Sunday, March 28, 2010

Earth Hour 1: Success in North Korea

Our friends from Malaysia, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS, www.ideas.org.my), got published in a newspaper in Kuala Lumpur regarding the "Earth Hour",
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/kwek-kon-yao/57582-turning-out-the-lights-on-civilisation

They started receiving hate-mails!

I congratulated our friends there, especially IDEAS head, Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

If the rabid greens send you hate mails, that means you made a very clear message to them and the public.

Meanwhile, WWF made the most successful campaign of shutting out lights in... North Korea! A picture that our friend from Seoul, Chung-ho Kim of CFE, shares often, is that of a satellite picture in the evening of the 2 Koreas. Here's another shot of that picture.


source: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/27/earth-hour-in-north-korea-a-stunning-success/

I bet the rabid greens would consider migrating to N. Korea.
many people there shut out lights not only 1 hour/day.
they do so 365 nights a year.
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Two days ago, I wrote this in one discussion list:

Here is one example of carbon rent-seeking,

WWF hopes to find $60 billion growing on trees

"Earth hour" is one cheap gimmick by the WWF to continue scaring the world so that it's easier for them to extort billions of $ of foreign aid money and carbon cap and trade racket.

If the Earth Hour is meant to "save energy, save the planet", why only 1 hour/year?
Why not make it a monthly, or weekly, or daily activity? Better yet, don't use electricity. Those electrical currents that come from coal power plants, or from nuke and gas turbines, according to the WWF and other warmers, contribute to global warming.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Privatization 3: UP, NDCP, other SUCs

State universities being political creation and politically-funded, will never be independent of politics and politicians. And very often, the minds and academic biases of their faculty members and researchers are skewed towards justifying ever bigger government intervention, regulation and taxation of many aspects of our lives.

My article last week, "Privatization 2: State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), attracted a number of counter-arguments in one of my yahoogroups from some friends, especially from fellow UP alumni. The most common arguments are:
(1) might as well privatize MalacaƱang, the police, armed forces, disaster preparedness and everything in government, and
(2) SUCs educate the children of the poor, why deprive the poor of university education?

Liberty-oriented people do not advocate zero government and anarchy. They believe in a "limited (or minimal) government" and there are various definitions of what is a “limited government.” One such definition is one that focuses on “protecting the citizens' right to life, right to private property, right to liberty." Thus, there should be only few and small taxes to finance a limited and lean government.

The judiciary and the police, also the armed forces if there are clear, explicit threats of external aggression, are absolute necessity that government must keep, they cannot be privatized. All the other functions are either secondary or unnecessary functions. Even roads and highways construction and maintenance can be privatized, as seen from the various tollways in the country and abroad.

The problem is that the Philippine state has become lousy even in keeping the police, justice prosecution, and the judiciary, those directly involved in the promulgation of the "rule of law", into really credible institutions. Many people do not write even a single paper advocating the privatization of certain police functions like maintaining peace and order in society. They simply do it. The guys who protect our buildings, our schools and universities, our shops, malls, parking lots and churches, are not government policemen or spies. They are private security guards.

Below are the major arguments for UP privatization as a first step towards privatizing all other state universities and colleges (SUCs).

One, remove the hypocrisy of double standard. One policy of fiscal subsidy for some university students, and one policy of fiscal constraint for the others. The former includes those who get taxpayers subsidy of up to 80 to 90 percent of their school fees while the latter receive zero subsidy from the state, and still this latter group are generally able to manage. The "rule of law" says that the law should apply to all and exempt no one. So it does not appear good that two contradictory policies apply to tertiary students in this country.

Two, it is not true that UP attracts the poor and needy in Philippine society. In the first place, the poor and needy do not reach college. They drop out before they reach or finish high school. Secondly, the last time I observed, it would appear that the parents of UP students on average, are richer than the parents of students of UE, FEU, STI, AMA, NU, Adamson, Mapua, Perpetual, etc. But UP students get taxpayers subsidy while students of those private universities receive zero subsidy.

Recently, there was a big student unrest at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). The school administration wanted to raise tuition fees from the current Php12/unit up to Php200/unit for some courses. The Php12/unit has been stuck for many years now. It would appear that the price of one hamburger or one bottle of beer in a restaurant is equivalent to, or higher than, the cost of one subject for four months in PUP. And the PUP student militants and their supporters elsewhere think this is correct, and the militants threw out and destroyed hundreds of chairs and tables in full public view and in front of many tv cameras, because they wanted more modern chairs and tables without paying extra for such additional costs.

Three, this statement is wrong now: “UP's reason for being is to gather the brightest of the youth and train them to run government.”

Some 102 years ago when UP was created by the Americans in 1908, that was a good reason and was worth supporting with taxpayers' money. There were also very few private universities then, and perhaps there were no other state Us. Now with more than a thousand private universities which have little or zero experience in relying on taxpayers’ money for their operation, the choice of the Philippine state and its local government units to run the various bureaucracies has expanded widely.

Besides, UP and other SUCs are also training students who have zero ambition of joining government, or have zero ambition of staying in the country shortly after graduation. And it is a human right violation to force these people to work in government, or force them not to go abroad. The injustice to taxpayers who do not even have children, or have children who went to private universities and receive zero subsidy is amplified.

If we privatize UP and all other SUCs, no exemption, we can then privatize all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), no exemption. The proceeds and revenues from large-scale privatization should be used to retire the huge public debt (more than Php4 trillion) and/or reduce and abolish certain taxes and fees. Low and few taxes are certainly public service too.

On another note,  the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), under the DND, not CHED, is the second most expensive SUC in terms of student per capita spending, P500,000/student/ year ++. It should be privatized, or at least the subsidy should be drastically reduced, portions of the huge campus can be privatized and the revenue from it can be used for the additional costs of PMA students.

Another SUC, the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), also under the DND, should be privatized too. Its graduate students have a per capita subsidy of about P1 million/student/ year ++. Students there include some Congressmen/women, Mayors, business executives, people who do not need subsidy. 

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More comments in facebook when I posted the earlier article in my wall. Among these comments:

1. There are indeed plenty of poor students in UP, children of ordinary parents.
2. Even for student loan program, when graduates default on their loans, taxpayers will again take the tab.
3. Tax-funded scholarships will attract abuses too.

I admit that there was some exagerration in my earlier statement that "no poor students in UP as the poor do not reach college in the first place." My main argument is that all SUCs should be privatized, and government can help the poor by giving them scholarships, and the poor but intelligent students can choose which university will attract and serve them better. If UP becomes a private university someday, after 102 yrs being a beggar to Malacanang, DBM, House of Reps (HOR) and the Senate, year after year, then it can charge full cost of education to the rich students who are more than happy to do so as their parents can afford it, so long as the quality of education will remain high.

Education is first and foremost, personal and parental responsibility; "government responsibility" in education is a far second. Parents can choose the kind of education for their kids (language school, science and math school, arts and culture school, religious school, applied science and technical school, etc.), from elementary to tertiary. But taking away elem. and secondary education as "government responsibility" is too messy, we have to focus on tertiary education.

As I argued in my paper, if the state can be lousy in doing its work in its real and core function -- to protect the citizens' right to life, right to priv. property, and right to liberty -- how can we expect the state to be efficient in doing other functions which are better left to the private sector?

A friend posted this quote from former US President Reagan as a comment,

"In America we created at the local level and administered at the local level for many years the greatest public school system in the world. Now through something called federal aid to education, we have something called federal interference, and education has been the loser. Quality has declined as federal intervention has increased." - Ronald Reagan

Another friend suggested an alternative to tax-funded scholarship program, the "Scholarship Fund" set up by the schools where anyone can donate to and gain tax deductions.

The latter is a good idea. Personally, I'd like to see government to have zero involvement in tertiary education, in exchange for drastic tax cuts somewhere, like income tax. Scholarship would be a good "compromise", with preconditions like scholars must keep an average grade of 85% (or 1.75 UP grading system) in each semester.

Whenever public funds are made available to some people, there will always be certain groups who will abuse it.

Another suggestion is to have multiple scholarships with different grade requirements. There are some companies, foundations and civic groups that currently offer scholarships every year to some students in private universities.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Car plates and power trip


A car’s plate number is that vehicle’s identity and hence, points to the accountability of the owner and/or driver of that car. When something bad happens, say a car has hit a person or another vehicle and it speed away, witnesses can only identify the vehicle’s brand, color and most importantly, its plate number. Then it becomes easier for government investigators to identify the owner of that vehicle. When a car has a different plate number or no plate number at all and that car was involved in an accident or in the commission of a crime, then identifying the owner and/or user of that car is difficult, if not impossible.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local governments in Metro Manila also use the plate number for vehicle restriction, aka “number coding” one day every week. Vehicles with plate numbers that end in numbers 1 and 2 are banned from Metro Manila’s streets on Mondays from 7am to 7pm except on holidays.

A few years ago perhaps, MMDA revised this restriction and allowed vehicles that are supposedly banned in the streets on certain days, and allowed them from 10am to 3pm, except in Makati and San Juan, probably in another city. Thus, vehicles with plate numbers that end in 3 and 4 are banned on Tuesdays from 7am to 10am, allowed in the streets from 10am to 3pm, and banned again from 3pm to 7pm, and allowed from 7pm to the rest of the night. A bit difficult to remember especially for motorists who come from neighboring provinces and have to go to the capital region.

An order or law is most effective when it makes not a single exception. That is, the order or regulation applies to all – governors and governed, administrators and administered – and exempts no one. This is the essence of the “rule of law”. Once an exemption is given to a particular sector or group of persons, then other people will also seek other ways to be exempted from whatever regulation and restriction that was ordered by the government.

At the onset of the “number coding” restrictions of the MMDA and local governments in Metro Manila, a number of exemptions were already given. These are for low-number plates reserved for high government officials like 6 (Cabinet Secretaries), 7 (Senators), 8 (Congressmen/women), 9 (Supreme Court Justices), and so on. Of course the exemption applies to unique plate numbers 1 (President), 2 (VP), 3 (Senate President), 4 (House Speaker) and 5 (SC Chief Justice).

Other plate numbers that are exempted are diplomatic vehicles (blue plates, 4 or 5-digits), vehicles driven by physicians, government vehicles (red plates), a few others.

This means that the restriction and prohibition to be on the road one day a week, quite difficult for some motorists, apply on private vehicles and public (for passenger) vehicles.

Seeing the difficulty of many motorists, certain government agencies created special plate numbers that give certain privileges to private vehicles that exempt them from “number coding” restrictions and flaunt some “connections” to some government agencies, so that the motorists can break certain traffic rules like “beating the red light”, “no left turn”, etc. and expect that traffic enforcers in the area may turn a blind eye for such violations.

Such plate numbers are for sale, of course, and the issuing government agency makes additional revenues by exempting motorists from certain restrictions that were created and implemented by the same government agencies. This is clear double standard and making a mockery of “number coding” and related traffic rules.


Lately, among the most visible “special plates” are LEAP (law enforcers’ association of the Philippines), PNP-CSG (Phil. National Police), PNPA-PMA (PNP Academy-Phil. Military Academy). These car plates seem to be increasing everyday. Other minor and less frequently-used plates are House of Representatives, IMMIGRATION, LAWYER.


All such plates are irritating for ordinary motorists like this writer. We try to obey certain rules set by the government like “number coding” in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the streets and hence, reduce the traffic congestion. But many private motorists and government agencies are flaunting their powers that they are exempted and have the power to grant exemptions, to those rules that government enforcers are supposed to implement without favoritism.


Promulgating the “rule of law” is still far out from this country. Government agencies that are supposed to implement certain rules and restrictions are among the first and worst violators of those rules.


If we are to develop as a mature and responsible society, a single most important factor that must be done is the promulgation of the rule of law.

Privatization 2: State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)

Universities are supposed to be among the major well-springs of new knowledge in society, innovative ideas that were not thought of or tested before. And among such ideas that universities should explore is financial independence and autonomy from politics.

Private colleges and universities are generally successful in this aspect. But most state universities and colleges (SUCs), because of their nature as political creation, remain dependent on politics and politicians for decades, some even for more than a century, as in the case of the University of the Philippines (UP).

Currently there are 102 SUCs in the country. A number of these have multiple campuses or branches in other parts of the country or other parts of the region or province. UP for instance has 7 constituent units in 9 campuses from Luzon to Mindanao. Cagayan State University has 8 campuses in Cagayan province alone.

SUCs on average are dependent up to two-third of their annual revenues from NG subsidy. For MSU and DMMMSU however, dependence on state subsidy is more than 80 percent and they collect less than 20 percent from tuition fees and other services by the university. And aside from direct subsidy, SUCs also receive additional funding from the annual budget to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

Some rich cities also have their own city universities, like the University of Makati (UMak) and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM or City Univ. of Manila). So government spending on tertiary education is substantial. This creates some form of “addition” to taxpayers’ money by many SUCs and city universities’ administrators and officials.

It is important that the production of new knowledge be detached from politics. Politics cultivates a very partisan culture and the political biases of politicians in power somehow get into the university system’s administration like the appointment of key university officials, senior faculty members, and possibly in the content and curriculum of subjects and courses taught in the government universities.

It is also the belief of this writer that education is mainly a parental responsibility, not government responsibility. Government can come in to provide subsidized or free education up to elementary or secondary education to the poor. Education, like food and clothing, should be customized to the specific needs and resources of students and their parents or guardians. This is possible only if there is a wide range of diversity in the focus, specialization and quality of different schools and universities. Whereas it is the nature of government to provide a “standardized and homogenized” system of services like education. Homogeneity hates diversity and this often leads to mediocrity in the quality of services delivered.

It also gives additional pride and a sense of achievement to parents and guardians if they can proudly declare that it is them and their hard work, not the taxes that are coercively collected, that sent their kids to university education.

There are two important implications for this kind of philosophy or political belief. One, there should be no government tertiary institutions. Meaning all SUCs and city universities should be privatized. The national and local governments can help the poor by providing scholarships to intelligent but poor students, the latter will choose among the competing private universities. And two, there should be significant income tax cut, allow the parents and guardians to keep more of their monthly or yearly income so they can plan more about their kids’ education, healthcare, nutrition and related concerns.

This is another one of the “politically-incorrect” advocacies of this writer. An elaboration of this point will be made in future articles in this column.

(Originally posted with a table of the budget and total revenues of the 16 biggest SUCs, 2010, in http://www.thelobbyist.biz/perspectives/columns/back_to_personal_responsibility/836.html)

* See also Privatization 1: Philippine Military Academy (PMA), January 02, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

El Nino and climate alarmism

I wrote this article last March 12, 2010, and it appeared in
http://www.thelobbyist.biz/perspectives/columns/back_to_personal_responsibility/835.html
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El Nino and La Nina or the warming and cooling respectively of the tropical Pacific Ocean, are cyclical events that occur every 3 to 5 years on average. They happened in the past, El Nino is occurring now, La Nina will appear next, and so on. But current El Nino is being pictured in a number of circles in the country, in media especially, as “clear proof” of man-made global warming and man-caused climate change. This is wrong.

El Nino are events where the ocean releases heat from the tropical Pacific, and through ocean currents and changes in atmospheric circulation, they raise surface temperatures outside of the tropical Pacific.

The current El Nino officially started in July 2009 (http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090709_elnino.html) and is projected to end by June this year. After which, La Nina cycle is set to start.

In a paper, “La Nina – the underappreciated portion of ENSO”, Bob Tisdale showed this and many other charts. ENSO means El Nino Southern Oscillation.

Chart 1. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and El Nino – La Nina cycles, 1979 to 2010



source: http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2010/02/la-nina-underappreciated-portion-of.html

El Nino are positive SST while La Nina are negative SST. Big El Nino events occurred in 1982-83 and 1997-98, where SST anomaly reached almost 2.8 C, whereas big La Nina events of 1988-89, 1999-2000, and 2008 to early 2009 were only up to -2C.

The author of the article, Bob Tisdale, made this concluding comment:

”The La Nina event of 1973/74/75/76 provided the tropical Pacific Ocean Heat Content necessary for the increase in strength and frequency of El Nino events from 1976 to 1995. The 1995/96 La Nina furnished the Ocean Heat Content that served as fuel for the 1997/98 El Nino. And the 1998/99/00/01 La Nina recharged the tropical Pacific Ocean Heat Content after the 1997/98 El Nino, returning it to the new higher level established by the La Nina of 1995/96.. It would appear that La Nina events do all of the work, while El Nino events get all the glory—and the research.

The current El Nino is a mild one. But climate alarmism makes it appear so bad – in media, in government agriculture and weather agencies, and in other public discussions. Take note that the heavy rains brought by typhoons “Ondoy” last September and “Pepeng” last October happened in an El Nino period. So if such extreme flooding occurred in an El Nino period, it is scary to think when such extreme flooding will re-occur in a La Nina period.

There are plenty of natural factors that affect the planet’s climate, warming or cooling. Among these are the Sun and the strength or weakness of its geomagnetic field, the volume of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) from exploding stars from the outer space that enter the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceans and Pacific Decadal Oscilation (PDO), volcanoes and earthquakes and their release of geological gases like volcanic aerosols, organic biosols from plants and trees, and so on.

It is wrong, therefore, to continue blaming human carbon emission and other GHGs as the “main cause” of global warming. Such emissions do contribute but at a very small amount compared to natural factors and contributors. Such climate alarmism is driven by a deep political agenda by certain groups and governments with the ultimate goal of more environmental regulations and instituting global ecological central planning.

Today it rained. Not strong, just light showers, but it rained, for at least one hour. Today is also the 3rd day straight of dark and cloudy sky above Metro Manila and surrounding provinces. There is a “cold front affecting Luzon” according to PAGASA website today. If this cold front will linger, then El Nino might end soon. And the rains that people have been praying for, like today’s rain, will become a regular.

Meanwhile, the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change (4th ICCC, http://www.heartland.org/events/2010Chicago/index.html) is scheduled this coming May 16-18, 2010 in Chicago. The event is mainly sponsored by the Heartland Institute and co-sponsored by a number of independent think tanks around the world, including Minimal Government Thinkers. MG Thinkers is the only Philippine-based think tank that has co-sponsored this big scientific and economic conference over the past 2 years.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CSOs and State 9: The Global Fund and Corruption by Some Phil. Health NGOs

There is "The Global Fund" (TGF, http://www.theglobalfund.org/en) to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. It's a multi-billion dollars fund from different sources, public and private, I think. To be distributed to poor countries to help them fight those 3 dreaded diseases.

Last February 26, 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its "Audit Report on Global Fund Grants to the Philippines. Long report, 121 pages, and it showed some ugly findings. That some big health NGOs in the Philippines are engaged in some financial shenanigans in handling public funds. The report can be downloaded at
http://www.theglobalfund.org/documents/oig/Philippines%20Country%20Audit%20-%20Report_26%20February%202010.pdf

On page 12, paragraph 32, the Tropical Disease Foundation (TDF), a "non-profit" group, was shown to have engaged in over-pricing, over-billing, non-documented spending, etc., it has to repay P95 million to TGF.

Here are some details:

Net amounts repayable from reconciliation of Gen Fund, P58.33 million
Overcharged laboratory test fees, P11.83 million
Excess costs charged for the NTPS, P7.47 million
Excess funds drawn for salaries, P7.40 million
Laboratory tests rates that were applied retrospectively, P4.83 million
Billing for tests that were not conducted, P4.60 million
Amounts billed to patients for tests paid from grant funds, P0.54 million

Total P95.00 million or US$ 2.021 million

The OIG summarized its finding re TDF as "TDF lacks the capacity to manage Global Fund resources. The Global Fund cannot safely invest through TDF’s current systems and processes. TDF should also refund" the above-mentioned money.

On page 57, paragraphs 225 to 229, here are some of the questionable funds involved:

a) unpaid service incentives but retained by TDF Gen. Fund account, P642,858.
b) excess service incentives with no support documents, P575,041
c) stolen staff advances, undetermined amount.

On page 58, health NGOs World Vision and the Philippine Coalition Against TB (PhilCAT) got these funds with little or zero documentation:

World Vision, Euro 16,911
PhilCAT, US$ 300,000
PhilCAT, Euro 44,691

This is how the OIG wrote,

"The PR charged unbudgeted expenses to SR program budgets. Transfers of the above funds were made to TDF’s Gen Fund account and subsequently used as part of the costs for the National Tuberculosis Prevalence Survey. In the case of World Vision, a letter was written by TDF advising that the transfers to TDF were to be charged as monitoring & evaluation costs. For Philippine Coalition against Tuberculosis (PhilCAT) there was no documentation but funds were drawn by TDF from funds held in trust on behalf of the SR. The NTPS expenditure was not budgeted to be undertaken by the SR and should not have come out of the SR budgets."

Generally speaking, a number of supposedly "non-government organizations" behave similarly, if not worse, than government officials and politicians who are corrupt. Any opportunity where they can get hold of public funds, they also steal. Or at least do not follow the agreed terms in handling and accounting properly the funds entrusted to them.

Real "non-government organizations" (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) should not be demanding always for "more government funding" and similar demands. As the acronym explicitly says, they are "non-government" and it is not proper for them to be too cozy with, or acting like spokesmen for, government agencies and bureaucracies.

Read the OIG's audit report and be dismayed.

In the case of TDF (http://www.tdf.org.ph), they should produce a clarification paper quick. They lose their credibility from this damning report by the OIG of TGF.
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Simple Ways for Responsible Citizenry


(Note: this is my article for "People's Brigada News")


Now that the elections are over, we go back to our regular work. And while we expect our newly-elected (and re-elected) political leaders to be good and not corrupt, we citizens should do our part. Below are some simple things that we can do.

One, obey the basic laws and rules. Do not steal, do not kill, do not rape, do not extort. Traffic laws say stop on red lights, so stop on red lights. Environmental laws say do not throw your garbage just anywhere, so put your garbage only on designated places. Let us help promulgate the rule of law in our country.

Two, report directly the law violators. Or if we are afraid to directly confront those who think they are above the law, take pictures or videos, write or blog those whom we saw or observed, to be violating the laws. Like police cars or any other government vehicles, media vehicles, etc. that do not obey simple traffic rules. Let us help promulgate the rule of law in this country.

Three, take good care of our own body and that of our family members. Healthcare is first and foremost a personal and parental responsibility, not government responsibility. Do not over-drink, over-smoke, over-eat, over-fight. Preventive healthcare is several times more effective than curative. Let us have less smoking-related, less drinking-related, less fat-related, diseases and sickness. Currently, about six to seven of the Top 10 causes of death in this country are directly or indirectly related to smoking.

Four, assume more parental or guardian responsibility in our children’s education. Education is first and foremost, personal and parental responsibility, not government responsibility. Responsible parents work hard to bring their kids to good private schools. Or if they cannot afford private education, send them to public schools but provide additional learning materials like computers, books and educational tours.

Five, teach our children and minors the value of hard work and frugality. Let us inculcate self-reliance and independence, not dependence on government welfare, subsidies and dole-outs. Let us encourage them to become non-envious of the wealth and success of others if such wealth is a result of hard work and efficiency.

Six, let us support or form voluntary and civic organizations that provide charity work to our less-fortunate countrymen and fellowmen, even from other countries. The essence of civil society is the voluntary support and active involvement of citizens on issues affecting their communities with the least and minimal involvement of the government and its various agencies and bureaucracies.

Severn, let us convince, even pressure, the government and the politicians to reduce the number of taxes and fees as we are taking more personal and parental responsibilities of certain social and economic concerns that used to be heavily provided and subsidized by the government. Let us keep more of our income and savings so that we can have more resources for ourselves, our households and communities. Government should also reduce the number of regulations, restriction and other forms of prohibitions on citizen activities, especially those related to entrepreneurship and private sector job creation.

This list is not complete nor comprehensive. Readers can add their own suggestions too. What is important is that we always bear in mind the need to respect and promulgate the rule of law, where the law is above everyone, no one is exempted from the law and no one can grant exemption from the law.

If individuals, their parents or guardians exercise more responsibility of their own health, education, nutrition, housing, credit and so on, then there is no need for huge education (elementary to college), health, food, housing and related bureaucracies. And there will be no need for multiple taxes and fees to sustain huge bureaucracies and huge subsidies. And soon we will need less politicians, less government employees and bureaucrats, as more and more people will be engaged in productive work in private enterprises in a competitive business environment. Meaning more people will become self-reliant and are involved in voluntary charity work.

Let there be more entrepreneurship and private sector job creation, less public sector politicians and bureaucrats.

This way, we need not write and expect a lot from the present and future President, legislators, cabinet secretaries and other government officials. Responsible and independent citizenry is all we need to have a small, transparent, accountable and good government.
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See also:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Pol. Ideology 15: Socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism

There are various political ideologies in the country and around the world, but perhaps their philosophical origin can be traced or rooted to 3 important ideologies: socialism, conservatism and liberalism.

Socialism focuses on social justice, forced equality, public ownership and redistribution.

Conservatism focuses on social order, tradition, authority, conservation of social hierarchy.

Liberalism focuses on individual liberty, rule of law, competition and personal responsibility.

I encountered a reading material from the e-academy of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) entitled “Political values – a review of basics” by Stefan Melnik. It is one of the reading materials in the international seminar on “Liberalism today – freedom first” sponsored by the FNF, held in Gummersbach, Germany. I attended one of FNF international seminars in Gummersbach, “Local Government and Civil Society” held in late October 2008.

Stefan Melnik summarized these three political values or philosophies in this chart.

Socialism -- Conservatism -- Liberalism

Social justice -- Order -- Freedom/liberty
Material equality -- Duty -- Rule of law
Redistribution -- Tradition -- Choice
"Common good” -- Hierarchy -- Tolerance
Classless society -- Authority -- Entrepreneurship
Solidarity -- Discipline -- Competition
Public ownership -- Honor -- Property
Social responsibility -- Charity -- Individual responsibility

If we are to analyze the various political parties today in the Philippines, and the top politicians or “standard bearers” who lead such political parties, big and small, we will notice a strong leaning towards socialism for many of them. Strong and explicit emphasis on social justice and more government responsibility, income and asset redistribution (like the endless or no-timetable agrarian reform, high and multiple taxes), the common good like price control policies and other forms of government intrusion in business.

The next tendency of some political parties that are not socialist-leaning is conservatism, like the religious groups that enter politics. These include conservative Catholics, Muslims, and “born-again” Christians. There is strong emphasis on social and religious order, charity and morality.

There seems to be nowhere to be found, sadly, a political party that explicitly stands for individual liberty, free market entrepreneurship and capitalism, unbridled competition and more personal responsibility. Liberalism as a political philosophy and as defined above is not attractive to most or all political parties in the country. There is a Liberal Party that is supposed to advance liberal politics and economic policies, but is caught in populist policies that are more socialist leaning, although the party is very explicit in advocating for good governance and in fighting corruption.

Fighting corruption is the central theme of most political parties in the country, both big parties and small party-list groups. This is because of the worsening corruption and non-promulgation of the rule of law in government, especially laws against stealing and plunder, laws against election cheating, and laws against what the Philippine society has deemed “immoral” like gambling, illegal drugs and prostitution. But many of those political parties that call to fight corruption have politician-leaders who themselves were involved in corrupt practices in one way or another, in distant past or recent past.

The fight against corruption has clouded the reality that most political parties and political/pressure groups (that may not be involved with any political party) are socialist-leaning. One fact why I say this is that those groups and parties are not questioning the ever-expanding size of the Philippine government, from local government to national government agencies. They are not questioning the high and multiple taxes and fees that breed corruption in tax agencies and other regulatory bodies. They are not questioning the expanding scope of more “government responsibility” and are silent, some even explicitly opposing, re-asserting individual responsibility in managing personal, household and community affairs.

Perhaps people have become allergic to political labels because most of those labels are indeed confusing if not nauseating. Labels like “neo-liberal”, “fascist/neo- fascist”, “neo-conservative” , “nationalist/ anti-imperialist” , “social/liberal/ Christian/ Muslim democrat”, and so on.

So we can do away with political labels and just focus on political and economic philosophy. Like protection of private property rights, business competition, and consumer choices.

The important thing is to assert and re-assert individual freedom and personal responsibility. But individual freedom is meaningless and impossible if individuals will not take more responsibility in running their own lives, their own households and their own communities.
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Last October 05, 2009, I wrote this:

Liberalism and Equality

A friend posted in his facebook status the good performance of the liberal party FDP in Germany, partly because of the leadership of a young German liberal, Guido Westerwelle.

I'm a fan of liberal philosophy, the rather classical liberal definition (or currently termed as "libertarian"). I'm a bit carefully particular in the use of the word "liberal" as applied in politics and political parties. Also, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), the foundation for liberal politics in Germany with global represence, added an emphasis to its name and logo, "fur die friehart" (or "for Liberty") to refer more to emphasize the importance of individual liberty.

Another person commented and asked, "What is a liberal? One is liberal if you follow 3 values - 1) equitable redistribution of the wealth; and 2) support free markets (free trade), and 3) decentralized decision-making."

While I believe that # 2 and 3 are part of liberal philosophy, I doubt that #1 is part of it. That is greatly a part of welfarist or socialist philosophy. That is why, to help clarify things, FNF and the German liberals have added "fur die friehart" the FNF logo in 2008. The German liberals (who fund FNF, in whole or in part) notice that there is high restriction on individual liberty as the German State has taken on a big Nanny function, taking over even those functions that are better left as individual responsibilities.

Another person insisted that redistribution of wealth is part of liberalism. I think that one implication of encouraging more individual freedom is that social inequity will worsen. Not so much because the "poor are getting poorer" but because the very efficient and hard-working people, very ambitious and responsible, will become richer and richer. A group of scientists for instance, who can extract chemicals from ordinary mango or narra leaves to successfully treat AIDS will become super-super rich because their cost of raw materials is practically zero while the value of their invention will be sought worldwide.

When a State or political party advocates forced equality and mandatory redistribution of wealth under such situation, that is not a liberal philosophy, it is socialist. If the super-rich will voluntarily disperse their wealth, say they put up a foundation to tackle certain social problems close to their heart, that is part of liberal philosophy. It respects -- and encourages -- personal responsibility, minimal or zero coercion by the State.

The "super rich will voluntarily disperse their wealth" is a hypothesis, not a theory or statement of fact. Maybe the case of Bill Gates delisting several billion $ from his personal wealth and transferred to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will quality in this hypothesis. Warren Buffet also divested several billion $ of his personal wealth and donated it to the Gates foundation.

One of the top liberal intellectuals in the middle of the last century, Friedrich Hayek, argued that inequality is good for society. All new inventions were experienced by a few first, who enjoyed their benefits, and/or endured their negative effects. It was through trial and error experienced by the few where the majority would later benefit.
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See also:

Pol. Ideology 9: Liberty and Choice, Atlanta and HK Conferences, June 09, 2008
Pol. Ideology 10: Joe Stiglitz and the Market, December 16, 2008
Pol. Ideology 11: Liberalism, Democratism & Authoritarianism, January 04, 2009
Pol. Ideology 12: Lao Tzu, Cooperative Individualism, February 07, 2009
Pol. Ideology 13: Liberty and Liberty Forum, the LP, March 19, 2009
Pol. Ideology 14: Liberalism and Democratism, January 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Angela Bofill and health insurance

A Filipina lawyer-friend based in NYC posted in her facebook status, that "Angela Bofill, a beloved singer of Filipino romantics, suffered a stroke in 2006 and 2007 that left her in a nursing home and rehabilitation center for over two years. She was just recently released from the Vallejo rehab center in December 2009. It is sad to note that for someone with such musical talent and hits, she was without medical insurance and relied on fans and friends for assistance. This puts a face on the need for universal health care in the U.S."

My friend added that in the US, "to get good medical coverage, you have to be an indigent to qualify for Medicaid or have a good-paying job to pay for high premiums. Those who are just eking out a modest living or lose union-employer health coverage or part-timers or self-employed really get the brunt. It's deplorable."

My first reaction was that Angela was rich before, she sold many albums and performed lots of big concerts, including a few concerts in Manila. And yet she didn't get a private health insurance then. Well, some problems in handling personal finance, perhaps.

But I am wondering why many middle class families in the US cannot get private health insurance to augment whatever is offered by government health insurance. I think it's a lousy situation.

Here in the Philippines, somehow there's good competition among private health insurance, that many ordinary employees have private health card on top of being PhilHealth member. The latter is mandatory and obligatory. So if one gets hospitalized, he/she has 2 insurance to cover the bill.

My friend added that "$300 to $500 a month becomes a big deal for those starting anew. Medicaid and Medicare insurance is quite limited and once the cap is met, then the "ill" is left with a humongous bill he/she could not pay without his/her assets being attached."

That's a big amount, $300 to $500 a month. If there is competition among various health insurance firms, there will be market segmentation and product differentiation to cater to various clients with varying health needs and budget. Thus, in a competitive environment, it is possible to get a private health card for $50 a month for a limited health coverage, to as high as several thousand dollars a month for unlimited coverage.

The point is to give options to the poor and lower middle class households. Lower premium for lower coverage, at least there is some health insurance. Then government health program can be an add-on. This will make things more bearable for the poor.

Allow poverty, allow wealth

In one of my yahoogroups, there was a discussion on "ending (a never-ending) poverty."

I do not believe in such formulation. Governments (and the WB, ADB, UN, IMF, USAID, CIDA, etc.) should not and cannot "end" poverty in the Philippines and elsewhere. On the contrary, I propose that government, and private citizens, should tolerate poverty, and should tolerate (without penalties of high taxes) wealth and being very rich. Being poor or wealthy is the reward and punishment for how we manage our time, how hard-working and how ambitious we are for ourselves, our family, our friends and our community.

A person who over-drinks and over-smokes everyday, and occasionally over-fights with various enemies, actually wishes to meet his creator soon. So when government comes in to give him free medicines, free hospitalization, free nutrition, free monthly allowance, etc., that is unfair because the government is stopping that person from meeting his creator soon. Also, government is penalizing those who take care of their body and their family very well with over-taxation, so government will have lots of tax money to subsidize those who don't take care of their body, and for the pork barrel of politicians.

Should government intervene to reduce poverty, then the best way to do it is simply to promulgate the rule of law. Thieves, robbers, kidnappers, rapists, land grabbers, murderes, extortionists, etc. should meet the full force of the law and the penalties for their crimes. Then investors and ordinary folks will have peace of mind. They can work up to midnight if they want, and not worry that thieves and muggers will trespass inside their house and other private property. This will raise productivity, and people can take care of their sthouseholds if they are hard-working and ambitious enough. If they are lazy and don't want to work even if they are able bodied, then government should have zero money to tide them over.

Way back in the mid-80s when I was still an undergrad Economics student, I was a marxist-socialist then and I loved that government should assume all responsibility for the people, from womb to tomb, from food to beer, from housing to vacation. "Personal responsibility" was an ugly word for me then, it should be "government responsibility."

So again, we should not "end" poverty, allow it. Allow also people to become very rich. Let us migrate from being "pro-poor" to being "pro-wealthy".

A friend posted this beautiful quote:

"A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."

Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Politicians and diapers

With the on-going campaign period, lots of dirt, personal and political, are flying among various political camps.

Politics almost always attracts the worst people around -- the most opportunist, the thieves and robbers, the shrewd and cunning, etc. Or it attracts the holy among us, to morph into frankenstein political monsters later.

It baffles me endlessly, why so many intellectuals, including those with PhDs, are so enamored with government and politicians to "solve" household, individual and social problems through more government intervention, taxation and regulation.

Many people, they just over-smoke, over-drink, over-party, over-gamble, etc. almost every day. Some have little work, have little pay, and have big expenses. They will become poor, 100 percent. Then comes a group of do-gooders from local goverments to national government politicians and bureaucrats, to foreign aid do-gooders, all with one dream to "fight and end poverty."

Many people join government as politicians or as administrators or bureaucrats, because we created or allowed the creation of so many government positions and offices.

Take the party-list legislators. Before, no one applied and campaigned for party-list Congressmen/women, but since the Constitution created the party-list system, all hell broke loose. About 350 groups applied for accreditation for the coming May 10 elections. See, at least 350 groups think the district-based congressmen and women are not doing their job, that is why there are still so many poor and marginalized sectors. Comelec accredited 187.

Just recently, we created newer bureaucracies by law, like the climate change commission, renewable energy commission, etc. Some of my friends or other people are lobbying to create new departments, like Dept. of ICT, Dept. of Housing, Dept of Fisheries, Dept. of whatever comes up of their minds.

That's the evil of expanding government. Many people have bright ideas, and they declare, "Aha, I have a bright idea how to solve poverty in (housing, education, healthcare, agri, coastal environment, transpo, etc. etc.). Now give me a new office, give me loads of tax money, give me new administrative power, and I will solve poverty."

Why can't they simply say, "Aha, I have a bright idea how to solve poverty in _____ (fill in whatever sector). But I won't need your tax money or any political power to do and implement it. It can be done without political coercion, that's why it's a bright idea."

Meanwhile, a friend posted this in his facebook status:

"DIAPERS AND POLITICIANS -- need to be replaced for the same reason."

I commented, "But after sometime, a child matures and won't need diapers. But people don't mature and we still "need" politicians to regulate our lives and take away lots of taxes from our pockets. Many people also don't tire talking about 'market failure' when 'government failure' is staring them in their faces everyday, every year."

I remember now one sattire, about "fighting poverty":

Politician: Thank God for poverty. It provides my political platform.

Religious leader: Thank God for poverty. It reminds man of his inherent sinfulness.

Slave driver: Thank God for poverty. It gives me cheap labor.

Consultant: Thank God for poverty. My occupation is to study it and dream to end it.

Poor: I feel so appreciated. Thank God.

Government failure in energy

Recently, a number of power outages have re-occured in Metro Manila and the provinces. The usual explanation given by the government, the Department of Energy (DOE) in particular, is the "thin reserves" as there are not enough power supply while demand keeps rising every year. El Nino for instance, has been cited as a "cause" as many hydro-power plants could not function well due to low water level in many dams.

A friend in facebook posted this yesterday in his status:
"Secretary of Energy should resign. How is it possible that the Department of Energy did not forsee possibility of power shortage? Now he wants his principal to have emergency power without explaining how those powers will be used."

I actually thought that DOE Sec. Reyes has already resigned because he's running as a Congressman in the coming May 10 elections. Now we don't have enough electrical power, the DOE leadership and Malacanang want emergency political power?

An obviously staff of the Sec. reacted and argued that it's the lack of water for hydropower plants that is a big factor for the brown-outs. I find her explanation lousy. El Nino (and La Nina) occurs every 3-5 years, it's predictable. Population increases by 1.8M/yr, net of death, so demand for drinking, laundry, irrigation, other water uses keeps rising, it's predictable. Now they are implying that depleting water supply was unpredicted.

I agree that the DOE Sec. should resign. He made a lousy job of not predicting properly the power shortage. A better action on his part would have been to humbly accept his mistake, and step down if necessary. But he is asking the opposite. That he keep his job and that we the public give him and the President more political power to deal with power shortfall. Lousy. Get out, period.

This evening, I saw the Sec. on tv. He said, "if people should blame anyone, they should blame God", referring to the lack of water in hydropower plants. Us taxpayers are in deep s__t. We keep sustaining officials who are corrupt like the President, and arrogant like the DOE Sec.

Can't power suppliers or power aggregators just deal with power consumers directly, without going through government energy bureaucracies?

Another friend made a long comment. She said that it was the free market in general and the power deregulation (or EPIRA) law in particular, that contributed to the lack of power supply in the country.

Free market capitalism is rational, even radical and subversive. Why are there bar-bq or fishball or balut stalls on high density streets? Because there is profit and money to be made. Why are there no bar-bq or fishball stalls inside a cemetery? Because there are no buyers and no profit to be made.

Why are there not enough power plants or power aggregators or power transmission lines, etc. considering that power demand keeps rising, non-stop, every single year? Most likely there is not enough profit to be made. Before, energy bureaucrats decide how much profit rate power plants and petrol companies can make. With energy deregulation, energy bureaucrats decide how many signatures will be needed, how many weeks or months or years before those signatures will be affixed, how much taxes, fees, ECC permits, etc. will be paid, before a single power plant can be built. All of these require huge costs.

It is impossible not to make big money in power supply, transmission and distribution, considering the big power demand that becomes bigger every single year. But it is impossible to just build a power plant without passing through a maze of energy bureaucrats and politicians' interventions.

Second round of politicized drug pricing

Last Friday, February 26, this was the headline in the DOH website, "DOH announces second wave of drug price reduction".

Four days before that, February 22, there was a meeting by the DOH Advisory Council on Price Regulation, and one of the main topics that day was about the 2nd list of drugs where prices were voluntarily brought down by their manufacturers. I attended that meeting, that's why I knew about this.

A few points about the DOH announcement, above.

One, there is the impression that the foreign pharma manufacturers just brought down the prices of their products almost simultaneously. I gathered from some sources that the DOH leadership wrote to the officials of foreign pharma companies in the Philippines, asking for a new round of drug price cut. In short, there was a prior request from the DOH.

Two, one official of a big Filipino-owned pharma company noted that the DOH only wrote to the foreign manufacturers, but not to the local pharma companies. He said that locals have some capacity to bring down the prices of some of their medicines. So should the DOH advertise later those drugs and their new prices, the foreign manufacturers that participated in that price cut will receive some favorable feedback from the public.

Again, there is no need for such DOH action of writing to the foreign pharma companies for possible price discount if there is healthy competition among the players. No need for DOH letter, then press release on the subject, no need for DOH to deputize the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that drugstores nationwide will indeed implement the 2nd round of drug price cut.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Earthquakes and death toll

A lot of people observed that Haiti's 7.0 earthquake killed almost 300,000 whereas the recent 8.8 earthquake in Chile killed only 700+.

California too was once hit by a 7.0 earthquake, but death toll was only 63 people.

The Philippines' 1990 earthquake, also 7.0, death toll was 1,620i, despite the very long fault line that moved, spanning at least 5 provinces: Nueva Ecija to Tarlac to Pangasinan to La Union to Benguet.

Of course a 7.0 earthquake occuring 30 kms. below the surface is "weaker" compared to a 7.0 earthquake occuring just 5 kms. below the surface. Also, countries that are in the "Pacific Ring of Fire" where some 80 percent of all earthquakes and volcanic eruptions around the world happen, are more prepared than those outside the Ring. Like Haiti.

But the bigger factor is economic. California is richer, also Chile, also the Philippines, compared to Haiti. Capitalism is stronger in the above mentioned countries/state, compared to Haiti. In the latter, the economy is mostly controlled by the government, and there are lots of foreign aid too.

Governments don't give away and will never give away, free strong houses. Therefore, people should keep a big portion of their income so they can buy or build strong houses, or buy a unit in strong condo buildings.

But government does not think that way. It thinks it should continue confiscating nearly 1/3 (32 percent) of our monthly income because govt. has a big and expansive disaster bureaucracies and pork barrel by the president, legislators and the generals, to "help" people in case of disasters.

Political earthquakes aggravate natural earthquakes.