Friday, October 15, 2010

Rule of Law 11: RoL Index

It's the first time I've heard of the "Rule of Law Index". I saw it first in a news report today, Philippines slips in Rule of Law. The report said,
THE PHILIPPINES has slipped in terms of providing a strong justice system and addressing corruption, according to a new global index upholding the rule of law.

The World Justice Project (WJP) found the Philippines dragged down by weak justice systems and corruption in the latest version of its Rule of Law Index released in the United States yesterday.
Intrigued by this report, I googled the WJP, searched the index and and I found this 146-pages long report, 3.9 MB pdf, The World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index™ 2010.

This is a very timely research project. The Index is composed of 10 factors:
»» Limited government powers
»» Absence of corruption
»» Clear, publicized and stable laws
»» Order and security
»» Fundamental rights
»» Open government
»» Regulatory enforcement
»» Access to civil justice
»» Effective criminal justice
»» Informal justice
Below is their definition of the "rule of law". A bit long compared to say, Hayek's definition, but this seems more complete too:
The four “universal principles” that emerged from our deliberations are as follows:

I. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.

II. The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.

III. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient.

IV. Access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives, and judicial officers who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

If I remember it right, this is Hayek's definition of the rule of law: "The law applies to everyone, no exception. The law applies equally to unequal people."

Very simple and direct.

Now, how did the Philippines ranked out of the 35 countries covered by the study? The cities covered by the survey were Manila, Cebu and Davao. Page 74 showed this Philippines' ranking:

1. Limited government powers: 17th out of 35 (17/35)
2. Absence of corruption: 26/35
3. Clear, publicized and stable laws: 24/35
4. Order and security: 20/35
5. Fundamental rights: 26/35
6. Open government: 19/35
7. Regulatory enforcement: 20/35
8. Access to civil justice: 28/35
9. Effective criminal justice: 20/35

Meanwhile, I wrote these two related papers this year:

1. Laws and the Individuals

February 26, 2010

(This is my article "People's Brigada News", a weekend tabloid circulated in southern Metro Manila)

In judging candidates whether they will become good President or not, one usual criteria that many voters demand, is the number of laws that a legislator-candidate has authored. That is,

More laws authored = good legislator = good President (or Mayor/Governor)

There are practical reasons for this kind of reasoning. One of which is that legislators (Senators, Congressmen/women, Provincial or City Councilors) who were once showbiz and sports superstars, those considered “less cerebral” but got elected because of their popularity, tend to craft the least number of (national or local) laws and were just silent and passive in various debates being considered by the (national or local) legislature.

While this observation is valid, it is also important to ask questions like:

What are laws, in the first place?
Are all laws beneficial to individuals?
Is having plenty of laws good for society?

I offered this approach, or asked those questions, because I want to offer an alternative definition of laws. Here it is:

Laws are prohibitions. They are restrictions that individuals are not supposed to commit; otherwise, there are certain penalties for not obeying the laws.

For instance, there are no laws (no prohibitions) against breathing or flying in the air, but there are laws (and prohibitions) against polluting the air. There are no laws (no prohibitions) against eating, but there are laws against selling expired or poisonous food.

The most famous laws are the laws against killing, stealing and rape. There are harsh penalties for committing such crimes.

Some laws are not outright prohibitions, but more on appropriating a budget or giving subsidies or exempting from certain taxes, fees and regulations. to certain sectors of society. Or issuing price control or profit control of companies in a particular sector. Still, there are penalties for not giving the stated subsidies or exemptions, or not following the price control. So in the end, they still fit in the original definition that “laws are prohibitions.”

So now that we establish the simple definition of laws, is it good and desirable if there are plenty of laws in society? Will people be happy if there are plenty of prohibitions in our communities, schools and offices, more prohibitions in our lives?

It is doubtful that people will desire to have plenty of laws and prohibitions in their lives. Take the case of owners of land and houses. First there is a law on real property tax (RPT). RPT is the government’s way of saying, “all lands belong to the government”, that is why people, including owners of land and small lots, must pay a tax or “rent” to the government. Failure to do so will empower the government to expropriate a private land and use it for its own use, or sell it to other people.

Second, in a few cities and municipalities in the country now, there are prohibitions for people to introduce changes or renovation inside their own house or office, unless they first get a “permit to renovate” from the city or municipal hall. And after they finish the renovation, they need to secure a “permit to occupy” their own house or office. Somehow, this is strictly enforced only in big office buildings. But let us wait in the future for this law to be strictly enforced in our own houses as well, when local governments have better monitoring and spying capabilities.

Another negative impact of having too many laws, both national and local, from more “hardworking” legislators, is that it is becoming more difficult for the ordinary citizens to know and remember all those laws and prohibitions. Is there a law against spitting in the streets? If so, in what cities or municipalities? Is there a law against smoking inside jeepneys and tricycles? Is there a law against drinking outside your house? Is there a law against hitting the butts of children if they violate certain rules set by their own parents? Is there a law against keeping dogs that occasionally bark at midnight?

It is important to keep a few laws that really protect everyone. Like the laws against killing, stealing and rape. But when there are too many laws and restrictions, individual freedom is compromised, and more people will be tempted to evade, if not break laws. And this erodes respect for the rule of law.

So, we go back to the original issue: is a legislator-candidate who has authored many laws, a good and desirable candidate for President, for Mayor, for Governor?

This should be a good mental exercise for voters. But for me, my vote is NO. I will go for a candidate that has crafted the least laws and prohibitions. But this is not to support lazy legislators either, who do practically nothing and hence, enacted nothing. Because such lazy legislators have also allowed and did not block the enactment of new laws and more prohibitions from the more “hardworking” legislators.

Let us support candidates who will give us the least restrictions, the least taxation, the least subsidies and regulations. Because such candidates will give us more leeway to better work and plan for our own lives.

(2) Small act, big message in following traffic rules

July 05, 2010

Some people, including those in government, keep on harping that the President should not stop on red light because of "wasted time", because of security concerns, etc.

They just can't get it. The President or anyone with a driver stuck in traffic will have no idle moment if he/she wants to. If i were rich, I would also get a driver and I will have zero idle minutes. I can work on my computer, read a newspaper or a book, make or receive text messages or phone calls, look around and take pictures of some idiots hanging around, doing nothing and discussing what kind of subsidies the government should give them.

The President already said it over and over again. If he has an important meeting, then he will wake up early, leave early, arrive in meeting on time, and there will be no need for his security escort to shoo away ordinary motorists as if they are a burden to society. Which past administrations, the last 2 especially, have been doing.

And I don't beleive that the President's SUV is not bullet-proof. Plus it is surrounded by armed guards on big SUVs and motorcycles. Security concerns is not much an issue.

Another advantage of the President being stuck on traffic, is that the DPWH, MMDA, DOTC and LGUs will be on their toes ALWAYS. If the President got stuck in traffic because there is a badly-managed road digging under DOTC project, or a local government was lazy in removing those counter-flowing trisikads and tricycles, or MMDA and/or DPWH were lazy in clearing a clogged drainage that causes flooding even for slight rains, they they will get some official reprimand perhaps.

The other day, I rode a jeepney and I was talking to the driver in QC. He started the conversation, noting that "wala na akong naririnig na wang-wang ngayon" (I don't hear those loud sirens now) while smiling. I added, "nabawasan na mga mayayabang sa kalsada" (the braggarts have been diminished) and he added further, "pati mga nagka-counterflow, wala pa akong nakikita" (I havent seen counter-flowing vehicles too). And that's only 3 days from the President's inauguration.

Small acts of no wang-wang, stopping on red light, by the president. Small time "wasted" being stuck on red light. But BIG symbol to the public, to respect the law, ordinary traffic laws.

See also:

Rule of Law 1: Entrepreneurship and Government Permits, September 16, 2008
Rule of Law 2: Property Rights and Lefts, March 02, 2009
Rule of Law 3: AIG Bonuses, Government Bail-outs, March 18, 2009
Rule of Law 4: On Thailand Crackdown, April 18, 2009
Rule of Law 5: Lawless State, Corruption and Coercion, August 01, 2009
Rule of Law 6: Discussions in Facebook, January 10, 2010
Rule of Law 7: Property Rights and IPRI 2009 Report, February 27, 2010
Rule of Law 8: Purpose and Supremacy of the Law, June 15, 2010
Rule of Law 9: Laws, Prohibitions and Corruption, June 30, 2010
Rule of Law 10: On Wang-wang and Government Laws, July 04, 2010

Posted on May 19, 2009:
Hayek 1: Liberty and liberties
Hayek 6: Dangers of majority rule
Hayek 7: Rule of law means no exception
Hayek 8: Safeguards of individual liberty
Hayek 12: Rule of law and rule of the lawless

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