Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spontaneous Market 4: Entrepreneurship, Community and Property Rights

Entrepreneurship and free market, in the words of Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and countless other intellectuals, lead to human welfare. People who want to be useful to society and at the same time become rich, invent things and services -- or facilitate the introduction and marketing of those inventions and innovations -- that improve human lives. From new rice varieties that can improve nutrition to new cellphones with cameras that improve communication among people, to new cars that are more fuel efficient, to new medicines that are more effective in fighting diseases.

We can add therefore, that only useful things get the attention of the people, and they buy those things and services, making the inventors and sellers of those things rich. Useless things like nuke bombs and more powerful killing machines are bought mostly by governments and military generals. If you have doubt about this, you can ask the Myanmar generals or Robert Mugabe or Fidel Castro, etc. why they bought hundreds of thousands of assault rifles for their troops.

One example of the fruits of entrepreneurship, is a first ever Oceanarium in the Philippines, that will open up less than 2 months from now. This means that Filipinos who want to see different marine animals and fishes need not go to Singapore or Hong Kong -- and pay thousands of pesos in travel tax, petroleum tax, terminal fee, security fee, to the state -- to see these marine creatures in style.

There is also an ocean park in Subic, about 130 kms. north-east ofManila, but there is corresponding or additional travel costs in going there. This oceanarium will be right in Metro Manila.

When people, children especially, can see live fishes and other marine creatures in front of them, and not just on Discovery or Animal Planet or National Geographic channels, or other documentaries, their appreciation of the marine environment will increase. Because who would want the destruction of marine environment if they will know that those colorful and beautiful, not to mention gentle, marinec reatures, will also be destroyed and killed?

(See the news report here,
First Philippine Oceanarium to open in December
By Louise M. Francisco

MANILA Ocean Park (MOP), the P1.1-billion joint oceanarium project ofChina Oceanis Philippines Inc. (Copi), and Singaporean and Malaysian investors, has set the opening of the first phase of its live aquarium facility on December 15, unveiling plans to exhibit more than 20,000 marine inhabitants of approximately 300 marine species. The oceanarium is divided into six sections named to evoke national pride....

My two related papers in recent months:

(1) Markets, Government and Community

August 22, 2007

A friend defined these 3 concepts as follows:

Market - by competition
Government - by coercion
Community - by cooperation.

In my book though, I define them as:

Market = voluntary exchange
Government = forced exchange
Community = voluntary co-habitation.

1) Market: I can only have your money if you like my hair-cut services, then you come back, you tell other people that i'm a good barber. The moment I become a lousy barber, or my barbershop stinks like a dumpsite, there's no way I can have you and your money.

2) Government: I will have your money even if you think policeman X is the most extortionist law enforcer, even if Congressman Y is the most corrupt politician, even if Mayor Z is the most arrogant mayor around. They are your public servants, so give me your taxes.

3) Community: I will live in this community (or village or condo building or barangay) only if it gives me peace of mind for me and my family, at a price that I can afford. The moment the peace and order deteriorates, or the cost of staying in this community becomes unaffordable for me, I and my family will be out of here, and we'll look for another community.

Market competition is only a means, not an end. The end-goal is choice. With choice, comes freedom. More choices, more freedom. In the process of voluntary exchange, some guys will lose out to fellow sellers as the buyers and consumers become choosy. So sellers are forced, even coerced, by circumstances, to be competitive, to produce goods and/or services that will be wanted and bought by the public. So in the process of giving consumers more choices, competition was born.

Government coercion is also a means to pursue a purported goal of public welfare. Oftentimes, the result, in the perspective of consumers, is lesser choice. Lesser choice means lesser freedom. When you have less take-home pay because of high income taxes, then you have less freedom to buy or consume certain goods and/or services that you deem important for you and your family.

Community cooperation is part of voluntary exchange. That is why builders and leaders of private villages and communities incorporate lots of amenities like good peace and order, garbage collection, street lighting, etc. to entice more residents and locators in their communities. More residents, more profit for them. Less residents and less buyers of their residential units, less profit, even losses for them.

Choice through voluntary exchange is a sacred goal to be pursued if one is to ensure individual and community freedom.

(2) Property Rights = Freedom

JUNE 12, 2007

A friend from Sri Lanka, Ms. Mala Gunasekera, wrote a short essay, "The conversion of bad title into good title by acquisition and vesting. This process has empowered governments and impoverished the poor."

In her paper, she observed:
"In Sri Lanka we had legislation called Waste Lands Ordinance to take over their lands. Successive governments fluctuated in their opinions whether the lands should be government owned or privately owned. From time to time cultivated lands were taken over and controlled by government, land laws were randomly altered thus creating many doubts in the minds of people. This created a political cultural ethos where entrepreneurs looked to their respective governments to obtain land for their industrial establishments. They never looked to willing sellers to purchase land for their projects."

What Mala wrote is so true. Property rights means Freedom. And zero property rights means zero freedom. If you can't say that you own your tv or refrigerator 100%, that is, somebody can always come in and he says that he also owns your tv or refrigerator and takes it away from you, then your life is a mess.

If you extend that analogy to lack of property rights to your agricultural land, or the lot that your house is sitting on, then you have 24 hours of absence of peace of mind. You come home from work and somebody else has already fenced your agri land, or your house has already been demolished and someone else is putting up a new house or shop in your lot.

I think that the absence of secure, well defined property rights among citizens is the single biggest GOVERNMENT FAILURE ever created. But if you look at the literature of those who always cry "market failure" to anything and everything around society, the concept of "government failure" never comes to their minds.

Governments around the world have many tools in their disposal to discourage private property rights. Among them are multiple and high taxes, multiple titles and requirements (and signatures and regulations) to secure, unstable and unpredictable legal and judicial system, and so on. A combination of all these and life can be chaotic. I think people in Zimbabwe, Congo, and many other African countries fully understand this.

The big challenge for free marketers, is how to remind governments to focus on that very important function - to ensure property rights, whether intellectual property or goods/lands property, of the people. By extension, governments should be discouraged from dipping their dirty fingers on endless regulations of business and entrepreneurship, on providing endless subsidies to things that are better relegated and administered as personal and parental responsibilities.

See also:
Spontaneous Market 1: Profit, Trade and Personal Responsibility, May 22, 2006
Spontaneous Market 2: Market Failure vs. Government Failure, June 07, 2006
Spontaneous Market 3: No Nurses' Brain Drain, June 21, 2006

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