Monday, August 29, 2011

EID AL-FITR 2011 AND THE MUSLIM THREAT



As Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr or Eid’l Fitr (August 30, 2011), it’s as good a time as any to consider the so-called ‘Muslim threat.’ So many have been brainwashed into believing that the only viable ‘solution’ to terrorism and Muslim extremism is to eradicate the entire Middle East.


MUSLIMS AREN’T INHERENTLY VIOLENT

Do these people really feel Islam to be a threat to all infidels (non-Muslims), so much so that they would kill Robin Padilla on sight, if only they could get away with it? Or feel justified in massacring those ‘dibidi’ sellers in Quiapo and Cubao? And what of Muhammad “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong” Ali? And cancer-stricken basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Are these people part of the ‘threat’?



BAD PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIOLOGY

Because of such brainwashing, otherwise peaceful folk are led to believe that it’s a matter of “us or them,” that the end (of abolishing terrorism) justifies the means (killing of innocent babies).

It requires a poor understanding of psychology and sociology to believe that, figuratively, Islam is a robe people put on that makes them violent and angry towards nonbelievers, to the extent of them dedicating their lives to extermination of the rest of the world.



RELIGIONS DO NOT DETERMINE ACTION

It seems that it is the Muslim tradition, supposedly of killing infidels in Allah’s name and demeaning women, that is passed down from generation to generation. And so human action is reduced to a mindless adherence to ‘culture’ or ‘religion.’

By this logic, there would be no difference among Muslims in the 8th century and those of today. There would be no difference between Christianity when it was an underground minority in the Roman Empire, and Christianity in the present world. What accounts for such a difference? What accounts for any social change at all? To answer that, we have to discard the simplistic notion of ‘religion as determinant.’


ACTIONS DETERMINE RELIGION

What actually happens in society is that people have their unique perspectives, and do their unique actions, that only later can be generalized under the concept of, say, ‘Islam.’ The diversity even within a group of Muslims is reflected in the fact that Muslims today are a different breed from those of earlier centuries. Although they seek guidance from the same book, the Koran, each could not help but interpret scripture in their unique, ‘mutated’ way.

We can speculate how much of this change in outlook comes from interaction with a ‘more enlightened’ West, and how much is a ‘natural’ growth in understanding that comes with time. But it is more important to realize that religions, being mere generalizations of unique actions, are not static.


RELIGIONS ARE DYNAMIC, IN BEING MERE GENERALIZATIONS OF UNIQUE ACTIONS

With this framework, we are able to understand the phenomenon of divergence from ‘the book,’ even as such divergent or wayward actions are still labeled under the umbrella concept of a particular religion.


We read the Old and New Testaments of the Bible in which women are treated as second-class citizens, yet we write this off as a difference in cultures, without even considering that today’s relatively equal-opportunity society is actually not in keeping with the Bible’s God’s teachings. Not only is the culture different, but the religion too, even as we call it by the same thing many centuries later.

Yet many would oppose Islam’s degradation of women as something that will never change, what with the supposed inherent rigidity of the teachings of Islam. But from our discussion above, we see the nonsense of explaining by inherence these present actions that could not help but be totally unique from those in the past.


ECONOMICS PARALLEL: THE COST THEORY OF VALUE

Saturday, August 27, 2011

JAMES SORIANO’S ‘LANGUAGE, LEARNING, IDENTITY, PRIVILEGE’ ― TACTLESS, BUT MERELY AN OPINION


Medyo huli ako with regards to finding out about the controversy over James Soriano’s article entitled ‘Language, learning, identity, privilege,’ in which he expressed gratitude for his mastery of the English language as opposed to “the language of the streets,” Filipino. It’s been removed from the Manila Bulletin website, but I found it here.


LANGUAGES AND INHERENT VALUE

The article really isn’t controversial until it gets to the last few paragraphs. I think the backlash wouldn’t have been as bad if he had had more tact in expressing his opinion. And while I do not share the public’s outrage over his smelling worse than a “malansang isda,” he seems to be of the idea that the value of languages is inherent and fixed. As though English in itself is scholarly and Filipino in itself is not. But the international status of each language has to do with varying nationalities’ socioeconomic prominence. We shouldn’t assume that Swahili, or even Filipino, or some descendant of either (languages are in constant evolution, after all), will not be the ‘universal language’ sometime in the future.

If, however, Soriano was merely stating a fact as to the status of languages at the present moment, then the fault is with his defensive readers.


ENGLISH DID NOT MAKE SORIANO PRIVILEGED

And we should avoid a confusion in causality here: it isn’t so much Soriano’s English speaking that has made him relatively ‘privileged’; he already was of a certain income class where English naturally became his mother tongue. We thus see the folly of imposing English as the primary language in formal learning for native Filipino speakers in the early levels of education. Learning in English when this does not correspond to a child’s mother tongue would not make him or her any more ‘privileged.’


FINAL REMARKS: LET GO OF PRECONCEPTIONS

But really, Soriano’s readers ought to be less uptight. We are witness to the ‘tribe mentality’ each time someone says anything even mildly negative about the Philippines, its flag, its prostitutes, etc. But healthy social change involves a detachment from our preconceived notions as to what constitutes language, society, culture, community, the best social networking website, etc.

Whether or not Filipino or English ‘triumphs’ as the prominent tongue is not as important as whether such changes come about via spontaneous, peaceful interactions, or through the heavy, status-quo-perpetuating hand of the state.


Related articles:

Friday, August 26, 2011

GIRL SAVES PHILIPPINE FLAG FROM FLOOD; IT’S A COLORFUL RAG, STUPID!


I wasn’t planning on writing on this, but I figured I’d get to use the name of my blog in the title, so what the heck.

So this girl was awarded P20,000 and a pin showing the Philippine flag, for having saved a Philippine flag from getting washed away. To the folks at the Inquirer, this was
a feat one would normally associate with soldiers on a battlefield


So, what, we’re supposed to have kids martyring themselves for stupid pieces of cloth? And it’s not like the 12-year-old girl, Janela Arcos Lelis, did it out of some noble sentiments; her brother, to whom the flag had been entrusted, ordered her to do so.

But just the idea that this is what passes for “courage”: it’s a colorful rag, stupid! If I were the parent of Lelis, I would scold her harshly for her messed up priorities (a goddamn flag or acquiescence to her brother over life).

Although I’d never risk my life for it, I’d understand the extra effort the girl took, if the particular flag had some historical significance, like it was the one originally made in the late 19th century, or was a family heirloom. For this particular instance, however, it was sheer numbskullery.

But it’s the symbol that matters, the typical nationalist would reply. Actually, there lies my real objection to the whole fiasco. This fixation on ‘the tribe’ is a step back from the social evolution that has made for markets and globalization. While we could not help but value our families and particular groups or cliques with whom we associate more than we do strangers, we often take for granted the market pricing system that has expanded our social networks in ways beyond we can consciously grasp.

Without the expansion of trade beyond the tribe, most of us on this globe would not even be alive. There is so much capital accumulation and labor division involved even for the acquisition of the simplest consumer products like soap. Yet, in the same spirit that people are awarding Lelis and other impressionable kids, we’re being taught, “Tangkilin ang sariling atin (Patronize our own),” “Self-sufficiency,” “Ialay sa inang bayan (Dedicate to the motherland),” and other divisive notions. As if peace and community actually mean “among our kind.”

It’s just totally disgusting, this business with the flag. Kids are supposed to learn the value of voluntary cooperation, of paradigm expansion, not this throwback to savagery called nationalism.

‘World peace’ is not about diplomats of different nations shaking each other’s hands; it’s about real people, associating and appreciating each other, with no pretensions of superiority (at least not according to race). Oftentimes, such associating and appreciating don’t even require knowledge of the other person! That’s the beauty of the market. And however much the market is allowed to function depends largely on our abilities to sublimate our tribal instincts.


Related article: Manila film fascism

Sunday, August 21, 2011

FIL-AMS WIN RACIAL SUIT; A HOLLOW VICTORY OVER DISCRIMINATION


The Inquirer found this story, of four nurses invoking the Civil Rights Act and winning against their American employers, worthy of their banner story for today (August 21, 2011). Personally, I think it does nothing to raise awareness against racial discrimination. Government laws and decisions purportedly in defense of minorities may even be counterproductive.

How does the use of force do anything to change the hearts and minds of those whose beliefs, as erroneous as they may be, are so ingrained as to reflect in their actions (e.g. employment discrimination)? If anything, it promotes resentment and even affirms such prejudices in the minds of the bigots (“Filipinos are a curse to my life... Just look, I’m being fleeced $100,000 on account of their whining!”).


COMPARISON TO SLAVERY

We can look to history for a parallel, specifically with regards to the abolition of slavery. Contrary to popular belief, slavery was already in its dying days prior to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. And slavery died not on account of slaves suing their ‘owners,’ or chanting “Give us free!” in court, but simply because slavery was found to be less efficient than voluntary hiring.
The abolition of slaverv and serfdom is to be attributed neither to the teachings of theologians and moralists nor to weakness or generosity on the part of the masters. There were among the teachers of religion and ethics as many eloquent defenders of bondage as opponents. Servile labor disappeared because it could not stand the competition of free labor; its unprofitability sealed its doom in the market economy. ― Ludwig von Mises, ‘Human action.’ (1949) Chapter 21, ‘Work and wages.’


It might seem crudely ‘utilitarian’ to say it like this, but such cost-benefit realizations did go hand-in-hand with a (non-legislative) shift in moral perspectives.
The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Address on the Anniversary of Emancipation in the British West Indies (1844)



LAWSUITS ARE INEFFECTIVE, UNJUST SHORTCUTS

Persistent racial discrimination in this day and age may be frustrating and lamentable, but this is not remedied by short cuts such as lawsuits, which themselves are unjust in their violation of the right to free association. If the employer of a modeling agency has the right to discriminate in selecting attractive females, then there is no reason why any other employer should be denied the right to exercise his bias against minorities.

How lecherous is it to demand a ‘right to work’ from a company whose values you despise? Even granted that the US job market sucks, and people are desperate to put foods on their tables, coercion via government should not be the quick resort.


THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE TRADE

Efforts should be directed instead towards freeing trade, by which the most efficient employers and employees prevail, and consumers are best satisfied. If it so happens that so-called minorities manage to dominate certain markets, this would indicate not just that race is ultimately irrelevant to entrepreneurial or productive capabilities, but that the public at large, who buy these same goods and services, have shed off biases that get in the way of their appreciation of such products.


FINAL REMARKS

It might be difficult to maintain such a perspective in the midst of the particulars, such as the Tagalog-speaking-nurses case (I am giving the benefit of the doubt that the true cause of their dismissal was indeed discrimination and not the nurses’ violation of an ‘English-only’ policy), but the principle still holds.

If public opinion is to matter at all, then boycotts of such hospitals would be urged, and prove effective. And this may just be the only way to get it in the skulls of employers to be more tolerant, and ultimately accepting and appreciative, of ‘diversity.’

Friday, August 19, 2011

READ BOOKS; IT LOWERS TIME PREFERENCE!

In previous articles, I tackled the economic concept of time preference in relation to laborers, and to crime. I’m now going to discuss it in relation to books and the habit of reading.

Today (August 19, 2011), at around 7:50 a.m., I got to the Land Transportation Office in Mandaluyong for car registration, and was among the first in line. The smoke emission test and compulsory third-party liability insurance processes went by without much of a hitch, but a few minutes into waiting for my turn to pay the registration fee, it was announced that the branch’s server was offline. It was even suggested for us to go to other branches if we couldn’t wait.


A CALM I RARELY KNOW

There was no definite time for their system to go online once more, but I didn’t want to bother lining up elsewhere either. The announcement could have sent me in a rage; I was already in a lousy mood, what with both my Sky and alternative Sun broadband services being down since last night (preventing me from publishing my Quezon Day article until about an hour ago, for one thing). Maybe I was just tired of being pissed, but the knowledge that the car registration process would take longer than expected, was met by me with near indifference. I myself was surprised at how calmly I handled things.

What could account for this?

I had a copy of Scott Adams’ ‘The Dilbert future’ with me, and had less than 100 pages to go. I had also saved in my phone some essays by my trapped-in-an-island favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson (among such essays is ‘Compensation,’ which contains a remarkable parallel to the economic concept of equilibrium).

Apparently, the thought of having something else to do to pass the time ― though I would have been more efficient elsewhere ― reflected in my relaxed attitude. There was less of an opportunity cost in being delayed by the sucky LTO, and I remained patient. My time preference was rather low; I could afford to wait longer than others who were not as fortunately preoccupied as I was.


A CULTURE OF READING AND THE DEATH OF GOVERNMENT

Given that high time preference leads people to resort to anti-competitive, monopolized, inefficient ‘solutions’ such as crime and government for the acquisition of goods and services, I believe that a reading culture would both be indicative of and would promote lower time preference, by which tasks can be carried out in a decentralized fashion, making for a society freer of, and more capable of fending off, scum such as bukas-kotse gangs and tax agents.

And if overall time preference drops, this would have its happy implications on the crime rate and worker competence, as I have previously discussed.


HOW NOT TO PROMOTE READING

How to get to a reading culture is a more difficult problem than mere diagnosis, but it surely would not involve the perpetuators and products of high time preference such as the Department of Education.

Our desired change to lower time preference may be gradual, discouraging the higher-time-preferenced ones more ‘atat’ for change, but precisely such a ‘roundabout’ and more refined means of social evolution also makes for greater sustainability.


NOT JUST READING; WRITING, TOO

In addition, something must be said of the virtue of writing. The prospect of writing a blog entry on today’s observations also added to my relaxed and level-headed demeanor. Like the light saber, writing is an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.


EPILOGUE

The damn registration process was finished at nearly 2 p.m. I managed to finish ‘The Dilbert future’ just a few minutes before that. I waited six hours like a monk (a monk that likes Pao Tsin dimsum that is; thank goodness there was a Hypermart beside the LTO).

Monopolies suck. I have written about car registration in my index ‘Free society,’ in the discussion on land transportation.

MANUEL QUEZON DAY 2011 AND ALL THAT NATIONALISM CRAP


On this day (August 19, 2011), Manuel Quezon Day, we are treated to an article by Manuel Almario in the Inquirer espousing Quezon’s nationalism. Here’s a quote:
The present policies conform with the Washington Consensus policies of privatization, free trade, globalization, dependence on foreign aid, loans and investments, non-industrialization and dictation by foreign financial institutions, instead of promoting “complete and absolute” independence as preached by Quezon and the original Nacionalistas.


We’re made to believe that increasing options for trade promotes dependence, as opposed to the nationalistic ‘self-sufficiency’ desired by Almario. It is considered ‘independent’ to limit trade to within the Filipino community. Never mind that the increase of trade and the opening up of borders is precisely what has allowed the present world population to flourish.

And what happens when one is dissatisfied with the limited ‘home-grown’ choices of goods or service providers? Is it really so bad to have other options available elsewhere?


TAKING FOR GRANTED PROGRESS VIA FREE TRADE

Does Almario really think that historically, capital could have accumulated and been used in the manner that it has, by which our standard of living has risen, if trade remained primarily within the Philippines, wherein importation was a kind of guilty pleasure?

Besides, foreign aid and free trade do not go hand in hand, the former entailing mercantilism while the latter entails, by definition, freedom. So it is careless of Almario to lump globalization and foreign aid.


HELL BY FILIPINOS INDEED

Quezon’s famous saying, “I prefer a govenrment run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans” initially seems to be a bold, courageous statement promoting freedom. But if we think about it, Quezon is ultimately saying “I want to have more power.” Do Filipinos really think their interests are better tended by one authoritarian (Filipino) as opposed to another (American)? That is just plain na├»ve. A people is free to the degree that their right to property is affirmed. If such a right is violated, even by Filipinos, for the sake of ‘self-sufficiency,’ ‘social justice’ or other buzzwords, the detrimental effects to society are nonetheless felt.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

GREED CAUSED THE FINANCIAL AND FISCAL CRISES, AND OTHER INANITIES



As the world struggles with the fiscal and financial woes induced by the international central banking system, chances are you’ll continue to hear people talk about the role of ‘greed’ and how it’s up to the government to ‘moderate’ such greed.

You can ask such people: Is there any essential difference between the fire that cooks a meal, and the one that burns a house down?

In fact, there is not even a fine line between ‘greed’ and the profit motive on which we base our everyday lives.

‘Greed’ is greed, in the negative sense that people intend, not so much in its being the human phenomenon that it is, but rather in the way that it manifests, or in the manner it is carried out.


GORDON GEKKO AND THE CRISIS

In the US housing crisis, for example, ‘greed’ was harmful because lenders were allowed by banks to overleverage, backed by the guarantee of the US government, and with the Federal Reserve accommodating such loans via the printing press. Securities backed by high-risk mortgages received triple-A ratings on account of such guarantees and loose money.

It isn’t so much that opportunists in Wall Street profited from such a system that caused the crisis, but that this particular manner of profiting was enabled by government, an institution whose absence would have made such leveraging risky and uneconomical. Of course, the government-enabled system was no less uneconomical, but it took a longer time for this to be apparent, whereas in the absence of this indirect subsidy, such bad business would have been obvious from the get-go.


TIMELY REMINDER: 1971 CLOSING OF THE GOLD WINDOW


It is quite remarkable that, nearly exactly 40 years to the day (August 15, 1971), the value of gold, as measured in dollars, is 50 times what it was when former US president Richard Nixon ceased honoring foreign banks’ redemption of dollars in gold. From a peg of $35/oz., gold actually reached a record of over $1,800/oz. last week, and it is now at the $1,750/oz. mark. Fifty times! And gold’s run is far from over.

In the same bullshit speech spouted by Nixon at the time, he also mentioned other demagogueries as protectionism, and blaming ‘speculators’ for the government’s irresponsibilities. The same motherhood lines are spewed to this day, to advocate the same moronic and ineffectual policies.


FINAL REMARKS, AND MY ‘GREEDY’ ADVICE

I’m glad that you, my reader, are not a fool, and are not satisfied with ‘greed’ or ‘capitalism’ as explanations for the economic mess in which the world is embroiled. And like me, you are patient and take pity on your gullible friends who speak in such terms on their Facebook pages or in conversations over dinner.

If you do need a guide in explaining the realities of political economy to your buddies, I have a greedy, self-serving suggestion: have them download my books:

Monday, August 15, 2011

ALBERTO LIM RESIGNS; NOW WHAT? ABOLISH THE TOURISM DEPARTMENT


Tourism is supposed to be a byproduct of favorable conditions, and not something arrived at through marketing techniques. A war zone will not become popular with tourists, no matter how creative the brochures may be.

Alberto Lim recently resigned as secretary of the Department of Tourism, but a change in personnel means little. We ought to rethink the whole idea of having an agency in charge of making the Philippines desirable for foreigners to bring in their money.

The best thing a government can do to get tourists to come in, is to get out of the way, whether it’s in allowing businesses such as resorts to grow in the absence of taxes and regulation, to allowing for private ownership of lands and waterforms heretofore taken for granted to require ‘protection of the state.’ If there’s a market for it, whether it’s swimming in pristine waters, or seeing rare species, the key is protection of private property.

‘Open skies’ follows the same principle. Foreign companies should be allowed to touch down on Philippine soil according to the wishes of respective property owners. Prosperity spreads by removing barriers, it’s really as simple as that. Yet another reason to privatize all land.

Related reading:
The ‘tourism’ entry as found in my index ‘Free society.’
In here, I recognize that what we know as tourism campaigns are like any other advertising campaigns, and tourist spots do not need some central plan to become viable.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

RANDY DAVID’S TYPICAL ANTI-MARKET SENTIMENTS, AND WHY HE’S WRONG


It is quite typical of many intelligent persons to get it all wrong when it comes to political economy. I have previously explored this phenomenon in a previous article. For now, I’d like to look at a specific instance, as found in Randy David’s article today, ‘Katipunan blues’ (August 14, 2011).

I guess the essence of his message can be found in these sentences:
Isn’t it a sad comment on our lack of vision that outside Metro Manila, progress is now equated with the presence of SM and Jollibee?
The reason we have a government is so that we may have an agency in which to debate and plot our collective vision of how we should live and grow as a people. To allow this vision to be shaped mainly by today’s big developers is to resign ourselves to the kind of incoherent, ugly, and unsustainable urban communities we now see all over the country.


CONSUMER SOVEREIGNTY

David is so quick to target big businessmen and commerce in general for giving the city the particular form it has. He seems to take for granted that all a suit has to do is open a place, and this would then make money and make for uglier surroundings. Forgotten here is the relevance of the consumer, the one who patronizes such establishments by which they prosper. As much as people may lament about how the urban areas are constantly becoming less green, it is quite apparent by the success of Jollibee, SM, etc. that people in general value the conveniences of ‘modern living’ more than their ‘back to nature’ sentiments.


GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM

But then, things are not so simple. There are certain types of businessmen who have greater influence on local governments, by which certain projects win out against others that may have been potentially more satisfying to consumers. This is a convincing case against the market, provided one takes for granted that projects have to be approved by local governments for the sake of the ‘public good.’ In fact, isn’t this extra layer of bureaucracy precisely the problem, in that it weeds out the less politically savvy, the ones who don’t quite know whom to bribe or court in the city or barangay councils?

If we are to take the ‘free market’ to mean a system of trade bereft of government intervention, then the present system of government permits, regulations and franchises is not a free market. If we are to criticize anything, it is the involvement of government in what should be voluntary transactions.


GOVERNMENT AS COLLECTIVE VISION?

Contrary to David’s assertion of the need for a “collective vision,” the ‘big picture’ is actually an unintended composite of local and private divergences from the norm, and it would be self-defeating to expect “growth” from a system that is already threshed out beforehand, much less one devised by a central body that rewards conformity (non-dissenters from such a “collective vision” are not imprisoned).


FREE ASSOCIATION DOESN’T MAKE FOR AUTOMATIC PROGRESS

Once we have enough sense to discard government, will this make for ‘progress’ in a more holistic, green, etc. sense? That all depends on the consumer, to whom business can only cater. All progress and social order hinges on people facing the consequences of the use of their respective private property. If we want a social system that truly represents ‘the people,’ you couldn’t get more democratic than eliminating formalized institutions of coercion, i.e. government. And if such a system fails to meet the standards of utopic visionaries, it just means that humans would have been doomed to such superficiality and ugliness anyway, government or not.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

FORGET THE PHILIPPINE DRAGON BOAT TEAM: WHERE’S MY FUNDING?

The Philippine Dragon Boat Team’s gold medal in the absence of government support has drawn criticism by many who feel that it is these things that the government should support. People who don’t even know what dragon boat racing is (I assume it has to do with carving your boat into the shape of a dragon and trying to get to a finish line first) are proclaiming their congratulatory messages not for any interest in the sport but because the racers are Filipino. How’s this different from Hitler denouncing the Jews in the name of Aryan superiority? Well, the supposed superior race is different.

Senator Pia Cayetano recently filed a Senate resolution calling for an inquiry to be made as to why the Philippine Dragon Boat team did not receive funding from the Philippine government. It’s given me the idea that I should get funding myself.

I will be starting my own Philippine tic-tac-toe team, and DEMAND that the government support me. I’m not particularly good in tic-tac-toe, and Filipinos aren’t especially enthusiastic or skilled in tic-tac-toe (that honor belongs to the Ethiopians), but once government comes into the picture, I’m sure people will be swayed into becoming tic-tac-toe enthusiasts and rooting for me the way they do for the currently-fallen Azkals. And with sufficient training made possible by taxpayers’ money, I am sure that my tic-tac-toe abilities will rival those of any other Southeast Asian team.

Senator Pia, if you are reading this, maybe you can insert my concerns in budget talks and really get this ball rolling (P132M-P159M will be fine). I know you’re a sports enthusiast, and you could understand my passion for the game of tic-tac-toe. With your help, we can once more prove to the world, “Ang Galing ng Pinoy!”

MIDEO CRUZ’ RIGHT TO SELF-EXPRESSION AND THE CCP EXHIBIT


The issue of whether alleged artist Mideo Cruz’ exhibit should have been allowed is being framed as a matter of free speech. His supporters think that those offended by a wooden penis on Jesus Christ, or other images considered blasphemous, are simply stuck up and living in the Inquisition.

Meanwhile, those who are objecting against the exhibition are saying that free speech is a right, but not absolute. There are limits naman, they would say, especially when it has to do with other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.


PRIVATE PROPERTY

How can you reconcile such conflicting positions? As I’ve done before, I simply state, “Private property is the solution.” After all, freedom of expression ultimately has to do with whether you have control, direct or indirect, over what is displayed in the specific venue. What blurs the whole matter is that the CCP is a government entity, which makes control over its resources arbitrary.

This problem would not exist in private property. After all, anyone is free to doodle all sorts of pornographic pictures involving Jesus, Mary, etc. in their bedroom, and there’d be no controversy. There is an implicit agreement by people who enter such a house as guests, that they could not unduly alter the setting without consent of the owner, and this includes not destroying such ‘sacred porn.’

Having a ‘public’ exhibition does not alter this right to control one’s property (kaya nga property). People who are somehow lured into the property may object to such a display, but such outrage can only manifest as far as a boycott, and not in ripping apart such images.


BEING OFFENSIVE IS A CONDITION OF LIFE

It is logically inconsistent to suppose that people should be allowed to express themselves, as long as this does not offend; there will always be someone offended. A person ought not to be held accountable for another’s sentiments, legally that is; in fact, it’s impossible to be held accountable for everybody’s sentiments.

Not to say that there are no social consequences for one’s actions, since our personal relationships are based on being considerate of our loved ones’ feelings. It is just that offending someone’s beliefs should have no legal weight.


FINAL REMARKS

Based on what I’ve seen in pictures, Mideo Cruz’ ‘Poleteismo’ does look quite tasteless and boring, but if he was sponsored by private individuals, he would have all the right to display his ‘visions,’ and others would have the right to say his art sucks his family’s balls.

I understand that the penal code has a provision against quote-unquote immoral exhibitions (Art. 201). After considering the above, however, we can see how present law is highly inadequate, in that morality and decency are subjective, and private property is not given paramount importance.


Related articles:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

LONDON RIOTS AND SOCIAL ORDER ― AUGUST 9, 2011


Social order is dependent not on any institution that monopolizes arms, but on people’s awareness and respect of property rights. You can have all the military and police controls over the populace, but this will not stop riots and disturbances, if there is no aforementioned recognition of private property (for one thing, such military and police would consist of these same people).

The recent London riots, looting, and arson ― whose underlying cause is not too apparent ― are not a ‘government failure’ per se, but an indication of where a community’s minds lie. In this case, much of the muddled thinking as is common among those who advocate socialism ― a system premised on a disregard and overhaul of private property ― has been made apparent.


DON’T LOOK NOW TO LONDON... IT MIGHT BE YOUR HOMELAND

As a result of the riots, many innocents who have nothing to do with whatever the problem may be are suffering. The immediate remedy may be to mobilize troops to quell the chaos, but in the long term, a change in attitudes is needed.

This problem is not limited to London, or to the Middle East, or war-torn places we take for granted to be far from we live. Philadelphia, for one, has had a slew of ‘flash mob’ robberies, where dozens of youths enter a store and storm out after grabbing several items, with one- or two-man security simply incapable of stopping them.


FINAL REMARKS

Improved police is always good ― and something achieved by competing security agencies. But in the long run, it’s either people have a primal understanding of property, or they don’t. I can’t say how to ensure that a complete breakdown of civilization never happens. All we can do as part of the human race is ‘to be informed.’

FACEBOOK NEWS FEED GUILT TRIPS AND THE GOVERNMENT-AS-SOLUTION MENTALITY


If you have a Facebook account, you’ve probably seen in your News Feed some friends of yours occasionally posting status updates such as “Most people won’t copy-paste this, but I just did to show my support for [insert cause here]. Will you do the same?”

You yourself might have posted such a thing. But do you think it would be fair to begrudge those who DON’T copy-paste these messages? To judge them as uncaring, or even antagonistic to whatever cause is dear to another’s heart? Would such statuses be accurate determinants of one’s level of commitment towards something?


HATING GOVERNMENT IS NOT ‘ANTI-POOR’

I bring this up not as a rant against such a practice, with which I don’t have a problem, but to compare this to people’s attitudes towards those who oppose certain government programs such as the proposed universal health care, or the conditional cash transfer, or ‘reproductive health.’ I for one am against all things government, but does this make me against the notion of ‘sharing the wealth’? I don’t think so.

There are so many ways to help the poor, and the most effective ones are not obviously the most effective ones, in that they may not have the same emotional hook as the “Look at me I’m Mother Teresa” approach. To me, creating employment opportunities is the greatest and most sustainable ‘charity’ there is, regardless of the ‘selfish’ intentions of businessmen.


MY COPY-PASTE MESSAGE TO STATISTS

If I were to turn the tables on statists, I might post a message like this:
“If you really cared about the plight of the poor, you would have made an effort to understand better the principles of economics, so as not to fall for the bad arguments and prescriptions by the politically privileged. You would have seen that the creation of wealth stems primarily from the free flow of capital, according to the valuations of respective property owners, unimpeded by taxes and state regulations. It is in a free market ― which doesn’t exist today ― that employment is created in accordance with the preferences of consumers, i.e. the laborers themselves, and value is maximized.”


NOYNOY’S ‘WANG-WANG’ WELFARE

Unknown to President Noynoy Aquino, a.k.a. Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy!, he is brandishing a ‘wang-wang’ of his own. With regards to administration programs, he is implicitly saying, “The private sector is unable to create and spread wealth; only we in the government are capable of that, with maybe a public-private partnership here and there. Only we know what the poor need, and only we are kind enough to help them.”

Is this not the same arrogance as any congressman who ever used a siren to breeze through traffic, with the attitude of “Only I, and a select few, have the right to use the road in this way...”?


FINAL REMARK

If you’ve always taken for granted that it is through government that the poor are to be helped, you might want to rethink your premise.

Friday, August 5, 2011

PHILIPPINE STOCKS DECLINE ON US DEBT WOES: TIME TO SELL? ― AUGUST 5, 2011


Some of my friends are wondering, with the US’ worst single-day drop in stock indexes since 2008, and with the subsequent decline in the PSEi this morning (August 5, 2011), if it’s high time to sell, both US and Philippine stocks. Is the next ‘Lehman moment’ indeed upon us? I’m inclined not to think so, and I’m basing my opinion on my skeletal understanding of technical analysis.


TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OVERVIEW

When a wave of monetary inflation occurs, as in the case with QE1 and QE2, the money is initially used for the purchase of ‘risk-free’ securities by banks. It is only later on that such money is channeled into the stock market, and as companies acquire additional funding, the money is then spent on ‘real’ goods, through which prices of commodities burst through the roof.

In the actual world economy, with credit being injected constantly at different periods, and booms in one sector or region coinciding with busts elsewhere, it isn’t so easy to detect patterns. Nonetheless, recognizing that recent inflationary efforts by central banks have not yet manifested in a cyclical fashion, we can suppose that a stock market crash is not yet upon us.


THE BOND MARKET

The primary indicator that stocks have yet to rise, in spite of recent slumps in the past months, is how well bonds are doing. In fact, the rather low bond yields that the US government is able to offer is even used by some spendthrift analysts to opine that Obama should set aside the debt ceiling altogether. These same analysts would give you lip service about the need to handle debt and other obligations, but their actual advocated policy belies their supposed prudence.

But anyway, the current bond market is not a sign of financial health, and is in fact a prelude to disaster. Bond yields may be low, but are still way higher than the at-present 0.07% federal funds rate, that is, the rate that US banks lend to each other. It isn’t surprising if many institutions are profiting from a borrow-low-lend-higher scheme.


IT’S ALL PART OF THE PLAN

The current turmoil in stock markets is in line with US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s plan for QE3, which he will claim as necessary to bring back investor confidence and forestall Armageddon. But even without QE3, it looks like the US stock market has a ways to go. And it is also through such funds that the Philippine stock market will be propped up for the time being.


FINAL REMARKS

As wrong-headed as these policymakers are, one has to keep one’s wits and act accordingly, so as not to lose one’s savings. At the moment, stocks in general are profitable, so it is not time to sell, except perhaps to take profits here and there. Later on, however, it would be wise to invest in commodity-based stocks, or in the commodities market itself.


Further reading: My book, Philippine central banking and the business cycle. It’s free.


[August 6, 2011 update: It has been reported that Standard and Poor’s has downgraded US government debt. This is way overdue, and one should be suspect of the politics behind it, but it does bring up a crucial issue in all this: currency confidence. There is a point where all the quantitative easing in the world will simply stop improving the numbers, and people would sooner place their money in consumption-related endeavors as opposed to investing in Treasuries, stocks and whatnot.

Such hyperinflationary conditions are not yet upon the US though, even as yields will rise from the downgrade, so we could still expect a resurgence in stocks as I earlier wrote. And if yields remain low, I think this would be more an indication not of confidence in the dollar but that such debt has been propped up after all by the Fed’s agents from Goldman Sachs et al., by which debt is later monetized.]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

HOW CHRISTOPHER LAO “SHOULD HAVE BEEN INFORMED” (WITH PICTURES)


Christopher Lao’s lamentation that “I should have been informed” about not passing through the flooded Mother Ignacia street in Quezon City ― which resulted in his car being carried by the waters ― leads one to ask: How could Lao have been properly informed? Below are some ideas.

As an aside, there’s the matter of funding; as with all government expenditure, revenue is to be considered secondarily. Besides, if the government could no longer bleed the rich dry, they can at least issue their ‘highly rated’ Treasury debt to close any budget gaps.


PUT RULER MARKINGS ON ALL STREETS


The MMDA can go about painting measured lines on telephone poles, walls, etc. facing roads and highways, so as to guide drivers who are wondering exactly how high a flood is at the moment. In conjunction with this, the MMDA should release guidelines as to the flood levels that each car model, factoring in age and mileage, could manage. In this way, a driver is made well aware of their car’s capabilities and limitations.




MANDATORY RIDEALONG WITH A DULY-CERTIFIED FLOOD ASSESSOR

Admittedly, it would be difficult to find a flood assessor to accompany each motorist, but the end result, of avoiding unmanageable floodwaters, is so worth it. Political will lang ‘yan!


REAL-TIME MONITORING OF ALL ROADS AT ALL TIMES, ON ALL TV AND RADIO STATIONS

Because we never know when the rains will come, there is a need for real-time monitoring throughout the Metro, possibly even beyond. And to avoid cases where one is not tuned in to the right TV or radio station, a law should be enacted decreeing that all stations shall henceforth only be used ‘to inform’ people about street conditions. This will have an adverse effect on regular programming ― entertainment programs, talk shows, etc. ― but if it prevents another Christopher Lao, it will be worth it.


USE OF SENSE OF SIGHT, AS WELL AS COMMON SENSE

Pro ― Cheapest, at zero cost

Con ― Not always reliable, as Christopher Lao’s case shows.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CHRISTOPHER “I SHOULD HAVE BEEN INFORMED” LAO AND GOVERNMENT DEPENDENCE


The video of a certain Christopher Lao trying, and failing, to get his sedan past a flooded section of Mother Ignacia Avenue in Quezon City has gone viral. It is very apparent to many how stupid it was of Lao to ‘brave’ the waters despite the flood’s height and the absence of cars getting through. A lot are getting a kick out of Lao’s insistence that he “should have been informed” by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), or by somebody, that he should not have driven through.

The ‘dumb arse’ blaming everyone but himself for his misfortune is a strong symbol of the state-dependent mentality. Such an attitude is not always as obvious as in Lao’s case, but is quite prevalent in society.


GOVERNMENT DEPENDENCE ― A LONG LIST OF DEMANDS

Somebody has to make sure that kids are educated well. Somebody has to promote good health of ‘the public.’ Somebody has to ensure that billboards are not displayed against ‘the common good.’ People ‘should be informed’ that the milk product they bought for their baby is not contaminated. And on and on. And the answer to all these is found in ‘the government.’ It is beyond most people’s imagination on how we can get by without this ‘bringer of order,’ even though so much of what we get done in life is done, or could very well be done, in the absence of government.

By ignoring the how of getting things done, settling for the easy answer of “let the government handle it,” even as this contradicts the principle of private property, we act like ‘dumb arses’ ourselves.


FREEDOM IS HUMILITY, RESPONSIBILITY

Some might accuse me of settling for the easy answer of “let the market handle it,” but there is a crucial difference. By promoting voluntary association, one relinquishes the hubris of assuming that most tasks and industries can ever be comprehended and rationally controlled by a central authority, let alone one that requires violence to thrive. One has the humility to admit ignorance of what precisely makes for progress in a community, instead trusting the specializations and unique valuations of billions of people to bring this about, including thwarting efforts of a minority to undermine such a peaceful system, a.k.a. self-defense.

Morally speaking, one takes responsibility for one’s welfare, e.g. using one’s brains or the judgments of competitive quality evaluators to decide on what shampoo to use, what roads to take, with whom to associate, etc.

By promoting freedom and the absence of government, one puts one’s money where one’s mouth is, e.g. if you want to help the poor, pool your resources with other concerned people.


FINAL WORDS

I guess these words sound quite pompous, and I really don’t consider myself an exceptional example of self-reliance. But if things do go to shit, I won’t spend my time blaming others that “I should have been informed.” I might blame the government though; politics is quite the racket.