

    Competition is not always desirable.
    1. Competition prevents sharing of resources, leading to inefficiency of countries.
    Eg. N korean do not open up their country for trade and instead choose to compete with others. Leads to high poverty rate and severe food shortage
    2. Competition damage relationship, esp when competition leads to a loss of ethics.
    Eg. China and Philippines fighting over south china sea. When Philippines faced natural disaster and caused mass destruction, US donated more than $20mil but china oni donated $2mil as they view them as competitor
    3. Competition does not allow issues to be tackled effectively, esp when in todays world, issues faced are transboundary, hence countries must collaborate to effectively address the issues.
    Eg migrant crisis, rise of terrorism
    4. Competition is a motivation for us to constantly upgrade ourselves, thus desirable

    Thank you!!

  • Jeremy

    Hi, can help me take a look at my essay. Thanks.
    Intro: competition is desirable, but only practised in moderation. It is no longer desirable when people too obsessed over it.

    Paragraph 1: competition improves personal performance, such as Joseph Schooling, but too obsessed leads to increase in suicide rate.
    Paragraph 2: competition between corporations leads to better products and services such as that between samsung iphone, but companies that are too obsessed over it might also cheat the customers.
    Paragraph 3: competition between nations in healthy field such as green tech but not desirable if they compete militarily
    Paragraph 4: competition is desirable if politicians compete to serve the nation well, but some politicians might also too fixated on election victory such that they implement populist policies that are harmful.
    Thanks.

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