Sunday, October 30, 2011

ALL SAINTS' AND ALL SOULS' DAY: MORE AND MORE COMMERCIALIZED! (Philippines 2011)

I am not a big fan of cemeteries. They take up too much space. When I die, I would like my ashes buried beside a tree or scattered in the ocean, or used as kitty litter, and with the internet and all, I could have a memorial that only takes digital/cyber space.

Yet I find it quite appalling that the intended solemnity of cemeteries is ruined by all these restaurants with their banners all around (I was at Manila Memorial Park this morning). 

Once upon a time, I would have derided 'commercialization' as the culprit, and perhaps would not have minded an ordinance banning such displays in supposed places of mourning. Such an attitude would have been careless.


GIVING THE CONSUMERS/PROPERTY OWNERS WHAT THEY WANT

Why criticize KFC, Army Navy (there's just something unsettling seeing the word 'burrito' next to gravestones), Yellow Cab, etc., when all they are doing is catering to consumers' desires? If people didn't appreciate such advertising, they wouldn't patronize these restaurants, right? The distastefulness can thus be traced to the restaurants' patrons. It takes two to tango.

Besides, what about Manila Memorial Park? It's the park's property, and I would not want to impinge on the owners' freedoms just because I find the restaurant banners appalling. Of course, if such advertising is in conflict with the contracts with lot owners, there would be a potential case.


FINAL REMARK

'Commercialization' is a cop-out explanation, the solutions of which would not get to the root of the problem: people's sensibilities (or the lack thereof), the uplifting of which is not to be done by thwarting free choices, but by altering mentalities, something of which the threat of physical harm (i.e. government) is futile.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

PETER SCHIFF AND OCCUPY WALL STREET: BATTLING STOCKHOLM SYNDROME


Google "Peter Schiff was right"
I’ve been watching several videos of Peter Schiff’s ‘excursion’ to the Occupy Wall Street rally. In spite of all the stupidity that is heard, it is truly wondrous how people can have such different perspectives, that make them believe the lies and fallacies that they do.

For the most part, I think Schiff did rather well in addressing the concerns of those who deigned to speak with him. However, there were some things that I think weakened his case, or the effectiveness of his arguments.


WHY ALIENATE THE MORONS?

First, why would he emphasize being part of the privileged “1%,” just because he has an office in Wall Street? If I were a protester who didn’t know any better, I’d write the guy off thinking “What nerve! Not only did he make this money off the regular Joes, but he’s rubbing it in!” Who’d listen to that hateful jerkface? If his intention was to relate to the crowd, he failed.

It also seemed that to some extent, Schiff was on auto-pilot, reciting his logical arguments without taking into account the specific point being made by some random moron. This was especially clear when he debated those protesters who were saying “I’d give 70% of my money to the government” or “In Europe, it’s different; socialism is possible” (around the 16th minute of the video). Schiff focused on arguing about the actual tax rate being paid. Maybe he should have ridiculed the masochistic notion of desiring to pay taxes, when such money will clearly be wasted anyway. Does one’s succumbing to Stockholm’s Syndrome make a gun to one’s head moral? 

Government charts: false causation and the presumption of revenue targets
Is Europe really a bastion of good governance, where taxes are used ‘wisely’? In fact, ‘good governance’ can never exist, and the upcoming national bankruptcies are going to be a painful confirmation of this.

And going by the logic of these people outraged at the thought of tax cuts, we should give all our money to the government; that way, we would never have a financial crisis, and with money to spare (held by the government, of course)!


A PROBLEM OF BENEFICIARIES!

And then Schiff appeared on Anderson Cooper, going head to head against a ‘brutha,’ Cornell West from Princeton, whose idea of ‘capitalism’ is the Roaring Twenties (the Fed-induced anticipator of the Great Depression), child labor and greed. Typical. But listening to Professor West, it kind of dawned on me that he, and others, didn’t really care that Washington and the political elite had all this power over their constituents/sheep.

The real problem for them, isn’t the corrupt means of acquisition (politics), but the recipients. If the boom had ‘the poor’ as its beneficiaries, or so it is believed, there would be no bust! Now that is sheer ignorance of the nature of central banking and the business cycle, which would harm the poor even if ― as unlikely as it could ever be ― they were the crony recipients of phony money.


RICH=BAD

It is automatically assumed that being rich in itself makes for laws that favor the rich, hence the need for limiting riches so that the redistributive system (which itself is accepted) isn’t abused.

In fact, sans the government-as-solution mentality, and with government power diminished, profit/greed would raise living standards. There would be no large business-small business or Wall Street-Main Street dichotomy, as exists today due to political privilege.

But as long as people believe that the government is the moral counteraction to ‘greed,’ there would be no diminished political power; the boom-bust cycle will continue; and ‘capitalism’ will remain the scapegoat.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FATHER FAUSTO ‘POPS’ TENTORIO: COMMUNIST, ADVOCATE OF VIOLENCE?


I hope the question mark at the end of the title softens my provocative statement enough. I have no doubt that Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio was an especially good and kind guy, who had genuine concern for the Mindanaoans and sought to uplift their conditions the best he knew how.


I ASSUME HE WAS A COMMUNIST

And I suppose he really was a communist, not so much because ‘anti-communist’ forces in the government killed him.

(Government, relying on coercive control is in itself and very much inherently communistic, and could not be ‘anti-communist’ in any meaningful sense)

I suppose Tatay Pops was indeed a communist because groups like the CPP and NDFP associate themselves with him. It doesn’t matter that these communist groups are opposing the present government not out of any anti-government principle, but only because they are not the ones in power.


COMMUNISM = GOVERNMENT = VIOLENCE

I’m sure Tatay Pops was not a political whore, but alas, by misguided logic, he supported ideas and movements that promoted violence and oppression, to the detriment of all.

He probably didn’t realize it, but the destruction of indigenous people’s lands is precisely on account of communistic activity. After all, the Philippine government claims to own natural resources, as stated in the faulty 1987 Constitution. This presumption of control makes for crony businesses exploiting and polluting with abandon, and zero accountability.

The only real way to stop such communism isn’t by putting other communists in charge, hoping that this new batch strives for equality, or equitability, which could only be a mere consequence of prosperity, not a goal for its sake.


IS FREEDOM TO BLAME?

It is careless to chalk poverty/environmental degradation/asshole motorists/etc. to too much freedom. We often take for granted that the status quo and all its premises are the only way things can be settled, and so we look for solutions that fit into our narrow paradigm, e.g. legislate for more regulations, exterminate violators, etc. Being unfree at present, we are inclined towards unfree solutions as well.

Just look at mining companies wreaking havoc in the mountains. Or how about that jerk who cut you off in EDSA yesterday. They have too much freedom! Or so we are made to believe. In fact, we should be lamenting the lack of freedom.


PROPERTY: THE SOLUTION THAT HIDES IN PLAIN SIGHT

Without trying to do so, society has already come up with the most effective means of economic progress, and to the extent that the principle is practiced, our material (and, in effect, our spiritual) lives are enriched. This system is private property, which makes mutually beneficial trade possible.

We lack freedom of association to the extent that property rights are not enforced. Sections of mountains ought to be owned by respective entities, whether these are indigenous folk, or mining corporations. Any mining activity will thus be more mindful of other property owners in the area.


IS ALL THIS FEEL-GOOD MARKET TALK UTOPIAN?

“You’re dreaming,” you might say. “Those corporations will do what they want, and nobody will care because money talks!”  

That just might happen, indeed. But doesn’t this say more about the character of a particular society, and not so much free markets in general? Let’s say people, of their own volition, don’t care about the rights of ‘the small guys’ in some remote mountainous area, and patronize businesses that engage in oppressive practices. Do we really expect this same group of people to elect people with compassion and concern for the downtrodden?

It might come as a shock, but this uncaring society we’re talking about? It’s this present one, governments and all.


HUMANITY, IN SPITE OF ITSELF

Just think: we, being all too human, are rather stupid in that we thwart property rights in pleading for government intervention, whether this be welfare, or antitrust, or central banking, or the minimum wage, or patents, or public roads… you name it! And yet, in spite of everything, there has been progress.

Even in the upcoming/ongoing depression, we can expect technologies to ameliorate like never before. With the market correction shaking down inefficient and bureaucratized sectors ― including the primary currencies of today ― more resources will be diverted in accordance with actual needs and wants.


ADDENDUM 1: CONFUSING POLITICAL LIKELIHOOD AND HUMAN NATURE

Thursday, October 20, 2011

GADDAFI DEAD; DIES IN CAPTURE; NOTHING CHANGES (Philippines 2011)


Scary pic

So there are initial reports that Muammar Gaddafi has died from injuries sustained during his capture.

Like Osama bin Laden’s death, the killing of Gaddafi is not going to make much of a difference. What is needed is a change in people’s minds, not the elimination of specific entities.

Specifically, people have to give up the idea that the state is going to solve things for them. After all, most of the shit of which the world is embroiled is a result of government. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

OCCUPY WALL STREET/AYALA AVENUE: DAPAT 'DOWN WITH POLITICAL GREED!' (Philippines 2011)


I’m such a predictable person. If the Philippine Daily Inquirer comes out with a headline as moronic as ‘Rallies vs corporate greed sweep the world,’ I’m bound to react, explaining how these protesters are targeting the wrong thing (free trade, as opposed to political privilege) and calling for the wrong thing (more government powers to hamper free trade).


DON’T BLAME PROFIT, BLAME THE MEANS OF PROFIT

Alas, my voice will be drowned out in the ensuing exacerbation of the already dismal situation. Such is likely when people unthinkingly equate capitalism with money, without considering the means of acquisition (by force, i.e. the political means, or by free association, i.e. the economic means). Point to any situation of oppression and poverty in the world, such as exploitation of natives in diamond-rich Sierra Leone, and ‘capitalism,’ ‘free markets’ and ‘corporate greed’ will be blamed.

But look at each of these cases, and you will find it was government, or rather, the government-as-solution mentality among the people, that facilitated such unfortunate circumstances. All of this is lost on the mindless rallyists.


CENTRAL BANKING IS GOVERNMENT

Government’s role in the financial crises of the past decade is especially obvious. But most do not even bother distinguishing if central banking is an instrument of government, or of markets. So even though central banking is the worst example of government intervention in the economy, encompassing all fields and sectors, the protest signs you’ll see talk of the euro’s (and eventually, the dollar’s) collapse in terms of a ‘market failure.’


PHILIPPINE PROTESTS ARE JUST AS UNINFORMED

Ironic how the local protesters from Bayan and other militant groups are opposing globalization, when in fact, the inspiration for their protests is derived from Occupy Wall Street and rallies in other foreign countries!


FINAL REMARKS

It’s an absurd situation, and to paraphrase Christopher Lao, we should be better informed.

If you, my reader, have better sense than these ‘revolutionaries,’ do take precautions.

As Doug Casey often says, before things get better, things are going to get much worse. But the future is not only better than we imagine, but better than we can imagine.

(I love reading and watching Casey’s interviews, hence my ability to quote his shit practically verbatim)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RONALD LLAMAS' AK-47 AND THE SOLUTION OF TOUGHER GUN LAWS


I like that Patricia Evangelista, in today’s Inquirer (October 16, 2011), uses her signature irony with regards to the Ronald Lllamas incident where an AK-47 and other guns were found in the car his bodyguards were using in Switzerland. And she is right to criticize Llamas’ political privileges.

But her idea seems to be to widen the scope of government control. How ironic is that?


MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE

With the Maguindanao massacre by the Ampatuans, it was not the presence of guns per se that made for the murder of dozens. Actually, it was the reporters’ lack of a means of defense, and the Ampatuans’ knowledge of this, that made for the massacre.


BAN GUNS BY MONOPOLIZED GUNS?

It is a fantasy to think that any entity is capable of effectively enforcing a ban on guns. Those who get their guns registered would tend to be those who abide by private property law anyway, leaving out the supposed targets of the ban ― the real criminals themselves. And enforcement by an entity that precisely has a monopoly on arms is downright impossible.

100% transparency of the flow of arms in the private sector can only be achieved by plenty more power ― more guns ― wielded by government. A situation that is a bigger threat to our liberty than isolated incidents of gun violence, come to think of it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NOYNOY'S P72-B STIMULUS PACKAGE: LET'S SEE HOW IT GOES


I would just like to reiterate something I may have said before.

I hate government in all shapes and forms, but I would really like Noynoy! Noynoy! Noynoy!’s planned P72-billion ‘stimulus’ package to proceed without a hitch, that care is taken to prevent any under-the-table corruption.

When people, including the economic planners who are still under the Keynesian delusion, see for themselves the failure of the ‘spending = growth’ paradigm, I hope it leads them to question their beliefs.


SLOWDOWN IS DUE TO TAXATION, NOT REDUCED SPENDING

In this Inquirer article, mention is made of how ‘P-Noy’ caused a slowdown in the economy by reining in spending. That’s not quite accurate. The fault is not in the reduced spending (if you call a smaller rate of increase ‘reduction’). It is that this did not coincide with reduced tax collections.

Contrary to what most think, ‘redistribution’ is not a simplistic ‘take from the rich and give to the poor’; it impoverishes everybody. Government spending never adds jobs. It only takes away from elsewhere. It never produces without diminishing production in another sector. 


CONSOLATION

The more real-world examples we see of this, the more enlightened the general population will be about how stupid the concepts of multiplier and pump-priming are. Fucking stupid, let me tell you. GDP will be found to be useless, or at least inadequate. This is at least one comfort we can take from the incoming (or ongoing) global economic collapse.

Related articles: 

QUEZON CITY HALL’S ‘DEPARTMENT OF BUILDING OFFICIAL’ SUCKS!


In Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru,’ the main character is an old man given months to live. Although a victim of bureaucracy, he makes a most memorable statement: “I can’t be angry. I don’t have the time.”

A day may come when I stop feeling pissed about the government, but it is not this day!


PART TWO OF MY MERALCO QUEST

In continuation of my electrical woes, I went to City Hall around 8 a.m. today. Upon reaching the Engineering division in the 6th floor, I was told that my concerns were handled by the city’s Department of Building Official, in the 9th floor of another building. I found the place, and presented my documents.

The night before, being paranoid as to what requirements will be asked of me, I didn’t only bring the signed Meralco application permit form, but photocopies of my electrical bill, my driver’s license, and even my land title.

You know what happened? I was told that that wasn’t enough. First, I had to make another set of photocopies. And yes, the land title was actually needed! Not only that, but I should have brought TWO FOLDERS with me. Can you believe it? You’d think it was an assignment in grade school! Two folders talaga o!

Then I couldn’t even get my desired wiring permit on the day itself, because I needed the signature of the engineer who was going to replace the meter socket, along with a photocopy of his engineer’s license.

And I thought I was being paranoid by bringing a land title! It’s a cliché how bad things are!


THE HARDY BOY AND THE MYSTERY OF THE TWO FOLDERS

Of course, they did provide a reason for the two-folder requirements. Nasisira daw yung mga papeles when they’re being passed around from hand to hand.

Conveniently though, may nabibiling folder sa may photocopying machine. As I made a sneer at the City Hall employee, he defensively said that they weren’t getting the proceeds of the sold folders. As if these wasteful procedures are any less wasteful! And are folders the only way to take care of documents?!


SO NOW I WAIT

So now I wait for the electrician to come over to sign the damn application form, so I can go back to City Hall, and then to Meralco for the monopolized meter socket, so that the electrician can finally replace the damn thing.

All for some electrical part that, sans government, could have been purchased and replaced days ago, without all the runaround.


CONSUMER SAFETY MY ASS



Even with the pretense of ‘consumer safety’ as rationale for this bureaucratic bullshit, it is just too bad that competitors aren’t handling the service. At least with competing electric companies, I can choose which is the most capable/least inefficient ’di ba? I can google for reviews and evaluate which I prefer, at the very least.

Hell, the prolonged wait to get my meter socket replaced is precisely a safety risk that could easily be avoided if government was out of the way.

As the situation is now, I have to put up with whatever I’m given, including the lame smiles of those city officials ― whose pictures are plastered all over City Hall ― the same officials who give me no choice but to believe they’re doing me a service.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MERALCO SUCKS, LOCAL GOVERNMENT SUCKS, WHAT’S NEW?


Government is great!

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) sucks. Everyone knows it but I am in the middle of a first-hand rediscovery of this fact.

Part of my house has been having electric problems. We had an electrician come over to fix it, and a makeshift solution was achieved relatively quick. The electrician, however, said that for a permanent fix, there was a part that needed to be replaced, and that this ‘meter socket’ was only available at Meralco.

So I called Meralco asking if I can get this fabled meter socket, and I was told that they’d have to send someone to inspect the meter. The inspector came the next day, today, and I found out that I have to go to City Hall to get a permit for Meralco to get on with what they’re supposed to do.


GOVERNMENT IS GREAT… FOR ME TO POOP ON!

I tell a Meralco employee on the phone that this whole bureaucratic process is a scam. “Anong paki ng lungsod sa kuryente ko?” He was smugly defensive in saying “Meron,” meaning the city had to be involved, and I just don’t know any better about the necessity of this. Apparently, the wires involved are city-owned.

Meralco is great!
I think that government ownership in instances like this is what makes for bureaucratic lines and requirements.


IT’S NOT A PRIVATE PROPERTY SYSTEM

The notion of homeowners or private companies owning such electric equipment, is not so much as conceived! That there are so many possibilities that would make people’s lives easier all around is completely omitted by a default ‘let-the-government-handle-it’ attitude. Hell, even in a status-quo-monopoly situation as exists today, why couldn’t Meralco have a more direct manner of acquiring permits from the city government, instead of troubling customers to line up?


THE MYTH OF BASIC SERVICES

It’s instances like these that make it clear how unfree we really are. In the present situation, without the sanction of government and its crony franchisees, I could not obtain electricity, or water, or other ‘essential services’ deemed so essential that the task of supplying them is given to the least capable type of entity ― government monopoly.


FINAL REMARKS

I hate that I’m right, but at the very least I can quote myself from the past. The following is from an imagined letter of advice to the president, but it might just as well serve as a guide to any useless bureaucrat:
You must [stress] the need for certain sectors to be handled by the government. This is known as the ‘illusion of essential industries.’ Case in point, electricity distribution. Ask the people to imagine the ‘chaos’ if just anyone was allowed to offer such a service, and all the jumbled up power lines and burning houses as a result.
In order to avoid the logical conclusion that such ‘chaos’ is precisely what makes markets efficient and standards for infrastructure more or less uniform, especially without the government, continuously speak in terms of a ‘free for all’ market and a mad scramble threatening stability of the economic system – a nonsense phrase that may well just work. Speak of the rich being favored over the poor. If anyone suggests that the poor could be likewise offered services that may be inferior to the services for the rich but nonetheless provide value for money – just as is the case with food, clothing, vehicles, etc. – call them apathetic to the plight of the poor.
’wag kang magpakuryente! Don’t believe their lies!
Related article: Philippine postal service ― Fail!

Friday, October 7, 2011

STEVE JOBS DIES: FILIPINOS JOIN IN MOURNING APPLE VISIONARY


Patay na si Steve Jobs!

I must have been the last person in the world to find out that Steve Jobs died (Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Manila, Philippines). My friend casually mentioned it at dinner, about half a day since the news broke out. “Steve Jobs is dead.” … I waited for the punchline for a few seconds, but when none came, I ran away from human company, into the pouring rain outside, to cry copious tears (I just made up the last part; it wasn’t even raining).

I think it was coincidental that most of my companions at dinner, and I, were in black; either that or our subconscious minds planned last night’s wardrobe.


HYPOCRITES

As monumental as his contribution to the world has been (Apple, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, making turtleneck sweaters hip), I was still surprised by the outpouring of grief and busybodying in the Philippines over this man who overcame the greatest obstacles to change the face of computer hardware. Filipinos’ sense of loss goes to show that usually, unless people see in an explicit manner or experience firsthand the advantages of the free market, it could not be appreciated.

There is much hypocrisy, or inconsistency at the very least, in Obama’s, Americans’, Filipinos’, etc. admiration of the achievements of a revolutionary entrepreneur. People couldn’t help but be beneficiaries of profit-oriented businessmen, yet would advocate more control of governments in our lives, even as this always means that the benefits of the market are diluted for all.


BIZARRO LOGIC ― GOVERNMENT CREATES POVERTY, GOVERNMENT IS SOLUTION TO POVERTY!

I remember at the CMFR event on the Freedom of Information bill two months ago, how one of the guests, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, was tinkering with his iPad. I wish I took a picture then. This is a party-list representative who thinks that increasing minimum wages and nationalization of the petroleum industry are great ‘progressive’ ideas.

An iPad-using statist might say something like, “But without public education, universal health care, etc., millions of Filipinos will never have the opportunity to make something of themselves. Government’s duty is to render economic conditions equitable, that everyone can have a chance at playing Angry Birds.”

And the institution automatically designated as solution to such poverty is the opposite of free enterprise ― coercive government, the entity that perpetrates and perpetuates such dreary conditions.


LET’S FIND A MIDDLEGROUND

Perhaps I’m being too ‘black-or-white’ on the issue; there must be a middleground through which free enterprise is maintained while the poor are protected from the ravages of cruel industry. At least, that is what many a ‘social Democrat’ or modern ‘liberal’ would suggest.

But how could the imagined middleground society be realized? Taxation, the lifeblood of coercive government, necessarily drains the private sector of funds, jobs and output. And every effort at state redistribution (contrary to the guidance of prices, i.e. the manifestation of preferences) makes the allocation of capital to various endeavors less and less meaningful.

Is a stateless society really utopian? Isn’t a ‘middleground’ society the real delusion?


FINAL REMARKS

I think the mark of Steve Jobs’ greatness would be his being honored, not by iPad or Mac fanatics, but by those who think those machines are overpriced or ill-suited for their needs. 

As you guys know, I’m an Amazon Kindle user. But I can’t help but respect this guy who beat the odds to provide for the millions with different needs and wants from mine. Steve Jobs’ life and work are a keen reminder as to the beauty of the market, the manifestation of subjective preferences, and how competition, somewhat ironically, makes for peace beyond borders.