Thursday, October 23, 2008

The State and the Individual

Recently I got a private mail from a good friend in one of the discussion yahoogroups that I moderate, Pilipinas Forum (PF). My friend wrote,

“PF has degenerated into a one-track advocacy platform rather than a free market of ideas. Anything that gets posted gets a single kind of response:


I thanked my friend for voicing out that sentiment. It’s a healthy and friendly observation and I need to be aware of such observation or sentiment. So perhaps I need to clarify a few things.

First, PF is not an organization with a definite and specific advocacy or program of action. PF is just a forum, like millions of other online fora out there, from blogs to wordpress to other ygroups. So there is still diversity in opinions. Contrast that with a ygroups I created for Minimal Government (MG) supporters, that ygroups can be considered relatively “one-track advocacy” forum because of the specifically-defined advocacy.

Second, the core of my political and economic advocacies is not MG per se, but Personal Responsibility. If you visit the online magazine, the title of my weekly column there is “Back to Personal Responsibility”. And if you visit MG’s website,, it says there, “In a sense, MG is a philosophical movement attempting to change the dominant thinking in our people that many things in our lives – education, health care, housing, pension,… – should be government responsibility, not personal or parental or firm responsibility.”

So my philosophy can be summarized as follows:

the culprit: Big Government Responsibility and taxation
the solution: More Personal Responsibility

I find it really disgusting that so many bright people in this planet have bright ideas on how to make the world a better place, by forcing you and me, our family, friends, neighbors, everyone, to finance their bright ideas. And they make thousands of press releases, hold press conferences left and right, to announce their bright ideas!

Why can’t they say, “Hey, I got a bright idea how to reduce housing backlog and the squatters problem, but I won’t force you to finance my idea and projects even if you don’t believe in it. Only people who believe in my idea will!”

But they say, “There is lack of food, there is high malnutrition among certain groups of people, so we propose even bigger budget from big taxes and fees, for the Department of Agriculture, NFA, Quedancor, UNFAO, UN WFP, WB, ADB, etc; more food self-sufficiency and less food imports or exports, less international trade in food, etc.”

We can pick up any subject under the sun; what differentiate our perspectives in analyzing certain problems and the corresponding solutions to them will depend on how much faith, or lack of faith, we put in personal responsibility. The lesser that faith is, the more we will believe in more government, more forced collectivism.

That is why in analyzing the on-going global financial turmoil, my approach is more philosophical than financial. If you are an individual with small or no stable income, don’t buy an expensive house. If you are a bank, don’t lend someone big amount of house mortgage if you perfectly know that his/her capacity to pay in the future is suspect. If you are a government, don’t force banks or other private enterprises from lending to people whose capacity to pay such loans is suspect if not impossible. The “common denominator” remains the same: personal responsibility. Disregard it and we’ll have a society of irresponsible, authoritarian and corrupt people ruling our lives.

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