Monday, February 20, 2012

Pol. Ideology 25: On Governance and Rule of Law

A lawyer-friend way back in UP in the 80s, now a friend in facebook too, posted in his wall,

Activism means the coming together of a few or even many people for the purpose of changing things in their contexts.... Now, you have a completely new generation of student activists who respond to various issues plaguing this society - which are basically the same from the '70s up to now but with new factors to contend with.

I commented on his wall and here are our exchanges today:

Nonoy: Activism is demanding social changes either for the good or for the worse. My activism now is a complete opposite of my activism in my/our younger days. I now call for less government and more personal responsibility in running our own lives. Too much government, too much politics, too much irresponsibility.

Him: Hi! Thank you for your contribution in the discussion here. I know that you are one of the more intellectual among people I know back in UP days, so your ideas are very welcome indeed! I don't know why you had a complete reversal (as you said) in your view of activism. Is it because of the experiences of socialist countries that did not work? When I look back, I remember you being so passionate in the past about your views. Whatever it is that made you change your views, I agree with your point here that personal responsibility is an important factor in developing a nation - as can be proven by developed or fast developing countries. Discipline, for instance, cannot be absent in any form of development. People without dreams cannot develop as a group. And yes, too much government is inefficient in most respects. Although, let it be said that this all assumes responsible leadership.

Nonoy: Thanks. Just look around: people who don't want to work, or work little and complain a lot; people who work 5-6 days and drink/party 6-7 nights a week, little or zero savings. After over-smoking, over-drinking, over-eating, over-sitting, they become sickly, they demand quality healthcare from the govt, cheaper or free medicines, etc. because "health is a right". For them, "health is not a responsibility", only a right. You don't need to study any political philosophy to see that this is wrong. And big/more government, is precisely fanning this kind of irresponsibility so that govt will tax-tax-tax more, regulate-regulate-regulate more.

Him: Every person capable of influencing others for the better, regardless of age, should do so - and according to his conscience. I was asked during the open forum of the lecture what else the government should do to give young people the chance to participate actively in shaping the nation. My answer was, and I am paraphrasing myself here: You do not need government to give you anything just so you will be able to actively participate. The simplest thing you could do immediately is study very well, train yourself so well to acquire the best possible foundation because you will be the leaders of this land in 20 to 25 years from now - you will be our legislators, lawyers assisting justices of the Supreme Court, etc. Next, you do not even need to leave your room to contribute: ponder on the best possible ideas and post them in your blogs. But make sure your ideas are really innovative.

Nonoy: How about govt can help the young by privatizing ALL state universities starting with UP? Govt should focus on primary to secondary education, provide educ especially to the special children (autism, ad/hd, down syndrome, etc.) because priv educ here is very costly. Education as much as possible shd be parental/guardian responsibility, not government responsibility. Notice how almost ALL legislators, high govt officials, WB/UN/ADB etc. officials and bureaucrats bring their kids to private schools, although these are the guys who keep pushing "more public education, more taxes to fund pub educ, etc."

Him: Your example on how people choose to be impoverished are very concrete (although, let us not forget that the rampant corruption has a big role to play in our current mess - corruption from top to bottom). Not surprisingly, these things we are talking about have all been pointed out already by the previous generations. Rizal himself told us about the idea of loving labor. He mentioned that in El Filibusterismo. Specifically, he mentioned indolence in his essay "Indolence of the Filipino people". Surprisingly, why is it that while these classics are assigned materials in school, and aside from the fact that we even celebrate yearly Rizal's martyrdom, it seems that the nation have yet to imbibe the essence of what the hero is talking about more than a hundred years after the publication of these pieces? Aside from Rizal, please note that Mabini himself specifically mentioned that the country will never develop unless a political revolution (or any external change for that matter) is not accompanied by an internal revolution - this is obviously an echo of Rizal's idea! You might find it a relief that my students now at Darwin International School, from Nursery up to High School, are taught hard work: genius is nothing but a combination of a modicum of talent and a lot of hard work!

Nonoy: With a few exception, poverty is mainly self-inflicted. There are many cases that the poor want to work hard, stand on their own, become start up small entrepreneurs, but govt says entrepreneurship is a crime, a prohibitive activity, unless people get first dozens of permits and signatures from govt bureaucrats, from local to national govt offices. See here,

Him: Your idea on privatizing ALL state universities is TOO radical. I understand your point completely, my friend. But do not be in a hurry. Haha! There was a time when I immersed myself with ideas; then there was a time when I immersed myself with implementation. Either one of the two alone, i discovered, is sterile. A combination of the two, but more of one than the other could just be a still born. The best really is Aristotelian in nature - the middle way, the balanced way. Good intentions alone do not pay off. A conservative idea that does not push for change is inutile; a radical idea that does not consider immediate impact can be so devastating akin to the idea of burning the whole forest because of a single tree. In my view and based on my experience, what works to solve deeply embedded social problems are policies that are radical (changing) in substance but incremental (additive) in approach.

Nonoy: Not really radical. Having state Us and private Us violate the rule of law. Rule of law says the law should apply to ALL, zero exception. Or as Fred Lim says, "the law applies to all, or none at all." If the state is to give subsidized tertiary education, it should give to ALL, so it should also subsidize educ in UE, UST, NU, Mapua, Ateneo, La Salle, etc. This practice of subidizing others and nothing for others is divisive and hypocritical, right?

Him: This is because the model of governance and the people placed in positions are flawed. (On "There are many cases that the poor want to work hard, stand on their own, become start up small entrepreneurs...)

Nonoy: Hmmm, I think the problem is that governments almost everywhere have taken the habit of coercion and prohibition. Everything is not allowed unless govt will allow you. You cannot put up a vulcanizing shop there, you cannot put up a bakeshop here, you cannot smoke there, you cannot drive your car on this day, you cannot repair your garage, etc., unless you get permits from the govt. Here in Makati for instance, you cannot repair your own office unless you get permit to renovate from city hall. If they catch you, they will penalize you. And after you renovate, you need permit to reoccupy. If they catch you, they will penalize you.

Even if you put honest and good people, or even saints in govt, they will only implement these stupid rules and prohibitions.

Mr. S: i think the public at large should be more involve in government not just troop to the polls every three years. as to how you get more involvement without creating a paralyzing bureaucracy is the question

Nonoy: It's easier said than done that "the public should be more involved in government." You work 8-10 hrs, commute 2 hrs, watch the kids morning and evening, sleep only 6-7 hrs, you still have time to get involved in govt? The problem is that govt has intervened too much, made many prohibitions and restrictions. Many bright minds now instead of becoming entrepreneurs -- and be subjected to competition in business and professional work -- would rather become poiticians, or work for politicians, or the foreign aid and multilaterals, get very high salary tax free, while writing policy papers that govt should tax more.

Him: 1) I can smell again the passionate Nonoy of UP in the 80s! Hahaha! Please do not tell me 25 years later (if we manage to be still alive by then) that you have again a completely opposite idea of change! Hahaha! --- Not really radical.

2) Note that the rule of law does not say it does not have an exception. The concept of exception is embedded in every concept of the Rule of Law. Otherwise, law will be God. But I respect your view, if that is your view. (On "Having state Us and private Us violate the rule of law. Rule of law says the law should apply to ALL, zero exception.)

3) By the way, this slogan of Fred Lim is ill-formulated. I hope somebody tells him that. The idea is “the law applies to all; otherwise, the law is not effective”. Haha! Unless, it is his purpose to be the purveyor of a “slogan, no matter what”.

4) That is just one point of view. The other point of view is that society is dynamic. The law is there to temper and provide order. It cannot be all black letter. The question of subsidy is a question of the use of law in order to assist those who would otherwise not survive the system. Am not saying the situation should not be changed, though. Any kind of subsidy should only be temporary. The next question is what should be the long-term model, and how could that be applied without devastating the lives of the majority. (On "If the state is to give subsidized tertiary education, it should give to ALL...)

5) It depends. If subsidizing people is meant to exploit them by using them as an excuse to do corrupt activities, then it is not only hypocritical but also criminal (example: subsidy through the NFA – where subsidy is being justified, but the rice intended for the people is being sold to hoarders by corrupt officials inside at a cheap price). (On "This practice of subsidizing others and nothing for others is divisive and hypocritical, right?")

Nonoy: The opposite of rule of law is rule of men. The former says the law applies to all, no one is exempted from the law, and no one can grant exemption. Example: no stealing, no killing. That law applies to all, including kings and presidents. Even the poorest man on earth should not steal, poverty is no excuse to stealing. Otherwise, people will remain lazy so that they will become poor and being poor is exempted from the law against stealing. So rule of law = zero exception. One can make exceptions, bit make it very very few. Like No Counterflow, even presidents and the PNP chief should not violate that. Exceptions will be firetrucks and ambulance on their way to real dangers. All other vehicles should NOT counterflow.

Rulle of men means men in govt make laws that apply to ordinary mortals but exempt them. So govt vehicles can park in no parking areas, they can make left turn or U-turn in no left turn, no u-turn areas.

This makes most if not all subsidy programs by the government pure hypocrisy and double talk, violations of the rule of law. So government is the main law breaker, then why do we alllow govt to expand indefinitely?

Him: 1) Hahaha! Okay. Got your point. Let us not take “the rule of law literally” without minding the fact that the law is written by people. The idea did not come from heaven; it was formulated by men. The law is only a tool of man, not the man himself. (On "the opposite of rule of law is rule of men...")

2) In fact, the meaning of the law changes through time. Even a constitution can never survived without it being open to interpretation by people.

3) Noy, that is your own interpretation. The truth and the fact of the matter is that laws of the Philippines and most countries we both know for that mater provide an exemption. The idea of exemption is derived from the very nature of law: if there is a general rule, there is a corollary opposite which is an exemption. (On "So rule of law = zero exception. One can make exceptions...")

4) So, you yourself has provided an exception! Hahaha! Anyways, I do respect your opinion Nonoy. You have the right to believe what you belief in, provided you do not hurt anyone (Note: You see, there is again a general rule that you have the right to believe what you want to believe; and there is an exception, which is that you should not hurt anyone) (On "Exceptions will be firetrucks and ambulance on their way to real dangers.")

5) This is not part of the rule of law. This is the bastardization of law. Totally different from the Rule of Law having an exceptions. (On "Rulle of men means men in govt make laws that apply to ordinary mortals but exempt them.")

6) This is again a totally different idea. Exceptions can be provided by law. Such exception are not contrary to law if they follow the fundamental law. (On "most if not all subsidy programs by the government pure hypocrisy and double talk, violations of the rule of law.")

7) It depends. If the government does not follow the written law and the Constitution, then yes. If it follows the law, even if the law provides the exemption, then it does not. This is basic law, my friend. (On "So government is the main law breaker")

8) To sum up, I agree with some of your ideas. But to others, I do not. But as I said, I do respect you. You have the right to defend your ideas. We need people who think like you, no matter how different your ideas may be with others. I may not defend your ideas, but rest assured I will be one of the first to defend you with your ideas because it is your right to think and that is worth defending in a free society.

Nonoy: On ideas and implementing them, people have lots of ideas -- how to make a new more yummy pan desal or pasta, how to build more sturdy but cheaper housing, how to produce new rice varieties that are harvestable in just 2 1/2 months, etc. Let those people proceed with their ideas, govt should not demonize them simply because they did not get their signatures and permits. Govt. should run after killers, thieves, rapists, land grabbers, extortionists, carnappers, kidnappers, corrupt officials, plunderers, etc. Soooo many criminals out there, govt does not go after them (some of them are in govt actually), why penalize entrepreneurs and social innovators.

My beef is that government, national and local, created so many restrictions and prohibitions, but govt personnel themselves, from elected to appointed, are the violators of those laws. So many -- traffic laws, anti-prostitution, anti-gambling, anti-drugs, anti-smuggling, anti-stealing, anti-corruption, anti-plunder, anti-land grabbing, anti-squatters, etc.

In a society where the rule of law is terribly bastardized, govt should NEVER expand because we will only be expanding its hypocrisy and wastes.

Him: The same old passionate Nonoy Oplas. Only with a completely opposite belief. Hahaha! But I commend you pare for being a thinker at this time and age of our country. As I told you, i will be one of the first to defend you with your right to believe in what you believe.

Nonoy: Most intellectuals, including those with PhD, MS, etc. are enamored with socialism and more, more govt regulations, very few of them defend individual freedom and free market. Here's one reason why,
Pol. Ideology 19: What is the Role of Government?

Ms. R: i believe in leaving the market alone. let it correct itself..

Nonoy: yes, there are market solutions to market failures. On the other side, government solutions to government failure is endless wastes and robbery.

Him: I agree with some of what Nonoy believes in, but do not agree with most of them especially in terms of the ideas that i believe can harm people when implemented. But nonetheless, his ideas are very welcome. Society needs varied ideas. We do not need to believe only on one thing. Besides, there is no harm yet when the discussion is still in the level of ideas. For me ideas are very important in society. But the real test of ideas is in the implementation. In the field of educational administration, the strength of ideas is not just in the logic but in the positive results that are intended. If a good idea results in bad effects (and this really happens), then we know that the idea is not good at all. If the idea results in the intended good effects, and beyond that created other positive unintended effects, you can classify that either as luck or superb. In the meantime, we can entertain ideas even if we do not like it so much. This we call tolerance. And from Voltaire: "What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature." Haha!

Nonoy: Diversity and spontaneity, that's what people like. That's the main reason why there are a thousand plus designs of running shoes alone from different shoes manufacturers. Or there are tens of thousands of designs of t-shirts alone. People want their things to be as unique as possible. Tolerance accepts diversity. But governments want monotony and uniformity, that is why there are thousands of regulations, to limit too much diversity and spontaneity. People have to be regulated and shepherd into particular belief and actions as approved by those governments, including the UN.

In our private chat, I told him that personally, I believe that ALL schools, from elementary to tertiary should be private, no government schools. In exchange, income tax should be abolished, government can operate on consumption-based taxes like VAT, excise tax, property tax, vehicle tax, etc. plus various fees (passport fee, drivers' license fee, etc.

Education is parental/guardian responsibility, never of government. And education should never be monotonous, it should be tailored to specific needs by parents and students. Some parents want their kids to be good in math and science, others want their kids to be good in English and reading, others want their kids to be good in Mandarin or Japanese language, others want their kids to be good in French or German or Spanish language, others want their kids to be good in the arts and humanities, others want their kids to be good in a particular religion, or good in sports, and so on. The range of diversity as early as pre-schooling to elementary is very wide.

Government education is generally monotonous, imposed top-down by bureaucrats from Manila and approved by big politicians in the legislature. It cannot and will never be able to accommodate wide diversity in needs and priorities of parents/guardians.

My friend who is also an educator agreed, saying that such policy will penalize the lazy. And the corrupt government education and other officials will starve. But he expressed that it should be a long-term policy, perhaps in 50 to 100 years before full implementation. That it should be slow, otherwise, there may be social upheavals.

I also do not advocate that it should be done now. But it should be put in public discourse and agenda. And it's not really so "radical." We do not see any government carinderia, or government restaurant, or government supermarket, all are private, and yet people are eating. The key is market segmentation and product differentiation. People know their place under the Sun. Why aspire for a P2,000 spaghetti when you can buy a P50 or P20 spaggheti? It does not mean that the latter is poisonous and not fit for eating. People accept inequality, people are not calling for a revolution and have equality in food.

See also:
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, Democratism and Coercion, January 18, 2010

Pol. Ideology 15: Socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism, March 08, 2010
Pol. Ideology 22: Diskurso sa Kapitalismo, Sosyalismo at Gobyerno, November 15, 2011 
Pol. Ideology 23: 25 Years of Liberalism in the Philippines, December 07, 2011 Pol, Ideology 24: Democratism and Coercion, December 16, 2011

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