Saturday, July 30, 2011

THE REAL ‘THRUST OF ANTITRUST’: THE CURE IS THE DISEASE


Businessman, academic and former bureaucrat Roberto de Ocampo, in his article ‘Thrust of anti-trust’ in today’s (July 30, 2011) Inquirer, says:
It is not enough for us to simply tout privatization and private sector led economy as elixirs to our economic woes in the face of a consistently weak public sector without putting firmly into place the basic operating principle underlying a truly democratic business environment, namely, competition.

and
Attempts to level the playing field and bring about competition were successfully done in the past, notably in the breakup of monopolies in the telecommunication and inter-island shipping sectors. But the time has come to institutionalize a competitive framework rather than relying on sporadic exercises in enforcing competition.


What he is actually saying is that enterprise should be allowed to be free, and big ― but only to the degree that its direction is determined by a central authority: coercive government, that is. But of course, decentralized valuations and “sporadic” decision making by which market prices manifest themselves, are contradictory to the notion of central planning.

In calling privatization and laissez faire “elixirs,” he is portraying such initiatives as utopic and impractical, for which the government must step in and make things right.

De Ocampo actually grasps that regulatory capture and Public Private Partnerships make for an uncompetitive environment, but his solution is not to remove such governmental barriers to trade, but to foster even more governmental discretion as to the allocation of resources, via antitrust.

According to his logic, a “weak public sector,” that is, a government with limited controls over private affairs, is a bad thing. Although government is that which makes a market uncompetitive, and makes for harmful monopolies, increasing government would increase competition. How messed up is that!

Or by ‘public sector,’ does he mean “the people”? But there is no such entity. ‘The public’ is a mere construct relating to individuals ― whose valuations are best represented when buyers and sellers are not inhibited by coercion, e.g. government, from making market decisions.

He is under the delusion that the state could ever be “in the hands of the people,” when the notion of people-state harmony is logically false. If a people were to be truly represented by a state, why then are state policies coercive? Surely it is free actions, and not those as determined by an inherently violent institution, that would truly represent “the people”?

It is these little false premises that make for twisted misconceptions, and ultimately, poor policy recommendations, such as antitrust. In actuality, big business in a free market can only thrive for however long consumers allow. Remaining competitive is always a matter of being of service to ‘the public.’

Friday, July 29, 2011

KOBE, ROSE, DURANT, ETC. GO ELSEWHERE (THE PHILIPPINES) DURING NBA LOCKOUT


I like this Grantland article, ‘Kobe takes Manila; NBA not invited, for several reasons:

- It displays the principle of market competition. Even an institution like the NBA can and will be replaced in the event that the ‘proletariat’ stars and the league’s management are dissatisfied with each others’ terms, and consumers seek out the stars in other venues. It does not matter why the NBA stars came here. It could be simply for leverage for future negotiations with David Stern, or maybe the players wanted to see the Philippine red light district; whatever the case may be, the primary determinant of the allocation of resources is consumer demand.

- We can see a parallel to the NBA situation, in what occurred in Hollywood 60 years ago, when the likes of Louis B. Mayer of MGM seemed to have unlimited power. Indeed, most industries start off with one major producer, until competition rears its head.
Eventually, the movie industry became decentralized, as stars became less dependent on management in becoming stars. Globalization set in, as quality films from elsewhere in the world began enjoying wider renown. Although antitrust was invoked during this period, its effects were in fact counterproductive, with the industry already metamorphosizing.
Nothing is static. Everything is in flux.

- Although it “wasn’t about making money,” at least not in the short term, what with tickets being sold at low prices, Chot Reyes was forthright enough to admit that Manny V. Pangilinan and the organizers recognized the long-term value of the publicity and advertising involved. Reyes said:
Peso-wise, we're in the red. We can't hide that. But can you imagine the Smart logo plastered on Kobe's chest for two hours on prime-time TV? Pictures going all over the world — Smart All-Stars? In the end, in terms of goodwill, actual product mileage and the media values generated, I think we came out well.


- It shows the positive nature of people responding to incentives. Although the talent fees of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and co. could very well be tagged “exorbitant” or even “unfair,” the joy and satisfaction relating to the event are confirmation that these NBA superstars earned the money.
Profiting has to do not with exertion of effort or pain, although it may entail a lot, but with providing others with what they want. Does such a net-gain system exacerbate the plight of the hungry and homeless? Not if people are free to give their earnings as they please, and not if jobs are not destroyed via taxation or regulative government policy (which, ironically enough, has made for the monopolistic position of Pangilinan’s PLDT-Smart telco empire).

Related article: NBA stars at Araneta Coliseum: hits close to home

NOTES ON HAYEK’S SPONTANEOUS ORDER, AND OTHER CONCEPTS FROM ‘LAW, LEGISLATION AND LIBERTY’



I admit to a penchant for liking to read what I write, even when I’m writing about someone else’s writings. The following essay is based on a compilation of the notes I made while reading Friedrich Hayek’s ‘Law, legislation and liberty’ in January and February of this year, 2011. I hope that any self-indulgences will be balanced by the greater clarity they bring to the numerous issues tackled.


WHAT IS ‘THE GOOD’? ONLY THAT WHICH WE SEE AFTER THE FACT

Hayek’s spontaneous order is a brilliant after-the-fact description of how civilization and economic progress come about. Unfortunately, he goes out of his way to insert his bias towards government, by speaking of an entity that provides that which the spontaneous order could not on its own (namely police and courts, and some welfare). Not only could this premise taken in itself be stretched to include all government intervention and indeed its takeover of all industry, but it belittles the spontaneous order which is precisely reflected in the property rights system, by which social order exists.

And by agreeing to Hayek’s qualification, we set the stage not just for the existence of governments, but of a single world, nay, universe government that provides the security that a spontaneous order could not provide on its own.


RIGHTS ― INVENTION OR DISCOVERY?

In my ‘Property rights as power’ (PRAP) I criticize the idea that rights ― that is, non-abstract things called ‘rights’ in the Rothbardian or Christian sense ― are merely discovered. However, Hayek’s idea that there are discoverable principles implicitly used prior to their articulation is rather sound.

Hayek sees legislation as a mere uncovering or articulation of the already existing ‘common’ law, not explicitly taking into account the constant evolution of this underlying law itself. I don’t mean that an underlying law would have to be tweaked over time amongst different people, wherein this underlying law itself would also be in a process of change. Rather, this underlying law is just as much a ‘law’ as gravity, which does not change except to the extent that human constitutions and faculties of perception change.

People’s ‘discovery’ as manifest in legislation actually pertains to an improvement in the application of social and economic principles for the sake of long-term dominance. From the beginning, the manifestation or implementation of ‘law’ is not done so uniformly within society, even as there are certain tenets on which the people could agree.

This variation of the concept of ‘law’ between peoples is what makes for evolution of articulated law over time. As people accumulate resources over time, they discover better means for the further empowerment of each individual, and this involves mutual and voluntary cooperation as implied in the property rights system, which as yet is far from perfectly practiced.

There is also the lag factor, that is, that with one’s ‘discovery’ of the prevailing practices that make for one’s concept of ‘the’ law, the criteria for survival or empowerment of a species or individuals continues to evolve regardless.



‘LAW’ NOT A SEPARATE ENTITY

The idea of ‘underlying law’ shouldn’t be taken to mean so literally that there is anything that exists apart from the individual actions of people. Moreover, this should not lead one to adopt some Platonistic view of ‘The Order’ that incarnates itself here and there.

As with the invention of something like the computer, which makes use of underlying principles of physics and whatnot, it could not be said that these principles are hovering around waiting to be applied. We couldn’t say either that the computer is merely discovered and that it existed beforehand.


‘LAW’ IS LOOKING BACK

The ‘underlying principle’ is actually an after-the-fact discovery, a generalizing of preceding unique actions or occurrences which finds expression in enumerated principles. After the fact, we discover ‘prevailing’ or dominant practices or behaviors. Legislation must then develop criteria that make for the continued empowerment of the people.

Yet the anarchism we discover to be the most adequate social or economic system, could not have been applied to ancient or even modern times so successfully; the notion itself is contradictory, as early and contemporary people’s actions and mental processes could and should not be set aside in the consideration of the matter. An ‘if only’ or ‘what if’ could only stretch so far.

Ultimately, whatever occurs within a given community, is what served it best, and is a necessity. This does not preclude our looking to the future and framing it in an anarchist viewpoint.


DID SPONTANEOUS ORDER CREATE THE STATE?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

AZKALS CRAZE ENDS, FOR NOW, IN WORLD CUP QUALIFIER LOSS


For the past year or so that the Philippine Azkals football team has been in the limelight, I have for the most part been oblivious. I’m not even trying to be anti-nationalistic as with the Pacquiao phenomenon. And it’s not that I don’t know anything about football, because it used to be my primary sport as a kid.

I guess simply put, I just don’t see any big deal about it, even as I see people in my Facebook network, many of whom I doubt ever watched a football game in their life before the Philippines’ victory against Vietnam last December, constantly updating their statuses with the latest on the Azkals’ performance. And that is how I found out just a few minutes ago that the Azkals lost against Kuwait, 1-2, in a game held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

For the most part, the fervent nationalistic pride for these footballers can be explained in the way that Pacquiao’s fame is explained: racism. But I’d also like to bring to the table a conspiracy theory of mine that I’ve had since the fateful Vietnam game: this whole ramping up of publicity for the Azkals is all about state funding.



I found it peculiar from the very start that a football team’s victory could land on the front page, for successive days. And what’s more, politicians like Vice President Jejomar Binay were quick to latch on. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that the powers that be planned all along to hype the whole thing so as to better negotiate for larger funding for the corresponding government agencies such as the Philippine Sports Commission. For all I know, the whole Phil Younghusband-Angel Locsin kilig angle was a part of this wicked plot.

In the subsequent months, Philippine football has seen a kind of rise in popularity. And even though I haven’t seen the details of the P1.82-trillion budget for 2012, the PSC will likely get a significantly larger chunk than the previous year.


BEWARE MASSIVE PR JOBS

Now I can’t prove this yet, because the DBM website doesn’t have details on the upcoming budget. And I might be totally off-base with my conspiracy theory. But my point remains that demagogues do latch on to these issues and immediately think of ways to cash in on these ― oftentimes with taxpayers’ money that ideally should never even leave people’s pockets.


FINAL REMARKS: IF THEY LIKE IT, THEY WILL FUND

Should football in the Philippines be supported? Why is this even asked? If there was genuine interest in it, this would be reflected in football-related matters ― merchandise, gear, etc. ― being more profitable. To demand subsidies and additional state funding for sports is to thwart consumers ― the public ― themselves, who apparently wouldn’t actually bother spending on football, not out of any particular dislike of the sport, but because their interests lie elsewhere, say, basketball.


Further reading: My entry on sports and the folly of state funding, as found in my index Free society.

CONRADO DE QUIROS’ TWISTED VISION OF ‘HEROISM AND IDEALISM AND VOLUNTARISM’


In Conrado De Quiros’ Inquirer column today (July 28, 2011), he says:
Maybe next Sona, or well before then, we can hear not just what government has done for the people but what the people have done for government. Maybe next Sona, or well before then, we can hear not just how well the employee has served the Boss but how well the Boss has inspired the employee. That Boss is not P-Noy, or Bruce Springsteen.
He is the people.


It’s implied in such a JFK-esque statement that there are only two attitudes one can take in social affairs: either be a leech (“what government has done for the people”), or a martyr (“what people have done for government”).

It must suck to live to his age and to have such a miserable view of human interactions. De Quiros is pretty much saying that whenever you associate with another person, it’s going to be a zero-sum game: you win and they lose; or you lose and they win.

He doesn’t realize that his life, and everyone else’s life, is full of transactions with family members, with friends, with the grocer, with the newspaper vendor, etc. that uplift both parties’ conditions, whether it’s financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. This is otherwise known as a ‘free market,’ whose definition, contrary to popular opinion, is not so much related to greed or even money, but to absence of coercive institutions (e.g. government). After all, even in unfree societies, greed manifests in government expropriation, regulation, monopolization, genocide, etc.

It’s also totally reprehensible that he speaks of “what people have done for government.” It’s not bad enough that I was taxed against my will, under pain of imprisonment and fines; I have to seek further ways to offer myself as a sacrifice to the state!

It is a sign of the times when writers as mind-warped as De Quiros are given prominent space in the country’s largest daily.

PHILIPPINE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT: OFF THE ADMINISTRATION’S RADAR


Back when I was a news reporter, I learned of the term given to those people who would pose as journalists in press conferences or forums, so as to receive literal or metaphorical free lunches: hao siao. The expression itself was always said with disdain or mockery. Little did I know that within a few years, the same pejorative term would apply to me!

Yesterday, July 27, 2011, I listened to various speakers talk about the Freedom of Information bill, at a policy forum organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati. Seated with me at the event were bloggers Harris Santos and Nonoy Oplas.

To save me from being considered a total hao siao, I am at least writing about the bill in this blog. If you are interested, I had already written about the bill last year, here.


ADDING TO THE PRESIDENT’S SONA ‘FAIL’

Philippine President Noynoy Aquino a.k.a. Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy! failed to devote two seconds of his SONA 2011 in order to mention that the Freedom of Information bill was a priority measure of his administration. This is contrary to the whole ‘Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap’ schtick, and easily makes an observer suspicious as to Malacañang’s silence. After all, by improving people’s ability to access public records, there are likely to be less anomalies committed; how could this have slipped NNN’s speechwriters’ minds? … Naman! (wait for applause)


Manuel ‘Manolo the Explainer’ Quezon III, undersecretary of the president’s communications office, was quite civil and polite in answering any queries as to NNN’s commitment to having the bill passed, but you could sense his slight annoyance that people in the forum wouldn’t just let NNN’s slip go unnoticed. After all, NNN did mention the bill in a Jessica Soho interview afterward; that should count for something, right?

Other speakers were Nepomuceno Malaluan of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition; Quezon Rep. Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III; AIM professor Ronald Mendoza; PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas; CMFR Deputy Director Luis Teodoro; and MindaNews Editor Carolyn Arguillas. I thought that Mangahas and Arguillas were the most informative and helpful in understanding the issue.

And a statement made by CMFR Executive Director Melinda De Jesus, who served as moderator, stood out: she said that the passage of a law like this means nothing if people themselves do not have the initiative to seek access, or do not have the awareness of the importance of this bill in curbing indiscretions. I might be misquoting her, but that is what I took away from her statement.


DEMANDING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING FREEDOM

Even as people pursue initiatives for government transparency, with an instinctive sense that they have a right to access to information, typical thinking is so muddled that the issue of property rights is ignored. One dumbass participant in the forum suggested, with great conviction, that the Church should be subject to an FOI law as well, on the premise that people don’t know what is done with their ‘tithes.’

It didn’t even occur to this dumbass that, unlike with the state, which requires tax collections under pain of penalties and imprisonment, the Church can only cajole people via guilt and threats of hellfire to come in the afterlife; not exactly coercive in any worldly sense. If you suspect Church officials are using funds in a questionable manner, the solution is simple: Don’t donate your money to the Church.


USELESS BURAUCRACY


In Indonesia and India, their corresponding Freedom of Information laws create an Information Commission, or Committee. The Philippines’ House version of the bill follows this arrangement, unfortunately, where commission members are appointed by the president.

The Information Commission would just be an added bureaucracy. Complaints for non-compliance of agencies can or ought to be addressed by the courts. It might be lamentable, but the incompetence of courts is a separate issue. After all, other disputes such as, say, a case of breaking and entering, are not handled by separate commissions. The matter of public information should be no exception, if we are to consider that resources are finite. As regrettable as courts may be as the solution, work must be done to improve courts, as opposed to creating yet another bureaucratic office for arbitration, which sure wouldn’t guarantee efficiency either.


PUBLIC INTEREST IS BULLSHIT

I must warn the typical reader that the rest of this article is a nuanced look at aspects of the bill which are beyond what has been discussed in any fora so far.

Monday, July 25, 2011

SONA 2011: WANG-WANG AD NAUSEAM ― AS SHITTY A SPEECH AS I KNEW IT WOULD BE


Two days ago, I had prophesied how Noynoy Aquino a.k.a. Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy!’s State of the Nation Address for 2011 would go. Let’s take a look at how I did. Italicized paragraphs are those that came true.

- Continued crusade against his predecessor Gloria Arroyo
- Continued bragging of ‘conditional’ doleouts meant to show how generous he is
- Continued bragging about the nominally high financial markets, of which no human endeavor other than inflation of the money supply is responsible.
- Boasting of standing up for the rights of the Filipino in the Spratly dispute, without indicating how things can be resolved.
- Little regard for decreasing the deficit other than vague references to plugging tax ‘leakages.’
- Evading the lack of progress with regards to reducing red tape for business. He might also divert away from such a failure by talking about an antitrust law nearing approval at committee level, or how awesome the cronyistic ‘Public Private Partnerships’ are going to bring prosperity.
- Ambiguity on his stand on the RH Bill, apart from talking about the bill’s status in a way that reflects that passage or non-passage of the bill would be credited/not blamed on him.
- He will remain bald.


*

Below are my additional remarks.

Milking the ‘wang-wang’ (siren thingie) as a symbol for change ― First of all, his anti-wang-wang policy was implemented before SONA 2010. So when he made mention of it this time, and sprinkled it throughout his speech as a main motif, it was quite obvious that the substance of his speech was lacking. He focused on feel-good symbolisms. It remains to be seen whether he will go through his remaining four SONAs with the wang-wang as a pathetic crutch.

Lower debt interest payments, improved Philippine government credit rating ― This is a relative situation due to the debt woes of the Western world. And NNN wants to take credit for a comparatively sounder financial policy over the decades? Even the Philippine markets will be going downhill in the coming crisis, and the nominal records in the PSEi and whatnot will be discovered as just that: nominal.

Rice importation bad, ‘self-sufficiency’ good ― I often make the argument that the logical conclusion to ‘self-sufficiency’ is the absence of trade altogether, where each person fends, produces and consumes ― not for their country; not for their province; not for their city or town; not for their families ― for themselves alone. People ought to be breaking down barriers to trade such as the controversy-ridden monopoly on rice importation known as the National Food Authority. Instead, NNN wants to brag about reduced parameters of trade.

Lower unemployment ― NNN claims the decimal-percentage drop in unemployment as his doing, and he is conceited enough to think that the government can further coordinate jobs and training so as to further reduce unemployment. Once again, he neglects some of the real causes of unemployment ― state monopolization of professional licensures and curricula, the tax burden of potential employers, etc.

Conditional cash transfers ― It’s easy to redistribute; what’s more difficult is to make for a net gain where there is no opportunity cost due to such redistribution. After all, such ‘conditional’ doleouts, along with incentives and subsidies, have to be sourced from somewhere.

Shallow conception of corruption ― As I often say, the ‘corruption’ as discussed in newspapers in reference to sweetheart or under-the-table deals, is only the apparent corruption. In itself, state intervention is a corrupting influence, one that does not look to be going away anytime soon.

Larger 2012 budget ― I tackled this just a couple of weeks ago. Basically, the mentality is: the more money is thrown to these monopolies, and the more power the government has over people’s lives, the better off we will be. Forget opportunity costs. What is important is that the government appears ‘pogi.’

Additional required benefits for house help ― Like the minimum wage, this will only exacerbate unemployment, as employers struggle to finance such labor, to the point of deciding not to bother with such labor at all.

*

There’s no real point in commenting on these SONAs. I just do it out of tradition, since it’s what I’ve been doing since 2008. Nothing’s changed, apart from the faces; it’s all bullshit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

NBA STARS AT ARANETA COLISEUM: HITS CLOSE TO HOME


I caught the last few minutes of the Smart Gilas vs. NBA stars game tonight (July 24, 2011) on AKTV 13, broadcast from the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. These NBA legends are just within two to three kilometers from my house. It was so fun to see, and I wish they show replays of the two games (I failed to see the second half of yesterdays game).

It was awesome seeing Derrick Rose getting Pacquiaos autograph, hearing how Kobe Bryant likes longganisa, Chris Paul giving props to local point guards, and whatnot. Just having these guys being able to relate to stuff I know locally, makes me feel good. People confuse this for ‘pride’ in being Filipino per se, as though it were a matter of superiority as opposed to mere orientation or preference.

But it was really awesome for these all-stars to condescendingly play with the PBA guys. I wonder how much Pangilinan had to pay for these superstars; Im guessing half a million dollars total for the talent fee alone.

PHILIPPINE TOTAL GUN BAN FOR PREVENTION OF NORWAY-ESQUE MASSACRE?


The solution to avoiding massacres in the Philippines such as that committed by Andres Behring Breivik in Norway, or the Ampatuan attack on journalists two years ago for that matter, might seem counterintuitive, perhaps counterproductive. A knee-jerk reaction would be to demand that politicians enforce total gun bans and heavier regulation of trade to prevent firearms and bomb ingredients from getting into ‘the wrong hands.’ In fact, these would serve to perpetuate such incomprehensible violence.

In a society where gun possession is recognized as a right not sanctioned by the state, not everyone would keep a gun on their person, but it would serve as a natural deterrent to those who get it in their minds to shoot dozens of people. In a ‘gunless society,’ on the other hand, it will be precisely the violators of such gun bans who would be more inclined to hurt others, in the knowledge that the ‘obedient’ citizenry, stripped of means of self-defense, are rendered powerless.

Some would argue that allowing such freedom would reinforce a mentality of violence, but this is plain bad psychology. The possession of a gun, or a butter knife, or whatever, does not make for a violent disposition, in the same way that installing locks on one’s front door does not qualify one as paranoid.

Power-hungry politicians are intent on ‘disabling’ one’s protective instincts, as opposed to recognizing a practical purpose for each of our instincts. To take a potentially confusing, but amusing, analogy: Just because one likes maintaining a clean bottom (i.e. peace and order) does not mean one is ‘anti-defecation’ (i.e. anti-guns). Everything has its place. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

Regulation of trade, especially of components of explosives, is something I would entrust to competing private firms, whose clients or customers put a premium on accountability and transparency, thereby providing a market incentive on which producers and distributors act.

As upsetting news such as the Norway massacre may be, further restriction of already-regulated firearm ownership and use would exacerbate the problem.


Related article: An American experiment in anarcho-capitalism: The not so wild, wild West

Saturday, July 23, 2011

THAT WAS ONE LOUSY, CRAPPY, STUPID SONA 2011 BY NOYNOY


It’s over two days before Noynoy Aquino, a.k.a. Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy! gives his State of the Nation Address 2011, this Monday, July 25, 2011. I’m going to make a prediction right here: it will suck, being a showcase of stupidity.

I am aware that my literary reputation is weighing on the balance by making such a brash prediction, but I think Ill risk it. For the past 13 months as president, NNN and his Cabinet, political allies and opponents have said the usual dumb shit that only politicians have the audacity to spew, and which the majority believe anyway. So the odds favor me.

Here’s some of the dumb shit to expect:
- Continued crusade against his predecessor Gloria Arroyo
- Continued bragging of ‘conditional’ doleouts meant to show how generous he is
- Continued bragging about the nominally high financial markets, of which no human endeavor other than inflation of the money supply is responsible.
- Boasting of standing up for the rights of the Filipino in the Spratly dispute, without indicating how things can be resolved.
- Little regard for decreasing the deficit other than vague references to plugging tax ‘leakages.’
- Evading the lack of progress with regards to reducing red tape for business. He might also divert away from such a failure by talking about an antitrust law nearing approval at committee level, or how awesome the cronyistic ‘Public Private Partnerships’ are going to bring prosperity.
- Ambiguity on his stand on the RH Bill, apart from talking about the bill’s status in a way that reflects that passage or non-passage of the bill would be credited/not blamed on him.
- He will remain bald.

And it’s the last prediction of which I’m most doubtful.

On Monday evening (Manila time), I’ll report back to you on how my predictions will have done. So tune in then!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ST. LUKE’S HOSPITAL SHOOS AWAY ZALDY AMPATUAN: HAIL FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION


Political patriarch and accused massacrer Zaldy Ampatuan was granted leave for a doctor’s checkup, but St. Luke’s Hospital refused to take him in, owing to all the controversy regarding him and his family.

This to me is a triumph of freedom of association. It’s not that St. Luke’s had shunned profits, as would have been gained through Ampatuan’s checkbook. In fact, St. Luke’s did not let Ampatuan in precisely because they feared the loss of profits, what with the security risks keeping him entailed.

This is the market in action. St. Luke’s didn’t even need to cite some moral digust for its actions. It was enough to recognize how the presence of someone with a reputation like Ampatuan’s could tarnish the hospital’s reputation. Thankfully, there have so far been no laws against such a manifestation of the right to property. It might seem cruel that a hospital would reject a patient (especially if it were a poor one), but simply put, Ampatuan’s bloodthirsty reputation precedes him.

We don’t need some essential change in human nature ― from inherently selfish to ‘unselfish’ ― for people to get along while making a living. Unfortunately, most utopias in people’s heads are based on an unrealistic view of humanity, wherein an altruistic State is supposed to make things better.

It is the recognition of private property that makes for social order. Freedom works because it gives people the greatest multitude of options for their valuations to manifest and thereby improve their conditions. Case in point, a hospital refusing to allow entrance to an alleged killer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UNCONSTITUTIONAL ‘EXIT PERMITS’ FOR OFWs: UNJUST IN ANY CASE


A government’s effectiveness can be gauged by how little it interferes in people’s lives. So when the 1987 Constitution, a document filled with provisions for government meddling, contains a provision prohibiting the enactment of laws for a certain issue, such as travel of Filipinos, it ought to be highlighted.

Former Arroyo Cabinet member Rigoberto Tiglao points out that it says in Section 6 of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights:
Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.


In Tiglao’s view, this makes ‘exit permits’ required of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) unconstitutional. However, the POEA could make for an elastic interpretation, so that such permits are in keeping with ‘public safety.’

This makes it all the more necessary for people to realize that a constitution could not be the underlying basis for our laws. Such a basis is not found in any human document, and is in fact a product that has come about to the degree that coercion has not been institutionalized in people’s lives. I am talking about the property rights system, the absence of which the word ‘law’ is meaningless. With private property, the government simply has no reason to detain those who seek work abroad.

In fact, the government would have no reason to exist. For an institution, in this case, government, to lay claim and control over individuals’ property, is already a trespass, regardless of what any piece of paper may say on the matter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: JOHN MILTON ON TYRANNY


From the somewhat-anti-capitalist[1] John Milton, on the psychology of an enslaved people:

Reason in man obscur’d, or not obey’d,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart passions catch the government[2]
From reason, and to servitude reduce
Man till then free. Therefore, since he permits
Within himself unworthy powers to reign
Over free reason, God in judgment just
Subjects him from without to violent lords;
Who oft as undeservedly enthrall
His outward freedom: tyranny must be,
Though to the tyrant thereby no excuse.
from ‘Paradise lost,’ Book XII, 86-96



[1] Who, according to Marxist academic David Hawkes, saw the market as idolatrous. Milton, John. Paradise lost. Barnes & Noble Classics, New York. 2004.
[2] In the sense of sound mind ‘governing’ action, not the coercive institution

AY, MABAIT PALA SI ZALDY AMPATUAN


Political turncoatism in the name of honor and virtue is alive and well. Ten years ago, Chavit Singson turned to ‘the good side,’ the Arroyo camp, in helping depose his buddy Joseph Estrada as president. Today, we have Zaldy Ampatuan, backed into a corner with no other way to regain honor, save that of disowning his brother and distancing himself from the November 23, 2009 ‘Maguindanao massacre’ where 58 were killed.

It may be that in Zaldy’s mind, he really is doing an honorable thing. Indeed, how much lower can you get by sticking with a disreputed political dynasty? But my point is that politicians, even at the beginning of their careers in ‘public service,’ have already somehow reconciled the values of concern for the community, and ambition to conquer ― which are inherently contradictory but are never settled logically in their minds.

More wealth and more influence – and everything else appears as though through the other end of a telescope – distant and trifling. ― From a letter to ‘the new president’


And so the state lumbers on. The present incident should not deceive us as to its vile, calculating nature. ‘Calculation’ in itself is not bad; we could not help but weigh outcomes, by which we act. But when involving the prolongation of coercive rule, we should be wary.

Monday, July 11, 2011

1.82 TRILLION PESOS: DOUBLING THE PHILIPPINE BUDGET IN SIX YEARS


And government continues growing. In 2006, the national budget was P918.6 billion, reenacted from the previous year. For 2012, the proposed budget is P1.82 trillion, or just P17 billion short of doubling the 2006 figure! Even accounting for inflation, that’s quite an increased encroachment in our lives!

But of course it isn’t considered encroachment, especially when ‘anti-poverty’ programs are waved around. It is conveniently neglected that revenues are increasingly insufficient to meet expenditures (and taxes are inherently unjust as well, which makes for a double whammy).


A MONOPOLY ON ‘RESULTS’

Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad has the temerity to talk about “achieving results,” the results being ‘fish for a day’ doleouts. In his and other bureaucrats’ minds, there is no other way to have provided incomes, certainly not through employment opportunities in the private sector. It is assumed that statesmen, or any men, have the knowledge and ability to craft the necessary ‘conditions’ by which the funds would not go to waste.

This increase in budgets is not going to end anytime soon, much less when poverty is aggravated due in part to the enlarging of government.


RECTO BRANDISHES ‘RESULTS’

In related news, Senator Ralph Recto put out a full-page ad in Page A20 of the Inquirer today (July 11, 2011), outlining his various bills and anti-poverty advocacies. The game here is paramihan. The more bills filed and the more proposals to expand the reach of government in people’s lives, the better ― the more points he accumulates among the voting public.

This mentality of ‘more is better’ is misdirected, and does not consider how big budgets lead to reduced freedoms, reduced opportunities, and reduced quality of life.


CYNICAL OPTIMISM

As much as I treat social issues as academic problems to be solved, there are times when I feel such loathing for the state, and statism.

I can get all inspired reading and seeing the wonders of technology which have become accessible through increased trade and lower prices, but then I read the news about increased government budgets, and it’s like “one step forward, two steps back.”


HYPOCRISY AND THOUGHTLESSNESS

These iPhone-wielding politicians and iPhone-wielding activists continue condemning the very system that makes these products possible, and there’s no hypocrisy at all in their self-righteous rhetoric ― just plain ignorance.

Enthralled by such warped minds, I even forget to point out, “After doubling the budget, is there ANY increase in the standard of living, apart from that provided by free enterprise?”

Kasi naman e, why is charity entrusted to a coercive institution, i.e. government? A typical brainless answer would be, “Because people wouldn’t help their fellowman otherwise.” How hypocritical is it to expect people elected by these same ‘selfish’ people to be benevolent?

We’re better than this.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: GOVERNMENT AS DISEASE

Government is the worst disease of history. To expect a reform ‘if only the right people come in’ is misguided. You don’t combat cancer and AIDS by turning them into kinder terminal diseases. You don’t expect cancer and AIDS to be good ‘if only the right strain’ came along. You seek to eradicate them completely, irrevocably.

HOLLYWOOD AND PRO-GOVERNMENT ACTIVISM


I’m a huge fan of certain movies and TV shows, and it pains me to hear stupid politics and economics emanating from the mouths of these actors and actresses whom I admire for their performing and storywriting talents. Sometimes, the implicit statism stops me from watching altogether, such as with ’30 Rock.’ My other blog, Free Market Movie Reviews, is a catalog of the misery I have experienced from film.

What makes showbiz performers unreliable socio-political-economic commentators?

1. The ones who succeed in the arts do so due to mass appeal, and the populace in general is made up of unsophisticated thinkers, which reflects on the ideas conveyed in successful film products.

2. Artists in general are more sensitive and may even be said to care ‘more’ for the downtrodden, which is dangerous when not coupled with economic education. Arguments would tend to be based primarily on emotional impact rather than logical substance.

3. Artists, who excel in their particular craft, mistakenly and unknowingly make use of the same ‘artistic’ portions of their brain in studying other fields such as the social sciences, which makes for poor theory. Even those who do have aptitude in other fields neglect the methodological dualism necessary when it comes to the social sciences, economics in particular.


Related articles:

Friday, July 8, 2011

MY BOOK ON THE BUSINESS CYCLE IS FINALLY ON GOOGLE BOOKS!


It’s been a long time coming, and I am proud to say that it’s now available for anyone in the world ― even a farmer in Botswana ― to download and read, for free!

I first started writing ‘Philippine central banking and the business cycle’ back in May 2010, and had begun searching for a publisher by July of that year. After a couple more failed attempts at finding someone who would finance its printing, I decided to just put the thing online, sort of like a ‘direct-to-video’ release.

The time from the first draft to its online availability was a little over a year, but it’s all for the best. For the past two weeks, the book has seen quite a lot of editing. From careless remarks, to blatant mistakes, all these were discovered; if there remain any more things to be corrected, sorry na lang! It’s as good as etched in print!

My recent edits have also allowed me to alter the style of the narration and expositions somewhat, to sound less like my smart-alecky 2010 self. I hope it has the effect of being more accessible and comprehensible.

As for the substance of the book, I allot the first, second and eighth chapters for discussions on the Philippine situation and relevant literature, specifically. The rest of the book deals with theory, especially business cycle theory, plus some orientation on the present world crisis, which I believe will make the book extremely relevant for the next decade or so. It will also make me look prophetic, even though all I did was study the guys who actually knew about this stuff even before the Great Depression happened.

Please download or browse it for yourself (it’s completely FREE) and let me know what you think. Also do check out the book’s description and related articles in a separate Web page dedicated to the book.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ECONOMIC MODELS

On the complexity of economic models: Great liars will have more detailed, consistent stories and facts than those who only offer the simple truth.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

STARBUCKS AND MMDA: PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SMOKING BANS


Just because something is desirable, does not mean it should be imposed with violence.

People are equating the MMDA’s smoking ban all along EDSA, to Starbucks Philippines’ no-smoking rule implemented on its own private initiative in all branches. It may seem that the MMDA and Starbucks have the same idea, but the means of enforcement makes all the difference.


‘ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATION’

The MMDA claims some ‘environmental violation’ being committed by smokers. Does this mean then that before the ban, smokers along EDSA were not violating this non-entity called ‘the environment’? Or that C5 smokers are, for some inexplicable reason, non-violators in contrast to the EDSA smokers? It’s such a nonsense violation, and arbitrary.


PRIVATE PROPERTY

The key difference is actually the voluntary nature of Starbucks’ new prohibition. I’m not thrilled about what they’re doing, and perhaps after a year of poor sales, they’ll bring back smoking areas, but it is something to respect, regardless of Starbucks’ reasons. If people nonetheless patronize Starbucks, then this would mean that a change in attitude towards smoking is genuine.

Starbucks is privately owned. Property rights are paramount. If it is found that no-smoking rules are profitable to establishments, then this would be indicative of a ‘no-smoking’ culture, and not merely the bullying ways of do-gooder bureaucrats, the good-intentioned results of which would not last.


COERCION DOES NOT WORK

By imposing a smoking ban in places purportedly owned by taxpayers, the MMDA is limiting people’s actions ― smoking in particular ― by coercion. There is no change in attitude involved, merely resentful helplessness on the part of smokers, to the degree that such a ban is imposed. It is like teaching a kid that something is wrong by punishment; when the kid grows up, focus is on not being caught, as opposed to non-commission.

If EDSA were private, and a ban was implemented, then the matter of using such thoroughfares would have to do with people’s desired associations, where outcomes (e.g. popularity and profitability of EDSA) are a result of individuals weighing their options according to their subjective valuations, and acting voluntarily on such valuations.


CONCLUSION

We can conclude that the more ‘public property’ is privatized, the more individual valuations can manifest, and through the process of free trade, the standard of living goes up. Due to the free nature of such a society, any revaluations as to people’s attitudes towards morals and health would be genuine and sustainable.

And if people are inherently suicidal smoke belchers, then their demise would come regardless of violent initiatives to stop behaviors deemed harmful by the self-righteous.

‘PAJERO 7’ AND THE PCSO’S MONOPOLY ON CHARITY


I’m surprised how little the ‘Pajero 7’ issue, where it was revealed by the Commission on Audit that seven bishops were recipients of Pajeros given by the PCSO, was used by the pro-RH bill crowd in order to discredit those bastards in the Church. Even so, I think it goes to show how it could be harmful to associate causes with certain groups (CBCP as anti-RH bill), because it gets in the way of dealing with the issues and principles involved. It makes it seem as though the only opponents of the RH bill are bible-toting hypocrites, when in fact, the notions of ‘reproductive health’ as administered by the state and as means of reducing poverty go against sound economic principles.

But more importantly, the ‘Pajero 7’ fiasco should get people to thinking of alternatives to the PCSO, which is practically a monopoly on charity, and gaming (it in fact uses charity as a pretext for controlling the ‘gambling industry’). At present, it is inconceivable to most that the much-beloved lotto would be organized by private organizations, so the focus is merely on holding a monopoly accountable. The better solution would of course be for such discredited agencies to be replaced by more able competitors who use transparency as a selling point. By eliminating government monopoly, it is those charity organizations that best cater to the charitable impulses of people, rich, middle-class and poor alike, that would succeed and provide ‘bang for buck’ for both benefactor and beneficiary.

The lotto would be sufficiently funded if there remains confidence in such a system, and markets aid in verifying such confidence by giving people more options as to where to place funds. The ‘Pajero 7’ controversy would not matter too much if the PCSO were a private organization; it would simply go bankrupt and other charities and gaming companies would succeed in its stead.