Showing posts with label federalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label federalism. Show all posts

Monday, October 07, 2013

Lion Rock 9: Federalism, Decentralization and George Clinton

The Reading Club Salon 2013 of the Lion Rock Institute is fast approaching, this coming October 19, 2013 to be held in Hong Kong. I will be there. Among the readings of the participants to this theoretical roundtable discussion are the Anti-Federalist Papers. 

A paper I checked today is Paper 14: Extent of Territory Under Consol-idated Government  Too Large to  Preserve Liberty or Protect Property written by George Clinton (1739-1812), Vice President of the US (1805-1812) and NY Governor (1801-1804), aka Cato. This was published October 25, 1787.

Among the arguments made by G. Clinton or “Cato” was this.

You must risk much, by indispensably placing trusts of the greatest magnitude, into the hands of individuals whose ambition for power, and aggrandizement, will oppress and grind you. Where, from the vast extent of your territory, and the complication of interests, the science of government will become intricate and perplexed, and too mysterious for you to understand and observe; and by which you are to be conducted into a monarchy, either limited or despotic; the latter, Mr. Locke remarks, is a government derived from neither nature nor compact.
Political liberty, the great Montesquieu again observes, consists in security, or at least in the opinion we have of security; and this security, therefore, or the opinion, is best obtained in moderate governments, where the mildness of the laws, and the equality of the manners, beget a confidence in the people, which produces this security, or the opinion. This moderation in governments depends in a great measure on their limits, connected with their political distribution.
Top of Form

In short, NEVER trust big and expansive government and the persons administering it. They will make rules and laws that are too complicated for us but will provide loopholes for their friends. Moderate or limited government can provide us security because its coercive power is limited, limited to equal application of laws to all.

He also wrote,

The strongest principle of union resides within our domestic walls. The ties of the parent exceed that of any other. As we depart from home, the next general principle of union is amongst citizens of the same state, where acquaintance, habits, and fortunes, nourish affection, and attachment. Enlarge the circle still further, and, as citizens of different states, though we acknowledge the same national denomination, we lose in the ties of acquaintance, habits, and fortunes, and thus by degrees we lessen in our attachments, till, at length, we no more than acknowledge a sameness of species.

Cool. That is why forced collectivism by a central or national government often begets suspicion, disapproval and discontent . The sentiment by people in the provinces who dislike "Imperial Manila" collecting lots of taxes and fees from them, telling them what are prohibited and which ones are not.

Centralism -- economic central planning and centralized politics and government -- disrespects individual diversity and spontaneity.

Interesting to note that John Locke has influenced both the Federalists (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, et al) and the Anti-Federalists (George Clinton, et al). Clinton aka Cato, has mentioned Locke several times in that paper.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pol. Ideology 30: Federalism, Debt and Civil Society

This is my article yesterday in the online magazine,

The photos here are not part of the original article.

Putting high emphasis on one form of government tend to blind people into glorifying one form over another, hoping that such change in political structure will deliver the necessary development to the economy and the rest of society. This is wrong.

The form of government – presidential vs. parliamentary, federalism vs. unitary, centralization vs. decentralization, and so on – only gives different flesh and structures to the type of coercion that the state has over the individuals. This is because government, by nature, is coercion. And coercion takes various forms – regulations, restrictions, prohibitions, taxation, mandatory fees and contributions. There is a reverse side – subsidies, welfare, expansion of government size and bureaucracy. But the latter is made possible only by the taxation and mandatory fees and contribution that the government imposes on the people, especially the industrious and productive sectors of society.

I attended a round table discussion last Friday “Federalism and Autonomy: Exploring Political Structural Solutions to the Mindanao Conflict” at the UP Third World Studies Center, Diliman campus. The main speaker was Dr. George Anderson of the UN Mediation Support Unit and a former Deputy Minister for Intergovernmental (1996-2002) and of Natural Resources Canada (2002-06). He also wrote several books on federalism.

The panel of reactors were distinguished academics, like former UP President, Dr. Jose Abueva, Prof. Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), and Dr. Alex Brillantes, Prof. and former Dean of UP NCPAG. The moderator was Prof. Herman Kraft of the UP Political Science Department.

I came late to the seminar and was not able to see Dr. Anderson’s presentation, but I was able to catch the main arguments during the reactors’ time and the open forum.

During the open forum, I argued my skepticism or indifference on one form of government over another as I think that governments, in most cases, are institutions of waste. The high public debt of many governments now, both poor and industrialized, is one clear example of such wastefulness. Because public debt is nothing but an accumulation of wastes and inefficiencies by governments. If projects and various welfare programs were indeed spent productively, then the subsidized public and bureaucracies would have become productive enough to pay those past debts, but this did not happen.

See table below. I did not mention these data as I only created this table while writing this article, and it should help illustrate my points above.

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook (WEO) Database, April 2012,

Of the 23 countries listed above, 17 have public debt 40 percent of GDP or higher. Take note too that these are debts only of the federal government. The states and local governments under the federal government also have their own set of public debts. So when these are added to the federal debt, the numbers would significantly rise.

I also mentioned in my comment during the open forum that what many ordinary people would refer to as decentralization does not necessarily mean assignment of functions from the central or national government to the local and state governments. Rather, they mean transfer of functions to non-government bodies like civil society organizations and the business sectors.

For instance, maintenance of peace and order now in the shops, malls, banks, residential/office buildings, universities, etc is done more by the private security agencies, not by the police and other government forces. The body that builds more cost-effective housing for the poor is not the National Housing Authority or other government agencies but Gawad Kalinga, an NGO.

So instead of expanding government at the national or local level, it would help if government should step back in certain sectors, and give more space for civil society and the private sector to do development work in society.

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Abueva obviously did not favor my suggestion as they said that there is a big role for government to develop society, we only need to make it more efficient and more accountable to the people. Dr. Anderson added that at Philippine government spending of about 14 percent of GDP is definitely not “big” compared to many developed governments like Canada and continental Europe where public spending is 40 percent of GDP or higher. He has a point there because in those governments, even buses are owned by the government, here buses are entirely private and they compete with each other a lot. But we should not forget that the 14 or 17 percent of GDP Philippine government spending applies only to the national government. The local governments (provinces, cities and municipalities, barangays) have their own extra spending as they have extra sources of revenues, especially the rich city governments in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities in the provinces.

I believe that as citizens are becoming more empowered with more information, they become more educated and more innovative in finding private solutions to private problems, or civil society solutions to ordinary community issues and problems. The worsening debt turmoil in Europe, especially the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) that incidentally are all parliamentary governments, and the economic uncertainty they bring to the regional and global economy, is additional proof that free individuals should take more responsibility in running their own lives and that of their households and communities. Relying more on governments, federal or unitary or other forms, will only prolong the economic agony for all.

See also:
Pol. Ideology 25: On Governance and Rule of Law, February 20, 2012
Pol. Ideology 26: Socialists in a Liberal Government, February 21, 2012 
Pol. Ideology 27: Why do Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, March 01, 2012
Pol. Ideology 29: Raison d 'Etre of Government, May 20, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Decentralization 10: Devolution, Federalism and Subsidiarity

I posted my paper, Decentralization 9: Ben Diokno Says Recentralize, in the CORRECT Movement (Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation Movement) group in facebook because that group is advocating "evolving federalism" plus two other issues, economic liberalization and Parliamentary form of government. The exchange has expanded into a long discourse.

Below are the exchanges -- with explicit permission from Carlos Tapang and implicitly from Paul Alli (Paul is a friend way back in the 80s in UP, Carlos I have met 2 years ago) -- minus the comments from Orion Perez, the main convenor of CORRECT Movement. He does not want his comments to be publicized.

  • Nonoy Oplas 

    The subsidiarity principle is very radical, it says that if the smallest social unit can do a task, no need to give it to the higher social or political unit. The smallest social unit in society is the individual, then the household. If an individual can do a task by himself, like taking care of his/her body and health, then there will be no or little need for govt healthcare program, especially for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

    22 hours ago · 

  • Paul Alli There is a much more cogent reason why decentralization is necessary- the unequal development of regions.
    21 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Nonoy Oplas But that is why Ben Diokno shot down in his presentation, he said that decentralization is a failure in reducing inequity bet and among regions and LGU localities, that is why he is arguing that the natl govt should do that job, not the LGUs themselves.
    20 hours ago · 

  • Paul Alli Because of corruption among LGU officials. There should be a check and balance bet natl govt and local govt. One sad case is Samar.
    20 hours ago · 

  • Nonoy Oplas 

    Yes, corruption is endemic in both national and local governments. That is why I argued in my paper that we need less and small government, both at the national and local levels. Government should focus on stamping out criminality, protect private property rights and the citizens from killers and other criminals. But government, both national and local, veered into so many sectors and areas, because that's where corruption and extortion can be maximized, like controlling "illegal gambling", "Illegal drugs", "Illegal prostitution", etc.

    19 hours ago ·  ·  2

  • Carlos C Tapang 

    This is very good discussion. I think we should think of government power in terms of points being allocated instead of "areas of responsibility". The problem with thinking in terms of area of responsibility is that those in the national government can claim that because the whole country is their responsibility, it is OK for them to meddle in local affairs. This is the part of centralization that is bad, in my opinion. If we think in terms of power points to be allocated, there should be not so many points allocated to the central government, because otherwise there would be no points left to each of the regions or provinces. Allocate only 10% of the power points to the central government, and give 90% to the LGUs. What this means in practice, with regards to taxation, for example, is that the central government should collect only as much as 10% of the total tax revenue. For each taxpayer, the local government can tax say 9% max, and the national government only 1%.

    15 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Carlos C Tapang 

    Our situation in Pinas is the opposite of what is desirable: 90% of the power points is concentrated in the central government, 9% to local governments, and 1% to each individual.

    We experience this power on a daily basis. Observe how even the lowest government official behave towards citizens. Go to the local SSS office and see how many people line up for service at any one time. When you finally reach the end of the long line and are finally able to talk to a clerk, observe how the clerk feels more important than you are. Compare that to the behavior of a bank teller in a well-run bank. The government clerk feels no compunction to demand a requirement that you forgot to do, like filling up another form, or getting the signature of somebody else. It does not matter how minor the missing paper is, it must be with you; if not, you either go fill that silly piece of paper and go back to the other end of the line, or worse, come back some other time.

    We have to deal with the central government in most that we do. If we want to buy land, the title gets registered all the way to Manila. If we want to start a business, our corporation papers gets filed with the central government and not the local government. The central government is like a bad CEO who doesn't know how to delegate, who can't trust anybody else to do something well, so he does everything himself, to the detriment of the whole company.

    14 hours ago · 

  • Nonoy Oplas 

    I think local govts are more notorious in imposing stupidity than the central or national govt. Take makati city. So many NOs, Donts, Prohibitions. Buendia and its long blocks is now "No Jaywalking". They say they want people to commute and walk, to leave their cars at home to reduce traffic, but they make crossing streets hard and bureaucratic, penalty is P200 and you have to get your ID at a far out office. Ayala ave is "No loading here, walk to the next block" and "No unloading here, walk to the next block" (about 250 meters away).

    These may seem trivial but if you are subjected to these types of inanities and stupidity every day, you won't be happy. I don't think a central govt would think of this type of stupidity, but a local govt can. That's why I'm never a fan of decentralization or devolution or even federalism/autonomy if such will mean worse bureaucracies at the local levels.

    12 hours ago · 

  • Carlos C Tapang 

    Let's look at this more closely. At some point, yes, we can say that some traffic rules are just silly. The question is whether you prefer such silly traffic rules to come from the central government (in which case all traffic rules in Pinas would be uniformly silly), or from the local government (in which case there is no uniformity and one locality can have silly rules and people disobey them all the time and get a away with it, while another locality has simple rules and people seem tame enough).

    Here's one reason why you want it local and non-uniform: the word is competition. As Orion has just written about, competitition is what will slowly drive local laws and ordinances to parity. I took a taxi once from Pasay to Cubao, and the driver asked permission, before we got started, to avoid Makati roads. I asked why, and the answer was because of the silly traffic rules that you mentioned. People will avoid localities with silly rules and very high local taxes. Businesses, when locating their branches, certainly look at how rational local governments are, among other things.

    The funny thing about local autonomy and uniformity is that, the more local autonomy we have, the more the LGUs tend towards uniformity, because of competition. Here in the US there is variety in certain local ordinances: there are subtle differences among cities, and glaring differences among states. But there are certain things like how easy it is to set up a corporation that trends towards uniformity: there is clearly competition on which state it is easiest to setup a corporation. It used to be that Delaware was the easiest state to setup a corp. Now most states have changed their laws to make it even easier to setup shop. Here in Washington I can setup a corp in less than a day, and less than $200, without ever going to a state government office (I just visit the secretary of state website).

    Of course, there are certain things that will always be different among localities, and this then is what would give them their own character. Our ideal should be not one color for all of Pinas, but rather an array of bold colors to start with, which would gradually dissolve naturally into pastel colors, with each locality having its own natural color.

    11 hours ago ·  ·  2

  • Carlos C Tapang 

    Instead of micro-managing the different localities, the central government should be limited in what it can do. The central government should be limited, as much as possible, to only enforcing simple rules on local government, rules that should be written in the constitution. For example, the Bill of Rights should be uniformly applicable everywhere, and there can be no local ordinance or rule that can contradict any section of the Bill of Rights. Another example of a simple rule that the central government can and should enforce on all localities is a lmit on taxation: the constitution should limit local income taxes to a maximum of, say, 10% or less. Of course, the same constitution should also limit what the central government can collect, which should even be less (as a percentage of individual income, but not necessarily as a percentage of total govt revenues) than what the LGUs are allowed to collect.

    11 hours ago ·  ·  3

  • Paul Alli 

    Decentralization, federalism and local autonomy are concepts meant to free up the potential of local regions to develop itself without much assistance from the national govt. In fact, by virtue of local autonomy parts now of Mindanao, esp ARRM, is moving on its own. But despite this, there is still glaring poverty in the area because of warlordism. We have to recognize the fact that Philippines have unequal development brought forth by colonialism and feudalism. The structures of feudalism still prevails in some areas, and some has been masked by corporatism- or stock distribution e.g hacienda luisita- in order to circumvent modernization of regions. If we really need to get Free Market principles going, federalism shouldl be implemented on a nation-wide scale making regions or LGUs compete among themselves by enticing investors, tourists, transient class, and businessmen to locate or relocate or even travel to better places, be it under a Parliamentary form or Presidential form. I am reminded of my 7 year stay in America. I can always choose to locate in different states offering the best opportunities in life. I moved around from coast to coast searching for the American dream. I ended up now working out here in Samar to develop the coconut industry.

    4 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Nonoy Oplas It's unfortunate that Orion equates disagreement or agnosticism with federalism aka region-based decentralization as "extremist and knee-jerkishly dogmatic and narrow-minded interpretation...".

    My concept of subsidiarity is that if things can be done by the individual and households, them as the smallest social and political unit in society, then don't give it to higher political units -- barangay, city, province or federal governments. Take healthcare, do we need any local or national govt to remind people that over-drinking, over-smoking, over-eating is bad for one's health? Preventive healthcare in this case won't need govt, local or national, autonomous or federal, it purely falls on the level of the individual, the household and civil society. Even healthcare financing can be done at the personal and household or enterprise level too, people getting their private health insurance. To insist that we still need govt even in simple cases like preventive healthcare, local or national, for me is wrong. Privatization of certain functions, not just decentralization or devolution, is more economical as this will enhance more personal and parental/guardian responsibility.

I left the CORRECT Movement fb group today. Below is my last comment to the group before I clicked "Leave Group". Nonetheless, I thank Orion for the opportunity to exchange notes with him and many of his followers in the said movement.

Orion, a few months ago, I already asked you if you will accommodate people here who only believe in free market, and is/are indifferent on the 2 others -- federalism and parliamentarism. You said fine, so I stayed. Until now, I remain indifferent and agnostic -- someone who neither believes or disbelieves on something, simply indifferent -- about those federalism and parliamentarism. I don't agree with your defiinition of agnosticism of "does not know". For me, neither believe nor disbelieve. Sa tagalog, wala akong paki, ang paki ko lang ay economic liberalization and less government.

From your points above, there is clear message of your intolerance to agnosticism to the 2 other programs of CORRECT, like repeated use of "knee jerkish dogmatism".  Fine. If being in this movement means obedience to all 3 advocacies so as not to be labelled as knee-jerk dogmatism, then this group is not for me. Thank you.

See also: