Friday, January 27, 2012

APPLE EXPLOITING CHINESE WORKERS? KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF IT


Coerced... to wear these crappy blue hats!
I can imagine many an advocate of liberty drawing the line when it comes to having multibillion-dollar companies like Apple paying dirt-cheap wages to workers in China, who have to cope with hazardous, horrendous working conditions.

Yet one’s lamentation of the situation should not equate to more regulations and restrictions on employers.

My suspicion is that these reports are in line with US congressmen’s push for protectionistic ‘Made in America’ or anti-BPO legislation such as US House Bill 3596. But let’s focus on the issue of worker ‘exploitation,’ and whether government intervention would indeed save poor laborers from their ‘bondage.’


VOLUNTARY LABOR IS NOT SLAVERY

We have to distinguish between slavery, which entails forced detention and bodily threats, to voluntary labor, even if the latter involves very unfavorable conditions. My understanding of the situation is that Apple’s China workers, dealing with next-to-nothing paychecks, have no other options available to them. Whatever growth China has experienced has not been fast enough to undo the shit that Mao’s and Mao-like policies have wreaked on the population.

So if Apple were prohibited from hiring in the area, or were coerced via regulations to pay above-market wages and increase safety measures, these workers would be left jobless, or less of them accommodated. The current situation may not be pretty, but the consequences of intervention would be worse.


REFUSE TO BUY

Okay that is it, I am not going to buy this 
overpriced crap. Not that I ever planned to.
Even as Apple should be free to hire wherever they want and offer very limited benefits, this does not mean that their customer base or people in general won’t be appalled enough to stage a boycott (if the reports are true, that is). 

Heck, although iPads, iPhones and iPods are not ‘sulit’ for me to begin with, knowing about how such products are made may give me more reason not to support Steve Jobs’ creations.

It’s like how people can refuse to buy fur coats, knowing that animals are bludgeoned to death to make them. Or with diamonds, which are often the product of what would be correctly considered as (government-perpetuated) slavery.


IF GOVERNMENT CAN KILL FOR ‘MORALS,’ WHY NOT ANYBODY?

By preventing the hiring of cheap labor from abroad, the cost of everything goes up, and this makes for poorer living standards in general, which further delays whatever improvement in living conditions can be hoped for by poor workers.

The overall adverse long-term consequences of government intervention may not be apparent, but the effects are definite. Once you start conceding this or that for the government to step in, there’s no limit as to the expansion of the state, and the long term is given up altogether.


WHAT IF EVERYONE PLAYED HERO LIKE THE GOVERNMENT?

And why stop at coercion via government law? If coercion is to be accepted on a ‘moral’ basis (even as the initiation of violence is antithetical to morals), what is left to stop just any random citizen from shooting anyone who refuses to pay for another’s medicine/tuition/subsidy? Why not murder anyone who is unable to pay higher wages? Why not torture someone who refuses to sell something at a lower price?

Alas, the acceptance of government in any part of human affairs is a step backwards for peaceful civilization. As ‘obvious’ or tempting as it is to seek government to remedy lamentable situations, some ‘cold’ analysis may be necessary to prevent meddling from making things worse. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

BERNANKE: QE3 ON THE TABLE, AND MARKETS CELEBRATE!


I just saw on ‘Inside Track’ on Bloomberg that Bernanke has announced that near-zero interest rates were to stay until at least 2014 (beyond the earlier 2013 promise), and that QE3 ― where the Federal Reserve buys more of US debt as a means to inject monetary ‘stimulus’ into markets ― is “on the table.”

I laughed out loud at how the three lady news anchors were so giddy at the ‘shot in the arm’ given to financial markets, as if Lazarus was raised or something. Indeed, indexes are suddenly soaring to year highs. Gold is up $40 an ounce in a matter of hours!

Is that really all Fed Reserve chairman Ben The Bernank Bernanke had to do to get the economy back on track? If so:

1. Why couldn’t he have done it sooner? and

2. Why not promise negative loan rates, and why not until 2030?

Gold’s rise does not create wealth, but it does 
divert wealth away from destroyers of capital.
The thing is, there is no wealth created. Why celebrate an increase in your stock prices, when everything else you have to buy increases in price too?

How long can the Fed keep propping up markets for weeks at a time, with these easy-money announcements?

Even if the Fed no longer increases the money supply, there are already trillions and trillions of dollars worth of bank reserves just waiting to get into the real economy, which will happen when prices continue to rise faster than loan rates, thus compounding price inflation. 

No wealth created. More economic destruction coming. You wouldn’t know it by the smiles on the faces of these sexy mainstream media droids!

FIVE REASONS WHY CORONA’S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL IS GOOD FOR THE PHILIPPINES


Sure looks more fun in the Philippines!

1. It keeps the Senate busy from adding to the government monster via legislation.

2. By seeing how Noynoy!’s hand-picked prosecution team is fumbling and making asses of themselves, it may occur to people that the administration knows no better than the opposition as to what the country needs.

3. With all resources spent on the upkeep of the Senate and on the senator-judges’ robes and whatnot, public resentment can only grow as to where their taxes go, and perhaps even that taxes are collected at all.

4. The telecast of the trial, competing with soap operas and infomercials in the afternoon for ratings, may compel other TV stations to come up with less formulaic and moronic garbage, or at least to save this stuff for the evening.

5. Not really good for the Philippines, but for foreigners: by observing the cast of honorable clowns who run the country, foreigners can see for themselves that it isn’t quite ‘more fun in the Philippines.’ 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RON PAUL LOVES SLAVERY AND RACISM ― WHAT A BULLY!


Paul Rosenberg, writing for Al-Jazeera, had a very critical piece on Ron Paul the other day. What is it with all these writers suddenly taking the time to tarnish Ron Paul’s and libertarianism’s reputation? I guess I should be glad that Ron Paul’s ideas are being discussed more than four years ago, but I will take the time as well to refute some criticisms.

I’ve been doing this the past couple of articles, simply pointing out that it’s an illogically distant leap to suppose that since racism is bad, government should step in to make things ‘right.’ But now I’ll focus more on the market aspect of the interventions of pro-government moralists.


SLAVERY IS LIBERTY?!

As an aside, Rosenberg claims that the Civil War, in freeing the slaves (actually it didn’t [new tab]), infringed “on the liberty of... slaveholders.” Since when was enslaving people considered libertarian? This doesn’t jibe at all with the very basic idea of libertarianism, of not initiating force against another. This mistake of Rosenberg’s makes it very clear that he’s only thought of libertarian ideas for maybe like 16 minutes in all his life. You’d think he’d have had time to shave as well, but anyway.


LEGISLATION AS A CURE-ALL

It also isn’t too strange for Ron Paul to consider Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks as ‘heroes,’ while nonetheless rejecting the means by which racial tolerance was sought, i.e. legislation.

Rosenberg carelessly presumes that people have on-off switches by which legislators can alter people’s attitudes. All Lincoln had to do was sign an executive order for slavery to die. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 suddenly eradicated the Ku Klux Klan. How simplistic can you get?!


ECONOMIC CALCULATION AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ABOLITION BY LAW

So the reason that these anti-discrimination laws actually perpetuate discrimination and ill will among people is that they distort market preferences. I know that that doesn’t sound heartwarming at all, but think of it: how could a customer or employee manifest their preferences ― including their distaste for bigotry ― when all companies are required under pain of the law to not discriminate?

What happens is that even bigot businesses remain patronized even by an anti-bigot populace who couldn’t tell that all the while, resentment among the bigots is being compounded rather than reduced by such affronts to their liberty. When ‘anti-discrimination’ is coerced, consumers are unable to provide their anti-bigot feedback by which bigoted companies would have lost out to competitors.

Whereas without legislation in this regard, where a free market flourishes, it will be evident that bigotry is bad for business. Such discrimination would have to be shed off if a bigoted businessman were to survive. The people, his customers, will have spoken against such discriminatory practices. Hampering the manifestation of such preferences will only delay changes in people’s attitudes to one of tolerance and appreciation for other social groups.


‘ANTI-DISCRIMINATION’ DELAYS SOCIAL EVOLUTION

I think it isn’t that far out to suppose that the term ‘globalization’ would have become a buzzword a few years earlier, were it not for anti-discrimination laws. It was the increase of trade and the ensuing increase in competition that made the very notion of ‘race’ a nonfactor in the hiring of employers and serving of customers (Filipinos who work abroad or in call centers are beneficiaries of such an expanded outlook).

From blogs.smithsonianmag.com
In fact, ‘race’ is only an abstraction. The only ‘race’ there is is the human race, even as we continue to generalize people according to certain characteristics. Everyone has some ‘hispanic,’ or ‘black,’ or ‘white,’ or ‘oriental’ elements in their DNA. Human evolution itself, with its male-female dynamic, makes variety inevitable, where ‘racial purity’ is impossible in any technical sense.

But the spreading of awareness of this could not come about through violence on persistent bigots.


THANKS, GOVERNMENT, FOR TELLING ME THAT MURDER IS WRONG


Rosenberg likens bans on employment discrimination to laws against murder:
Just like laws against murder, it infringes the liberty of bullies. And that's precisely what justice is: the triumph of right over might.

Let us pretend for the sake of argument that we can liken discrimination, which involes no property violations, to murder. Let us also forget that murder, like enslaving, is not an act of liberty in the general libertarian sense.

Rosenberg is giving the impression that it is only on account of laws against murder that murder is thwarted. In fact, all laws are at best indicative of a society’s moral attitudes; laws themselves do not make for change. It isn’t by virtue of a law against killing that people don’t shoot or stab each other on sight. It is rather an awareness among people that there are better ways to deal with one another.

It is with the expansion of the time horizon of Homo Sapiens that free trade and property came about. The necessity of killing competitors for the acquisition of a meal was eliminated, in that interactions between ‘foreigners’ became mutually beneficial.


ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS ARE A ‘PROHIBITION’ OF SORTS

In a hypothetical society where murder is socially accepted, would anti-murder laws have any effect? All that would happen is a ‘black market’ will emerge, untouched by state authorities, perhaps even enhanced and attaining a monopoly of sorts in the ‘murder industry.’

This isn’t too far-fetched. Look at US Prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s.

Anti-discrimination laws do not promote tolerance. Racism will continue to persist until it is rendered obsolete by free trade (which we do not have at present).


FINAL WORDS

Paul Rosenberg is yet another writer appalled by ideas of freedom, who thinks that morals are automatically excluded. That were it not for a benevolent government, private individuals (who elect the government) would let the poor starve to death.

Isn’t it just as possible ― actually much more so, in my opinion ― that a free people, secure in their right to property, would provide assistance to the less fortunate? And that a government, having expropriated property from their rightful owners, would impoverish the poor by their ineptness and apathy? After all, aren’t violent people, who use tools of violence such as the police, more likely to have no compassion for others? Why isn’t this in the realm of possibilities among modern liberals?

A LOT of brainwashing, has gone into making people believe that violence and centralization are necessities for, rather than anathema to, social order. In addition, we still have a remaining proclivity for collectivism in our psychologies. So I really don’t know how effective my arguments will be in changing mentalities.

But at least if a more intellectually advanced human in the future were to discover this article, I’d be glad for them to know that during the adolescence of the species, there were already some ‘mutations’ that knew somewhat better than the rah-rah-government herd.

And so I continue writing.

***

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WARREN BUFFETT ON TIME™ MAGAZINE: CRONY ECONOMICS FROM A ‘1%-ER’


Google ‘buffett crony’ [new tab]
Warren Buffett seems to think that just because he’s one of the richest people in the world, he can defy economic principles with fluffy statements.

Indeed, TIME™’s January 23, 2012 cover article (‘The optimist[new tab]) is pretty much a fluff piece that further cements Buffett’s reputation as a selfless philanthropist. In actuality, he contributes nothing worthwhile to the discussion on America’s and the world’s political economy.

It appears that he is sincere in his convictions, but alas, self-deception is a critical component in deceiving others and getting one’s way. Such self-deception is not necessarily bad, except that government is Buffett’s tool of acquiring wealth.

And when I say ‘wealth,’ I mean not just monetary wealth but acclaim and prestige, the thrill of being on a moral pedestal.


WHAT A MODEST HOUSE! ERGO, GOVERNMENT IS GOOD!

Sincerity and a taste for simplicity go a long way.
Buffett’s inclination towards (relative) frugality is a strong bullet point under which modern liberals rally. From the premise of “You can get by with less consumption and simpler lifestyles,” they want us to jump to the conclusion that “coercive monopoly = effective charity.”

Government is never called a coercive monopoly though. If it were, people ― including the politicians and paid hacks themselves ― may begin to realize that the state is nothing more than a very established band of thieves.

The article’s writer Rana Foroohar lends a helping hand by speaking of “Darwinian capitalism,” and we’re supposed to believe that laissez faire and not cronyism is what has brought about income disparities.

Let’s take a look at several choice fluffy statements from Buffett.


GOVERNMENT AS CUSHION TO THE LESS FORTUNATE

With the Obama nixing of the Keystone pipeline,
at least the Canadian oil will now be handled 
by such a great lover of mankind.
“We need a tax system that essentially takes very good care of the people who just really aren’t as well adapted to the market system but are nevertheless doing useful things in society.”

Some things aren’t necessarily paid for with money. People exchange ideas and sentiments all the time without receiving monetary compensation. In that sense, a lot of what is ‘useful’ is not covered by the monetary system.

However, when we are talking about economic goods, money and prices are precisely the means by which ‘usefulness’ is determined. Is the market system necessarily disadvantageous to the less entrepreneurial? In the sense that they may not afford more expensive goods and services, yes. But does this mean other more affordable alternatives are not available? Or that charitable entities are barred from collection and distribution?

Why should we assume that government, acting as a monopolistic charity at best, is more effective than charities competing for the hearts and minds of the more materially fortunate? If we are to appreciate freedom even by a single degree, we would conclude that competition is more viable than monopoly, regardless of sector.


BUFFETT’S CHARITABILITY IS A TESTAMENT TO VOLUNTARY TRADE

Unlike his movie counterpart, Buffett 
has yet to learn to let go ― 
of government privilege that is.
“The money itself is all going to charity.”

So Buffett says about what’s going to happen to all his wealth when he dies. It sounds like sourgraping to point out the tax deductions he gets from all his benevolence, or how high tax rates weaken his competition. I myself would like to believe he’s sincere. Yet this doesn’t mean he’s trading all his billions for nothing.

The whole principle of monetary exchange is that one derives more satisfaction from a non-monetary thing relative to certain units of money. What non-monetary thing can Buffett be getting? A clear conscience? Moral superiority? A ticket to heaven? Being able to put free-market advocates in their place? I don’t think even Buffett knows. But one thing is certain: he feels good about what he’s doing, and notwithstanding his being a crony, it’s a voluntary transaction.

Just because money isn’t everything doesn’t mean this lesson has to be taught by elected thugs.


BAD PHILOSOPHY, WORSE METHODOLOGY

“I find the argument that we need lower taxes to create more jobs mystifying, because we’ve had the lowest taxes in this decade and about the worst job creation ever.”

As if these are the only two factors to consider in studying an economy. Is it then logical to state that low taxes --> unemployment and high taxes --> low unemployment? The utter disregard of actual conditions in the world, in particular, the completely corrupt banking system, is just plain careless.

And has anyone ever advocated low taxes and deficit spending to lower unemployment?... Come to think of it, Keynesians love deficit spending. Keynesianism is a paradigm in which article writer Foroohar herself and most economists, including advisors to policymakers, are hopelessly immersed.


RHETORIC WITHOUT LOGIC

“It’s like [what] Martin Luther King said. We aren’t trying to change the heart. We’re trying to restrain the heartless.”

Even I’m amazed at the catchiness of the statement.

And how exactly are such ‘heartless’ people to be restrained? The how is so important, yet do-gooders are so quick to look automatically to government to do such restraining.

What about guilt trips? Boycotts? Shame campaigns? Even these would be better than threatening a person’s life as a means of getting them to surrender their property.

Yet I wouldn’t advocate even these. One person’s enjoyment of wealth does not necessarily make for another’s suffering.

Disparity in resources, or for that matter the lack of opportunity to interact without suffering prejudice, is compounded when the processes by which wealth is created are hindered so as to favor the politically privileged.

Being wealthy does not necessarily mean one oppresses others. Such oppression can only happen when mentalities are still so immature so as to support the idea of violence as a means to wealth creation. The government-as-solution mentality is the problem.


BULLISH ON AMERICA

For all his investing savvy, Buffett doesn’t understand anything about business cycles. Hence his reported bullishness. He thinks that if Obama continues doubling the national debt every couple of years, the upcoming depression could be halted.

Forget that he’s banking on (pun intended) an easy-money policy to keep his banks afloat. Or that his partly-owned ratings agencies were a part of the problem. Or that he’s got enough tools to make money even in depressions. It’s simply moronic to expect the US’ ‘empire of debt’ to continue.


FINAL WORDS

Buffett’s cronyism has been explored elsewhere, and so I leave it to you to do a Google search [new tab] on the matter.

What concerns me most is that he wins over people with his outright bad economics, in the name of love for one’s fellow man, or worse yet, love for government.

But just like government, Buffett, nice old ‘Up’ man himself and all, is part of the problem, a regular ‘one-percenter’ if ever there was one. His recent appearance on SLIME™ Magazine, as Doug Casey calls it, is an affirmation of this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA SHOWS THAT ‘INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY’ IS TOTALITARIAN NONSENSE


And she’s on a SOFA too! No SOPAn intended!

What’s wrong with the concept of ‘intellectual property’?

It assumes that my ownership of things ― whether these be servers, hard drives, disks, blank paper, chemicals, etc. ― is secondary to the dictates of non-owners, i.e. copyright, patent and trademark ‘owners’ (the better word is ‘cronies’; who precisely are lobbying for SOPA’s and PIPA’s passage?). As if there’s any conflict in the free use of my physical property and that of others.

Either ideas could be used freely, or not at all. One’s ‘Eureka’ moment as to the truth of this comes either later, or never. But to paraphrase the naïve IP advocate Ayn Rand, one could not avoid the consequences of not knowing any better ― in this case about the nature of IP.

One ultimately chooses between either a state-controlled distribution of resources, or a system that regards the right to actual property ― whether one’s body or material things ― as paramount.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NOYNOY! ACCUSES SELF, CORONA OF BRIBING ‘NOT READY’ PROSECUTION



Photo from inquirer.net


PASAY, Philippines ― President Noynoy! Aquino has accused himself of bribery, in explaining how his prosecution team could have bungled up the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“It’s so obvious. No prosecutors can fuck up that bad unintentionally. This had to be organized from on high, the presidency in fact. I am 100% positive that I accepted a bribe from Corona, who is getting off scot-free as a result,” said the popular president, who has led the executive’s ‘war’ against the head of the judiciary.

Prosecutors from the House of Representatives failed [new tab] to present any evidence that Corona had betrayed the ‘public trust’ by voting in favor of former president Gloria Arroyo in several Supreme Court cases. In spite of the one-month Christmas break, all the prosecutors can say on day 2 of the impeachment trial at the Senate was that they were “not ready.” 

Aquino ridiculed the excuses made by the prosecution. “Reliable sources tell me that I had instructed them [prosecution] to play dumb. Either that or they really are morons,” he said.

“Adjourned! Yes, maaabot ko pa yung Daldalita!”
Although he was implicating himself, and although this is just the latest of many accusations made, Aquino seems keen on pursuing this bribery angle if only to save face, saying this “strengthened” his anti-corruption crusade against Arroyo. “He is really sparing no expense when it comes to bribing his way to acquittal,” Aquino said of Corona.

In keeping with his disregard of the 1987 Constitution, he was also considering having Arroyo shot in her Veterans Memorial Medical Center room.

“If you were to ask anyone at random if they would like to kill Gloria for all her crimes, they’d say Yes. And so we’re really just following the will of the people. Mere technicalities restricting the executive’s actions must give way to democracy,” he said.

NOBEL WINNER WANNA-BE JEFFREY SACHS ATTACKS LIBERTARIANISM, RON PAUL


Because they’re NOT part of the status quo/problem, 

of course.

Jeffrey Sachs, famous columnist and academic, and teacher of Bono (Whoa Bono! he must be good then!), trains his guns on the libertarian movement and its top representative Ron Paul. He portrays libertarianism as an ‘extreme’ ideology, attractive to impressionable youngsters due to its Braveheart-like invocations of “Freeeeeedooooommmm!”

I quote Sachs:
Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable -- all are to take a back seat.

Notice the faulty logic here.

If one denies government’s role in fostering ‘humane’ values, Sachs claims, this means that one rejects these values altogether, in the name of liberty. What complete nonsense.


GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME MORALS?!

Moral values never take a backseat to liberty, just because liberty is advocated. The difference really is whether one sees through the illusion that other values apart from liberty are to be derived from mechanisms that precisely go against such values. Given that the government requires violence and coercion to function, how can we expect compassion et al. to come from government?


Because all libertarians have are rabid cries 
for freedom; not scientific at all!
WHO’S BEING ‘IDEOLOGICAL’?

Sachs tries to belittle the “single-mindedness” of libertarians. But how is the belief in government-as-solution any less ‘single-minded’ than the single-mindedness being charged to libertarians?

And what, just because government comes in, in the name of the people, things like greed, discrimination, intolerance, etc. will disappear from society? Now who’s being “single-minded”?

Government does not stop ‘bad’ values present in society; these are merely redirected, even universalized, in ways that would be deemed undesirable, if only the consequences are determined beforehand, e.g.:

  • Central bank-induced crises (‘greed’); 
  • Overcrowding of prisons disproportionately filled with minorities (‘drug abuse’); 
  • Big pharma cronies feeding off universal health care (‘lack of compassion’); 
  • Higher prices/lower output due to outsourcing limitations (‘cold-bloodedness’ of employers); 
  • Etc.

FINAL WORDS

People like Sachs misrepresent the free market in documentaries like ‘Commanding heights,’ by claiming that they are for the free market. And those who actually understand free markets like Ron Paul are labeled as ‘extreme.’

In fact, the relative rarity of ‘extreme’ libertarianism goes hand in hand with the very common economic destruction that we see today and will continue to see.


***

On the video below: Because compassion means having to derive it from government.

Friday, January 13, 2012

ON DOWNLOADING THE WHOLE INTERNET, AND STATE INTERVENTION (CENTRAL PLANNING)


Oo, nakiuso na rin ako (a week late, that is).
Parties. More fun in the Philippines!
One of the dreams in my household is to one day download the entire internet. Yes, to download every single page and file contained in the entire internet. How awesome would that be!

Now you might think, that’s insane. For a number of obvious reasons:

1. File space. How could the entire internet fit in one computer? According to a Wisegeek article [opens in new tab], there are 5 million terabytes online. Could this fit in your hard drive?

2. Downloading time would be too slow. Even a speed of 120 gigs per second would be rendered impotent due to the numerous sites to download.

3. The content of the internet is ever-changing. Even if it were possible to contain such magnitude in one computer, it would be rendered obsolete the further time goes by. What’s more, files keep getting bigger.


IS IT POSSIBLE AFTER ALL?

So it remains a pipe dream, you might think. But then, there is one thing that continues to inspire me: socialism, that is, any nonmarket or state intervention in the allocation of scarce resources.

Socialism or central planning assumes that:

1. The preferences and know-how of billions (or even just thousands maybe, in local governments) can be taken into account and acted upon by a handful of elected officials.

2. The feedback mechanism by which governments acquire or apply knowledge would not have an opportunity cost as compared to the voluntary pricing mechanism.

3. The state can keep up with ever-changing preferences and know-how of individuals.


CONCLUSION

We can see how belief in state intervention is quite similar to my hope for downloading the whole internet. And as long as socialists are still around, I won’t lose faith in my dream either.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GROSS HAPPINESS INDEX FOR FILIPINOS ―SOME SUGGESTIONS


In our time of need, we beseech you!
I found this gem from Senator Loren Legarda, who heads the economic affairs committee.

She wants the government to draft guidelines for measuring ‘gross happiness’ as a more reliable indicator of economic conditions in the Philippines. She says that stuff like GDP are inadequate in that they do not factor in the effects of industry on the environment and stuff. Other countries are already using alternative indicators.

I do agree with her (what?!) that GDP and other typical economic stats are poor indicators of economic well-being. So I thought I’d chip in and provide the NEDA, NSCB, etc. with a couple of ideas on how they can measure ‘gross happiness’:

More smiles, more 
award winners like this one, 
and our economy will blast 

through the roof!
1. SMILE SURVEY
Economists should conduct surveys as to how many times the typical ‘man on the street’ smiles. Say, 20 smiles a day might indicate ‘very happy’ and thus prosperity, while 0 smiles will indicate a recession.

2. JOHN LLOYD/BEA FACTOR
It has been proven that each time a new John Lloyd/Bea movie comes to theaters, overall happiness rises. So economists should take note of how recent their last film is. The further away in time, the less happy (alas, their last film together, ‘Miss you like crazy,’ was last shown in cinemas March 2010). But then, if these movies are shown on CinemaOne or PBO, happy points should be added.  


[January 13, 2012 update: My First Romance was shown yesterday afternoon on CinemaOne, to the delight of thousands of yayas nationwide. Hurrah, GHI!]

3. AGGREGATE AWARDS WON BY FILIPINOS
This is a powerful indicator. When Efren Peñaflorida won that CNN award, and more recently when the Indonesia-based-pero-Pinay-na-rin Robin Lim won the same, ‘Filipino pride’ was stoked anew. So the NSCB should definitely count the number of international awards won by Filipinos in a given month, even if the voters are dominantly Filipinos who have nothing better to do at work than Facebook and vote online. Such solidarity represents happiness as well.
And whenever the NSCB needs some number-fudging, they can include local awards FAMAS and MMFF as well!


4. RACIAL SLURS IN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA
This is considered a negative factor, in that whenever Teri Hatcher or Claire Danes or somebody makes any comment even slightly offensive to Filipinos, everyone becomes angry, and therefore not happy. So the number of racial jokes or comments made by foreigners, heck, even lingual comments by Filipinos like James Soriano, should be counted.

I suddenly got a mental block and that’s all I can come up with for now. I hope this will someway help Senator Legarda’s earnest proposal to measure happiness.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

THE PHILIPPINES IS MORE FUN, AND OTHER LIES


Is “It’s more fun in the Philippines” really worth over a billion pesos a year?!

At my house, we finally cut our subscription to the goddamn Inquirer, and it’s spared me some IQ points. However, it also makes me less responsive to current events, because I also don’t bother going to the news websites (kasi nga nakakabobo ang balita).

But the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” discussions have been rather inescapable. From what I read on Facebook, it’s a matter of, “Is it a good slogan for Philippine tourism or not?”

I’ve seen no one even bother to ask, “Do we really need a Tourism department to market tourist attractions?” Or “Did we really have to wait for a  new slogan at all?”


OPPORTUNITY COST OF CENTRAL PLANNING

But even if we do agree that it’s a nice-sounding slogan, and even if it boosts tourist visits, there’s something we are neglecting.

The Tourism department required money expropriated from citizens, money which would have otherwise been used for other satisfactions, such as medicine, food or additional savings. 

Is it sane to think that this system of expropriate-then-spend makes for a net gain as compared to the could-have-been of actual consumer wants?


THE ‘WHAT IF’ OF LESS GOVERNMENT MEDDLING

In the 2012 national budget, the Tourism department receives P1.63 billion [opens in another tab]. This is a little short of 1% of the entire General Appropriations Act, and P200 million more than last year.

Perhaps it would have been better to let taxpayers keep these insane amounts of money. I for one think that Philippine resorts would have been better off not paying whatever taxes they have to pay, and using such funds for promotion as they see fit instead.

And if resorts see it in their best interest to go with a general nationwide theme, e.g. they use a slogan such as
“Inflation is going to bite your ass. Come to the Philippines for third-world prices”
it’s because the feedback system of the market would confirm that it’s an effective one.


SLOGANS WILL ONLY GET YOU SO FAR

But as with any product, you have to back it up with actual quality. There are some world-class destinations, I’m sure, but some aspects of the Philippine experience, e.g. airports and traffic, would nonetheless be a buzzkill to those eager to see what the ‘fun’ is all about.

And this is where we realize that the truly best way to draw in investments from abroad ― and tourism is about revenue generation after all ― is to remove existent barriers. All else is superficial.

Its really quite simple: Abolish or drastically cut the numerous laws on taxation and regulation, remove all hindrances to movement and speech, and privatize all land. This will make foreigners go, “Wow, Philippines! We can do anything we want! Looks like fun!”

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

‘BOURNE LEGACY’ TO BE SHOT IN STREETS OF MANILA ― GET THE FUCK OUT!


I hope you’ve already applied to become one of the 1,000 extras needed [link opens in new tab] for the next ‘Bourne’ movie ‘Legacy,’ which will be partly shot in Manila, so we’re told.

I can’t help wonder though. Who’s going to weigh between the consequences of:
1. The inconvenience brought about by additional traffic on alternative routes; and
2. The ‘prestige’ of having Manila used to portray third-world urban life?

The councilors? The MMDA? The mayor? On what basis will they make their judgment? Could their decisions manifest in any manner aside from considering what keeps them in power?


ELECTORAL SYSTEM A ZERO-SUM (+1/-1) GAME

The voting system necessarily makes for a win-lose situation, that is, the victorious mayor and his allies/direct beneficiaries win, and everyone else loses.

There is a world of difference between ‘public office,’ and the market, in that the latter requires consent for transactions to take place. On the other hand, defying the powers-that-be will get you arrested.


VAGUENESS OF BOUNDARIES IN ‘COMMUNAL PROPERTY’

It is no wonder that where accountability and property claims are vague, such as with roads, service is found wanting.

We can only guess whether the decision to use Manila’s streets is a ‘good’ decision, because the mechanism by which utility is determined ― private property ― does not exist.


THE SUCCESS OF COMMUNAL PROPERTY ELSEWHERE

Some are quick to point out that there are instances where people get by quite alright even though, say, a lake is owned by a community. I can imagine someone saying, “So you see, public property can exist for the benefit of all!”

But such happy instances do not deal with ‘public property.’ The very term is an oxymoron. What makes property property is that it is accorded to specific individuals to do with as they please.

It is very possible for a community to take care of a waterform, sustaining it as necessary, even while keeping the rules on its use rather vague. If the people decide to keep things loose, with just a general rule of ‘be considerate,’ this is still the decision of private owners, who are still exercising their control individually ― even as the risk of conflict increases the more owners there are.


TOASTERS ARE A PROOF OF COMMUNISM

A reduced example I sometimes give is the toaster (wow sosyal!). I don’t even remember where the present toaster in my house came from, or who bought it. Yet my family gets by alright.

We don’t have to show a title or certificate of ownership each time we need to toast something. We don’t have to assign a maximum time of use for each household member. If someone gets to it first, the next person waits, and it’s simple as that. Sometimes, we would ask to add to the present batch of stuff being toasted, so as to save time and energy. Sometimes, we don’t ask at all. No complaints!

If communism (in the more literal sense of the word) is ever to work, the state will have nothing to do with it. Private property would still be the guiding force for social order.

***

Additional link: Solving traffic, where I explain in dialogue form the feasibility of privatization of roads.