Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Diyos at Bayan Talks about Freedom from Poverty

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Yesterday, we commemorated the 115th Philippine Independence Day. I believe that many Filipinos shared the aspiration of a fellow pastor who updated his timeline saying, "How I wish that the Philippines and Filipinos are really free!"

Last night, as I checked my Facebook Home page, I noticed an announcement made by Prof. Leonor Briones, "I will be on Diyos at Bayan tonight, Catch it live on Light Network..." I clicked the link and watched the program.

Together with Prof. Briones were Dr. Rene Azurin and Mr. Francisco Colayco. They talked about independence of Filipinos from poverty. The focus is about the nation's economic situation. 

As I watched the program, I observed that the gist of each guest's message was immedialy tweeted. I noticed that the messages both from the guest speakers and the tweets ranged between a statist and a libertarian solution. The statist solution is still very strong. None of the guests and tweets (with the exception of Kata Inocencio who is Bro. Eddie's co-host) gave even a hint that the government itself plays a big role concerning the present situation of national economy.

Example of the tweets indicating statist solutions are as follows: 

  • "60% ng budget ng gobyerno compressed sa Luzon lamang, 40% pinaghahatian ng Visayas at Mindanao."
  • "Ang CCT okay yun pero hindi naman pangmatagalang solusyon."
  • "Trabaho ng gobyerno na lumikha ng opportunities." 
  • "Nagawa ng Malaysia before na sila ang nag-control ng kanilang exchange rate."

I described the above ideas as statist simply because the underlying assumption of these statements is rooted in a wrong notion about the basic role of the government in the lives of private citizens. Such idea about the government is actually the root for the country's present economic condition. And not until this erroneous political idea is corrected, Filipinos will never see the cause of our poverty. 

The first tweet assumes that Visayas and Mindanao will enjoy better situation if they will have a bigger share in the national pie. And maybe someone will ask, "What's wrong with that?"

Those who believe in the foregoing statement assume that economic well-being of poor Filipinos both in Visayas and Mindanao could be improved through public fund. But we all know that the government itself has no money of its own unless taken from its citizens. And besides, if bigger fund will be alloted to Visayas and Mindanao, will the lobbyists and legislators of Luzon aggree to such arrangement? Or will it result to a greater national budget leading to further burden for taxpayers?

The potential tax that could be added due to the clamor for greater share could have been utilized more productively by the citizens themselves through market operation instead of just wasting resources in beuraucratic process (For deeper explanation, I refer the reader to Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson"). 

The second twitter is unaware about the inconsistency in his tweet. He acknowledged that CCT is not a long-term solution, but he said "okay" to it. He does not know that the acceptance of CCT closes the path for long-term solution. For further explanation, read this article. 

CCT is just one among many programs in a welfare state There are many countries now who find it difficult to sustain their welfare program without increasing their budget and tax collection. Typical examples of these are the US and South Korea.

The third tweet is very obvious. It assigns a task to the government that basically has nothing to do with the real purpose why the government is established in the first place. Can the government really create "opportunities" for poor Filipinos to get out of poverty? Maybe for a few, for special interest groups, but it's a different kind of opportunity that results to deeper poverty for greater number of Filipinos. 

The last tweet also talked about "control" of exchange rate, an example of words that statists praise. I don't know if what the twitter said is true and how Malaysia did it. The only thing I know to influence exchange rate is the one being done by Japan now - printing of yen. If the Philippines will follow that direction, after several years the price of basic commodities will certainly increase. That would mean tougher lives for most of us. 

Concerning libertarian solution, perhaps guest speakers were unaware that few of the ideas they mentioned were important components in a political economic philosophy called libertarianism. It offers a totally different view of looking at Philippine reality. Cues that might open new vistas for discussion are mentioned by Kata Inocencio, Prof. Briones, Dr. Azurin and Bro. Eddie himself. 

I forgot the exact question Kata Inocencio asked. It is related to the possibility that government itself failed in its campaign against poverty. That's a great question worthy of further exploration. Following it up with additional questions would lead the way closer to libertarian door. 

Prof. Briones accurately identifies that a strong peso is not equivalent to a strong economy. Another statement she made, which is not exclusively libertarian but also accurate and realistic is about the admission of the government that there is no change in the economic condition of the poor since 2009 despite of the report that the economy has been improving. Exploring these two points further will draw us nearer to the truth of Philippine situation, particularly the issue related to the peso strength. How I wish that some mainstream economists would stumble to see the connection between the national economic situation and monetary policy. 

Dr. Azurin confidently declares, "It is the same ruling class that are in-charge of the economy and politics." Granted that this is true, it is good to ask, why such situation happened in the first place? And what is the mechanism used by this ruling class to control both national economy and politics?

The comment I like the most is the one mentioned by Bro. Eddie himself. He spoke about certain special interest groups that took advantage of government favors and regulations. That kind of analysis is similar to the message of Frederic Bastiat's book, "The Law". You can also find similar flow of thought in Hazlitt's book. 

How I wish that the next time "Diyos at Bayan" will discuss about freedom from poverty, it's my prayer to see a libertarian speaker among the panel. I propose Nonoy Oplas of Minimal Government. I anticipate that that will be a great forum and opportunity for the public to be informed that another alternative besides the statist solution is available.