Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PHILIPPINE DIVORCE BILL: LEAVE THE STATE OUT OF IT


The issue of divorce promises to be a heated one following the RH bill debate. Once again, the matter has been left to the state to decide, even though it is actually an unnecessary entity when it comes to the association of two people with one another.

Anywhere in the world, the concept of marriage is referred to as “making it legal.” In the Philippines, couples have to jump hoops through the bureaucracy just to obtain a marriage license. They have to attend a bunch of inane, condescending lectures designed to ensure they have a mature outlook of the situation. And if a couple no longer wants to be married, they could use their influence, if any, to pull strings and get their marriage annulled, which is really divorce by another name.


In the first place, why is the state involved? It is precisely this idea of being part of an ambiguous collective, that makes for conflicting notions as to the rules of couples associating with each other. People take for granted that the marriage process, and the dissolution of such, is the way it is, without reference to institutions that the marrying individuals voluntarily joined.

Where there are no prior choices, when it is left to the government to decide, there will of course be disagreement, between a government and its purported constituents, and between constituents themselves.

Marriages should be legitimate on the say-so of the church or churches to which the marrying entities are affiliated. These voluntary institutions have their terms of marriage to which couples agree.


In the Roman Catholic Church for instance, the “Let no man tear asunder” verse in the bible dictates its policy. In another church, a procedure for annulment or divorce might be provided. Would this mean that all Catholics would flock to the other church, because of the increased options available to them? Not if their convictions are strong. And in the event that a Catholic married couple decides to call it quits, contrary to their previous convictions, it is up to the Catholic Church to continue recognizing their membership.

Marriage need not be the sole purview of religious denominations either. Private agencies handling marriages can spring up, and the general rules will depend on market demand, i.e. people’s moral convictions.


The issue of divorce thus becomes a non-issue, when freedom of association is given paramount importance. Other potential landmines such as same-sex or interspecies marriages, the recognition and legitimacy of which would be determined by social sensibilities, are likewise dealt with sufficiently.

What do you think?

Monday, May 30, 2011

‘NON-DISCRIMINATION’ AT WORK: IF IT’S GOOD FOR BUSINESS, WHY LEGISLATE IT?


BusinessWorld’s headline story today (May 30, 2011) is entitled ‘Equality needed in the workplace,’ pertaining to companies’ adoption of ‘non-discriminatory’ policies that would affirm ‘LGBT’ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.

Supposedly, being open to having homosexuals in the workplace is good business, whether due to mass appeal of political correctness, or the fact that wider choices to achieve productivity, are made available to employers.




LET’S CLARIFY SOME TERMS

First of all, there is no such thing as a literal ‘equality’ of people. We’re all different; such heterogeneity makes the division of labor, and the mutually beneficial trade of goods, possible at all.

Homosexuals have the same rights as everybody else. The idea of ‘gay’ rights is harmful in that this inhibits employers from exercising their preferences. Human rights are supposed to be negatively defined, that is, each person has a right to property by which boundaries are set, where violence is limited to self-defense. ‘Gay’ rights necessarily contradict individual property rights by coercing others into allocating resources in ways that non-owners desire.

And ‘non-discrimination’ is a misnomer, in that humans could not help but discriminate in their evaluations by which good business and consumer decisions are made. Wouldn’t it be unjust if an incompetent gay person gets a job, just because an employer is fearful of utilizing his discrimination in favoring a more able applicant? In actuality, ‘non-discrimination,’ if enforced under pain of government reprisal, discriminates against non-minorities.


WHY USE COERCION?


What is inexcusable is the attitude of “This is good; let’s force people into it,” as is evident in proposals to add ‘anti-discriminatory’ provisions on to the already burdensome Labor Code of the Philippines. It would be counterproductive. If the intention is to instill a sense of unity and tolerance, how would coercive laws help? Wouldn’t they foster resentment between laborers ― and labor and management ― if prejudices are unchanged, further delaying progress in this regard?

Wouldn’t the best way to promote awareness of the baselessness of intolerance towards homosexuals, be through peaceful, rational means? If it is true as claimed, that being ‘homo-friendly’ is good for business, wouldn’t this be a perfect way of selling the idea, sans coercion? But this would be only a part of a more encompassing rejection by people, of the idea that violence is the solution to social affairs.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

RALPH WALDO EMERSON AT 208 ― A SELECTION OF QUOTES


Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the most quotable writers that ever lived. Many a brilliant saying has been misattributed to him, which only goes to show how brilliant he is. Reading his essays yourself, it’s not hard to see why he has meant so much to so many. There is just a calm eloquence about his words, as though they come from some immovable source of wisdom.

It was his 208th birth anniversary last May 25, and that is excuse enough for me to pick out some quotes of his ― just 12 in all. I could have put in a lot more; I have a large bunch of selections in my files. However, I figured that it would be more rewarding for you to read his whole essays for yourself; my only hope is that these quotes encourage you to do so.

There is no particular theme I am emphasizing, but his overall philosophy exemplifies the holistic means of thinking and living that make for civilized society, the political aspect of which would involve an absolute regard for the right to property.


[T]he interrogation of custom at all points is an inevitable stage in the growth of every superior mind, and is the evidence of its perception of the flowing power which remains itself in all changes. (‘Uses of great men,’ from ‘Representative men’)

[T]he soul holds itself off from a too trivial and microscopic study of the universal tablet… and, very incurious concerning persons or miracles, and not at all disturbed by chasms of historical evidence, it accepts from God the phenomenon, as it finds it, as the pure and awful form of religion in the world. (‘Idealism,’ from ‘Nature’)

[A] guess is often more fruitful than an indisputable affirmation… (‘Prospects,’ from ‘Nature’)

Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. (‘Circles’)


People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not half so bad with them as they say… The only thing grief has taught me is to know how shallow it is… souls never touch their objects… Grief too will make us idealists. In the death of my son, now more than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate, ― no more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If to-morrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great inconvenience to me, perhaps for many years; but it would leave me as it found me, ― neither better nor worse. So it is with this calamity; it does not touch me; something which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn away without tearing me nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me and leaves no scar… all our blows glance, all our hits are accidents. Our relations to each other are oblique and casual. (‘Experience’)

Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends. (‘Self-reliance’)

Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man… Our love goes out to him and embraces him because he did not need it. (‘Self-reliance’)


All good conversation, manners, and action, come from a spontaneity which forgets usages, and makes the moment great. Nature hates calculators; her methods are saltatory and impulsive. Man lives by pulses; our organic movements are such; and the chemical and ethereal agents are undulatory and alternate; and the mind goes antagonizing on, and never prospers but by fits. We thrive by casualties. Our chief experiences have been casual. The most attractive class of people are those who are powerful obliquely, and not by the direct stroke: men of genius, but not yet accredited: one gets the cheer of their light, without paying too great a tax. (‘Experience’)

[T]he form of government which prevails is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it. (‘Politics’)

[T]he expectation of gratitude is mean, and is continually punished by the total insensibility of the obliged person. It is a great happiness to get off without injury and heart-burning, from one who has had the ill lack to be served by you. (‘Gifts’)

The wise man throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point. (‘Compensation’)


Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind. (The ‘American scholar’ address)

Friday, May 27, 2011

‘CRIME PREFERENCE’ ― HOLDUPS AND HIGH INTEREST RATES

Police are the short-term solution to depravity, and education the long-term.

A close friend of mine was recently held up at gunpoint, and had her phone and wallet taken from her. I’m glad to know she survived, but that doesn’t make the situation less alarming.

Instead of focusing on solutions in the vein of “how to stop criminals” or “how to keep the streets safe,” i.e. police measures, I’d like to take a look at the underlying factors of crime.


A REVIEW OF TIME PREFERENCE

Last year, I discussed time preference in relation to competence of laborers, explaining that socioeconomic conditions play a role in individuals’ degree of foresight as manifest in actions. Those with shorter outlooks, who valuate immediate satisfaction much higher in relation to future satisfaction, are said to have high time preference; those with low time preference, think and behave the opposite.


Although unique valuations and attitudes are important factors, it can be generally observed that those who are not as well off, tend to seek out instant solutions or quick fixes so as to satisfy present needs, even as this may be detrimental in the longer term. We can thus understand why ‘5-6’ usury caters to poor folk primarily.


HIGH TIME PREFERENCE ― HIGH RISK


Those with shorter time frames are also more willing to engage in risky or potentially harmful activity, the compensation of which may not be as appealing to the rich but may mean everything to a poor guy down on his luck. Such activity would include the threat of violence against people, in spite of the dangers involved, not to mention the scorn heaped upon thieves, being plagued by one’s conscience, etc.

Civilization as we know it, by which time preferences have been lowered significantly the past 10,000 years, is the composite of peaceful and voluntary transactions conducted around the world throughout millennia; the use of coercion is always a step back to savagery, and is often indicative of both poor living conditions and persistently high time preferences.


INSTITUTIONALIZED COERCION EXPLOITS HIGH TIME PREFERENCES


Now, organized crime and governments ― whose primary tool is coercion, no matter how you dice it ― are able to conduct their inherently violent activities at relatively low risk. Politicians and ‘godfathers’ are able to enjoy their wealth, acting at low time preferences. This does not change the fact that their coercive activities are made possible by depleting the resources of those with high time preferences, i.e. the poor, and that such depletion perpetuates the conditions that make the poor reliant on the services monopolized by coercive institutions.


CONCLUSION: THE FUTURE OF SOCIETY

So whether a person does something detestable but legal (shoddy work), or something detestable and illegal (robbery), time preference serves as a tool for understanding individuals and communities.


Society’s ‘evolution’ will necessarily involve a crumbling of time preference raisers (e.g. government), and with this, we can also expect a lengthening of foresight, greater accumulation of capital by which greater economic prosperity can be maintained, greater patience, better breathing, etc. A lot of good stuff, none being the cause of the other good stuff, but it definitely starts with education.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

LARGE POOR FAMILIES: ‘STRONG CASE’ FOR RH BILL?


For a news article, the Inquirer’s ‘Salve’s life: A strong case for RH bill’ is sure opinionated. Sa title pa lang. And there’s nothing logical about it too.

If we’re going to be pilosopo about it, how would education on contraception and providing contraceptives help Salve now? As far as I know, the bill contains no provisions involving time travel, that would allow Salve to never conceive some of her eight kids. Nor does the bill provide a ‘Salve’s choice’ where she is burdened with deciding which of her spawn to have obliterated (RH bill advocates are implicitly saying that poor kids are of little value and better off never being born).


WHY RH?

But I suppose the reporter/editor meant that poor families faced with Salve’s circumstances would benefit from the bill. Apart from the dismal track record of government when it comes to implementing programs, why involve government in the first place? Are we to say that there is no possible way for the poor to be educated of family planning, or for contraceptives to be distributed, sans the coercive, all-encompassing hand of government?


Why don’t pro-RH bill folk put up charities for such a thing, since they’re presumably so benevolent, much more benevolent than those who oppose the bill? And for the sake of argument, if we involve government in this, why couldn’t the DepEd and DoH carry out their desired programs sans legislation?

There are other legislative ‘solutions’ to choose from: increasing the family’s earnings; a ‘poor-to-rich’ adoption agency; providing free housing, education, health care, utilities, etc. These won’t help, due to the inherent erroneousness of government planning, but neither will reducing family populations.


IT’S THE ECONOMY... DUMBASS!

Economics necessarily deals with factors and variables many of which are not apparent when taking a localized view of a situation. With the RH bill, one would have to show that planning for less kids in families, makes for prosperity in the community. It doesn’t.

One can lament that less taxes and less resources (money, food, roads, etc.) are chasing too many people (hence the overpopulation myth). And where do we suppose existent resources came from in the first place? Fairyland, where candy and unicorns and flowers abound, where population plays no part in sustaining whatever productivity is mustered?


NOT EVEN PART OF THE SOLUTION


It couldn’t even be said that reducing populations is merely part of an overall program to boost overall productivity, because the RH program itself would reduce resources (taxed money, employable people) by which growth would have otherwise occurred. This is why even though it may be against our undeveloped ‘common sense’ (for which economic training is undertaken by the more diligent), we have to realize that population is not a cause of poverty, nor of prosperity.

I will repeat, because I’m pretty sure the statement was not absorbed: Population is not a cause of poverty, nor of prosperity. There are other aspects of an economy that are to be considered, namely, the degree of freedom to trade. But I’m repeating myself.



CONCLUSION

This simplistic conclusion-jumping perpetuated by reporters and editors of the Inquirer is one step backward for Philippine journalism, and I hope to contribute to correcting this.


Related articles:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COTABATO CORALS, MARINE LIFE DESTROYED: TIME TO GRANT MOTHER NATURE RIGHTS?


With the reported “rape of the ocean” off the coast of Cotabato province, that involved the removal of all sorts of corals and the killing of rare marine life, it’s likely that people will become more open to declaring Mother Nature as having rights, as Bolivia has done, and as the Philippine Supreme Court has set a precedent with its brandishing of a ‘writ of kalikasan’ a few months back.

Before proceeding with such a radical ‘progressive’ measure, it would help to ponder the following.


HUMAN BEINGS COULD NOT HELP ‘EXPLOIT’ NATURE

How could people justify breathing or eating when this necessarily ‘steals’ from Mother Nature? But of course, humanity is a part of nature.

Environmentalists would have to realize that preserving nature per se is not a worthwhile goal; preserving and regenerating ecosystems is to be promoted for livability of Earth for humans. After all, why would environmentalists care about asteroids hitting and ‘harming Mother Nature’ in Jupiter? Environmentalism is only worthwhile in relation to human beings, who, again, are part of nature.


FOCUS ON REAL PROBLEMS, REAL SOLUTIONS


By imposing the rights of Mother Nature, the world becomes less livable as developing and developed countries are limited in ways of using resources by which living standards progressively increase. The imposition of government controls on private property, for the sake of ‘preserving the environment,’ prevents the realization of conditions that would otherwise have allowed for the desired preservation and regeneration of rare resources.


PRIVATE PROPERTY IS KEY


It would be more helpful if environmentalists make an effort to find out the true causes of degradation: disregard for human property rights and all things connected with this: default government ownership of lands (and seas); state monopolization of natural resources and granting of privileges to crony companies, whose focus is not in sustaining croplands, waterforms and whatnot, but in mere depletion; etc.


FURTHER READING


I invite you to read Butler Shaffer’s ‘Boundaries of order,’ at least the eighth chapter, on ‘Property and the environment.’ The whole book is wondrous, and I’m rereading it at the moment.

Read Doug Casey’s absolute pwnage of the ‘green’ movement, in a transcribed conversation, here. It will make you laugh with the joy of insight (if you’re smart, that is).

Also check out my earlier entry on the environment, with a biblical slant: ‘The Sabbath was made for man’ - Environmentalism.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ON LOVE OF FREEDOM, AND MAKING A DIFFERENCE


I no longer pretend to have ‘love for humanity’ or to have utmost concern as to the fate of society. That’s a politician’s job. It’s all self-deception. No one ever really cares about civilization as a whole, no matter how noble they feel. One may be greatly moved at the notion of the salvation of humanity, but one never even grasps the concept of humanity in the way it is supposedly grasped, that is, in a way being directly concerned with all human beings, whether in the present or throughout all time. Moreover, one might feel a sense of noble empowerment when involved with a cause that seems bigger than one’s self, but this doesn’t make such a cause any more right or righteous.


HIDDEN CONCEIT, CONDESCENSION

To sympathize with the suffering and whatnot, is to be conceited as to be able to ‘get’ others. It is quite demeaning for a ‘poor’ individual to be grasped so easily, so generally, when each individual knows itself as only it could know. One should in fact feel contempt for those who desire ‘to make a difference,’ or who want to ‘represent the people,’ as this puts down and oversimplifies the personalities of such brethren.

But nonetheless, ‘humanitarians’ insist that they have such love for people. What in fact goes on in these humanitarians’ hearts is an aesthetic thrill as to the idea of love, compassion, kindness, etc. But again, ‘humanity’ could not be grasped by individuals.


LOVING HUMANITY IS NOT HUMAN NATURE

That is just the way humans are, and we could not believe anyone who thinks it is possible to have such love for the world as a whole. Humans are built to be concerned primarily with the immediate, the familiar (in the sense of family and friends). While one laments the killings that go on elsewhere in the world, it would be a lie to claim that this disturbs one more than one’s constipation, or is of greater concern than that for a sick relative. We just are not wired to be attached to matters that do not relate to us directly, and that’s quite fine. That’s very human. Friedrich Hayek recognizes how the market and pricing systems have come about as a means of interacting with even those beyond our ‘tribe,’ those whom we are ‘impersonal’ to or whom we have no familial feelings towards.


A HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION

If one is asked hypothetically what they would rather allow to happen in the world, a train wreck in a foreign country, or their having a common fever, one might choose the fever. But does this make for some transcendent love beyond one’s ‘tribe’? Not exactly. In this case, one considers ‘logically’ how the deaths of those in a train wreck far outweigh the gravity of a fever that one recuperates from in a couple of days. If one were actually given the choice by fate, then one would choose to have the fever. But the reality is that no one is ever given such a choice, and it is just right that we get distressed over our fever more than a front-page tragedy.

If a madman restrains someone, and threatens to inject poison into one’s veins, but gives one the option of detonating a bomb far away instead, then things get a bit more ‘realistic.’ In this case, one would have to weigh on their conscience the deaths of the bomb victims, in the plural, in contrast to one’s single death. If one could not take the guilt (even though it is primarily the madman’s fault), then one may choose the injection. Or if one distrusts the madman, who may detonate the bomb regardless of whether one is injected or not, then one may choose that the bomb be detonated rather than they be injected (not forgetting that the madman is still untrustworthy and may inject them just the same).


The point to all this is that these national and world events matter to us only in as much as they affect us directly. One may hate an additional tax burden thanks to new legislation, and be genuinely angry at legislators for this, but this is a separate concept in one’s head from that of wanting an institutional overhaul to change the government from one that leeches off its citizens, in order to bring about a ‘new society.’


THE NEED TO PUT THINGS DOWN

I could not pretend that my love for writing books on social matters is a testament to my humanism. It may not necessarily be that I’m trying to show off my ideas either; I simply am compelled to put down these ideas I have, for whatever they are worth, in the belief that these should be preserved for as long as possible, in some form. It is a matter of bringing to light these ideas and keeping them in the light, and if this means having as many people aware of my work as possible, then so be it. These social issues are problems I feel must be solved, but such problem solving in my head is a separate matter from any actual problems that are solved.


This is primarily a call for more honesty and less self-deception when it comes to one’s advocacies. What we witness in revolutionaries is ‘merely’ self-expression and not some all-encompassing love. Society may benefit nonetheless from ideas that are of long-term utility.


Monday, May 23, 2011

RH BILL, POVERTY AND BIG GOVERNMENT


Conrado De Quiros, in his article today, ‘Not very great,’ about the RH bill, says that ‘reproductive health’ is not meant as the only solution to poverty, but its non-passage will worsen the problem. He says the enactment of the ‘responsible parenthood’ law should be combined with other statist measures such as land reform, so that poverty will be “solved.”

I don’t think anyone in the pro- or anti- camps ever referred to an RH law as a cure-all. The real bone of contention is whether it will be a step forward or backward in the fight against poverty, whether it will uplift living conditions or not. So De Quiros is debating with a straw man (this is the first time I’ve ever used the term in my life).


CHEAP APPEALS TO EMOTION


And it’s almost disgusting how he caricaturizes the plight of the poor, as a means of winning people to his cause:
... the keening of the wife who has to endure the attentions of a husband demanding sex after coming home from a drunken spree, the screams of the woman at childbirth every year for as long as her body can bear the ravages of pregnancy throughout life (which is bound to be a short one), the sobs of despair from the mother who left his brood in the hovel they call home—what else could she do, she has a dozen mouths to feed—that burned to the ground while she sewed in a sweatshop, vended food, or washed clothes for the parish.


Even though he says RH isn’t a panacea, De Quiros portrays these problems of the poor, as though legislating a coercive contraceptive program is the only way to solve them. What he’s really saying is, “You poor, worthless children... you should have never been born.” Every birth to him means a crumb less for everyone else.


LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSCIENCE AND COERCION


It’s also nonsense to say that Filipinos’ quality of life is being “decreed” by bishops, just because they’re opposing a coercive program. Are these Catholic Church representatives calling for a coercive ban on contraceptives? Are drugstore owners facing fines and imprisonment for selling these products? People should learn to distinguish between being bugged by their conscience, and being harassed by the government.


THE STATE WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING!

And so not only do we have an example of the refuted Malthusian fallacy of ‘overpopulation,’ but are witness to a misplaced trust in the state to determine the production and distribution of the disputed resources that are already freely available. There is a considerable percentage of the population that advocates the bill ― are we still to suppose that charities and other ‘pro-choice’ organizations won’t have enough funding for the contraceptive and reproductive health programs they envision?

But it’s the government’s job, many would contend. It is exactly this mentality ― of dependence on inherently violent institutions ― that lovers of liberty oppose, whether the issue involves contraceptives, mobile phone plans, food safety, or whatnot.


And maybe in the not-so-distant future, if government no longer exists, we could laugh about the destruction reaped in earlier centuries by socialism-statism, in the same way we laugh today about embarrassing experiences in our adolescence.

Related article:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MANNY PACQUIAO AGAINST RH BILL: IGNORANTLY RIGHT, a.k.a. Big government is not hanging in the balance


Manny Pacquiao is against the RH bill. At first, his stance seemed to mirror the Church’s non-economic ‘pro-life’ position, but apparently Jinkee uses contraceptives. Either way, he’s being tagged as an endorser of the Church view on the matter. To me, this reflects the general ignorance of both Pacquiao and the CBCP when it comes to the issue of ‘reproductive health’ or ‘responsible parenthood.’

All of this leaves a bad impression on the casual reader of the news, who sees nothing inherently wrong in contraception and so is by default supportive of the RH bill. What’s more, Pacquiao’s ‘exegesis’ where he sees “Go forth and multiply” as not limiting to a couple’s plans, is easily attackable by proponents of the bill such as Senator Miriam Santiago.


This makes it more difficult for anti-RH bill people to argue against the ‘purple’ pro-RH bill group.

If I had several quick questions to ask someone for them to rethink their perspective, I’d throw these:

1. Do you think it’s a good idea to invest in reproductive health centers in the provinces, when some municipalities don’t even have enough funding for general-purpose hospitals?
2a. Do you think that there is a fixed amount of resources for Filipinos to share, which makes a smaller population better?
2b. And could this output be maintained when population diminishes?
2c. Couldn’t something be done to increase resources per person, apart from population control, instead of merely splitting up a predetermined pie?
2d. Wouldn’t it help more to remove barriers to local and foreign investments?

3a. Japan and other developed nations in Asia have larger population densities than the Philippines, and third-world nations in Africa have smaller population densities. Why?
3b. Couldn’t other economic and political conditions be focused on instead, to achieve the desired prosperity?

I’ve addressed most of this stuff before in my earlier articles. I will now contemplate on what the passage, or non-passage of this bill, will mean in the greater scheme of things.

If the RH bill does become law, it’s not going to herald doomsday. Sadly, it’s just one of thousands of laws that foist government control on our lives and make for poverty in the country. The billions to be spent on such an inane law are peanuts to the destruction of wealth as perpetuated by the continued existence of the DepEd, Customs, DTI, Bangko Sentral, DENR, etc.


If the RH bill is thwarted, in spite of Lea Salonga’s rendition of ‘Imagine,’ we’ll still have a juggernaut of a state to deal with, unless the RH bill is defeated by good economics (unlikely), which makes it a potential starting point for educating the public en masse and making government intervention politically unpalatable.

As with politics in general, Manny Pacquiao should keep out of the RH bill issue, where he doesn’t even know enough to know how little he knows. You know? It’s no wonder that “Stick to boxing” is such a common cry from his fans.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ON MARKET SUBSTITUTES AND ACADEMIC CONCEIT


As you guys know, I am an avid reader of Cielito Habito’s Tuesday column in the Inquirer. He is the Philippines’ Paul Krugman, and has even met the Keynesian Jew.

In his article today, he ‘prints’ a reader’s suggestion on what to do with the ‘billboard problem’ in EDSA. On the assumption that billboard placement is not the best way to advertise, Ciel’s insightful reader proposes that companies maintain a portion of infrastructure such as an overpass. Not only would motorists see the names of these companies, but good will would be fostered as well. I believe this to be similar to the “This is where your taxes go!” signs put up by opportunistic politicians in bridges and whatnot, except that taxes won’t be involved.

The idea itself is nice, ‘di ba? I myself like it, and believe the concept would go well with the privatization of roads. Who knows, the so-called “adopt-a-highway” system just might catch on in the Philippines.

I wouldn’t go so far as to criticize billboards, however. No matter how much people criticize them as eyesores, they are apparently effective promotional tools, as is evident in their continued popularity. Which means that people are still favorable towards such instruments of ‘corporate greed’ (unless you’re of the hypothesis that advertising is coercive mind control).


AS AN ASIDE

In the same article, Ciel also referred to some obligation to aid the government’s tax collection program by demanding taxi receipts, further hammering into our brains that we are slaves to the state. Uncool.



THE FATAL CONCEIT

‘The fatal conceit’ is a book by the great economist and political philosopher Friedrich Hayek. Even though I haven’t read this 1988 book, which I intend to do eventually, I have a good idea of what he means by the term, based on my reading of his other works.

Many are of the mistaken notion that achieving good via public policy is a matter of hiring those with the know-how and integrity. Rather than have people associate freely, the advocating of which to these planners constitutes extreme ‘ideology,’ the government is assigned the task of allocating resources, according to some guidelines for ‘good governance.’ These guidelines provide a mechanism by which policymakers are kept up to date on advancements in various fields, by which ‘pragmatic’ decisions are made. This is considered a superior system to the outdated ‘free-market economics.’

I’m not even going to bother arguing with these deluded academics; perhaps I can nudge their impressionable students away from such twisted logic wherein theory and history are removed from reality.


SAME TURKEY, DIFFERENT DRESSING

What these academics propose is nothing more than central planning dressed differently, which has failed and would continue to fail if not for the presence of whatever remains of markets in such a community. You see, what they would call ‘ideological’ is actually an adherence to logical principles, which are timeless and not swept away by the complexities of modernity. And what is na├»vely called ‘pragmatic,’ we know better to be merely the politically expedient.



PRICES, AND THE PRETENTIOUS ALTERNATIVE

Government planning is by necessity flawed and always with an opportunity cost compared to private enterprise, because the feedback mechanism by which preferences manifest, e.g. pricing, is neglected. To the extent that policies replace the market, we have only public officials’ notions as to how resources ‘should be’ used, when in fact utility can only come about when subjective preferences of consumers and investors are expressed.


It is precisely the complexity of the economy that makes state planning a recipe for impoverishment. Public comments as to ‘what would be nice’ or ‘what should be done’ may be elicited (e.g. Habito’s readers’ letters), and bureaucrats can combine these with their discretion, but this would at best approximate preferences (e.g. continued popularity of billboards), which are still best known via prices.

What is the best way to know a person: through their words (e.g. consultations with consumer groups, hiring of industry specialists), or their actions (e.g. market exchanges)?



NO ALTERNATIVE TO MARKETS

In opposing state intervention, one does not assume that market participants have perfect knowledge, or that they even know what they want deep inside or what’s good for them; the real question is, what alternative is there? Market transactions according to individual risk-factored valuations and not by deliberate all-encompassing measures, ensure that economies are ‘planned’ as efficiently as can be.


As we can surmise, government failure is not a matter of competence, but a technical one that even the most successful in the private sector could not hurdle in the absence of prices to guide them.


CONCLUSION

Planners, of whatever ‘non-ideological’ subcategory they’d like to be known, are wrong. They suffer from bad positivistic methodology (e.g. citing of data as ‘proof,’ without the theoretical tools by which to interpret these), are brainwashed by politicized historical interpretations (e.g. blaming past and present depressions on free markets), and have yet to acquire a sufficient understanding of the market mechanism, which is actually quite simple to learn when a brain is not filled with statist ideology.


You don’t have to be a jerk to advocate destruction of the economy. I’m fairly sure that most academics who advocate government intervention are cool, kind people, and even those who accept the perks that come with rubbing elbows with the political elite, are not statists just because of the perks. Many sincerely think that they are a minority seeking to overthrow the free market status quo, when in fact the status quo is filled with anti-market do-gooder interventionists just like them.

But let’s quit the ad hominems. When discussing economics, we should, as the famous statist economist Solita ‘Winnie’ Monsod would say, call a spade a spade.

Related article:

NFA SMUGGLING: PRIVATE SECTOR TO BLAME?


Today’s Inquirer reads “SMUGGLING AT NFA BARED”. We are then presented with a host of illegal activities purportedly done by a greedy private sector in the Philippines for private gain at the expense of the public.

Cartels. Dummy traders. Favored importers. The Inquirer article lists such ‘shocking’ activities committed through the NFA, as though fraud characterized free markets.


GOVERNMENT, NOT PRIVATE SECTOR, AT FAULT

But what institution brought about all these privileges for these “private companies”? What system screened these traders for which favoritism was shown and by which taxpayers’ money was diverted from their supposed proper use?

When an entity acquires privileges from the government, to the exclusion of less politically adept entities, it is no longer accurate to refer to them as ‘private companies.’ We should call them cronies. There are legal ways by which political favoritism is shown, e.g. congressional franchises, and there are non-legal ways as well, but there is no fundamental difference: profitability becomes a matter of whom you know, rather than entrepreneurial ability or being in tune with consumer preferences.


Why was it assumed in the first place that absent government regulation of rice importation, that all hell would break loose, e.g. rice shortages, exorbitant pricing? And aren’t the recent rice problems related to government involvement?

We shouldn’t listen to those who advocate ‘privatization’ of the NFA either. There is nothing ‘private’ about a company bagging a monopoly on rice importation.


CORRUPTION-FREE NFA WOULD STILL MISALLOCATE RESOURCES

The rationale of the NFA, and all sorts of agriculture programs with cute acronyms, is to provide the poor with rice at affordable prices. I contend that even if these anomalous activities did not occur, the laudable goal of sufficient rice supply would not have been achieved, at least not without being detrimental to the general standard of living. By being focused on nominal prices, we neglect the means by which overall productivity and real incomes go up, e.g. free trade, openness to both local and foreign investments, absence of state monopoly and interference, etc.



CONCLUSION: LEGALIZE SMUGGLING

The term “legalized smuggling” accurately portrays what occurs when the politically privileged use government tools for their gain. But the only reason non-NFA-sanctioned rice importation is considered smuggling is because of the existing restrictions on importation to the Philippines. The solution is not increased oversight, but to legalize that which is now considered smuggling. Let’s not fall for bureaucrats’ portrayal of ‘free market as boogeyman,’ which only gives them more of an excuse to exercise control over our lives.

Monday, May 16, 2011

HIGHER MINING FEES, ROYALTIES: BOON TO GOVERNMENT, BANE TO EVERYONE ELSE


Here is an example of the Philippine government biting the hand that feeds it. The hand I am referring to is the commodities boom, as fueled in part by the international policy among central bankers. There has been an explosion in the mining industry as a result of gold and silver prices’ continued rise over the past decade.

And what does the government do? The Inquirer states:
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said he had proposed to President Benigno Aquino III several reforms in the mining industry to optimize the government’s control over the country’s mineral resources.


It’s simply taken for granted that the government has a right to the earnings of a company, especially if the sector is prosperous. And the only justification provided is that it will bring in more government revenue. We’re supposed to believe that higher mining fees are a boon, without asking, a boon to whom?

So it’s not enough that under the 1987 Constitution, natural resources are controlled by default by the government, to which concessionaires (i.e. cronies) bid for their slice of the pie. In fact, this is used as further justification for the ‘right’ to further milk mining companies, on top of the “environmental degradation” excuse. And what has the government done for the environment with the fees it gets on the pretext of concern for the environment?


What a scam. Instead of studying how the sector could benefit (e.g. removal of default state ownership of minerals, lower fees, reduced regulations), the DENR is bent on expropriating as much as possible, without even bothering to say for what such funds would then be used. We can be sure that the right to private property, whether of companies, ‘indigenous’ folk in affected areas, or people in general, is not high on their list of priorities.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

RH BILL UPDATE: THE ‘ALL-OUT WAR’ OF PURPLE VS RED


It’s supposed to be an ‘all-out war’ between those who advocate the passage of the ‘responsible parenthood’ or ‘reproductive health’ (RH) bill, and those against it, most prominently the Catholic Church.


I’M NOT LISTENING I’M NOT LISTENING LA-LA-LA-LA-LA...


Neither side listens to the other. I don’t know of anybody figuring in the debates who has had a ‘eureka’ moment and moved to the opposing side. As far as the ‘purple’ pro-RH bill people like Lea Salonga are concerned, they are battling dinosaurs of a 2,000-year-old institution out of touch with the times. As far as the anti-RH bill people are concerned, they are defending a holy tradition that recognizes the sanctity of life. How can there be communication when each group is focused on moral judgments against the other?


THE CHURCH’S FAULT

I’ve criticized the ‘red’ Church, represented by CBCP officials, for their inability to argue in technical or practical terms. Perhaps their explanations as to why an RH law would have adverse consequences in the present earth are simply not covered as much by major news publications. The Inquirer, for one, often betrays its bias for the bill.


THE RH BILL ADVOCATES’ FAULT


But the pro-RH bill folk are not only wrong in their stance, but do not even know what they’re dealing with. They think they are being opposed by a bunch of geezers in robes quoting scripture, when in fact their greatest adversary is economic principle.

They are quick to label their opponents as clueless or insensitive to maternal suffering and to the dangers of overpopulation. Sure, some anti-RH bill people may not know the score in this regard, but such an insinuation is in the vein of “If you’re not with us, then you’re against reproductive health.”

A smart aleck could counter that because these RH bill lovers are focusing their energies on this one issue, that they must be against other desirable things such as good education. Hindi naman, ‘di ba?


FOCUS ON THE HOW

It isn’t so much the goal of healthy moms that is problematic, but rather the means of going about it, i.e. a national program that would necessarily neglect other aspects of health and the economy in general due to scarcity of resources.


SPLITTING THE PIE, AND MAKING MORE PIE


Which brings us to another fault of pro-RH bill people: they think there is nothing to be done to increase not just wealth per capita but aggregate wealth. They are too intent on splitting the pie among less people, as opposed to making more pie so to speak, the possibility of which rests on economic growth that can be achieved if other things apart from population are considered, namely existing restrictions to capital accumulation and trade, of which our Constitution and laws are infested.


CONCLUSION: THINK WELL OF YOUR ENEMY

At present, there isn’t much of a real debate going on with the RH bill, because each group is too busy demonizing the other side. It would be to the benefit of both groups to assume the best intentions of their opponents ― so that thoughtful discussions can finally come about, and it can be reasonably concluded that the RH bill is bull-oney.